Sarah Hamill

BA, Reed College. MA, University of California, Berkeley. PhD, University of California, Berkeley. Specializes in modern and contemporary art history, with a focus on sculptural aesthetics, postwar American sculpture, contemporary photography, and the global circulation of art objects through their reproduction and display. Author of David Smith in Two Dimensions: Photography and the Matter of Sculpture (University of California Press, 2015), awarded a Meiss/Mellon Author’s Book Award and a Wyeth Foundation for American Art Publication Grant from the College Art Association in 2013, and, with Megan R. Luke, co-editor of Photography and Sculpture: The Art Object in Reproduction (Getty Publications, 2017). Articles and essays explore the work of David Smith’s (1906-1965) across media, the photography of Ugo Mulas (1928-1973), the photographic folios of Clarence Kennedy (1892-1972), the sculpture of Eduardo Chillida (1924-2002), and the videos of Erin Shirreff (1977- ). Current projects examine the 1970s sculptures and films of American sculptor Mary Miss (1944- ), contemporary photography and the metaphorization of sculpture, and theories of the photographic detail. Formerly associate professor of modern and contemporary art at Oberlin College. Recipient of fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Getty Research Institute, and Villa I Tatti, the Harvard Center for Italian Renaissance Studies. SLC, 2017–

Undergraduate Courses 2018-2019

Art History

Theories of Photography

Open , Seminar—Spring

What is a photograph? The question seems simple enough, given the pervasiveness of photographs in our image-saturated world. Yet, as this course will explore, a photograph is a representational framework with competing rhetorical meanings. On the one hand, it is a verisimilitude of the visual world, a proof, resemblance, or transcription. On the other, a photograph is a pictorial invention, a fabricated image that is shot through with its own social and pictorial conventions, located in part through the photograph's framing, lighting, cropping, and point of view. Tracing these contradictory definitions, this course explores how the photograph has been defined and tested from its origins. The seminar will engage—through methodologies of close reading—the canonical texts of photographic theory from key 19th-century sources to modernist and postmodernist texts, as well as more recent writing on race, photography, and the colonization of the body; photography and identity; theories of the archive and representations of labor; photography, war, and violence; and intersections between photography and film. Our discussions of theoretical texts will also be grounded in a consideration of photographs themselves, so that students learn close, analytical visual reading. We will learn to think broadly and diversely about a photograph as an image, an archive, a display, a material thing, and a commodity. We will rely on New York’s rich photographic collections to ground our discussions, and students will be encouraged to focus their conference papers on works seen locally.

Related Disciplines

Object, Site, and Installation

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

How do we understand sculpture’s literalism, its insistent presence in time and space? Taking our cues from the histories of sculpture, readings in sculptural aesthetics, and theories of objects and social space, this focused seminar examines how modern and contemporary artists have defined sculpture in relation to the body, light, and touch; the pedestal, museum, and public sphere; commodities and everyday objects; and other media such as photography, film, video, and sound. We begin with the legacies of neoclassicism and the fraught status of sculpture in modernism and conclude our story with large-scale, immersive installations in contemporary art. Along the way, we find artists remaking the category of sculpture by blurring the boundaries between public and private; using reproducible and two-dimensional media; and making objects that incorporated commodities, things, bodies, and detritus. The course will touch on discourses of modernism, surrealism, minimalism, site-specificity, installation, and participatory art while offering students a toolkit for thinking about theories of objects and relational aesthetics; race, representation, and monumentality; social and public space; and histories of installation and display. Exploring a range of focused case studies—whenever possible, in situ—this course asks what a 20th-century sculpture was and how it operated in the public realm. This course will also entail a focused consideration of the Bruce Nauman exhibition at MoMA and a field trip to Dia:Beacon; students will be encouraged to focus their conference papers on works seen locally.

Related Disciplines

Genealogies of Modern and Contemporary Art, 1890 to the Present

Open , Lecture—Year

This lecture is a superlecture and may enroll up to 60 students.

What was modernism, and how do we describe the shift to what is called contemporary art? Beginning with Henri Matisse, the first half of the course will examine how modernists found a new visual language to navigate a world ravaged by fascism and war; altered by industry, technology, and rationalized forms of labor; and tested by shifting national, ethnic, and gendered identities. What representational strategies did artists use to respond to this upheaval? The fall semester serves as an introduction to the historical avant-gardes in the United States, Mexico, and Europe—including Fauvism, expressionism, cubism, Dada, surrealism, muralism, and abstract expressionism—but it will be organized around thematic questions: What is abstraction as a turn away from the modernized world? What is the relationship between high art and mass culture? What were the political ambitions of modern art, and how were they vocalized materially? How were artists working at the margins speaking back to what they saw to be dominant forms of representation? The second half of the course examines a sea-change that began in the 1960s, as artists tested modernist categories of painting and sculpture; challenged relationships between high art and mass media; incorporated new technologies such as television and video into their art; and questioned the hierarchies of art’s production, reception, and display through protest, activism, and participation. By the end of the ’60s, art faced a crisis that affected its production, medium, spectatorship, and institutions, leading German philosopher Theodor Adorno to note the loss of art’s self-evidence. Looking closely at the art of Europe and the United States and at exchanges with Japan and Brazil, the second half of the course explores a moment of radical artistic critique in which artists transformed traditional categories of artistic production and challenged social, political, and cultural norms. In the last 20 years, all of this shifted with the return to traditional categories of painting and sculpture and the rise of the global art market. We will conclude with a look at contemporary practices as a shift away from avant-garde radicality. Although the course introduces students to some of the issues surrounding art since the 2000s, the main focus in the spring will be to provide a historical context for art from roughly 1960 to 2000—and students will be introduced to major movements, including happenings, pop art, Fluxus, minimalism, conceptual art, site-specificity, Earthworks, feminism, video art, institutional critique, installation, and activist art. Readings will vary from theoretical and scholarly appraisals to artists’ writings and manifestos. Visits to area museums will be part of the curriculum.

Related Disciplines