This week Duncan sneaks into The School of the Art Institute of
Chicago to interview Mary Jane Jacob, Professor and Executive Director of Exhibitions. Mary Jane Jacob’s name is synonymous with the phrase “art as social practice” or the field of art that is now more widely known as “Relational Aesthetics.” Jacob was at the center of the nineties debate about what was and could be considered an art object/experience and was putting on festivals, exhibitions, and public art programming that expanded our art consciousness long before Bourriaud “sexy-ed” up the field with his now seminal book.
Aside from being a former Chief Curator at the MCA Chicago and LA MoCA, Jacob was also the person behind “Culture in Action,” Chicago’s progressive, but widely debated 90’s public arts program. She is the author/co-author of several books including, “Learning Mind: Experience into Art,” “Buddha Mind in Contemporary Art,” “Culture in Action: A Public Art Program of Sculpture Chicago,” “Conversations at The Castle: Changing Audiences and Contemporary Art,” and “On the Being of Being an Artist.” She is the recipient of many grants, awards, fellowships and residencies, amongst the most notable are the Peter Norton Family Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities and National Endowment for the Arts, Rockefeller Foundation, Bellagio Study Center Residency, and the Getty Residency Program.
Mary Jane Jacob
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
Mary Jane Jacob’s books
Detroit Institute of Arts
Wayne State University
Center for Creative Studies
New Genre Public Art
Culture in Action: A Public Art Program of Sculpture Chicago
The Pew Charitable Trusts
The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia
National Gallery of Art
Nathan Cummings Foundation
Scottish Arts Council
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
University of Chicago Press
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- Episode 834: Harold Mendez - March 22, 2023
Good discussion. Mary Jane’s involvement with widening the questions concerning art is admirable. Duncan, you did great “discussion leading” questions!
One complaint. AS Mary Jane pointed out by correcting your Modernism / PoMo “dividing line” — Please get your history right.
Modernism neither peaked at nor did it end with Ab Ex. (It was, among other things, the beginning of US modernism).
Thereafter IN and as a PART of Modernism came Color Field / Post-Painterly, Pop Art, Op Art, Hard Edge /Formalism, Kinetic Art, Fluxus/Neo-Dada, Conceptual Art, Performance/Body Art, Photo-Realism, Earth Art/arte povera. In a certain way, it can be seen as all peaking and wrapping up with CONCEPTUALISM as the ultimate result of reductivism.
THEN PoMo starts. It is being argued out among of historian-types exactly with WHAT PoMo began, — my theory is with Feminist art — but it was clear WHEN — believe me, I was there, in grad school at the time.
I know what readings you are probably indirectly referencing, but you are misinterpretaing, I suspect. The people finding sources for PoMo in Pop and so on are searching for the seeds or philosophical ROOTS of the latter event, NOT the beginning. That is a different theoretical task; it is a common phenomenon, or even technique, of “stretching back in history for insinuations,” so to speak, AFTER the fact of a new entity’s appearance and looking far BEFORE its actual inception. E.g., most historians trace the roots of modernism to the Renaissance — it is the birth of a “modern world” in a very real way — but no one thinks Modernism started there. (I know you are well read, thus that is my supposition — I’d hate to think that instead of that you are referring to that 80s attempt to place AbEx as some imaginary peak … that claim was simply that old straw-man-opponent propaganda of Neo-Conceptualists, who also ignorantly and anachronistically mixed or confused AbEx and Neo-Ex — Neo-Ex being a PoMo attempted rebirth of German Expressionism, not of AbEx —; this is now a clearly dead issue, one which no historian or anyone outside a small, tainted coterie every listened to anyway.)
The circle of Mary Jane jacob’s influence as well as the Bauhaus are two things that have influenced my art education quite a lot, so I really enjoyed seeing the two come together.
On the note of modernism,
I recently read Bruno Latour’s We Have Never Been Modern, which of course is not about art, but I am curious to relate the ideas about modernism in that book to what we think about modernism in art.
Anyone familiar with his work?
If heard it right, both parties in this interview dismissed as hopelessly retrograde (perhaps even bad?) the notion that anyone at all should want to, say, make a particular work in a particular way just because he/she feels like it, without particular regard to how said work addresses itself to the needs/concerns of some public/culture/audience. If I heard that right, that’s quite dogmatic and quite silly.
this was a terrific discussion which left me very inspired. thanks for asking hard questions, duncan, and putting yourself out there.