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Meet the New EODIAH Fall 2016 Graduate Fellows

This Fall we welcome to the O’Donnell Institute four new fellows. Their project abstracts are below—please join us in welcoming them into the fold!
Jacopo Gnisci
Visiting Research Fellow, August 2017-February 2017
PhD, University of London/SOAS

Art and Faith: Panel Painting in Fifteenth-Century Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Cross Collection of the Dallas Museum of Art

This research project has a two-fold purpose. On the one hand, it aims to improve our understanding of the history of panel painting in fifteenth-century Ethiopia by reassessing the available evidence in light of a small corpus of newly-discovered or unpublished works from this period. More specifically, it will demonstrate that a small group of icons are the work of a hitherto unidentified artist whom I refer to as “the Master of the Scale Pattern.” On the other hand, it will examine the extensive collection of Ethiopian crosses of the Dallas Museum of Art with the aim of assigning a more precise date to each example.
 

Joseph Hartman
Visting Research Fellow, Fall 2016-Spring 2017
Doctoral Candidate, Southern Methodist University
Modern Dreams: Image, Space, and Politics in Machado’s Cuba, 1925-1933

This dissertation examines the public works program of Cuba’s infamous President-then-Dictator Gerardo Machado, 1925-1933. Machado’s unprecedented building campaign included a U.S.-style Capitol building; a 700-mile highway; French-designed parks in Havana; and a state-of-the-art penitentiary. These monumental works served as tropes in the regime’s reformist agenda. These spaces spoke to a broader nationalist dream of sovereignty in the face of U.S. hegemony. Eight years after his inauguration, however, Machado was deposed for corruption and the bloody repression of Cuba’s citizenry. These works were his last defense. “In regard to my presidency,” Machado bristled, “save your words and ink. The stone and marble speak for me and mine.”

But what do these works really have to say about republican Cuba under Machado? Machado’s public works, this dissertation argues, articulated a highly nuanced politics of space, vision, and cultural experience.  Machado’s prisons, palaces, and parks soon defined the urban and rural landscapes of Cuba.  Their likeness was reproduced, disseminated, and refracted in photographs in newspapers, magazines, and tourist brochures. Machado’s works emerged in dialogue with histories of Pan-Americanism, U.S. imperialism, and continental modernism. These spaces and their representations mobilized multiple geographies and temporalities that were quickly woven into the cultural politics of twentieth-century Cuba and the wider hemisphere. The regime’s U.S. and French-style monuments were a dream of a dream, a copy of a copy. But they were also a Cuban dream; a dream in which context ultimately quells any aesthetic debates surrounding the ambivalent status of model and copy, real and imagined.

 

Evan Johnson
Edith O’Donnell Graduate Fellow, Fall 2016-Spring 2017
Doctoral candidate, The University of Texas at Dallas
The Fandom of Lynching and the Remediated Black Body

From its earliest visual inceptions in American media through nineteenth century blackface minstrelsy performances and photography, images of the black body have been delineated into two separate categories that attempt to distinguish respectable behavior of black people from the deviant.  As such, black bodily performance is, at least in part, a mediated object. Cultural notions surrounding visual mediated objects are not solely the creation of artists for consumer consumption, but constructs devised within a recursive system of give and take between creators and spectators. The artistic and discursive content produced by spectators is what we now call fandom. This dissertation argues that cultural reception toward the black body inspired a fandom that had a significant impact on the history of media representation and the ongoing oppression of black people.

This dissertation examines images of the mediated black body from its earliest representations to its contemporary position as a fundamental unit of grammar within digital culture (Internet memes, Black Twitter, etc.). Further, I employ critical race theory, digital culture theory, Afro-Pessimism, and theories of fan scholarship, to argue that visual media representations of blackness have been used to discipline misbehaving black bodies in a fashion that mirrors another cultural practice that systematized the lack of black agency post-emancipation: lynching. Lynching culture has physical, textual, and imagistic manifestations; each of which, I argue, are fandoms in their own right. This dissertation reveals that much of the internal logic associated with participatory contemporary media consumption originates in lynching culture.

 

Leslie Reid
Edith O’Donnell Graduate Fellow, Fall 2016-Spring 2017
Doctoral candidate, The University of Texas at Dallas
Abu Dhabi, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, and Shigaraki: A Comparative Analysis of the Modernist Architecture of Five Universal Art Museums


Rooted in the late 18th and 19th century idea of the museum as a “library of past civilizations,” the universal or encyclopedic museum attempts to cover as much of the history of mankind through “art” as possible. The prototypes for this kind of museum are the Louvre, the British Museum, the Hermitage, and the Metropolitan Museum, which are enormous in scale and cover millennia of global cultural production.

This dissertation will examine this model of the inclusive art museum—essentially unbounded chronologically and geographically—and study its transformation in newer institutions less tied to national ideologies by analyzing five museums on three continents in buildings designed by six architects between 1971 and the present.  
Three of these institutions in buildings by Gio Ponti and Daniel Liebeskind (Denver), Edward Larrabee Barnes (Dallas), and Peter Zumthor (LA, the latter in construction) were selected because each was planned after the museum had already decided to be “universal” and had selected an architect to design a building that would embody that universality in “modern” terms. None of these American urban museums have “national” agendas, and their buildings are NOT rooted in the neo-classical or neo-baroque tradition of the universal museum– thus linking “universality” with “modernity.”

They will be contrasted with two museums in parts of the world in which the universal art museum is a “European” implant—Abu Dhabi and Shigaraki. One, a “branch” of the first great universal museum—the Louvre—is situated in a massive building by the French architect Jean Nouvel. The other, a private “universal” museum in Japan, is rooted in the archeological prototype of the British Museum and is housed in a purpose built building by the Chinese -American Architect, I. M. Pei.