Charis and Agnes Scott College welcome Professor Katherine Smith in conversation with Susanneh Bieber for a celebration of Smith's groundbreaking study of the sculptor, Claes Oldenburg: The Accidental Possibilities of the City: Claes Oldenburg’s Urbanism in Postwar America. This event takes place on crowdcast, Charis' virtual event platform. Register here.
Claes Oldenburg’s commitment to familiar objects has shaped accounts of his career, but his associations with Pop art and postwar consumerism have overshadowed another crucial aspect of his work. In this revealing reassessment, Katherine Smith traces Oldenburg’s profound responses to shifting urban conditions, framing his enduring relationship with the city as a critical perspective and conceiving his art as urban theory.
Smith argues that Oldenburg adapted lessons of context, gleaned from New York’s changing cityscape in the late 1950s, to large-scale objects and architectural plans. By examining disparate projects from New York to Los Angeles, she situates Oldenburg’s innovations in local geographies and national debates. In doing so, Smith illuminates patterns of urbanization through the important contributions of one of the leading artists in the United States.
Katherine Smith is Professor of Art History at Agnes Scott College, where she teaches modern and contemporary art and architectural history and theory. Her research focuses on intersections in postwar American art and architecture, with emphases on sculpture and urbanism, from an increasingly global perspective. She has written on the influence of postwar and contemporary art on projects by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown for Relearning from Las Vegas (University of Minnesota Press, 2009) and Eyes That Saw: Architecture After Las Vegas (Scheidegger & Spiess, 2020). Her research on Claes Oldenburg has appeared in several journals, including Archives of American Art Journal (2009) and Public Art Dialogue (2011). Her book The Accidental Possibilities of the City: Claes Oldenburg’s Urbanism in Postwar America is available now.
Susanneh Bieber is Assistant Professor of modern and contemporary art history at Texas A&M University. Her research focuses on American art of the long 1960s in a transnational context, with a particular interest in the relationship among art, architecture, and the built environment. She has received fellowships from the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Her essay on inflatable architecture received the 2020 JAE scholarship design award for best article of the year, and her research on “The Origins of Judd’s Minimal Art” was awarded with the 2017 Terra International Essay Prize. Previously, Dr. Bieber worked as curator at the Tate Modern in London and the Fresno Metropolitan Museum in California. She received her PhD from the Freie University in Berlin.
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Claes Oldenburg’s commitment to familiar objects has shaped accounts of his career, but his associations with Pop art and postwar consumerism have overshadowed another crucial aspect of his work.