This event will be held virtually as a Zoom webinar and streamed via YouTube Live. There will be no in-person event.
Please join the East Central European Center at the Harriman Institute for a presentation by Alexandra Chiriac, Leonard A. Lauder Fellow in Modern Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This event is part of the event series East Central Vanguard: New Perspectives on the Avant-Garde.
According to numerous scholarly accounts of the avant-garde in Romania, the first play with a Constructivist staging to take place in the country was a production of André Gide’s Saul in 1925. In fact, despite its presence within the pages of Romanian vanguard magazine Integral, this production never took place.
In this talk, Alexandra Chiriac will examine how narratives around the avant-garde in Romania have centered on a series of printed publications, marginalizing certain artistic practices and practitioners and even spawning a number of problematic myths. As she found out when she expanded her research focus to incorporate international archive holdings and a wide range of period press, this selective narrative has bolstered canonical accounts of the avant-garde, privileging male artists with links to Western artistic movements. In this talk, Chiriac will draw attention to some new discoveries that demonstrate the diversity and breadth of avant-garde practices in Romania. Firstly, she will discuss some of the women unfairly overshadowed by their vanguard partners, such as business-owner and salon hostess Melania Maxy and theater innovator Dida Solomon. Secondly, Chiriac will highlight some figures whose transnational trajectories have placed them outside national histories, such as the designer and pedagogue Andrei Vespremie and experimental theater producer Iacob Sternberg. Thirdly, in telling some of their stories, another kind of myth-making will be exposed, showing how links to prominent institutions such as the Bauhaus were contrived to the detriment of other lesser-known ones, in this case the Schule Reimann, a pioneering Berlin design school. In this respect, a more thorough understanding of ostensibly ‘peripheral’ avant-garde practices can also expose the cracks within the established narratives of art history.
Image caption: M. H. Maxy, Costume designs for the Devils in Saul (c. 1960s). Pencil, ink and gouache. 22 x 38 cm. Romanian National Art Museum.