Conferences & Lectures

Untying “The Knot”: The State of Postwar Italian Art History Today

Date:
Time:
Location: CIMA, New York

Conference and study days organized by Sharon Hecker and Marin R. Sullivan. 

Sponsored jointly by The Center for Modern Italian Art, New York (CIMA) and the Italian Art Society (IAS). 


2015 marks the thirty-year anniversary of curator Germano Celant’s The Knot, the 1985 landmark exhibition held at PS1 in New York, which introduced contemporary Italian art to American audiences. Yet despite the interest it generated in its time, only recently have scholars in the United States begun to consider postwar Italian art as a subject for study. Today, thanks to shows like the Tate Modern/Walker Art Center’s Zero to Infinity: Arte Povera 1962-1972, scholars on both sides of the Atlantic are increasingly turning their attention to study Italian art created after World War II. Italian archives are becoming more accessible, more primary texts have been translated into English, and a growing number of museum and gallery exhibitions, conferences and English publications in both the U.S. and the U.K. are beginning to fill the lacuna.

With the passage of half a century, European and American scholars alike are using these venues to historicize and scrutinize the complex dichotomies that defined Italy during the period: from its dialogue with artistic and craft traditions of the past within the context of rapid industrialization, to the so-called “economic miracle” and the effects of American consumerism, to the mechanics of Italy’s desire to establish a particular kind of Italian Modernism that would also become internationally influential. The Italian national context that once appeared to Anglo-American scholars as provincial, homogenous, or retrograde is now considered a crucial art historical moment bursting with distinct artists, radical groups and tendencies, including Informale, Gruppo N, and Arte Povera, as well as artworks shaped by concurrent historical developments in science, industry, politics, literature, photography, architecture, design and film. A scholarly outlook on art created in Italy during the postwar period has now fully emerged in the U.K. and U.S., but its parameters and impact have yet to be assessed. These study days seek to evaluate the current state of the field and to highlight alternative methodologies for future inquiry.

Scheduled for February 9-10, 2015, the days prior to the opening of the College Art Association’s 103rd Annual Conference in New York, it complemented the IAS-sponsored session, “Di politica: Intersections of Italian Art and Politics since World War II,” chaired by Dr. Christopher Bennett and Dr. Elizabeth Mangini. Through brief paper presentations, ample discussion, and a respondent roundtable, the goal of the study days is to address and explore the most pressing issues, concerns, and questions driving postwar Italian art history on both sides of the Atlantic today. Are those concerns the same for Italian and non-Italian scholars of different generations? How do we take into account regional differences and, at the same time, questions of a unified national Italian identity? How did novel materials and the emergence of industrial design impact the visual arts in Italy and vice versa? What was new about art made in Italy during this time and what continued or was rephrased, reshaped and recycled (either critically or uncritically) from the immediate, Fascist or more distant past (for example, Futurism, or even further back, from the nineteenth century, the Renaissance, the Baroque, Medieval or Ancient periods)? While the primary focus of the conference is Italy and Italian artists between 1945 and 1975, we also welcome case studies—with an eye to methodology—that examine cross-cultural exchange, including the reception of Italian art internationally or the presence of foreign artists in Italy; the impact of international exhibitions such as the Venice Biennale; or the influence of the postwar generation on art being produced around the world today.

Click here to see the program of speakers.


Officers & Contacts