Between Modernism and Postmodernism : Literalism Reflections on the Concept of Literalness in American Post-War Art

Vendredi 27 avril 2012
Centre Allemand d'Histoire de l'Art
Hôtel Lully
45, rue des Petits Champs
75001 Paris
Tel. +33 1 42 60 67 82
Fax +33 1 42 60 67 83

Between Modernism and Postmodernism : Literalism
Reflections on the Concept of Literalness in American Post-War Art
Gregor Stemmrich, professor, Kunsthistorisches Institut, Freie Universität Berlin

When the term “postmodernism” became prominent at the beginning of the 1980s in American art criticism, it seemed plausible to use it in relation to any artistic position that did not fit into the Greenbergian categories of “modernism.” The insistence on a binary opposition led to the conclusion that Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, due to their resistance to the modernist achievements of abstract expressionism, had to be considered as artists at the forefront of postmodernism. It was ignored, however, that another opposition was prominent within the art critical discourse before the opposition between modernism and postmodernism was established : the opposition between modernism and literalism. The lecture aims to convey a vivid understanding of the complexities involved in the term “literal/literalist“ and the art that was related to it.
This collaborative, three-day seminar (by invitation), a partnership between the Centre Allemand d'Histoire de l'Art and the Terra Foundation for American Art Europe, encourages interdisciplinary collaboration among emerging scholars in the history of American art and American studies in Germany. The art of the United States has been receiving renewed interest by German scholars and museum curators, who are engaging in closer analysis of artistic exchanges between the two countries as well as the network of forces at work within particular time periods. General narratives on the shaping of a national art are being questioned, generating critical studies in the field of American art, visual culture, institutional histories, and beyond. Under the direction of Ursula Frohne (Universität Köln), Sigrid Ruby (Universität Giessen), Gregor Stemmrich (Freie Universität Berlin), and Veerle Thielemans (Terra Foundation for American Art), the seminar will take stock of new trends in German scholarship and promote future reflection and research.

The research of Gregor Stemmrich focuses on twentieth-century and contemporary art, incorporating approaches of art history and philosophy. His publications include Jeff Wall. Szenarien im Bildraum der Wirklichkeit, Kunst/Kino, and Minimal Art. Eine Kritische Perspective. He has edited volumes on Robert Morris, Dan Graham, Lawrence Weiner, and Heimo Zobernig, and has contributed essays to exhibition catalogues including Gerhard Richter : Large Abstracts (Museum Ludwig, Cologne, 2008–9). He formerly taught at the Hochschule für Bildende Kunst in Dresden.

This lecture will be held in English.