2002 Conference

AAANZ 2002 Conference

Art Gallery of New South Wales

6th-7th December 2002


Jean-Claude Lebensztejn, Professor of Art History at the University of Paris | Balzac’s ‘Unknown Masterpiece’: Romanticism and Abstraction

Balzac’s tale, The Unknown Masterpiece (1831/1847), tells the story of Frenhofer, a painter of genius who is searching the perfection of painting. He has been working for ten years on his secret masterpiece, a female nude that when finished should appear to be alive; when it is finally uncovered, one can only see a chaos of bizarre lines forming a wall of paint, from which a perfect, life-like foot emerges. When he realises his failure, the painter burns his paintings and dies.

The story had a huge impact on modern art and literature; many artists were fascinated by it, in particular Picasso, who published a group of enigmatic illustrations in a bibliophilic edition of the book. Jean-Claude Lebensztejn will attempt to reconstruct the many problematic aspects of the tale. Madness and genius, the quest of the impossible, the re-emergence of chaos, nothingness, and the exchange between pure life and pure art are some of the topics to be discussed. The Unknown Masterpiece is not simply a forerunner of modern abstraction: there is a deeper connection between them, to be discovered in some radical aspects of Romantic theory and practice, which recur throughout modern painting, up to de Kooning and Newman.

Jean-Claude Lebensztejn recently retired from the position of Professor of Art History at the University of Paris and has written essays, articles and books on art, poetry, linguistics and cinema. He has been visiting Professor at several North American Universities such as University of Virginia, Berkeley and Harvard. He recently published Malcolm Morley: Itineraries (London and Geneva 2001-2) and Maiulique: Fantaisie Chromatique (Paris, 2002).

Other Publications include: La fourche, Paris, Gallimard, 1972, Zigzag, Paris, Flammarion, coll. La philosophie en effet, 1981; Imiter sans fin/le chant de l’aimable Angelette, éditions du limon, 1987
Chahut, Paris, Hazan, 1989; L’art de la tache. Introduction à la Novelle Méthode d’Alexander Cozens, editions du limon, 1990; Jacopo da Pontormo, Paris, Editions Aldines, 1992
Une révereie émanée  de mes loisirs, Editions Yvon Lambert, 1992-1997 (une série de livres d’artistes illustrés par Robert Barry, Giulio Paolini, Christian Boltanski, Jean-Michel Othoniel, Lawrence Weiner, etc); Ecrtis sur l’art recent: Marden, Morley, Sharits, Paris Editions Aldines, 1995; Les couilles de Cézanne suivi de Persistance de la mémoire, Séguier, 1995; De l’imitation dans les beaux-arts, Paris Editions Carré, 1996; Le champ des morts (Fleurs de rêve I), Paris, editions du limon, 1997; Malcolm Morley Itinéraires, Musée d’art moderne et contemporain, Genéve, 2001

The Ian Burn Memorial Lecture: Dr Virginia Spate, Power Professor of Fine Art, University of Sydney | Where do we stand? Thinking about Ian Burn & Australian Landscape Painting

Dr Virginia Spate, Power Professor of Fine Art, University of Sydney will examine how Ian Burn recast Australian landscape painting at the end of the 20th century. He believed that the idea of the landscape ‘constantly redefines difference in a changing world.’ Spate will consider the challenges of his practice as an artist and writer for the present.

The Australian artist and writer, Ian Burn (1939-93) was a major figure in Conceptual art in the late 1960s and with Art & Language, New York. His early work was shown in the retrospective Ian Burn: Minimal-Conceptual work 1965-1970. After returning to Australia in 1977 he began a long involvement with art history and the local labour movement which included writing ‘National Life & Landscapes’, 1991 and curating the exhibition, Working Art: A survey of art in the Australian labour movement in the 1980s for the Art Gallery of New South Wales. A national tour entitled Artists Think: The late works of Ian Burn in 1997 examined his return to painting in the 1980s.

Previous speakers for the Ian Burn Memorial Lecture have been Adrian Piper 1996, Paul Wood 1997, Allan Sekula 1998, Geoffrey Batchen 1999, Mel Ramsden 2000.

Assisted by the AAANZ and the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Richard Shiff, Effie Marie Cain Regents Chair in Art, Dept of Art and Art History, The University of Texas at Austin | From Cézanne to de Kooning: A Reluctant Avant-garde

Richard Shiff will focus on those ironic moments when an artistic avant-garde, credited with playing a certain prophetic role, is also discredited because of failing to deal with the social and political reality it foresaw. He will also focus on a few artists (including Cézanne, de Kooning, and Newman) who seem to have been wary of participating in any avant-garde movement — or, having no avant-garde aspirations, were credited with that status after the fact, becoming “beneficent paranoids” within the modernist tradition.

Professor Richard Shiff received his PhD from Yale University and holds the Effie Marie Cain Regents Chair in Art and directs the Center for the Study of Modernism. His scholarly interests range broadly across the field of modern art from the early nineteenth century to the present, with emphasis on French painting and post-war American art. He has been particularly involved with theory and criticism. His publications include Cézanne and the End of Impressionism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), as well as numerous studies of critical and methodological issues. Some of his most recent essays have dealt with the artists Georges Seurat, Robert Mangold, Donald Judd, Chuck Close, and Barnett Newman; additionally he has been writing critical pieces for such publications as Artforum, Parkett, and Burlington Magazine. He also wrote an introductory essay for the new translation of Conversations with Cézanne (California: University of California Press, 2000). At the moment, he is at work on two book-length projects: A Reevaluation of Willem de Kooning (London: Reaktion Books) and a Collection of Essays (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

See the full program here.