Saloua Raouda Choucair, Fractional Module, 1947-1951, 49.5 x 59 cm, Courtesy Saloua Raouda Choucair Foundation
This symposium is organised in the frame of a partnership between the Musée National d’Art Moderne and the Département Culture et Création – Centre Pompidou and the association AWARE: Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions. It is part of the programming in parallel to the exhibition Women in Abstraction. Another History of Abstraction in the 20th Century, which will take place from 5 May to 6 September 2021 (dates to be confirmed) at the Centre Pompidou, then at the Guggenheim Bilbao from 8 October 2021 to 30 January 2022.
With a few notable exceptions, such as the exhibition Karo-Dame – Konstructive, Konkrete und Radikale Kunst von Frauen von 1914 bis heute presented at the Aargauer Kunsthaus in 1995, the fundamental role that women played in the development of abstract art has long been underestimated. While the Centre Pompidou has been helping to redress the balance since the thematic hanging of its collections under the title elles@centrepompidou in 2009, the latest historiographical advances illustrated by numerous recent publications, monographs and thematic exhibitions make it possible to reassess the importance of the contribution of women artists to the different currents of abstraction, while at the same time questioning the historical patterns of the past.
Curated by Christine Macel, with Karolina Lewandowska in charge of photography, this exhibition aims to highlight the contributions of a hundred or so women artists to abstraction up to the 1980s, with a few unprecedented forays into the 19th century. By focusing on the careers of artists, sometimes unjustly eclipsed, the exhibition proposes to question the established canons and write another history of abstraction. It highlights the decisive turning points that marked this evolution, evoking both the research undertaken by artists, individually or in groups, and exhibitions that contributed to the recognition of women abstract artists.
This symposium aims to bring together researchers from diverse backgrounds to collectively reflect on rewriting the history of abstraction by re-evaluating women artists’ contributions to the various abstract art movements. Firstly, it will make it possible to question the history of art conceived as a succession of pioneering practices. By examining the meaning of the term “abstraction” according to the various periods, geographies and media employed, the symposium will seek to demonstrate its complexity. Finally, it will be an opportunity to study the circulation of abstract practices in the world in order to open the debate on the canons established by Western modernity.
Papers may take the form of case studies problematized by artistic movements, individuals, groups or geographical area, as well as historiographical and multidisciplinary analyses of female or female-identifying artists from the end of the 19th century to the 1980s.
Presentations will last 20 minutes and will be illustrated with slide presentations. They will be filmed and recorded, and some of them may eventually be published as articles in a publication dedicated to the event or on the websites of the organizing institutions.
The Symposium will take place online on May 19, 20 and 21.
It will be directly translated in French and English.
The schedule is indicated in Paris time (UTC+2).
Registration is free and can be done via the following links – caution, each day has its own link:
May 19 – Session I – 10:00 AM to 12:15 PM
May 19 – Session II – 02:00 PM to 05:00 PM
May 20 – Session III – 10:00 AM to 11:45 AM
May 20 – Session IV – 02:00 PM to 06:15 PM
May 21 – Session V – 02:00 PM to 03:45 PM
May 21 – Session VI – 04:30 PM to 07:15 PM
– Opening by Serge Lasvignes, President of the Centre Pompidou
– Introduction by Christine Macel, Chief Curator of the exhibition Women in Abstraction, Centre Pompidou
– Introduction by Camille Morineau, Director and co-founder of AWARE: Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
The Aesthetics of Abstraction and the Question of Difference: Entangled Questions
What did the socio-cultural condition Modernity mean for artists redefining the condition and subjectivities of Woman and women? Did abstraction emerge and diverge because of difference(s) articulated formally and aesthetically? Should we understand ‘abstraction’ itself as itself an inquiry into art and being beyond inherited figurative formulations and co-created differently by women and men?
Griselda Pollock is Professor emerita of the Social and Critical Histories of Art (University of Leeds). She is a feminist-postcolonial-queer-international cultural theorist and art historian and author of many books, articles on modern and contemporary art and psychoanalytical aesthetic theory.
– 11:05 AM: Izumi Nakajima, Anti-action: Post-war Abstract Paintings by Japanese Women Painters
This paper will present the abstract practices of Japanese women artists from the 1950s to early 1960s by taking Atsuko Tanaka (1932 – 2005) as a case study. Her works form a critique of post-war abstract painting, which is traditionally characterized by a masculine aesthetic. The notion of “anti-action” acts as a comparative tool between contemporary women abstract artists, demonstrating their originality, and their male contemporaries, whose work was often considered to be a substream of American action painting.
Izumi Nakajima specializes in feminism, Japanese art history and contemporary art. Nakajima earned her Ph.D. at Hitotsubashi University in 2013. She currently teaches at Osaka University as associate professor. Her recent publications include Anti-action: Post-War Japanese Art and Women Artists (Brücke, 2019)
– 11:30 AM: Felix Vogel, Maja Wismer, Charmion von Wiegand and Abstract Painting: The Paradox of Transformation
Whether as a painter, an art critic, a curator or as president of the American Abstract Artists, Charmion von Wiegand (1896 – 1983) concerned herself with the history, meaning, and transformation of abstraction. While being represented in major collections, her work is today virtually unknown. Charmion von Wiegand’s formation as an agent in the history of abstract art in the U.S is highlighted, as well as her painterly exploration of abstraction and reasons for her absence in the canon.
Felix Vogel is professor of Art and Knowledge at the Universität Kassel / documenta Institute. He received his PhD in art history from the Universität Freiburg, Switzerland. His current research project is titled Art & Language: Theory – Practice – Display.
Maja Wismer is Head of Art after 1960 at Kunstmuseum Basel. She is the editor of the monograph Charmion von Wiegand. Expanding Modernism (Prestel, 2021) and the curator of its exhibition at Kunstmuseum Basel
– 02:05 PM: Max Boersma, Hannah Höch’s Degendered Geometries
In a series of 1920s collages, Hannah Höch (1889–1978) interrogated the gendering of cubism and abstract art by way of sewing and embroidery patterns, just as the overlooked domestic mediums saved Weimar Germany’s largest publisher from financial collapse. Negotiating entrenched gender hierarchies between modes of making, the artist reimagined abstraction for critical analysis and unlearning.
Max Boersma is a PhD candidate at Harvard University, specializing in twentieth-century art. He holds a Master’s in Art History from Williams College, and for 2021, he is the recipient of a Fulbright research grant to Berlin, Germany.
– 02:30 PM: Elena Di Raddo, Carla Badiali, Cordelia Cattaneo, Carla Prina: the Contribution of Artists from Côme to Italian Inter-war Abstraction
In the 1930s, in Como, Carla Badiali (1907–1992), Cordelia Cattaneo (1921–1958) and Carla Prina (1911–2008) became actively involved with the group of abstract artists gravitating around the Galleria del Milione in Milan and played an instrumental role in the foundation of the Gruppo Futuristi Primordiali Sant’Elia (1941), a testimony not only to their independence and ground-breaking approach but to their interest in the applied arts.
Elena Di Raddo is Associate Professor in contemporary art history at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan and Brescia and a member of the steering committee of CRA.IT (the Research Centre for Italian abstract art).
– 02:50 PM: Róna Kopeczky, Hands in the Dark – Katalin Nádor’s experimental photographic practice (1963-1979)
In the experimental photographic practice that she developed between 1963 and the end of the 1970s, Katalin Nádor (1938–2018) was researching the common structures of art and nature through programmed geometrical reduction. Often operating with enlargement, superposition, folding, transparency, opacity and light effects, the photographer’s aim was to make the object and the genesis of her playfully abstract compositions unrecognizable.
Róna Kopeczky worked as a curator for international art in Ludwig Museum Budapest between 2006 and 2015. In 2015, she joined acb Gallery as artistic director. She is the co-founder of Easttopics. She holds a PhD in Art History from Sorbonne University.
“Abstraction and time: chrono-technics and chronicity”
This paper explores the theoretical implications of abstraction’s multiple temporalities by focusing on the work of three artists: Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889–1943), Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010) and Bice Lazzari (1900–1981). A textile register becomes a trigger for more expansive and new configurations of time compressed into often relatively small work. It aims to question the stakes involved in the task of looking back at an abstract century of women artists from the perspective of the chronicity of time in our pandemic-ridden present.
Briony Fer is Professor of History of Art at University College London and a Fellow of the British Academy. She has written extensively on abstraction and in particular on the women artists in the history of abstraction.
– Opening by Jean-Max Colard, Chef du service de la Parole/Département culture et création, Centre Pompidou
– Introduction by Orianne Castel, PhD in Philosophy at Université Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis
– 10:15 AM: Marion Sergent, 1930s Abstraction: When Painters Louise Janin and Laure Garcin Became Theoreticians
Louise Janin (1893 – 1997) and Laure Garcin (1896 – 1978) produced their first non-figurative canvases in the 1930s. Both based in Paris between the wars, they were united by a significant theoretical output. The study of their texts not only sheds light on two relatively unknown figures, it also paves the way for a reflection on the situation of abstract art in the 1930s and whether abstraction and non-figurative art should be assimilated.
Marion Sergent holds a PhD in contemporary art history from Sorbonne-Université. Following her thesis on “Les artistes musicalistes : théories et pratiques d’une union des arts (1932 – 1960)”, her work on Louise Janin was published by Éditions Hippocampe-collection École des modernités.
– 10:40 AM: Franny Tachon, Sorority, Textile and Abstraction: the exhibitions “Espace cousu” and “Couture-Peinture” by Aline Dallier-Popper (1976 – 1977)
Through their collective exhibitions launched in 1975 at UNESCO and entitled “Féminie”, the French feminist collective Dialogue committed themselves to putting an end to the invisibilisation of women visual artists on the Parisian art scene. This talk aims to retrace the group’s approach to abstraction in the context of textile art thanks to the work of critic Aline Dallier-Popper (1927 – 2020).
A graduate of the École du Louvre, Franny Tachon submitted her research thesis, “Les trois premières manifestations du groupe Dialogue : ‘Des expositions de femmes, pour quoi faire?’” in 2019. She is currently preparing the competitive entrance exam for the qualification of cultural heritage curator.
– 11:05 AM: Lou Forster, Dancing Page in Hand. Embodying Abstraction in the Lucinda Childs Dance Company, 1973 – 1978
The minimalist pieces created by choreographer Lucinda Childs (1940) in the early 1970s revolve around an abstract figuration of movement in space, in the form of floor plans. Conceived for and from the point of view of the performers, they offer an unprecedented take on the embodiment of dance, a pivotal issue that will be addressed in this talk.
Lou Forster is currently pursuing a PhD at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, under the supervision of Béatrice Fraenkel (EHESS) and Carrie Lambert-Beatty (University of Harvard). His work spans an historical anthropology of the Lucinda Childs company with particular reference to the techniques underpinning the development of minimalist dance.
– 02:05 PM: Mary Angela Schroth, Bertina Lopes: a continuing Journey in Art, Politics and Africa
Bertina Lopes (1924 – 2012) is often described as the “Mother of Contemporary African Painting”, yet remains underrecognized internationally. Having studied art in Maputo and later in Lisbon, after arriving in Rome in 1964, she continued to paint and exhibit. Her role in the political liberation of Portugal and later Mozambique as well as the peace process after the 17-year strife in her home country is legendary.
Mary Angela Schroth has directed Sala 1 non-profit artspace in Rome since 1985. She began her career at CBS News in New York (1971 – 1977), founded Nouveau Mixage in Caen with artist Joel Hubaut in 1979. She is president of the Fondazione Salvatore Meo and consultant to the Vatican Museums.
– 02:30 PM: Marie-Dominique Gil, Beyond the Canon: Abstraction According to Zarina Hashmi
Zarina Hashmi (1937 – 2020), who was born in India, drew on the decorative Islamic motifs of her childhood to devise an abstract oeuvre that was at once geometric and organic. Indubitably original, her practice challenged the fundamental canons of traditional art history but also the precepts launched by the new American feminist theories of the early 1970s.
A graduate of the École du Louvre, Marie-Dominique Gil is a lecturer under a doctoral contract at Université Paris 8. She worked for the Centre Pompidou as assistant exhibition curator before joining the Laboratoire d’Études sur le Genre et la Sexualité.
– 02:55 PM: Mariola Alvarez, Diasporic Abstraction: Tomie Ohtake and Brazilian Art
Tomie Ohtake’s (1913 – 2015) abstract art is examined in relation to Japanese art, Brazil’s debates about concretism and informalism, and international movements. As an East Asian immigrant woman in Brazil practicing abstraction Ohtake did not fit into the Western model of artmaking, troubling the ‘national’ at the center of art history. The lens of diaspora theory demonstrates the ways in which her work defies categorization.
Mariola V. Alvarez is an Assistant Professor of Art History at Tyler School of Art and Architecture, Temple University. She received her doctorate from the University of California, San Diego. She is the co-editor of New Geographies of Abstract Art in Postwar Latin America (Routledge, 2019).
Sent by History: Ornamental Thickness in Four Variations
Adrienne Edwards considers how the ornament has evolved and been reimagined in the abstractions of four black women artists working in North America, Africa, and Europe from the early 1990s to today: Julie Mehretu (1970), Denyse Thomasos (1964 – 2012), Wangechi Mutu (1972) and Ellen Gallagher (1965). The talk illustrates the ways in which these artists employ thickness as an ornamental embellishment in paintings, performance, video art, and installation to illuminate how and why abstraction is coagulated and fleshy.
Adrienne Edwards is the Engell Speyer Family Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City and co-curator of the 2022 Whitney Biennial. Previously, she served as curator of Performa in New York City and as curator at large for the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Edwards has taught art history and visual studies at New York University and the New School, and is a contributor to the National Gallery of Art’s Center for the Advanced Study in Visual Art’s forthcoming publications African American Art World and Black Modernisms.
– 04:35 PM: Eleanor Nairne, “A Damn Good Painter, Thank You”: Discovering and Rediscovering Lee Krasner
Though a pioneer of Abstract Expressionism, Lee Krasner (1908 – 1984) has suffered endless discovery and rediscovery. While in the 1940s commercial galleries in New York would not often present the work of women artists, emergent art critics in the 1950s focused on the younger generation of women. For Krasner, the exhibition remains a crucial mechanism for shifting discourse and keeping her reputation alive.
Eleanor Nairne is curator at the Barbican Art Gallery and a writer for the London Review of Books and the New York Times. Her upcoming exhibition, “Hesse / Wilke: Erotic Abstraction”, will take place at Acquavella Galleries, New York (Spring 2021).
– 05:00 PM: Orianna Cacchione, Two Women in Hangzhou: Another History of Abstract Art in China
In Post-Mao China, the ’85 Art New Wave (’85 meishu xinchao) was radical, experimental, and groundbreaking; it’s history, however, was written almost exclusively by and about men. This paper reevaluates the exclusion of women from its history by considering the role three women —Wang Gongyi (1946) and Shi Hui (1955) — played in the development of abstract art.
Orianna Cacchione is Curator of Global Contemporary Art at the Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago. Her scholarly and curatorial practices are committed to expanding the canon of contemporary art to respond to the circulations of art and ideas.
– 05:25 PM: Cecilia Fajardo-Hill, Her Abstractions: Expanded Modernisms
This paper proposes to expand the notion of abstraction beyond geometric abstraction and include countries outside its established cannon. Two perspectives are usually overlooked: the dialogue with Pre-Hispanic architecture and textiles, indigenous, and African art and culture; and the relationship of abstraction with the body, and spectator participation, often bridging abstraction with conceptual art and performance.
Cecilia Fajardo-Hill is a British/Venezuelan art historian and curator specializing on Latin American art. She holds a PhD in Art History from the University of Essex, England. She was co-curator of “Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985”, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles.
– 02:15 PM: Talia Kwartler, Dancing Abstractions: Suzanne Duchamp and Sophie Taeuber-Arp
Building upon Christine Macel’s and Emma Lavigne’s research, this paper explores the relationship between Suzanne Duchamp’s (1889 – 1963) and Sophie Taeuber-Arp’s (1889 – 1943) bodies of work by focusing on the medium of dance. Drawing these artists into dialogue with dance and with each other allows for a better understanding of how they worked between media to expand the radical potential of abstraction within Dada.
Talia Kwartler is a PhD Candidate in the History of Art at University College London, where she is completing her dissertation, “Suzanne Duchamp Does More Intelligent Things Than Paint,” under the supervision of Briony Fer.
– 02:40 PM: Elisa Genovesi, Bice Lazzari’s self-discovery in the name of Abstraction
Appreciated for her work in the field of handicraft, Bice Lazzari (1900 – 1981) started to explore a well-informed abstract lexicon since the second half of the 1920s. This paper will propose a most extensive reflection on the difficulties encountered by a woman who wanted to devote herself to the artistic career in the Italy of the 19th century.
Elisa Genovesi is graduated in Art History (University of Rome) with a BA thesis on Jasper Johns and a MA thesis on the Divisionist painters. She is a PhD candidate in History of Art, researching Toti Scialoja’s didactic work.
– 03:05 PM: Ayelen Pagnanelli, Gendering Abstraction in Buenos Aires
In the immediate aftermath of WWII, Buenos Aires was one of the centers of geometric abstraction. Though this artistic production has been extensively studied, a feminist perspective has remained largely absent. Thus, this paper analyzes how gendered practices impacted the participation and visibility of women in Argentine abstraction groups during the 1940s and 1950s such as Madí, Asociación Arte Concreto-Invención and Perceptismo.
Ayelen Pagnanelli is a Doctoral Fellow at Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET) and a Phd Candidate examining gender and sexuality in the abstract art scenes in Buenos Aires from 1937 to 1963 at the Universidad Nacional de San Martín (CIAP-UNSAM).
– 04:35 PM: Jelena Stojkovic, The Ephemeral Nature of Illumination: Abstract Art by Women Artists from Former Yugoslavia
This paper focuses on the work of Mira Brtka (1930 – 2014) and Milena Čubraković (1924 – 2004) within the context of Illumination (1967-1971), a short-lived multinational artistic collective that operated in Rome and was comprised of painters preoccupied with abstraction and non-figuration. It discusses their position as women artists from former Yugoslavia, especially in relation to the group’s preference for ephemeral forms of art making.
Dr. Jelena Stojković is an art historian and critic. She is the author of Surrealism and Photography in 1930s Japan: The Impossible Avant-Garde (2020) and is Lecturer in Photography, Critical Studies at Oxford Brookes University.
– 05:00 PM: Daniel Belasco, Pictures of Theories: Abstraction and Radical Feminism in the USA
The founding curator of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia and later a feminist activist, Ti-Grace Atkinson (1938) preferred abstraction to communicate the essence of an idea. Her book Amazon Odyssey (1974) illustrates five years of disparate polemics with symbolic imagery by artist Barbara Nessim (1939). This narrative “art object” is a useful case study for the interaction of abstract art and radical feminism in the USA.
Daniel Belasco is an art historian and Executive Director of the Al Held Foundation, New York. He holds a PhD from the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU and is currently writing a book on women artists in midcentury America.
– 05:25 PM: Rachel Middleman, Artists in Dialogue: Sonia Gechtoff and Jay DeFeo in 1950s San Francisco
The relationship between Jay DeFeo (1929 – 1989) and Sonia Gechtoff (1926 – 2018) serves as a case study of how the network of artists in 1950s San Francisco encouraged the careers and creativity of women. The visual parallels between these two artists’ abstract works created when they were neighbors suggest a dialogue of aesthetic concerns during a period of intense production.
Rachel Middleman is Associate Professor of Art History at California State University, Chico. She is the author of Radical Eroticism: Women, Art, and Sex in the 1960s (2018). She has recently contributed essays to In the Cut: The Male Body in Feminist Art (2019), and Women, Aging, and Art (2021).
The interview with Harmony Hammond, conducted by Elvan Zabunyan, will build on her works from the 2000s, highlighting the artist’s continual association between the body and painting. For her, painting is body, skin, it allows to heal. The conversation will also address the way in which abstraction has permeated the entirety of her production from the 1970s to today.
A pivotal figure of the feminist art movement in New York, Harmony Hammond co-founded A.I.R. Gallery (1972) and Heresies: A Feminist Publication on Art and Politics (1977). Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and is represented by Alexander Gray Associates, NYC.
Elvan Zabunyan is a contemporary art historian, art critic and professor at Université Rennes 2. Her current research focuses on the history of American slavery and the contemporary arts. She recently co-authored Constellations subjectives, pour une histoire féministe de l’art (iXe, 2020).
Mathieu Potte-Bonneville, Director; Jean-Max Colard, Head of the Speech Department, Culture and Creation Department– Centre Pompidou
Christine Macel, Chief Curator in charge of the Department of Contemporary Creation and Prospection; Laure Chauvelot, Head of Research, Musée National d’Art Moderne – Centre Pompidou
Matylda Taszycka, Head of Research Programmes ; Marie Chênel, Head of Research Programmes (by interim); Eleni Pantelaras, Assistant of Research Programmes; Fanny Verdier, Digital Contents Supervisor, AWARE: Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
Musée National d’Art Moderne – Centre Pompidou:
Christine Macel, Chief Curator in charge of the Department of Contemporary Creation and Prospection; Karolina Lewandowska, Curator, Photography Department
AWARE: Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions:
Camille Morineau, Director ; Matylda Taszycka, Head of Research Programmes
Eric de Chassey, Art Historian, General Director of the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art (INHA); Charlotte Foucher-Zarmanian, Art Historian, CNRS researcher – LEGS laboratory (UMR 8238); Abigail Solomon-Godeau, Art Critic and Curator