2021 HTC Book Celebration: Lenssen, León, Vicario

2021 HTC Book Celebration
Monday, March 15th at 6 pm on ZOOM

Meeting ID: 938 2748 0855
Password: theory

Add to calendar (.ics)

Please join us in a conversation with three MIT Architecture: History, Theory & Criticism alumni who have recently published books based on their dissertation work:

Anneka Lenssen (Associate Professor of Global Modern Art at the University of California, Berkeley)
Ana María León (Assistant Professor of the History of Art at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor)
Niko Vicario (Assistant Professor of Art and the History of Art at Amherst College)



Anneka Lenssen
Beautiful Agitation: Modern Painting and Politics in Syria
(University of California Press, 2020)

In modern Syria, a contested territory at the intersection of differing regimes of political representation, artists ventured to develop strikingly new kinds of painting to link their images to life forces and agitated energies. Examining the works of artists Kahlil Gibran, Adham Ismail, and Fateh al-Moudarres, Beautiful Agitation explores how painters in Syria activated the mutability of form to rethink relationships of figure to ground, outward appearance to inner presence, and self to world. Drawing on archival materials in Syria and beyond, Anneka Lenssen reveals new trajectories of painterly practice in a twentieth century defined by shifting media technologies, moving populations, and the imposition of violently enforced nation-state borders. The result is a study of Arab modernism that foregrounds rather than occludes efforts to agitate against imposed identities and intersubjective relations.

Use code 17M6662 at checkout


Ana María León
Modernity for the Masses: Antonio Bonet's Dreams for Buenos Aires
(University of Texas Press, 2021)

A provocative examination of how the discourse and practice of modern architecture was transformed by its encounter with large populations and the volatile politics of twentieth-century Argentina.

Throughout the early twentieth century, waves of migration brought working-class people to the outskirts of Buenos Aires. This prompted a dilemma: Where to situate these restive populations relative to the city’s spatial politics? Might housing serve as a tool to discipline their behavior?

Enter Antonio Bonet, a Catalan architect inspired by the transatlantic modernist and surrealist movements. Ana María León follows Bonet's decades-long, state-backed quest to house Buenos Aires's diverse and fractious population. Working with totalitarian and populist regimes, Bonet developed three large-scale housing plans, each scuttled as a new government took over. Yet these incomplete plans—Bonet's dreams—teach us much about the relationship between modernism and state power.

Modernity for the Masses finds in Bonet's projects the disconnect between modern architecture’s discourse of emancipation and the reality of its rationalizing control. Although he and his patrons constantly glorified the people and depicted them in housing plans, Bonet never consulted them. Instead he succumbed to official and elite fears of the people's latent political power. In careful readings of Bonet's work, León discovers the progressive erasure of surrealism's psychological sensitivity, replaced with an impulse, realized in modernist design, to contain the increasingly empowered population.

Use code LEOMOD at checkout


Niko Vicario
Hemispheric Integration: Materiality, Mobility, and the Making of Latin American Art
(University of California Press, 2020)

Exploring art made in Latin America during the 1930s and 1940s, Hemispheric Integration argues that Latin America’s position within a global economic order was crucial to how art from that region was produced, collected, and understood. Niko Vicario analyzes art’s relation to shifting trade patterns, geopolitical realignments, and industrialization to suggest that it was in this specific era that the category of Latin American art developed its current definition. Focusing on artworks by iconic Latin American modernists such as David Alfaro Siqueiros, Joaquín Torres-García, Cândido Portinari, and Mario Carreño, Vicario emphasizes the materiality and mobility of art and their connection to commerce, namely the exchange of raw materials for manufactured goods from Europe and the United States. An exceptional examination of transnational culture, this book provides a new model for the study of Latin American art.

Use code 17M6662 at checkout