Please join us for a talk by Alexander Alberro, Virginia Bloedel Wright Professor of Art History at Barnard College and Columbia University in New York City. He is the author and editor of a number of books on contemporary art, including Institutional Critique: An Anthology of Artists Writings (2009); Art After Conceptual Art (2007); and Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity (2004). Alberro has also published essays in a broad array of journals and exhibition catalogues. His current book project is Abstraction in Reverse, a study of the emergence and development of abstract art in Latin America. He is also at work on a volume that explores new forms of art and spectatorship that have crystallized in the past two decades.
My paper centers around three fundamental questions. Is it possible to reestablish the lost link between contemporary art and a consistent art historical narrative? Second, can the art of the past quarter century be seen in structural terms—that is, is it organized around a structure? And third, are there theoretical and practical tools that could help us to comprehend both the governing principle of regional traditions, and the alleged globalization of the art world in recent years? To date, the answers given to such crucial questions have established only a limited connection between a regional or national art space on the one hand and a transnational or global art space on the other. In order to move beyond this division, I will propose that the art of the past several decades exists in a mediating space between these two poles: a parallel territory, relatively autonomous from the political domain, and dedicated as a result to questions, debates, inventions of a specifically artistic nature. Here struggles of all sorts are refracted, diluted, deformed or transformed according to an artistic logic, and in artistic forms. My hope is that working from this hypothesis, while trying to envisage all its theoretical and practical consequences, an understanding of art that is at once regional and transnational can be developed: in other words, a concept that could give a unified account of, say, the development of recent art forms, or the aesthetics of the artworks, and their connection to the political, economic and social world.
—Alexander Alberro, Barnard College/Columbia University
Alexander Alberro’s talk is presented with the generous support of the SFU English Department, SFU Galleries, UBC Art History, Visual Art and Theory, and the Charles H. Scott Gallery.