Abstract Painting And Beyond Conference

Thursday, February 9, 2012 – Saturday, February 11, 2012



@ University of Pennsylvania

Let us say, if only for the sake of argument, that abstract painting began with Manet, and ended with Abstract Expressionism, and that there is a "beyond." How would we conceptualize this "beyond"? Would we say that it is painting's own return to figuration (Johns's Targets and Flags, Warhol's Marilyns)? The extension of abstraction into other mediums: drawing, sculpture, dance, photography, and digital images? Or is it perhaps something internal to abstract painting itself—something that our critical paradigms did not permit us to see, but that later painters have rendered visible, and that calls for a different periodization? These are a few of the questions that this conference will address.

Abstract Painting and Beyond is inspired by, and will coincide with, an exhibition of Charline von Heyl's paintings and drawings at the Philadelphia Institute of Contemporary Art. The conference will begin with an evening conversation between von Heyl and Kaja Silverman, and continue over the following two days, with talks by a distinguished group of speakers.


Elise Archias, Nancy Davenport, André Dombrowski, Briony Fer, Rachel Haidu, Michael Leja, Daniel Marcus, Christine Poggi, Anne M. Wagner, and Margaret Werth


Charline von Heyl in Conversation with Kaja Silverman

Thursday, February 9 | 6:30 pm @ Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia

On the occasion of The Institute of Contemporary Art’s survey of Charline von Heyl’s work, the artist will speak with Kaja Silverman about her work. This conversation builds on the exchange published in the catalog for the exhibition at the ICA. There von Heyl states, "At the core of my being in the world, and my being an artist, is this feeling of falseness, which feels paradoxically like the only truly existential sense of self left, or possible." Von Heyl is a painter whose vibrant, insistent, enigmatic work demonstrates that painting is still intensely relevant in contemporary art. Her paintings are not abstractions of objects or figures; instead, she is interested in creating a "new image that stands for itself as a fact." With their dynamic energy, their contradictions and reversals, and their intentional confusion of foreground and background, these paintings require (and desire) careful looking but refuse to yield to the impulse to name, identify, and define. As the artist says, "It is about the feeling that a painting, or any work of art, can give—when you can't stop looking because there is something that you want to find out, that you want to understand... Good paintings have this tantalizing quality. And once you turn around, you absolutely cannot recapture them. They leave a hole in the mind, a longing."


  • THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 9 @ Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia

    • 6:30 pm | Keynote Event: Charline Von Heyl in Conversation with Kaja Silverman followed by Reception at ICA
  • FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 10 @ Terrace Room, Cohen Hall, University of Pennsylvania

    • 10:00 am | Introduction by Kaja Silverman
    • 10:30 am | Panel 1
      • Margaret Werth, "Abstraction Before Abstraction"
      • André Dombrowski, "Manet, Abstraction, Democracy"
    • 1:30 pm | Panel 2
      • Christine Poggi, "The Square and the Vortex: Modes of Potentiality in the Abstractions of Kazimir Malevich and Giacomo Balla "
      • Daniel Marcus, "Abstraction from Grid to Face"
      • Michael Leja, "Barnett Newman's Abstract Beginnings"
    • 5:00 pm | Nancy Davenport in conversation with Karen Beckman
  • SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 11 @ Terrace Room, Cohen Hall, University of Pennsylvania

    • 10:00 am | Panel 3
      • Briony Fer, "As a Glass Eye: Abstraction's Resilience"
      • Anne Wagner, "On the Surface"
    • 1:00 pm | Panel 4
      • Rachel Haidu, "Abstraction and Authority--A Case Study"
      • Elise Archias, "The Quality of Ordinariness in Trio A"
    • 4:00 pm | Final Round Table Discussion