An in-depth presentation by Megan R. Luke, William C. Seitz Senior Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, on the work of art historian Carola Giedion-Welcker.
This talk revisits the art and literary criticism of German Swiss art historian Carola Giedion-Welcker (1893–1973), focusing on her influential history of sculpture as a contemporary art: Moderne Plastik (1937; Modern Plastic Art). Inspired by her readings of theorist Johann Jakob Bachofen, writer James Joyce, and ethnologist Leo Frobenius, Giedion-Welcker juxtaposed modern European sculptures with prehistoric art, geological formations, and dance performances to make the case that all belonged outside of “history,” as conceived as an exclusively written chronicle of past time. For Giedion-Welcker, modern sculpture represented a primal will-to-form encoded in organic life.
Indeed, through photographic reproductions and within the space of the book, she presents a visual argument in which contemporary sculptures register an atavistic impulse at the heart of modernity.