material culture

Material Matters: Dressmaking and Exhibition-making for “Poets in Vogue”

“Poets in Vogue” is an interdisciplinary exhibition held at the National Poetry Library in the Southbank Centre, London, from 17 February to 10 September 2023. Sophie Oliver (University of Liverpool) and Sarah Parker (Loughborough University) worked with Gesa Werner, an expert costume-maker and mounter, to explore the relationship between poetry and clothes through the work and dress of seven twentieth-century women poets. The exhibition includes imaginative recreations of some of these poets’ signature “looks,” along with archival and reconstructed garments. In the following reflections on making the exhibition, Sophie’s and Sarah’s words are distinct, to emphasize two specific concerns of the project: a collaborative process and the materiality of language.

Radically Distributed Collaboration: The Russian Modernist Enterprise “Contemporary Art”

In a lecture entitled “Fairytale about Three Sisters: Painting, Architecture, Sculpture,” influential fin-de-siècle Russian architect and devotee of the art nouveau style Fyodor Shekhtel proposed that, “architecture, painting, and sculpture ought to go hand in hand in friendly collaborative work; this friendship, of course, encompasses equally artists working in furniture, bronze, ceramics, painting on glass and all the other branches of applied art.[1] By anthropomorphizing artistic genres as friendly collaborators and eq

Joint Property, Divided Correspondents: The T. S. Eliot-Emily Hale Letters

Almost as soon as they began corresponding in 1930, T. S. Eliot told Emily Hale that he treasured her letters—not just the words, but the paper itself: “I cannot bear to be separated from your letters at present, not so much for need to refer to the contents, some of which I repeat to myself often during the day and night, but for the touch of the paper and sight of the writing.”

Guernica, Inc.: Art, Exile, Recirculation

At the 2017 Whitney Biennial in New York City––a show attuned to the intense political divisions and racial tensions in the United States today––one artist stood out for her reuse of images of resistance from various moments in the history of modernity, marked by figures such as Marx and Engels, Muhammad Ali, and the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Celeste Dupuy-Spencer’s Veterans Day (2016), a large oil painting on linen, stages these images in a domestic interior space with yellow wallpaper speckled with flowers and a vintage stereo emanating visual notes that unfurl throughout the room (fig. 1).

Handiwork: Mina Loy, Collage, and the En Dehors Garde

Although Mina Loy consorted with nearly every historical avant-garde movement, she was contained by none and is rarely mentioned in their histories. She’s not alone in this regard. Canonical histories and theories of the avant-garde typically marginalize the work of women, people of color, queer, and disabled artists. Despite significant efforts to articulate the importance of gender, sexuality, and race to the avant-garde, scholars have yet to offer a comprehensive theory of the avant-garde that accounts for the experiences of marginalized artists who were often ambivalent about claiming affiliation with white, male-dominated movements.