Michael Leja’s lecture, “Mass Modern,” explores how art outside of or at the edges of the traditional artistic canon has flourished in American art in recent decades. Attention to ephemeral and instrumentalized pictures has resulted in the identification of alternative origins for formal features characteristic of modernist art. Vernacular sources in the mid-19th century, such as government land surveys and the mass-market press, adapted pictorial traditions to suit practical needs. This process invented visual forms and strategies that anticipated key features in the work of modernist artists, generating an inventive vernacular visual culture and formal commonality between modern art and mass culture, traditionally portrayed as antithetical in art historical scholarship. Sponsored by the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Chicago’s Terra Foundation for American Art has granted SAIC more than $30,000 to support a three-year lecture series organized by the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism. Organized by Professor David Raskin, the Terra Foundation Lectures in Americanist Postmodernism will also offer a one-day seminar for art history graduate students held each spring. Scholars Michael Leja, Wouter Davidts, James Boaden, Ursula Frohne, and Cécile Whiting will visit SAIC to participate.

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