Vardan Azatyan, Associate Professor in art history at Yerevan State Academy of Fine Arts (Armenia), will be delivering a public lecture entitled:
Art History, the Ape of the Cold War: the Case of H. W. Janson
Tues, May 3, 2016 | 5-6:30 pm | Center for Arts and Humanities, Building 37 | AUB
By drawing on the work of Erwin Panofsky’s student, a Renaissance scholar and a Modernist critic Horst Woldemar Janson, I argue that the notion of the human that underlined “the history of art as a humanistic discipline” was marked by the antithesis between animality and divinity. To hold on to this notion of the human, humanistic art history imposed on itself an a priori ethical conviction of human dignity and granted the apolitical scholarship a political dimension, politics here perceived in moral-psychological terms. I discuss Janson’s art history against the backdrop of the rise of totalitarian regimes of the 1930s and the subsequent Cold War. To understand the mediated relationship between the humanistic art history and the Cold War in its specificity, I focus on one of the figures of this uneasy mediation, the ape. During the Second World War the ape stood for the infrahuman animality that signified totalitarian anxieties Janson aimed to neutralize by locating this figure in an uninterrupted historical narrative. The ape appeared as an embodiment of the main aesthetic dilemma of the Cold War, that of mimesis. In this context, Janson entered the controversy over abstraction with a defense of Abstract Expressionism, which he anchored in the tradition of Renaissance humanism. Janson’s influential History of Art was shaped during this process and represented the full realization of the project of legitimating Abstract Expressionism as a successor of the ideals of Classical Humanism in art.
Vardan Azatyan is an art historian and translator. He is Associate Professor in art history at Yerevan State Academy of Fine Arts, Armenia. As a Visiting Professor he has lectured at Columbia University, and the Dutch Art Institute, Enschede, NL. He is the cofounder of AICA – Armenia. His recent publications include articles in ARTMargins, Oxford Art Journal, Human Affairs, and Springerin. He is the co-editor, with Malcolm Miles, of the volume Cultural Memory (University of Plymouth Press, 2010). His book Art History and Nationalism: Medieval Arts of Armenia and Georgia in 19th century Germany was published in 2012 in Armenian language. He is the translator of major works by George Berkeley and David Hume into Armenian. Azatyan is the President of The Johannissyan Research Institute in the Humanities in Yerevan.
For more information, please contact Angela Harutyunyan at email@example.com