History of Art Graduate Department of Art

New Exhibition at MMA – “Struck by Likening”

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Tom Thomson (Canadian 1877 – 1917) The Birch Grove, Autumn, 1915–16, oil on canvas. Art Gallery of Hamilton


The McMaster Museum of Art presents a new exhibition, “Stuck by Likening: The Power & Discontents of Artworld Analogies”, curated by the Department’s own Professor Mark Cheetham.  From the MMA’s website:

Levy Gallery (level 4)
19 August – 2 December, 2017

PUBLIC RECEPTION: Thursday, September 14, 6 – 8 pm
CURATOR’S TALK  |  Getting Some Distance on Likening:  Wednesday October 4, 12:30 – 1:20 pm

Struck by Likening explores commonplace declarations such as “Tom Thomson is the Van Gogh of Canada” and Norval Morrisseau is “the Picasso of the North.” We may call these familiar comparisons “likenings.” Innocent though they might seem, we need to take likenings seriously. They occur with such frequency as to become largely unheard and invisible. They structure not only what we say about art, but literally how we see it. Likenings can trigger ‘ah-ha’ moments when we are ‘struck by likening’ in the sense of having an insight or they can commit us to dubious cultural assumptions.

Likening is a form of analogy, a process by which a connection is asserted between two distinct elements. Examples abound in pop culture (“Prabhu Deva [is] the Michael Jackson of India”), politics (“Nelson Mandela: The Lincoln of Africa”), science (Ernest Rutherford’s analogy between the atom and solar system), and the law, which argues from analogous precedents. Analogy is fundamental to the way we make sense of the world. Struck by Likening interrogates how we construct our views on artists, their works, and art history through analogy.

The exhibition has five viewing stations, each exploring the issues raised by likening. Questions of national aspiration, genius, gender, anachronism, inter-media comparison, humour, and cultural appropriation are brought into focus. Visitors will see likenings that seem right and lend insight and those that reinforce stereotypes. When comparing the comparisons on exhibit, are you inclined to accept or to resist likenings?

Works for Struck by Likening are drawn from the historical, modern and contemporary collection of the MMA, and loans from the Art Gallery of Hamilton, the Art Museum at the University of Toronto, Museum London and the Corkin Gallery, Toronto. They include works by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Jack Chambers, George Grosz, William Hogarth, William Kurelek, Wifredo Lam, David Lucas, Norval Morrisseau, Pablo Picasso, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Gerhard Richter, Tom Thomson, Harold Town, Homer Watson, and Edward Weston.

For more information on this exhibition, please visit the McMaster Museum of Art website.

Congratulations to the 2017 Graduates

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

MA Graduates

Zainab Al-Shalihi; Emily Baker; Adam Barbu; Samantha Chang; Michael Collins; Kathleen Cummings; Victoria De Chellis; Caroline Duffy; Lina El-Shamy; Rafael Goldchain; Zaneta Laurence; Madeleine Leisk; Debra Lustig; Shaun Midanik; Brittany Myburg; Hoang Anh Thu Nguyen; Meghan O’Callaghan; Carolyn Peralta; Rebecca Proppe; Juliana Ramirez; Shelby Ricker; Matthew Sova; Kaylee Verkruisen; Dana Weaver; Austin Yuen; Yuxing Zhang; Xinran Zhu

PhD Graduates

Sara Angel; Miriam Aronowicz; Olenka Horbatsch; Dana Katz; Adam Lauder; Elizabeth Moss; Colin Murray; Devon Smither

 

Doctoral Students Win Prestigious Awards

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Graduate Department of Art is pleased to announce the following award recipients and nominations.

Akshaya Tankha (PhD) has been awarded a Doctoral Fellowship at the Jackman Humanities Institute for 2017–18, where he will work on his dissertation thesis “The Aesthetics of Indigenous Difference in the Absence of Reconciliation in Late-Liberal South Asia,” within the context of the JHI’s theme, “Indelible Violence: Shame, Reconciliation, and the Work of Apology.”

PhD students Rachel Dewan, Dongwon Esther Kim, and Marina Dumont-Gauthier have each won 2017–18 SSHRC Doctoral Awards in support of the research and writing of their dissertation theses over the next 3 years.

Adam Lauder, who recently completed his PhD under the supervision of Professor Elizabeth Legge, was recently nominated for a Governor General’s Gold Medal award.

A hearty congratulations to all of these students for their outstanding work and the impressive recognition that it has received!

Professor Giancarla Periti has been awarded the book prize by the AAIS

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Department of History of Art/Graduate Department of Art is pleased to announce that Giancarla Periti’s In the Courts of Religious Ladies: Art, Vision and Pleasure in Italian Renaissance Convents (2016) is the recipient of the 2016 Book Prize in the category of Renaissance, 18th and 19th centuries, awarded by the interdisciplinary American Association for Italian Studies (AAIS). Periti examines the remarkable poetic and mythological art commissioned by aristocratic female monastic communities in Renaissance Italy. Nuns from the patrician class set aside considerations of austerity and poverty, to commission rich and sensually appealing artefacts inspired by the contemporary secular culture of courts. Works of art transformed monastic parlours, abbatial apartments, and nuns’ cells into ornate settings, thereby enriching—and complicating – any simple opposition of the religious and worldly spheres. Periti’s book shows how this courtly conventual art taught its viewers to use their eyes to gain insights about the secular world that lay beyond the bounds of their monastic walls.

Many congratulations to Professor Periti.

The book is richly illustrated thanks to the generous assistance of the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Publications Subsidy at Villa I Tatti. For more information, please visit the Yale University Press website.

UofT Art Historian Has Useful Perspective on Photography in the Post-Truth Era

Monday, February 27, 2017

An art historian, Bear is interested in the sociology of knowledge, in particular, how people in different historical periods become convinced that what they are looking at is real.

Bear’s passion is how works of photography are received, rather than how they are produced. His first book, Disillusioned: Victorian Photography and the Discerning Subject, recently won the prestigious 2016 Historians of British Art book award for a post-1800 subject.

“I’m interested in the skills people develop or have imposed upon them to make sense of visual representations,” said Bear, an associate professor in the Department of History of Art in the Faculty of Arts & Science. “In the past three months terms like fake news and alternative facts have become common. This new vocabulary makes us aware that these questions are important and are relevant to what makes a citizen informed about his or her place in the world.”

Photos don’t tell us much; supplementary information is key

For example, during President Trump’s inauguration, questions arose about the size of the crowd in attendance and photos were used to support the conclusions. Unsurprisingly, Bear received a number of emails as events unfolded.

“In our culture, visual representation and its relation to evidence, proof and the truth may be difficult to sort out,” he said. “Photographs themselves don’t tell us very much; supplementary information is key. The idea that there is smoking gun proof from a photo is problematic.”

Given the timeliness of this subject, this year’s Historians of British Art book award was all the more appropriate.

People have expectations for photographs to be an impartial reflection of the real world

“I had no idea that I was being considered at all,” Bear said. “It’s a nice surprise. The main benefit is recognition. It will allow my book to reach a wider audience and I hope it will open doors for research.”

The book, which grew out of his doctoral research, explores “why people are compelled to believe certain kinds of images and not others. Photography seemed like a good place to start, because people have heightened expectations for photographs to be an impartial reflection of the real world, and we know that’s not true.”

Bear took a trip back in time to the beginnings of photography as a medium to compare what sense people make of photos compared to older, more traditional media such as painting.

Historical paintings created before photography provided a public record of battles and events

He is currently exploring historical paintings created before photography was invented and how they provided a public record of battles and other historical events.

“In the first quarter of the 19th century, historical paintings go from being the most important genre of painting to almost invisible,” Bear said. “Eventually, objects used in battle or live testimony from that battle seemed more immediate to viewers than paintings of them. My hypothesis is that they became less important because they don’t give viewers the same proximity to the past that other kinds of evidence do.”

Bear didn’t set out to become an art historian. Growing up outside New York City, he had access to an abundance of museums and loved the art he experienced. As he earned his bachelor’s degree in literature, Bear realized that his essays focused largely on the visual elements in the stories. He began incorporating art history courses into his curriculum and moved on to study art history at the graduate level at Columbia University.

“By then, I had some sense that I was interested in modern art,” Bear said. “19th century art provided me with a way of thinking about the origins of technological and social movements that seemed to offer a way to get sense of our own culture and moment.”

This story was originally published on the University of Toronto Arts & Science News Site (Feb. 24, 2017)

Article by: Elaine Smith

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