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ItemCentre Five sculptors: the formation of an alternative professional avant-gardeEckett, Jane ( 2016)This thesis examines the previously unknown origins of Centre Five, a group of mainly émigré sculptors influential in Melbourne in the 1950s and 1960s, who are widely regarded as having played a key role in the advancement of modernist sculpture in Australia. In part a group biography of the seven sculptors, the thesis examines their little-known backgrounds in order to establish the roots of the group’s collective philosophy, particularly with regards to the integration of sculpture and architecture. Five of the sculptors – Vincas Jomantas (1922-2001), Julius Kane (1921-62), Inge King (1915-2016), Clifford Last (1918-91) and Teisutis Zikaras (1922-91) – were European born, trained and nurtured amidst various cosmopolitan modernities that emerged in Britain, Germany, Hungary and Lithuania between and during the two world wars. The two Australian-born members – Lenton Parr (1924-2003) and Norma Redpath (1928-2013) – derived their outlook from European models and would later live and work in Britain and Italy respectively. As such, this thesis is less a study of Australian sculpture than it is a study of European sculpture directly before, during and after World War Two. In 1953 Kane, King, Last and Redpath began exhibiting together in Melbourne as the Group of Four; later, in 1961, they joined with the other three sculptors to form Centre Five. However, I focus on the years 1935 to 1952, ending just before the group began to coalesce – at which point they effectively enter Australian art history. The thesis departs from most other studies of wartime and post-war modernist art in placing less emphasis on traumatic rupture than on strategies of survival and the adaptation of earlier modernist agendas. Specifically I argue that the émigré sculptors practiced a form of ‘alternative professionalism’, meaning they deployed the strategies of professionalism for anti-academic and essentially avant-garde purposes. They had a concise program of goals, made concerted overtures to architects, and regularly proselytized to the public and the press on the subject of abstract modern sculpture – particularly as it related to the urban and built environment – and, as such, constituted an identifiably cohesive local avant-garde. Tracing inter-tangled transnational histories of exchange between diverse modernities – peripheral and central – the thesis complicates existing Australian, British, German and Lithuanian nationalist art histories and contributes to an ongoing alternative modernities project. It also demonstrates the inadequacies of the old model of Australian art lagging provincially behind that of Europe and North America. Influences do not simply diffuse radially from centre to periphery, but rather occur simultaneously in multiple locales, in different guises. Similarly, the so-called ‘call to order’ of the 1930s is shown to reoccur after WWII, particularly in French-occupied Germany, reflecting a recurrent cyclical pattern of modernist art – looking backwards and looking forwards – rather than the persistent teleological model of canon formation.
ItemThe return to religion: Italian modernism under the auspices of French Thomism (1924-1944)GRACE, JUSTINE ( 2013)This thesis investigates Jacques Maritain’s influence on the Italian cultural scene during the interwar period. Jacques Maritain was a French Thomist philosopher who published, in 1920, the influential aesthetic tract Art et Scholastique. The text called for a renewal of sacred art—a modern sacred art—and sought to reconcile the fields of religion and art. As this thesis demonstrates, Maritain’s Thomist philosophy had a significant impact on art and architecture in Italy during the interwar period in Italy, and in particular on modernism, leading to the emergence of a modern sacred art in that country. As modernism is conventionally defined in contradistinction to religion, the thesis puts forward a dialectical model that conceptualises modernist art in relation to the traits and concepts shared with its perceived others, namely religion and tradition. Two concepts are developed to approach the phenomenon of modern sacred art: spiritual formalism and Catholic avant-gardism. The former is used as a framework for understanding the way traditionally formalist concerns in Italy could also have religious significance. The latter concept is used to demonstrate that Church art and architecture of the 1930s intersected with many aims of the historical avant-garde. The results of the archival and primary research reveal a widespread interest in renewing the forms of sacred art in Italy. A survey of newspapers and journals and an examination of personal correspondence between the protagonists reveals that artists and architects were aware of and influenced by the ideas of Maritain. This is further demonstrated through visual analyses of the paintings, sculpture and architecture executed at the time. A principal finding of the research is that artists and groups united by their common source of inspiration⎯the ideas of Maritain—formed the basis of a Movimento d’Arte Sacra in Italy. The study provides a more nuanced understanding of interwar cultural aesthetics and demonstrates that religion and modernism are not diametically opposed.
ItemTheoretrical avant-gardes and avant-garde theories: toward the sociology of an academic art cultureMcIntyre, Steven Andrew ( 2010)Beginning not with the question "What is avant-garde film?" but instead "How is it that this question has come to be asked in the university and who can legitimately ask it?" the theme of this study is the symbolic production over the last four decades of avant-garde cinema, to be understood here both as a specialised field of position-takings and a socio-occupational identity. Such a task is necessarily too large in scope to complete in a single study so I have here limited myself to definitions and symbolic productions of avant-garde film circulated by social agents (artists, critics and theorists) within higher education for the most part in Britain over the preceding four decades, where in any case, this form has found its strongest affiliations and where the relay of position-takings has been most restive. Drawing on the research of Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucault on correspondences between artistic or cultural taxonomies and social class stratifications, on the importance of education in the whole process of cultural reproduction, and on the genealogy of ideas, discourses, and professions, this thesis situates the study and teaching of the avant-garde both at the core of the origins of film studies in higher education and as a central and inextricable component of the discourse of film theory. Following this hypothesis, a gradual institutional fusion is traced from the mid 1960s to the 1970s of two currents - the artistic, theoretical avant-garde and the avant-garde, quasi-artistic theorists - which are customarily historicised as separate instances and which, although fading from the higher education agenda from the early 1980s onwards, are argued to provide long-enduring institutional identities and broadly inclusive discursive constituents. I have also broadened this study of symbolic production to include a review of a whole array of pedagogic consequences and results of the original grouping of art education and media studies under the same institutional, discursive, and occupational sign.