Marshall Plan Modernism: Italian Postwar Abstraction and the Beginnings of Autonomia

Duke University Press
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Focusing on artwork by Lucio Fontana, Alberto Burri, and Piero Manzoni, Jaleh Mansoor demonstrates and reveals how abstract painting, especially the monochrome, broke with fascist-associated futurism and functioned as an index of social transition in postwar Italy. Mansoor refuses to read the singularly striking formal and procedural violence of Fontana's slit canvasses, Burri's burnt and exploded plastics, and Manzoni's "achromes" as metaphors of traumatic memories of World War II. Rather, she locates the motivation for this violence in the history of the medium of painting and in the economic history of postwar Italy. Reconfiguring the relationship between politics and aesthetics, Mansoor illuminates how the monochrome's reemergence reflected Fontana, Burri, and Manzoni's aesthetic and political critique of the Marshall Plan's economic warfare and growing American hegemony. It also anticipated the struggles in Italy's factories, classrooms, and streets that gave rise to Autonomia in the 1960s. Marshall Plan Modernism refigures our understanding of modernist painting as a project about labor and the geopolitics of postwar reconstruction during the Italian Miracle.
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About the author

Jaleh Mansoor is Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of British Columbia and coeditor of Communities of Sense: Rethinking Aesthetics and Politics, also published by Duke University Press.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Duke University Press
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Published on
Sep 9, 2016
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Pages
304
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ISBN
9780822373681
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Language
English
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Genres
Art / European
Art / History / Contemporary (1945-)
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Beth Hinderliter
Communities of Sense argues for a new understanding of the relation between politics and aesthetics in today’s globalized and image-saturated world. Established and emerging scholars of art and culture draw on Jacques Rancière’s theorization of democratic politics to suggest that aesthetics, traditionally defined as the “science of the sensible,” is not a depoliticized discourse or theory of art, but instead part of a historically specific organization of social roles and communality. Rather than formulating aesthetics as the Other to politics, the contributors show that aesthetics and politics are mutually implicated in the construction of communities of visibility and sensation through which political orders emerge.

The first of the collection’s three sections explicitly examines the links between aesthetics and social and political experience. Here a new essay by Rancière posits art as a key site where disagreement can be staged in order to produce new communities of sense. In the second section, contributors investigate how sense was constructed in the past by the European avant-garde and how it is mobilized in today’s global visual and political culture. Exploring the viability of various models of artistic and political critique in the context of globalization, the authors of the essays in the volume’s final section suggest a shift from identity politics and preconstituted collectivities toward processes of identification and disidentification. Topics discussed in the volume vary from digital architecture to a makeshift museum in a Paris suburb, and from romantic art theory in the wake of Hegel to the history of the group-subject in political art and performance since 1968. An interview with Étienne Balibar rounds out the collection.

Contributors. Emily Apter, Étienne Balibar, Carlos Basualdo, T. J. Demos, Rachel Haidu, Beth Hinderliter, David Joselit, William Kaizen, Ranjanna Khanna, Reinaldo Laddaga, Vered Maimon, Jaleh Mansoor, Reinhold Martin, Seth McCormick, Yates McKee, Alexander Potts, Jacques Rancière, Toni Ross

Anne-Marie O'Connor
The spellbinding story, part fairy tale, part suspense, of Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, one of the most emblematic portraits of its time; of the beautiful, seductive Viennese Jewish salon hostess who sat for it; the notorious artist who painted it; the now vanished turn-of-the-century Vienna that shaped it; and the strange twisted fate that befell it.
 
The Lady in Gold, considered an unforgettable masterpiece, one of the twentieth century’s most recognizable paintings, made headlines all over the world when Ronald Lauder bought it for $135 million a century after Klimt, the most famous Austrian painter of his time, completed the society portrait.
 
Anne-Marie O’Connor, writer for The Washington Post, formerly of the Los Angeles Times, tells the galvanizing story of the Lady in Gold, Adele Bloch-Bauer, a dazzling Viennese Jewish society figure; daughter of the head of one of the largest banks in the Hapsburg Empire, head of the Oriental Railway, whose Orient Express went from Berlin to Constantinople; wife of Ferdinand Bauer, sugar-beet baron.
 
The Bloch-Bauers were art patrons, and Adele herself was considered a rebel of fin de siècle Vienna (she wanted to be educated, a notion considered “degenerate” in a society that believed women being out in the world went against their feminine “nature”). The author describes how Adele inspired the portrait and how Klimt made more than a hundred sketches of her—simple pencil drawings on thin manila paper.
 
And O’Connor writes of Klimt himself, son of a failed gold engraver, shunned by arts bureaucrats, called an artistic heretic in his time, a genius in ours.
 
She writes of the Nazis confiscating the portrait of Adele from the Bloch-Bauers’ grand palais; of the Austrian government putting the painting on display, stripping Adele’s Jewish surname from it so that no clues to her identity (nor any hint of her Jewish origins) would be revealed. Nazi officials called the painting, The Lady in Gold and proudly exhibited it in Vienna’s Baroque Belvedere Palace, consecrated in the 1930s as a Nazi institution.
 
The author writes of the painting, inspired by the Byzantine mosaics Klimt had studied in Italy, with their exotic symbols and swirls, the subject an idol in a golden shrine.
 
We see how, sixty years after it was stolen by the Nazis, the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer became the subject of a decade-long litigation between the Austrian government and the Bloch-Bauer heirs, how and why the U.S. Supreme Court became involved in the case, and how the Court’s decision had profound ramifications in the art world.
 
A riveting social history; an illuminating and haunting look at turn-of-the-century Vienna; a brilliant portrait of the evolution of a painter; a masterfully told tale of suspense. And at the heart of it, the Lady in Gold—the shimmering painting, and its equally irresistible subject, the fate of each forever intertwined.
Beth Hinderliter
Communities of Sense argues for a new understanding of the relation between politics and aesthetics in today’s globalized and image-saturated world. Established and emerging scholars of art and culture draw on Jacques Rancière’s theorization of democratic politics to suggest that aesthetics, traditionally defined as the “science of the sensible,” is not a depoliticized discourse or theory of art, but instead part of a historically specific organization of social roles and communality. Rather than formulating aesthetics as the Other to politics, the contributors show that aesthetics and politics are mutually implicated in the construction of communities of visibility and sensation through which political orders emerge.

The first of the collection’s three sections explicitly examines the links between aesthetics and social and political experience. Here a new essay by Rancière posits art as a key site where disagreement can be staged in order to produce new communities of sense. In the second section, contributors investigate how sense was constructed in the past by the European avant-garde and how it is mobilized in today’s global visual and political culture. Exploring the viability of various models of artistic and political critique in the context of globalization, the authors of the essays in the volume’s final section suggest a shift from identity politics and preconstituted collectivities toward processes of identification and disidentification. Topics discussed in the volume vary from digital architecture to a makeshift museum in a Paris suburb, and from romantic art theory in the wake of Hegel to the history of the group-subject in political art and performance since 1968. An interview with Étienne Balibar rounds out the collection.

Contributors. Emily Apter, Étienne Balibar, Carlos Basualdo, T. J. Demos, Rachel Haidu, Beth Hinderliter, David Joselit, William Kaizen, Ranjanna Khanna, Reinaldo Laddaga, Vered Maimon, Jaleh Mansoor, Reinhold Martin, Seth McCormick, Yates McKee, Alexander Potts, Jacques Rancière, Toni Ross

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