Tomorrow, 3/9, the Art History Lecture Series is hosting a talk by Dr. Tirza True Latimer, titled “A Manifesto of Eccentric Modernism.” The talk will be at 4 PM in ART 1.120. We’ve included the description of her talk, below. We hope to see you there.
Focusing on a case study from Eccentric Modernisms: Making Differences in the History of American Art (UC Press, 2017), Latimer presents a piece of ephemera she describes as a “manifesto of eccentric modernism” — a souvenir program for the 1934 opera Four Saints in Three Acts. The opera premiered in an eccentric venue, the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut. An eccentric libretto, penned by Gertrude Stein, was set to music by the modernist composer Virgil Thomson, choreographed by the neo-romantic Frederick Ashton, with extravagant sets and costumes by the uncatagorizable artist Florine Stettheimer. Perhaps the most unconventional aspect of the production was its all African American cast. Within the frame of American modernism, the opera’s producers and performers challenged not only prevailing artistic heirarchies but also sex/gender codes and racial prohibitions to imagine daring social and cultural alternatives. The souvenir playbill presented this event in carefully calculated ways that enable us to speculate today about the collaborators’ vision(s) of modernism in America.