Art History Lecture Series presents: "A Manifesto of Eccentric Modernism" by Tirza True Latimer
A Manifesto of Eccentric Modernism
Focusing on a case study from Eccentric Modernisms: Making Differences in the History of American Art (UC Press, 2017), Latimer presents a piece of ephemera she describes as a "manifesto of eccentric modernism" -- a souvenir program for the 1934 opera Four Saints in Three Acts. The opera premiered in an eccentric venue, the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut. An eccentric libretto, penned by Gertrude Stein, was set to music by the modernist composer Virgil Thomson, choreographed by the neo-romantic Frederick Ashton, with extravagant sets and costumes by the uncatagorizable artist Florine Stettheimer. Perhaps the most unconventional aspect of the production was its all African American cast. Within the frame of American modernism, the opera's producers and performers challenged not only prevailing artistic heirarchies but also sex/gender codes and racial prohibitions to imagine daring social and cultural alternatives. The souvenir playbill presented this event in carefully calculated ways that enable us to speculate today about the collaborators' vision(s) of modernism in America.
Tirza True Latimer is Associate Professor and Chair of the Graduate Program in Visual and Critical Studies, California College of the Arts, San Francisco, examines modern and contemporary visual culture from queer feminist perspectives. She is co-editor, with Whitney Chadwick, of the anthology The Modern Woman Revisited: Paris between the Wars (Rutgers University Press, 2003) and the author of Women Together / Women Apart: Portraits of Lesbian Paris (Rutgers University Press, 2005). She is co-author, with Wanda Corn, of Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories (University of California Press, 2011), companion book for an exhibition organized by the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery, Washington D.C. Her latest book, Eccentric Modernisms: Making Differences in the History of American Art (UC Press, 2017) presents archival evidence of practices that do not fit the existing historical templates, yet contributed to the development of modernism in America as a far reaching set of social and cultural possibilities.