Unstable Realisms: Ancient American Art and Modern Photography
How can art serve as evidence? Intensely naturalistic art—be it a photograph or an ancient sculpture—seems to make truth claims about the world around it. But a discussion of objects reveals that interpreting representational practices produces a host of common questions and dilemmas that thread through time and place.
Drawing upon photographs, ceramics, and sculpture, Professor Claudia Brittenham and Professor Leslie Wilson consider the ways that material objects serve as testimony to a particular moment, period, and site, and reveal how, in so doing, they both convey and obscure meaning. This lecture draws on the collections of the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art, as well as from other museums and archives in Chicago and beyond.
Recommended reading: There is no recommended reading for this lecture. Professor Brittenham and Professor Wilson instead counsel participants to prepare for the talk by paying heed to the world around them: observe carefully, interpret creatively, and avoid easy assumptions about cause and effect.
ABOUT THE PRESENTERS:
Claudia Brittenham is an Associate Professor of Art History and the College at the University of Chicago, and the Interim Director of the Center for Latin American Studies. Her research focuses on the art of ancient Mesoamerica, and to the ways that the politics of style and practices of materiality intersect to produce meaning. Her current book takes up these themes by exploring the relationship between ancient arts and modern practices of museum display.
Leslie Wilson is the Curatorial Fellow for Diversity in the Arts for the Smart Museum at the University of Chicago, where she earned her PhD in Art History; she is also an Assistant Professor at State University of New York, Purchase College. In her research and curatorial work, Wilson is concerned with the history of photography, as well as with modern and contemporary arts in Africa the African diaspora, and America. She is currently completing a book that examines the use of color photography in postapartheid South Africa.
ABOUT THE SMART MUSEUM OF ART:
The Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago promotes rigorous inquiry and exchange through the lens of art objects and artistic practice. Through strong community and scholarly partnerships, the Museum incorporates diverse ideas, identities, and experiences into its exhibitions and collections, academic initiatives, and public programming.