Semi-peripheries of Contemporary Art:
Sarah-Neel Smith and Jacob Stewart-Halevy in Conversation
Friday April 1, 2022 at 1pm EST via Zoom
Free and open to the public; registration required by following this link.
Join the Society of Contemporary Art Historians for a dual book talk and conversation between Jacob Stewart-Halevy (Tufts University, author of Slant Steps: On the Art World’s Semi-Periphery, 2020) and Sarah-Neel Smith (Maryland Institute College of Art, author of Metrics of Modernity: Art and Development in Postwar Turkey, 2022), moderated by Natilee Harren (University of Houston). The authors will introduce their new books and discuss methodological parallels between their two projects, centered on divergent geographies but drawing from similar sociological and economic discourses of semi-peripheral development in the twentieth century. Their respective projects offer new pathways for charting the emergent terrain of global contemporary art.
Metrics of Modernity: Art and Development in Postwar Turkey, by Sarah-Neel Smith (University of California Press, 2022)
In this vivid portrait of the art world of 1950s Turkey, Sarah-Neel Smith offers a new framework for analyzing global modernisms of the twentieth century: economic development. After World War II, a cohort of influential Turkish modernists built a new art world in Istanbul and Ankara. The entrepreneurial female gallerist Adalet Cimcoz, the art critic (and future prime minister) Bülent Ecevit, and artists like Aliye Berger, Füreya Koral, and Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu were not only focused on aesthetics. On the canvas, in criticism, and in the gallery, these cultural pioneers also grappled with economic questions—attempting to transform their country from a “developing nation” into a major player in the global markets of the postwar period. Smith's book publishes landmark works of Turkish modernism for the first time, along with an innovative array of sources—from gossip columns to economic theory—to reveal the art world as a key site for the articulation of Turkish nationhood at mid-century.
Dr. Sarah-Neel Smith’s work focuses on modernisms in a global and comparative perspective, with a particular focus on artistic exchanges between the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and the United States. A graduate of Smith College, she holds a Ph.D. in Art History from the University of California, Los Angeles and teaches in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Her writing has appeared in Art Journal, ARTMargins, Third Text, Bidoun and frieze and her research has been supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA), ACLS, Terra Foundation for American Art, and the Fulbright scholar program. She is currently at work on a revisionist history of the work of seven American artists who visited North Africa and the Middle East in the early decades of the Cold War, including Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, Helen Frankenthaler, and Andy Warhol.
Slant Steps: On the Art World's Semi-Periphery, by Jacob Stewart-Halevy (University of California Press, 2020)
Slant Steps explores the vital role of the semi-periphery—artistic communities working between the provinces and the metropole. Premised on the collective fascination with the found object Slant Step, the book details a history of encounters among artists, filmmakers, critics, and others operating in and out of the Bay Area during the long 1960s. They revised the terms of the counterculture, the appeal of consumer goods, and the surfaces and materials of industrial design and contemporary sculpture. Whether extending to international exchanges or shrinking to local coteries, these circles helped develop process, funk, and conceptual art as they forged new directions for the art world and its members. Yet when these groups degraded their own works alongside those of their rivals, they made their political and aesthetic commitments difficult to decipher, reorganizing the ties between the visual arts and the New Left. Merging sociologies of art with the tradition of social art history, Jacob Stewart-Halevy uncovers the oblique perspectives and values of the semi-periphery, revealing its enduring impact upon contemporary art, above all in the field of pedagogy.
Jacob Stewart-Halevy works on the nexus of modern and contemporary art, intellectual history, and social theory. Subspecialties include histories of conceptual art, design, and video; sociology and anthropology of art; political economy of art; and historiography. He is the current president of the Society of Contemporary Art Historians. He has recently taught Theories and Methods, Introduction to Contemporary Art, Art Speak, The Behavioral Image, Global Conceptualism, and Visual Rhythm.
This SCAH member-supported program is free and open to the public. To learn more about SCAH pay-what-you-membership, visit our membership page.