Q+A with Alumna and Curator Rebecca Giordano
Wed. March 22, 2017
Curator Rebecca Giordano (M.A. in Art History, 2015) is one of the founding members of the curatorial collective, INGZ, a collaboration that grew out of Art History Associate Professor Cherise Smith's Historicizing the Politics of Identity seminar. March ON!, an exhibition curated by Giordano, is currently on view at the Christian-Green Gallery through April 15, 2017.
On Friday, March 24, INGZ and the UT Austin campus will welcome Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell for a public conversation at the Hogg Auditorium. A film screening of "Get in the Way: The Journey of John Lewis" will precede the panel, but tickets are required.
On Thursday, March 23 at 5:30 p.m. there will be a reception and conversation between Giordano and artist Nate Powell at the Christian-Green Gallery.
Can you tell me how the March ON! exhibition came together?
I began thinking about this exhibition after reading the first volume of March back in 2014. John Lewis' personal story is certainly a compelling and important one. But it is actually the quality of the brush-and-ink illustrations made me think this graphic novel would make a fantastic exhibition. While they are, of course, comics, they are also extraordinary drawings that address essential political issues of the last century. The illustrator, Nate Powell, is an old friend of mine. I approached him about two years ago to discuss the idea of building an exhibition around the original drawings.
How do you approach curating an exhibition based on a comic? How has your work as an art historian or a curator previously crossed paths with this medium?
In general, comics are accessible. They are considered a low medium, a literally pulp form. The flip side of this disregard is that people are eager to pick them up and tear through without recognizing how much work they do to read them or feeling intimidated by the theme or content. This affords a unique opportunity for drawing out a nuanced and layered perspective and interesting, fine-tuned illustrations for a broad (and sometimes unsuspecting) audience, which March does very well.
This is my second exhibition of comic artwork. The first was In Heartbeats: The Comic Art of Jackie Ormes, which showcased work from four newspaper series by the first African American woman cartoonist. (One of Ormes’ comics is also on display in March ON!) I approached both shows archivally, putting these fantastic comic artworks in conversation with other kinds of cultural production. Because of the historic content and the necessity for visitors to spend time actually reading the text on the page, March ON! required a different curatorial approach. One question I had was about how to curate work from a comic book. These drawings are reproduced in an award-winning and best-selling graphic novel, so how could I approach this to make an exhibition that is interesting and does something different than the book? The exhibition March ON! features more than 50 original drawings from March by Nate Powell. I included a variety of ephemera and works of art by other artists to help fill out the historical period that the graphic memoir covers. Documentary photographs by Charles Moore and Spider Martin and pamphlets and newsletters from the activist James Farmer's archive (all of which came from the Briscoe Center here on campus) along with comics from the 1950s and today addressing racial justice, and protest albums from the era are on display to help visitors think about how the ideas behind the Civil Rights Movement spread in material ways.
What conversation or question do you hope to inspire with this exhibition?
March ON! offers UT a place to reflect on the relationship between a particular historic moment and our own using outstanding and innovative visual culture that centers Black experience. This is an undeniably important contribution to our campus culture. One really fantastic aspect of March as a graphic novel series is that there are so many points of entry for different people. Curating from more than 600 pages required selecting what events and ideas covered in the three volumes to represent in the exhibition. I chose to highlight the breadth of Lewis' story to invite as many connections as possible, whether it be a shared concern for social justice, empathy for the violence of racist treatment, the excitement of finding community as well as the difficulty of bridging differences within a movement, or using art to voice a deeply felt political position. The exhibition—like the books themselves—doesn't let you forget the past or the present. While there is no one thing that I hope visitors take away, I hope the exhibition offers an opportunity to reflect on the many roles people can play in social movements including the ways that the strategies that proved successful were developed, honed and carried out by ordinary people for ordinary people.
What are INGZ’s future plans?
INGZ is motivated by a creative approach to curating as a political practice. We like to rethink what happens in galleries, with whom, and how the curatorial process changes when we move beyond traditional models. For us, that can mean shifting our approach to the time and space of an exhibition—what does it do to offer two exhibitions back-to-back by the same artist in two very different spaces on the same campus, as we did with LaToya Ruby Frazier: Riveted? It can also mean seeing what comes out of condensing a semester-long performance series into three days to create a viewing and performing experience with density and in support of emerging and ongoing webs of connection and participation as we undertook with Sampling. Our current projects include a collaborative expanded video and a work that intends to bridge the worlds of inspirational speaking and chatty memoir through performance art. We like questions that emerge at limits. We also like archives. To that end, we are exploring how we create faithful archives of our own processes and projects. Online, this can be found out ingzcollective.org.
Hotel Mexico awarded the Arvey Foundation Book Award from the Association for Latin American Art
Mon. March 20, 2017
Each year the Association for Latin American Art (ALAA) selects a book representing the best scholarly work published on the art of Latin America from the Pre-Columbian era to the present for the Arvey Foundation Book Award. This year, the selection committee honored Art History assistant professor George Flaherty with that award for his most recent book, Hotel Mexico: Dwelling on the '68 Movement (University of California Press, 2016).
“In his abundantly detailed, thoughtful, and theoretically sophisticated study, Flaherty engages a pivotal episode, the 1968 massacre of 300 student protestors in Mexico City ten days before the Olympics,” said Charlene Villaseñor Black, ALAA Chair, during the award presentation. “Flaherty considers Mexico in 1968 and its cinematic, photographic, and literary afterimages in an analysis of the diverse ways in which the Tlatelolco Massacre is remembered, evoked, and memorialized.”
Flaherty publishes primarily on Latin American and U.S. Latino visual and spatial cultures since 1940, with emphasis on Mexico and the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. His research and teaching interests extend to Cuba, film and media studies, postcolonial and subaltern studies, and the historiography of global contemporary art. Hotel Mexico investigates the spatial dimensions of the 1968 student-led protest movement in Mexico City and its representation.
Professor Joan Holladay Invited to Lecture at Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures in Hamburg
Mon. March 20, 2017
The Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures engages in fundamental research on the diversity of manuscript cultures. In early March, the center invited Art History Professor Joan Holladay along with scholars of manuscripts from across the globe to share their research in Hamburg, Germany during a workshop titled, “The Illustration of History in Medieval Manuscripts.”
Meant to address the question of the illustration of historical texts in both Western European and Persian traditions, the colloquia in March brought together specialists from Europe, the United States and Turkey, to provide a comparative approach to many common questions in the field. Holladay’s presentation focused on her research in western medieval art, specifically focusing on cases where manuscript illustrations depart from patterning manusc imagery after its accompanying text and choose to depict family trees.
“My paper examined three different kinds of chronicles whose illustrations depart from this expected pattern in which the images illustrate events narrated in the text,” writes Holladay. “All three replace such narrative imagery with family trees, diagrams that are not generated by the text. If the choice of narrative episodes to illustrate the events in more typically illuminated chronicles reveal an understanding of the text, I ask: ‘How do such family trees elaborate, supplement, or gloss the text?’”
UT Austin professors speak out against proposed elimination of NEA and NEH
Thu. March 16, 2017
In a bid to reduce domestic spending, the White House has proposed the elimination of multiple federal programs including the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in its budget priorities, according to details outlined by The Hill and The New York Times.
This is not the first time that the NEA and NEH have come under fire. In the 30-year history of the NEA, the agency has continued to work to support excellence in the arts and humanities despite continuous political opposition. In response to the recent threat to both agencies, a host of arts leaders at UT Austin have spoken out against the latest budget proposal, including Art History Professor Eddie Chambers, Art History Professor John Clarke, and Stephen Enniss, director of the Harry Ransom Center.
UT Austin professors have argued against the notion that the combined budgets of the NEA and NEH—totaling some $148 million each (about .5% of the requested $54 billion increase in defense spending)—will move the needle on reducing deficit spending. “Given that cutting the NEH/NEA will do virtually nothing to positively impact the nation's deficit, this planned axing represents a serious diminishment in the cultural and educational life and health of the nation,” writes Chambers in The Dallas Morning News. “Doubtless we would all agree that the nation continues to grapple with monumental problems on a great many fronts, but the continued operating of these agencies is most assuredly not among these problems. Quite the reverse.”
Since 1984, the NEA and NEH have contributed an estimated $14,942,822 to the success of multiple projects across the university as well as faculty publications and research benefiting the UT student body, the city of Austin and the wider scholarship of arts and culture. Among them, Art History Professor Jeffrey Smith has seen his research sustained over 25 years by NEH support, beginning with a subvention grant from the NEH in 1984 for New Perspectives on the Art of Renaissance Nuremberg: Five Essays, a book he edited to a six-month research fellowship from the NEH in 2008, which ultimately grounded the research presented in his book, Dürer (London: Phaidon Press, 2012).
As Chambers made clear, the NEA and the NEH are vital to the cultural and educational health of the nation, including those that affect the academic and professional lives of those on the UT Austin campus. Speaking on behalf of the Oplontis Project, an archaeological study devoted to the excavation, study, and publication of the site of Oplontis in Italy, professor John Clarke spoke to The Daily Texan, “It’s impossible to think about continuing research without the NEH, particularly since the humanities are so terribly underfunded in general. The important part of the NEH is to remember that the humanities feed into and overlap with both the hard and soft sciences, so it’s literally a way of bridging disciplines.”
It remains to be seen how the Budget and Appropriations committees will handle the White House budget, but as professors from the Department of Art and Art History know and will attest, the NEH and NEA are critical to America’s legacy of artistic excellence and cultural investment.