The shape of the support : painting and politics in Syria's twentieth century
Author(s)Lenssen, Anneka (Anneka Erin)
Painting and politics in Syria's twentieth century
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Architecture.
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This dissertation offers an intellectual history of painting in Syria in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s that accounts for new regimes of political representation, from French Mandate rule to the mass mobilizations of youth-oriented ideological parties to Cold War cultural diplomacy. After an extended introduction that lays out the conditions for the emergence of modem art in Syria, each subsequent chapter situates an artist or artists in a specific institutional setting that provided new terms for critically evaluating the stakes of painting against new ideas about art and its social activation. Chapter Two reads the work of Adham Ismail (1920-1963) against the Bacth political movement of the 1940s, as he mobilized an aesthetic theory of the arabesque to produce radical paintings meant to inculcate Arab modes of cognition supporting a Arab polity. Chapter Three chronicles the Syrian artists who traveled abroad to the Italian art academy system in the early 1950s, detailing the patronage networks that produced "modern Arab art" as an identity category while promoting a conception of Mediterranean aesthetics as a shared milieu of free exchange. Chapter Four analyzes Fateh al-Moudarres's (1922-1999) transgressive critique of heritage ideals in Syria, an interrogation of regional identity that brought surrealist automatic painting methods into coordination with the modernist cultural project of Shi'r (Poetry) magazine in Beirut. The final chapter explores the debate about painterly abstraction that was centered around the College of Fine Arts at the University of Damascus in the 1960s and conducted against the waxing and waning of enthusiasm for different tenets of artistic responsibility. Taken together, these case studies of Syrian painting practices and their politics not only shed light on a little-understood formation within the expanded field of modernist practices, but also support a historiographical investigation into the writing of history from the periphery of centralizing market activity. Here, the political party, foreign fellowship, literary magazine, and national university are recognized as generative institutional supports, such that the European bourgeois norms of gallery, museum, and free press are not presumed as a necessary condition for modem painting.
Thesis: Ph. D. in Architecture: History and Theory of Art, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Architecture, 2014.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 391-400).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Architecture.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology