Material Dispersions: Sculpture and Photography in Postwar Italy

First lecture of a four-part lecture series, Arte Povera: Artistic Tradition and Transatlantic Dialogue.

Magazzino Italian Art presents a four-part lecture series Arte Povera: Artistic Tradition and Transatlantic Dialogue curated by 2022-23 Magazzino Scholar-in-Residence Dr. Roberta Minnucci.

In the first lecture, Material Dispersions: Sculpture and Photography in Postwar Italy, Dr. Marin R. Sullivan, Independent Scholar and Curator, will examine vanguard artists in the late 1960s, on both sides of the Atlantic, often classified under the label of Conceptual Art, increasingly turned to unstable, unconventional materials, new patronage models, and alternative modes of display, and in the process, expanded the boundaries of sculpture. While diverse in form and intent, the resulting projects all shared an uneasy, if necessary, dependence on photography in order to document, contain, and, in many cases, preserve the work. The reliance on the photographic image also bolstered the narrative of dematerialization that emerged in the period, and in subsequent decades, has been used within art historical scholarship to argue that the photograph alone constitutes the work. Focusing on a selection of complex, multipart projects realized by both Italian and non-Italian artists in Italy between 1966-1972, including those by Yayoi Kusama, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Robert Smithson, and Joseph Beuys, this lecture examines the complex intermedial relationship between concept, matter, and image at the heart of so much materially driven, process-oriented artwork created at the end of the long ‘60s. These artists did not approach photography as something that would or could replace the material aspects of his work, but as another material among many, albeit one that had the power to radically reduce or expand the experience of the other components. The hybrid status of these works, existing as both material phenomena, temporary installation, and photographic image, suggest an alternative way in which the work of art has been rethought through the medium of sculpture, at once beyond the limits of the object’s physical boundaries and firmly anchored to them.

About Dr. Marin R. Sullivan
Dr. Marin R. Sullivan is a Chicago-based art historian, curator, consultant, educator, and writer with a PhD from the University of Michigan. She specializes in the histories of modern and contemporary sculpture, especially its interdisciplinary, intermedial dialogues with photography, design, and the built environment. Sullivan is the Director of the Harry Bertoia Catalogue Raisonné and was the co-curator of Harry Bertoia: Sculpting Mid-Century Modern Life, organized by the Nasher Sculpture Center. She is the author of Alloys: American Sculpture and Architecture at Midcentury (Princeton University Press, 2022) and Sculptural Materiality in the Age of Conceptualism (Routledge, 2017) as well as numerous catalogue essays and articles. Sullivan currently serves on the Board of Docomomo US/Chicago and is a lecturer and guest curator at DePaul University.

Arte Povera: Artistic Tradition and Transatlantic Dialogue

Lecture Series
Magazzino Italian Art
March 18, 2023–April 30, 2023

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