“Mass Modern” by Michael Leja

April 23, 2012
School of the Art Institute of Chicago

In this lecture, Michael Leja’s 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-nineteenth 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.

“Mass Modern” kicks off the┬áthree-year series, Terra Foundation Lectures in Americanist Postmodernism, organized by Professor David Raskin and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism.