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Modern and Contemporary Art

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Dr Alyce Mahon, Dr Amy Tobin and Dr Jennifer Powell

Modern and Contemporary Art is a rapidly growing research area for the History of Art department. The subject was consolidated in the year 2000 when Dr Alyce Mahon joined the Department and has been expanded with the recent appointment of Dr Jennifer Powell and Dr Amy Tobin. Dr Powell and Dr Tobin hold joint posts between the Department and Kettle’s Yard. These positions have expanded the range of our research profile and provide a concrete connection to the primary space for Modern and Contemporary Art in Cambridge, as well as the opportunity for research undertaken in the department to inform exhibitions. We also have strong links with the Fitzwilliam Museum, the New Hall Collection at Murray Edwards, and with institutions outside the University including David Parr House, and Wysing Arts Centre.

Our specialisms range across the Modern and Contemporary periods, with particular strengths in art theory, as well as British, French and North American art and sculpture. Dr Mahon is a specialist in Surrealism and its legacies, Modern and Contemporary Art and Theory, as well as the history of Erotic Art from the Enlightenment to the present. Dr Powell’s research centres on modern and contemporary British sculpture from c. 1900-1960, as well as Anglo-French and Anglo-American exchanges and exhibition cultures particularly after 1945. Dr Tobin’s research has focused on art and feminism in the 1970s, particularly in relation to collaboration and collectivity, but she is broadly interested in activist and experimental practices as well as questions around art and representation, from identity politics to technologies of reproduction.

Dr Mahon, Dr Powell and Dr Tobin work closely with other Modernists and Contemporary Art specialists across the University, including Dr James Fox, Dr Sofia Gotti, Dr Aline Guillermet, Dr Nicola Kozicharow, Dr Deniz Turker and Dr Claudia Tobin, as well as colleagues in the UCM. Our Modern and Contemporary specialists also regularly collaborate with, and contribute teaching to, the interdepartmental centres for Film and Screen, Gender Studies and Latin American Studies. We also advise on and support the exhibition, display and discussion of Modern and Contemporary Art across the University, its colleges and beyond.

Dr Mahon has shaped the knowledge and reception of Surrealist art, and particularly that of women artists associated with Surrealism, in her teaching, publications and curatorial work. In 2017–18 Dr Mahon was awarded a British Academy/ Leverhulme Senior Research Fellowship for her research on Dorothea Tanning and in 2018, her exhibition on Dorothea Tanning – the first major retrospective exhibition to consider Tanning’s career in depth – opened at the Reina Sofia in Madrid (October 2, 2018-Jan 6, 2019). It subsequently travelled to Tate Modern, London (Feb 27-June 9, 2019). She also acted as curatorial advisor for Leonor Fini: Theatre of Desire 1930-1990, the first survey show of Fini in the USA, at the Museum of Sex, New York (Sept. 28, 2018 – March 4, 2019). Previous exhibitions she has advised on, and written catalogue essays for, include: Dreamers Awake (White Cube Bermondsey, London, 2017), No Place Like Home (Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2017), Silent Partners: Artist and Mannequin from Function to Fetish (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge 2014 & Musée Bourdelle, Paris, 2015), The Institute of Sexology (Wellcome Collection, London, 2014), Le Surréalisme et l’objet (Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2013), Leonora Carrington (Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, 2013), Matta. Fiktionen (Bucerius Kunst Forum, Hamburg 2012), and Donna: Avanguardia femminista negli anni ’70 (Galleria nazionale d'arte moderna, Rome, 2010). She has published critical essays on Hans Bellmer, Leonora Carrington, Leonor Fini, Frida Kahlo, Pierre Klossowski, Pierre Molinier, Carolee Schneemann, Jean-Jacques Lebel, André Masson and Roberto Matta, and her current projects include The Marquis de Sade and the Avant-Garde (forthcoming, Princeton University Press, 2020) and a book on Dorothea Tanning, under contract with Yale University Press.

Dr Powell has curated a number of landmark exhibitions on international modern art, particularly sculpture, including on artists Richard Pousette-Dart and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (at Kettle’s Yard) and she is editor of the accompanying books; she curated the Henry Moore Galleries at Tate Britain and has also led exhibitions of contemporary sculpture including by artists Anthea Hamilton and Antony Gormley (at KY), and edited their accompany books. Dr Powell has contributed essays to exhibition catalogues including Schwitters in Britain (Tate Britain), Modern British Sculpture (Royal Academy), Sculpture Victorious (Yale/Tate), Actions. The image of the world can be different (Kettle's Yard), and articles to peer-reviewed journals such as the Sculpture Journal and Tate’s Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity project. She is currently working on an article exploring the little-known Anglo-French Art Centre, London.

Dr Tobin has worked on a number of projects addressing precarious histories of art, from the experimental practices of artists in the 1960s and 1970s, to the longer histories of women artists, artists of colour and queer artists. She co-curated ‘Now You Can Go’, a series of events on Italian feminism, and feminist art at the ICA, Raven Row and The Showroom in London in 2015; she also contributed research to ‘When Gesture Becomes Event’ at the Cooper Gallery, Dundee College of Art and Design in 2016 and ’56 Artillery Lane’ at Raven Row in 2017. At Kettle’s Yard she has worked on exhibitions and displays of Regina Galindo, Broomberg & Chanarin, Francesco Pedraglio, Patrick Coyle, Louise Bourgeois, Julie Mehretu, and Rose Garrard, and is currently working on exhibitions with Ian Giles, Linder Sterling, Sutapa Biswas and Howardena Pindell. In 2018 her co-edited book London Art Worlds: Mobile, Contingent and Ephemeral Networks 19601980 was published with Penn State Press, and she is currently working on a book about art, feminism and sisterhood. She also co-runs the research network Group Work: Art and Feminism with Dr Catherine Grant (Goldsmiths) and Dr Rachel Warriner (Courtauld Institute of Art) which investigates collaborative practices after 1968 in the context of intersectional feminist politics. The network includes public events and a closed working group on collective history writing. As part of Group Work, Dr Tobin also runs the British Art Network sub-group Contemporary Art and Feminism.


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