This second scholarly project, Cuts From Below, develops my interest in cutting’s ability to intervene in real space and social and power relations. Cutting is a gesture that typically comes from above—from a position of power or leverage. But can it be practiced from below? This book argues that it can, through a look at three contemporary American artists—Kara Walker, Mark Bradford, and Robert Hodge—whose work harnesses the constitutive power of cutting to intervene in a history of U.S. race relations that has historically reserved the prerogative to make images and arrange space for whites.
Detail, Kara Walker, Presenting Negro Scenes Upon My Passage Through the South and Reconfigured for the Benefit of Enlightened Audiences Wherever Such May Be Found, by Myself, Missus K.E.B. Walker, Colored, 1997
Thumbnail: Teachers take part in a demonstration against proposed budget cuts in public education in central Madrid September 7, 2011. (Juan Medina/Reuters)
Definite Means: Modernism's Cut-Outs
I am working on a book manuscript, Definite Means: Modernism’s Cut-Outs. The book tells the story of the under-acknowledged device of the cut-out in the European twentieth century. I distinguish between cut-outs — which privilege shape, color, and the unity of the organic (particularly feminine) body and the artwork alike — and the more heroically celebrated innovation of collage. The key figures in this story are three major modernist sculptors: Auguste Rodin, Hans (Jean) Arp, and Henri Matisse. All three artists practice a form of cutting that stands aloof from the main line of collage history as it faces down questions about the status of the organic in modernity.
The Tania Project
I am engaged in a long-term research and writing project about the life and work of the artist, Tania (1920-1982), my maternal grandmother. The project involves taking oral histories, gathering an archive, and taking steps to restitute and raise awareness of Tania’s legacy. It may yet take other written and experimental forms.