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The Slade Professorship of Fine Art at Cambridge was founded in 1869 as the result of a bequest from the art collector Felix Slade (1788-1868). At the same time, similar chairs were founded in the Universities of Oxford and London. Originally Slade Professors were elected, and sometimes re-elected, for three-year terms. In 1961 the practice changed and since then visiting Slade Professors have been elected on an annual basis. Holders of the Chair usually deliver eight public lectures and four classes for students in the department during the Lent Term of their year in office. The Slade Professorship of Fine Art has been held by many of the most distinguished historians of art and architecture from around the world.

The Matrix: Contemporary Art and the Life of Print

Professor Jennifer L. Roberts

The 2018-2019 Slade Lectures will be given in the Lent Term by Professor Jennifer L. Roberts of Harvard University. Roberts is Elizabeth Cary Agassiz Professor of the Humanities in the Department of History of Art and Architecture, and also serves as the Johnson-Kulukundis Family Faculty Director of the Arts at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. She is an art historian focusing primarily on American art from the colonial period to the present, with particular interests in print studies, theories of materiality and making, and the history and philosophy of science. She received undergraduate degrees in English and Art History from Stanford University (1992) and her M.A. and Ph.D. in History of Art from Yale University (2000).

Roberts is the author of multiple books and essays spanning American art from the 1760s to the present. Within an art-historical discipline built on assumptions about the virtuality of images, she has consistently sought to return attention to the material intelligence of art. Her first book, Mirror-Travels: Robert Smithson and History (2004), examines the ways that Smithson's celebrated earthworks and traveling projects of the 1960s and 70s confront the social and material histories of the sites they occupy. The book explores Smithson’s attempts to redefine historical thinking so that it would no longer rely on optical metaphors (no more historical “backgrounds,” “horizons,” or “perspectives;” no more “looking back"). Instead, Smithson borrowed models from geology and physics, imagining history as a series of alluviations, depositions, and stratifications. Roberts’s book Transporting Visions: The Movement of Images in Early America (2014), forges a material history of visual communication by tracing the literal transportation of pictures through the swamps, forests, oceans, and cities of the Anglo-American landscape between 1760 and 1860. Treating pictures that register, in various ways, the material complications of their own transmission, the book explores the relationship between communication/ transportation media and period understandings of visual representation. Roberts is also a co-author of the Prentice Hall textbook American Encounters: Art, History, and Cultural Identity (2007).

In 2012 Roberts curated the exhibition Jasper Johns/In Press: The Crosshatch Works and the Logic of Print for the Harvard Art Museums; the catalog was also published that year. That exhibition, which grew out of an undergraduate seminar, led to her co-authorship (with Susan Dackerman) of the catalogue raisonné of Jasper Johns's monotypes (2017). It also sparked her interest in the broad implications of the physical operations of printing – reversal, transfer, incision, contact, etc. – and led her to her current project.

At Harvard she has been active in the promotion of the humanities and in the redefinition of art-historical pedagogy, particularly in terms of its relationship to studio practice. She is a co-creator of the gateway humanities course "The Art of Looking," which introduces students to the aesthetic, historical, and social intricacy of the visual arts. She is a founder, along with Ethan Lasser of the Harvard Art Museums, of the "Minding Making" project (mindingmaking.org), which aims to develop rigorous methods of incorporating technical and artisanal knowledge into the historical and interpretive disciplines. And she has begun regularly curating contemporary art exhibitions in her capacity as Faculty Director for the Arts at the Radcliffe Institute.

In 2012 Roberts curated the exhibition Jasper Johns/In Press: The Crosshatch Works and the Logic of Print for the Harvard Art Museums; the catalog was also published that year. That exhibition, which grew out of an undergraduate seminar, led to her co-authorship (with Susan Dackerman) of the catalogue raisonné of Jasper Johns's monotypes (2017). It also sparked her interest in the broad implications of the physical operations of printing – reversal, transfer, incision, contact, etc. – and led her to her current project.

At Harvard she has been active in the promotion of the humanities and in the redefinition of art-historical pedagogy, particularly in terms of its relationship to studio practice. She is a co-creator of the gateway humanities course "The Art of Looking," which introduces students to the aesthetic, historical, and social intricacy of the visual arts. She is a founder, along with Ethan Lasser of the Harvard Art Museums, of the "Minding Making" project (mindingmaking.org), which aims to develop rigorous methods of incorporating technical and artisanal knowledge into the historical and interpretive disciplines. And she has begun regularly curating contemporary art exhibitions in her capacity as Faculty Director for the Arts at the Radcliffe Institute.

About the Lectures:

Printmaking today is often considered to be a marginal, anachronistic practice. These lectures will argue otherwise: printmaking and its inherent forms of intelligence have powerfully shaped contemporary art, culture, and technology.

The years around 1960 witnessed the wholesale entry of print techniques into advanced painting with the stencils of Jasper Johns and the screenprint transfers of Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg. Since then, printmaking has continued to play an outsized – if largely unacknowledged – role in the arts across the media spectrum.

The contributions of printmaking extend far beyond the mere replicability with which it is normally associated. Its color separations and black/white binaries have enormous implications for contemporary debates about race and identity. The image reversals that occur throughout print processes offer models of proof and negation that intersect with current crises around authenticity and critique. The collaborative qualities of printmaking – artists working with printers and presses – rehearse the distribution of agency among people, materials, and machines in contemporary media and manufacturing. The most basic physical fact of the printing press – its enrollment of pressure in the creation of images – makes it an ideal tool for confronting questions of oppression and the violence of representation.

 The Matrix: Contemporary Art and the Life of Print lecture dates:

  • 22 January - Print beyond Reproduction
  • 29 January - Pressure
  • 5 February - Screens and Membranes
  • 19 February - Color Separation
  • 26 February - Invisible Labor
  • 5 March - Interference
  • 12 March - The Computational Image

 

All Lectures take place on Tuesdays from 5-6pm in Mill Lane Lecture Room 3

For more details please see the 'News' and 'Events' sections.

List of Slade Professors in the Department from 1869.

 

 

Slade Lectures 2019 Jennifer Roberts poster

Slade Lectures 2017 poster

Slade Poster2016

Slade 2015 Poster v2.jpg

Slade 2013 Poster v2