During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Tate’s collection and display of twentieth century art from the United States was its first move beyond the bounds of British and Western European art. As such it might now be understood as the inaugural step in an ongoing process of strategic internationalisation. Like many other modern and contemporary museums, Tate has in recent years expanded a North Atlantic–centred canon in order to produce a multi-centred global history of art, correcting past oversights and omissions. Despite these later geographical expansions to the art-historical reach of the museum, the art of the United States retains a distinct primacy. In line with its central position in post-war history, it both inherits the advantages of that stable foundation, and invites a process of revision in which the very idea of an American art is subjected to various spatial, linguistic and political expansions.
At a moment when the value of embracing a more diverse geographical and critical terrain has become widely accepted, this one-day event returns to the context of post-war American art with the aim of reconsidering its place within the museum and the academy.
Blind Spots is convened in the context of two parallel exhibitions at Tate Liverpool, each deploying a contrasting curatorial strategy in order to re-approach art and artists that might be considered to be canonical. Using artist Glenn Ligon’s perspective as its guide,Encounters and Collisions revisits the history of post-war American art in order to create a personal museum that emphasises queer and African-American experiences while acting as a subjective reading of major movements such as minimalism, abstract expressionism, and pop. Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots meanwhile acts to restore doubt, inconsistency and complexity to the trajectory of an artist widely taken to be the very personification of the geopolitical dominance of abstract expressionism in the Cold War era.
The symposium will conclude with a drinks reception and entry to the exhibitions.
Keynote: Professor Darby English (University of Chicago; The Museum of Modern Art)
Speakers: Jo Applin (University of York); Jonah Westerman (Tate Research); Nadja Millner-Larsen (Goldsmiths, University of London); Zoe Whitley (Tate/University of Central Lancashire); Amy Tobin (University of York); Stefanie Kogler (University of Essex)
Convened by Isobel Whitelegg, Research Curator, Tate Liverpool/LJMU; Alex Taylor, Terra Foundation Research Fellow in American Art, Tate Research; Sonya Dyer, Curator, Public Programmes, Tate Britain/Modern; and Stephanie Straine, Assistant Curator, Tate Liverpool. This symposium is supported by Liverpool John Moores University and forms part of Tate’s Refiguring American Art 1945–80 research project, supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art.