229 episodes

Interviews with Scholars of Art about their New Books

New Books in Art New Books Network

    • Visual Arts

Interviews with Scholars of Art about their New Books

    K. B. Berzock, "Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture, and Exchange across Medieval Saharan Africa" (Princeton UP, 2019)

    K. B. Berzock, "Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture, and Exchange across Medieval Saharan Africa" (Princeton UP, 2019)

    The companion publication to the 2019-2020 traveling exhibition Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture, and Exchange across Medieval Saharan Africa (Princeton University Press, 2019, published in association with the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University) tells the story of how trade routes across the Saharan Desert facilitated the movement of people, ideas, and objects between the 8th and the 16th century. Not your typical exhibition catalogue, Caravans of Gold is a selection of chapters that reach across academic fields and genres of writing, seeking to evoke the exhibition’s central themes, including cultural movement, archaeological fragments, and global connection. We talk to the exhibition’s curator and the publications’s editor, Kathleen Bickford Berzock, about this expansive project. The conversation ranges from the exhibition’s conception, how the catalogue was designed in relation to it, and best practices associated with building a project like this one. Moreover, Kathleen details the major themes and questions associated with the exhibition. What is the “medieval”? How can we understand historical movements across the Sahara? How does religion –specifically, Islam– play a role in this project?
    Kathleen Bickford Berzock is Associate Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University. She is the author of For Hearth and Altar: African Ceramics from the Keith Achepohl Collection and the coeditor of Representing Africa in American Art Museums: A Century of Collecting and Display.
    Exhibition Schedule:
    Aga Khan Museum, Toronto
    September 21, 2019–February 23, 2020
    Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington, DC
    April 8–November 29, 2020
    Nadirah Mansour is a graduate student at Princeton University’s Department of Near Eastern Studies working on the global intellectual history of the Arabic-language press. She tweets @NAMansour26 and produces another Middle-East and North Africa-related podcast: Reintroducing.
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    • 1 hr 12 min
    Jane D. Hatter, "Composing Community in Late Medieval Music: Self-Reference, Pedagogy, and Practice" (Cambridge UP, 2019)

    Jane D. Hatter, "Composing Community in Late Medieval Music: Self-Reference, Pedagogy, and Practice" (Cambridge UP, 2019)

    There are a handful of pieces from the Medieval and Renaissance periods that most music students learn about in their introductory history courses; among them are Guillaume Du Fay’s, Ave regina celorum III and Johannes Ockeghem’s Missa Prolationum. Some of these foundational compositions have been studied by musicologists for over one hundred years, but generally they have been examined in isolation as masterworks by great composers. In her new book Composing Community in Late Medieval Music: Self-Reference, Pedagogy, and Practice (Cambridge University Press, 2019), Jane D. Hatter effectively contextualizes these pieces within a larger repertory of motets and masses written between 1450 and 1550 that mention other musicians or explore complex theoretical topics. She sees these works as evidence of an international community of musicians that might have been separated geographically and isolated by their itinerant lifestyles, but who were connected through a shared attitude towards art and their own sense of themselves as composers and musicians. Connecting her insights to a similar phenomenon in the visual arts, Hatter shows that the repertory she studies reflects a musical culture that valued intergenerational connections between artists and compositional virtuosity based upon theoretical and pedagogical concepts that stretched back to antiquity, but that also permeated the musical training these composers received.
    Jane D. Hatter is a musicologist on faculty at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Jane has published on musical time in early sixteenth-century Italian paintings (Early Music, 2011) and also on intersections between popular devotions and ecclesiastical liturgy in Renaissance motets that include or quote the Ave Maria prayer (2012). More recently she has examined the persistence and conversion of music for women's churching ceremonies in both Catholic and Protestant contexts in the early Reformation period.
    Kristen M. Turner, Ph.D. is a lecturer at North Carolina State University in the music department. Her work centers on American musical culture at the turn of the twentieth century and has been published in several journals and essay collections.
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    • 56 min
    April Eisman, "Bernhard Heisig and the Fight for Modern Art in East Germany" (Camden House, 2018)

    April Eisman, "Bernhard Heisig and the Fight for Modern Art in East Germany" (Camden House, 2018)

    In her book, Bernhard Heisig and the Fight for Modern Art in East Germany (Camden House, 2018), April Eisman examines one of East Germany's most successful artists as a point of entry into the vibrant art world of the "other" Germany. In the 1980s, Bernhard Heisig (1925-2011) was praised on both sides of the Berlin Wall for his neo-expressionist style and his commitment to German history and art. Chancellor Helmut Schmidt chose him to paint his official portrait, major museums collected his work, and in 1989 he had a major solo exhibition in West Germany. After unification, Heisig was a focal point in the Bilderstreit, a virulent debate over what role East German art should play in the new Germany. Challenging current understandings of Heisig and East German art, this book focuses on Heisig's little-known fight for modern art in East Germany. Examining major debates of the 1960s, it shows the key role he played in expanding the country's art from the limits of Soviet-style socialist realism to a socialist modernism that later gained recognition in the West. Such an investigation allows us to see that socialist realism in East Germany was more than a simple propagandistic style, it was a position that entailed exciting, but also potentially perilous new prospects for artists as they navigated the debates surrounding their responsibilities to the Socialist society and its people. The book which results captures the complexity of this era and stands to profoundly affect art historical understandings of this controversial period in artmaking.
    Allison Leigh is Assistant Professor of Art History and the SLEMCO/LEQSF Regents Endowed Professor in Art & Architecture at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Her research explores European and Russian art of the eighteenth through the early twentieth centuries.
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    • 57 min
    Fran Altvater, "Sacramental Theology and the Decoration of Baptismal Fonts" (Cambridge Scholars, 2017)

    Fran Altvater, "Sacramental Theology and the Decoration of Baptismal Fonts" (Cambridge Scholars, 2017)

    Fran Altvater talks about the Medieval Pilgrimage, a practice that became central to Christian Europe in the early Middle Ages and evolved into the military pilgrimages of the Crusades in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries. Altvater is a professor of art history at the University of Hartford. Her book, Sacramental Theology and the Decoration of Baptismal Fonts, was published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing in 2017.
    Baptismal fonts were necessary to the liturgical life of the medieval Christian. Baptism marked the entrance of the faithful into the right relation, with the Catholic Church representing the main cultural institution of medieval society. In the period between ca. 1050 and ca. 1220, the decoration of the font often had an important function: to underscore the theology of baptism in the context of the sacraments of the Catholic Church. This period witnessed a surge of concern about sacraments. Just as religious thinkers attempted to delineate the sacraments and define their function in sermons and Sentence collections, sculptural programs visualized the teaching of orthodox ideas for the lay audience. This book looks at three areas of primary concern around baptism as a sacrament incarnation, initiation, and the practice of baptism within the institution of the Church and the images that embody that religious discussion. Baptismal fonts have been recognized as part of the stylistic production of the Romanesque period, and their iconography has been generally explored as moral and didactic. Here, the message of these fonts is set within a very specific history of medieval Catholic sacramental theology, connecting erudite thinkers and lay users through their decoration and use.
    Michael F. Robinson is professor of history at Hillyer College, University of Hartford. He's the author of The Coldest Crucible: Arctic Exploration and American Culture (University of Chicago Press, 2006) and The Lost White Tribe: Scientists, Explorers, and the Theory that Changed a Continent (Oxford University Press, 2016). He's also the host of the podcast Time to Eat the Dogs, a weekly podcast about science, history, and exploration.

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    • 33 min
    Thomas Yarrow, "Architects: Portraits of a Practice" (Cornell UP, 2019)

    Thomas Yarrow, "Architects: Portraits of a Practice" (Cornell UP, 2019)

    What is creativity? What is the relationship between work life and personal life? How is it possible to live truthfully in a world of contradiction and compromise? These deep and deeply personal questions spring to the fore in Thomas Yarrow's vivid exploration of the life of architects. Yarrow takes us inside the world of architects, showing us the anxiety, exhilaration, hope, idealism, friendship, conflict, and the personal commitments that feed these acts of creativity.
    Architects: Portraits of a Practice (Cornell University Press, 2019) rethinks "creativity," demonstrating how it happens in everyday practice. It highlights how the pursuit of good architecture, relates to the pursuit of a good life in intimate and individually specific ways. And it reveals the surprising and routine social negotiations through which designs and buildings are actually made.
    Prue Chiles is Professor of Architectural Design Research at Newcastle University
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    • 36 min
    Erin Schoneveld, "Shirakaba and Japanese Modernism: Art Magazines, Artistic Collectives, and the Early Avant-Garde" (Brill, 2018)

    Erin Schoneveld, "Shirakaba and Japanese Modernism: Art Magazines, Artistic Collectives, and the Early Avant-Garde" (Brill, 2018)

    Befitting an art history book, Erin Schoneveld’s Shirakaba and Japanese Modernism: Art Magazines, Artistic Collectives, and the Early Avant-Garde (Brill, 2018) is a beautifully packaged analysis of the early twentieth-century Japanese modern art collective Shirakaba and its eponymous coterie magazine (1910-1923). Shirakaba, which means “white birch,” is recognized as the most significant art movement of the period, and had a lasting impact on the discourse and practice of art in modern Japan. The group’s journal was among the first and most important Japanese art magazines to include the works of prominent European artists, and doing so shaped the contours of the art world of twentieth-century Japan.
    Schoneveld shows how Shirakaba arose in opposition to the statist art of the young Meiji state, the strategies deployed to promote its artistic agenda, how the group established sometimes tangible and direct personal, artistic, and ideological connections to the European artists who represented the ideal of individualism, and how the movement changed over time from an avant-garde bastion to become central to the mainstream of the Japanese art scene in the early 1920s. In addition, the book reveals dynamic tensions between statism and Shirakaba’s individualism, between the group’s ethos of individualism and the realities of being a collective, between being avant-garde and establishment, and between different generations of Shirakaba artists themselves, as well as between virtual and physical exhibition spaces and the status of original versus reproduced art. Shirakaba and Japanese Modernism is an important contribution not just to Japanese art history, but to rethinking the global spread, reception, and adoption and adaptation of modernity and modernism.
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    • 1 hr 11 min

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