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During American Art Week 2024!

Multiple Modernities

IAC’s 28th Annual American Art Conference
May 9 – 11, 2024

Heritage Auctions
445 Park Ave.
New York, NY


In Multiple Modernities, IAC explores the synchronicity of modern expressions and movements in American art.

It can be argued that the “modern” in American Art, at least as we recognize it from our 21st-century vantage, had origins at the Centennial International Exhibition of 1876. There, responding to the decision by Organizers of the Philadelphia Exhibition to exclude works by women from the Art Gallery building, the Women’s Centennial Executive Committee created “their own pavilion, built with funds completely raised by women, with all exhibits created and operated by them,” as Stephanie Grauman Wolf writes. This was truly modern in a general sense, celebrating women’s achievements across multiple domains and serving as a powerful argument for women’s autonomy. It was also modern in a very specific way: at the Pavilion (as in the Art Gallery) painted ceramics and glass were exhibited alongside works on canvas, thus elevating what had heretofore been considered merely utilitarian to the realm of art.

The birth of the modern thus saw an increasing acceptance of varied media as appropriate to the creation of fine art. Photography would slowly emerge in the 20th century as an art form, expanding beyond its primarily documentary purposing. Unusual materials such as chrome and aluminum would find their way into artistic production. Collage—by Stella and Dove, to name just two—would emerge as a respected form. Works on paper, Georgia O’Keeffe’s, for example, or in textile or wood, achieved new-found respect.

At the same time, older media would come to enjoy new life. The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw what might be considered a rebirth of the mural as exemplified by Mary Cassatt’s progressive “Modern Woman” for the 1893 Women’s Pavilion at World’s Columbian Exposition. And this new life of the mural would be accompanied by a rediscovery of the tradition of true fresco often associated with the Renaissance. Tempera, too, would see a resurgence.

American Modernism, but one manifestation of the modern, would emerge in the first part of the 20th century, responding to and expanding upon European expressions. Modernism would see a movement towards abstraction in pursuit of a “truer” way of rendering a new, more industrialized world, with artists turning, in the words of William C. Agee “from the known, observable world around us to a mode of exploring in personal expressive ways … [their] interior life,” as manifest, for example, in the focus on the supernatural, the spiritual, and the sub- or unconscious in the works of the surrealists and Spiritual Moderns.

Equally essential to the modern in American art is the expression of social engagement. Professional African American artists grappled with European Modernism as they sought to represent and define themselves and their history. Indigenous peoples would engage with and shape the modern as well.

While abstraction tended to characterize Modernism, the figurative remained in service to the modern, harnessed to express powerful social messages in, for example, the work of Ben Shahn, or in sculpture, an important tool in the making and unmaking of race in the United States. The commitment to the figurative would include both embrace and repurposing of iconic works from the modern canon such as Manet’s Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe.

The emergence of the modern in American art can thus be traced to changes in perception of what constituted art, the forms it could take and how—and not least, by whom—it might be created. This change in perception, and the art it made possible, is the focus of IAC’s 28th annual American Art Conference.

We gratefully acknowledge Leadership Funding for Multiple Modernities from O’Brien Art Foundation and Anchor Sponsorship from Heritage Auctions.

We are grateful as well for funding from CollisArt LLC; D. Wigmore Fine Art; James Dicke II, Kenneth R. Woodcock; the Steven Alan Bennett Foundation; The Louis and Lena Minkoff Foundation; and anonymous donors (as of March 12, 2024).

We are deeply grateful for the media sponsorship provided by The Magazine ANTIQUES, and American Fine Art Magazine.

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Program agenda

Thursday, May 9, 2024
Formal sessions take place at Heritage Auctions, 445 Park. Ave, New York, NY (between 56th and 57th Streets). Program subject to change.

8:45 – 9:30 a.m. Registration and continental breakfast
9:30 – 9:45 a.m. Introduction
Lisa Koenigsberg
(President / Founder, Initiatives in Art and Culture)
9:45 – 10:30 a.m. Mary Cassatt – A Woman Building History
Wanda Corn
(Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor Emerita in Art History, Stanford University)
10:35 – 11:20 a.m. Beatrice Wood and the Visitable Past
Steven Watson
(Cultural historian with a particular interest in the dynamics of the 20th-century avant garde)

11:25 a.m. – 12:10 p.m. Black and Modern: Dynamics of the Modern Subject
Adrienne L. Childs
(Independent scholar and curator of the Phillips Collection, “Riffs and Relations: African American Artists and the European Modernist Tradition”)
12:10 – 1:25 p.m. Luncheon (on your own)
1:25 – 2:10 p.m. The Shape of Power: Stories of Race and American Sculpture
Karen Lemmey
(Lucy S. Rhame Curator of Sculpture, Smithsonian American Art Museum)
2:15 – 3:00 p.m. Are We Art or Are We Artists?
Dakota Hoska (Associate Curator, Native Arts, Denver Museum of Art)
3:00 – 3:20 p.m. Break
3:20 – 4:05 p.m. Ben Shahn – On Nonconformity
Laura Katzman (Professor of Art History, School of Art, Design and Art History, James Madison University)
4:10 – 5:10 p.m. Expanding Modernity: A Conversation
A Conversation with Glenn Lowry (Director, Museum of Modern Art) and David Anfam (Leading scholar of Abstract Expressionism)
5:10 – 6:30 p.m. Private reception and preview of the American Art Sale, Heritage Auctions
To register

Friday, May 10, 2024
Formal sessions take place at Heritage Auctions, 445 Park. Ave, New York, NY (between 56th and 57th Streets). Program subject to change.

8:45 – 9:15 a.m. Registration and continental breakfast  
9:15 – 9:30 a.m. Introduction
Lisa Koenigsberg
 
9:30 – 10:15 a.m. Multiple Modernities: Installing the 20th-Century Collections at the MFA, Boston
Nonie Gadsden
(Katharine Lane Weems Senior Curator of American Decorative Arts and Sculpture, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)
10:20 – 12:20 p.m. Exploring Multiple Modernisms: Modernism Throughout America
10:20 – 10:50 a.m. Pennsylvania Rural Modern
Amanda C. Burdan
(Senior Curator, Brandywine Museum of Art)
10:50 – 11:20 a.m. This Provocative Landscape: Modernism in the American Southwest
J. R. Henneman
(Director and Curator, Petrie Institute of Western American Art, Denver Museum of Art)
11:20 – 11:50 a.m. “Why” Southern/Modern and How it Took Shape
Jonathan Stuhlman
(Senior Curator of American Art, The Mint Museum)
11:50 a.m. – 12:20 p.m. Exploring Multiple Modernisms. A Panel Discussion
Amanda C. Burdan
, J. R. Henneman, and Jonathan Stuhlman. Moderator: Emily Ballew Neff (Director, San Antonio Museum of Art)
12:20 – 1:20 p.m. Luncheon (on your own)
1:20 – 2:00 p.m. “I’m Going to Start All Over Again Tomorrow”: O’Keeffe on Paper
Samantha Friedman
(Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints, MoMA)
2:05 – 2:45 p.m. Modernism, Surrealism, Man Ray & Chess
Larry List (New York-based writer and independent curator of exhibitions including “The Imagery of Chess Revisited,” “The Art of Chess,” “Man Ray & Sherrie Levine,” “John Cage and Glenn Kaino: Pieces and Performances,” and “SKINTRADE”)
2:50 – 3:30 p.m. New York Spirit Artist Marian Spore Bush (1878 – 1946)
Robert Cozzolino
(Independent curator, art historian, and critic)
3:30 – 3:50 p.m. Break  
3:50 – 4:35 p.m. Spiritual Moderns 20th-Century American Artists and Religion
Erika Doss (Edith O’Donnell Distinguished Chair, The Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History, The University of Texas at Dallas)
4:40 – 5:25 p.m. Arthur Dove at Midcentury
Debra Bricker Balken (Author, Arthur Dove: A Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings and Things and lead curator, “Americans in Paris: Artists Working in Post-War France, 1946 –1962,” an exhibition currently on view at the Grey Art Museum)
6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Conference participants will be guests of The American Art Fair’s Invitation-Only Gala Preview.
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Saturday, May 11, 2024
An Exceptional Opportunity
Program subject to change.

 

10:30 a.m. Meet at the Grey Art Museum (18 Cooper Square)
10:45 – 11:45 a.m. Private viewing and tour of the exhibition “American Artists in Paris, 1946 – 1962”
Led by curators Debra Bricker Balken and Lynn Gumpert (Director, Grey Art Museum)