Call for Papers | American Popular Graphic Arts, Yesterday and Today

Posted in Calls for Papers, exhibitions by Editor on May 8, 2021

From The Library Company of Philadelphia:

Collecting, Curating, and Consuming American Popular Graphic Arts Yesterday and Today
The Library Company of Philadelphia, 25 March 2022

Proposals due by 2 August 2021

A symposium held in conjunction with the exhibition Imperfect History: Collecting the Graphic Arts Collection at Benjamin Franklin’s Public Library in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Graphic Arts Department at the Library Company of Philadelphia

In 1876, during the exhibition in Philadelphia in honor of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the republic, Philadelphia Evening Telegram art critic John V. Sears noted, “in Philadelphia today, the scion of art culture … has taken deep root in the homes of the people … Not so cosmopolitan as New York, nor so thoroughly local in character as Boston, Philadelphia represents American institutions and the progress of American civilization more perfectly than any other of our older cities ….”

Today, nearly one hundred and fifty years later, Philadelphia and the country inhabit a world in which our “art culture” is influenced and inspired by rhetoric and current events challenging our perception, trust in, and inherent understanding of what we see in our daily lives, and in public and private spaces. In this climate, creators, stewards, and collectors of fine and popular art representing and documenting American civilization have begun to question and address their role in a conflicted and diverse democratic society in a tenuous condition. How can a public library founded by Benjamin Franklin and with significant holdings of historical and popular American graphic arts confront this critical period in the history of our country’s evolving democratic principles and art culture?

In response to this salient question and to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the Graphic Arts Department, the Library Company will display Imperfect History: Curating the Graphic Arts Collection at Benjamin Franklin’s Public Library, September 20, 2021 – April 8, 2022. Imperfect History explores the development of the Library’s graphics art collection as it relates to historical and cultural biases within American history. The exhibition is a candid exploration of the evolution of American graphic arts curatorship and collections in one of the oldest cultural institutions in the country. The Library’s graphic arts collection, including prints, photographs, original works of art, and ephemera primarily dated between the late 18th and mid-20th-century is vital to the understanding of the nation’s complex visual history.

Collecting, Curating, and Consuming American Popular Arts Yesterday and Today continues the conversation started through Imperfect History. The symposium seeks to examine changing and innovative directions in how historical popular graphic art (i.e., art not traditionally classified as fine art, that is representative of popular culture, and/or is mass produced and consumed) is curated, interpreted, and used and understood by those who produced, viewed, and consumed it. Collecting, Curating, and Consuming asks how does historical American popular graphic art act as a mirror, bridge, and barrier in facilitating our visual conceptions of our past and present?

We invite proposals for twenty-minute papers that will foster broad and interdisciplinary discussions about historical American popular graphic arts collected by individuals or institutions; the evolving meaning of the term curator; (un)conscious bias in the creation, collection, and curation of popular graphic arts; and the contemporary and historicized role of the visual consumer of mass-produced art. Submissions from a wide range of scholars, practitioners, and specialists are encouraged. We seek proposals from art historians, historians, artists, curators, conservators, emerging scholars, and other voices within the humanities, arts, and cultural communities.

Possible topics might include:
• Popular graphic art collectors and/or their collections
• History and evolution of the institutional role of the curator of American graphic arts
• Visual literacy and an engaged citizenry
• Politics of art
• Digital humanities projects based on popular graphic arts collections
• Remediation projects in the description and access of visually harmful historical graphic arts in institutional collections
• Art libraries and libraries of art
• Racialized/Black/gendered/queer gaze

Proposals should include an abstract of no more than 300 words and a two-page CV or resume. Joint proposals and illustrated proposals are welcome. Please email your proposals with the subject line “IH 2022” as a Word or PDF document to epiola@librarycompany.org. Submissions should be received by Monday, August 2. Selected participants will be notified via email by early October 2022. Any questions may be directed to Erika Piola epiola@librarycompany.org.

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