Archive for December, 2008

Joel Katz FAAR’03 collaborates with poet Randall Couch in Philadelphia ROMAAmor digital collage show

December 22, 2008

katz3aTwo Feet: Rome

“Before Joel Katz left for Rome in 2002,” writes Ann de Forest in the guide to a remarkable new photographic exhibition at Philadelphia’s Gershman Y Galleries, “he expressed his disappointment that the Vatican had eliminated a position he had always longed for—advocatus diaboli or Devil’s Advocate…[w]hen he arrived, however, Joel found that Rome didn’t need one more skeptic. The city itself is one big argument, a lively, contentious conversation between the past and present, between believers and scoffers, between the enduring and the ephemeral.”

katz2Wall Wrap: Trevi Fountain and Prati, Rome

And that acutely sums up some of the main themes of Joel Katz’s digital assemblages and collages in the show ROMAAmor, on view until 1 February on Philadelphia’s Avenue of the Arts. “Rather than take sides,” de Forest notes of Katz’s images of Italy, “Joel chooses to show the clashes and contradictions and let them speak for themselves.”

Says Katz in his artist’s statement, “I began assembling images digitally in 2002, when I was a Fellow at the American Academy in Rome, where all the photographs, assemblages, and collages in this show began….Going back to Rome every year since then, most recently for three months, have added to my collection of images, in dealing with which I am way behind.”

katzportraitJoel Katz FAAR’03 at the 11 December ROMAAmor opening

Joel Katz has been a photographer since 1964, when he spent six weeks in Mississippi during “Freedom Summer”. He is the principal of Joel Katz Design Associates, an information and wayfinding design office in Philadelphia. Katz also teaches at Philadelphia University and the University of the Arts. He is also a Vice-President on the Council of the Society of Fellows, and Associate Editor of the SOF News, which he designs. [I’ve seen the great new issue, to be mailed right around the New Year!—Ed.]

Poet Randall Couch contributed the texts inscribed above, below, alongside, and into Katz’ images in this show. “We envision ROMAAmor, when complete, as a collaborative artists’ book or portfolio of perhaps forty pieces,” explains Couch. “Out of thousands of photographs, often already juxtaposed in pairs by Joel, I look for images that arrest my attention and suggest both a formal and thematic approach for a text.”


Knockoff: Trevi Fountain, Rome; Piccolomini Library, Siena

That is just a start… (more…)


SOF president T.C. Brennan will be next Mellon Professor at AAR

December 13, 2008


Excerpted from a press release (12 December 2008) by Adele Chatfield-Taylor (FAAR’84), President of the American Academy in Rome:

“Roman historian T. Corey Brennan has been appointed to a three-year term as the Andrew W. Mellon Professor-in-Charge of the School of Classical Studies at the American Academy in Rome. Brennan’s appointment begins 1 July 2009.

Brennan comes to the Academy from Rutgers University-New Brunswick, where he is currently associate professor and chair of the Department of Classics and a former director of the university’s interdisciplinary program in Italian Studies. Before arriving at Rutgers in 2000, he taught for a decade in the Departments of Greek and Latin at Bryn Mawr College.

Brennan held a pre-doctoral fellowship at the American Academy in Rome in 1987-1988, and currently (2008-2010) serves as president of its Society of Fellows, an alumni group of more than 1000 that comprises Academy Rome Prize winners, Residents, and Affiliates.

[He] succeeds Professor Thomas A.J. McGinn (FAAR’85) of Vanderbilt University as Mellon Professor at the American Academy in Rome.”

Brennan’s three-year position is a temporary one, after which he returns to Rutgers for teaching. As Professor-in-Charge, Brennan will help advance the humanistic work of the Rome Prize winners and other members of the AAR community, and coordinate and supervise many aspects of the Academy’s varied resources and programs (especially “walks and talks” in the city of Rome, and trips further afield, plus lectures and conferences in the humanities).

For more on this appointment, see here. For an informative list of Rutgers’ links to the American Academy in Rome, see the final section of this article.

brennanaarphotoBrennan before the Old Queens building (1809) on the Rutgers campus.

New LIFE magazine online photo archive sheds light on AAR for ’40s, ’50s

December 5, 2008

Rare glimpses of former G.I.s studying at the Academy before its post-war reopening in 1947. A 35 year-old Philip Guston (FAAR’49), cigarette in hand, taking a break from his work at the AAR. Writer Ralph Ellison (FAAR’57) pounding on a typewriter outside his Rome Prize studio.

These—and more than 125 other previously unpublished images of life at the American Academy in Rome—have just recently come to light, thanks to a fascinating initiative by LIFE magazine and Google.

1vetsgroupFormer G.I.s outside the AAR gate on Via Masina, April 1947

You may have heard about Google in November posting 2,000,000 (and eventually 10,000,000) photos from the legendary LIFE magazine archives on the web for free (and for purchase as high-res printed images).

One welcome discovery is that among the first batch of LIFE photos there are many dozens of images of Fellows and affiliates—especially artists—from the Academy, only a fraction of which ever appeared on the magazine’s pages. A gallery of thumbnails (quite varied in quality) can be seen here.

The photos fall into three groups. The first, the work of noted war photographer John Phillips, is in black and white and dates to April 1947. The focus is on the American veterans who received room and board at the Academy to enable them to remain in Italy to study. Some of these images appeared in the 14 July 1947 issue of LIFE, in a feature “Americans Live High in Rome”.

At this point, many veterans had seen their allotments under the GI Bill of Rights delayed. But for the happy few who received sponsorship by the Academy, LIFE tells the reader, “they can act, sculpt, paint and sing to their hearts’ content, and in the evenings there is always music, good talk, and dates.” (See this oral history interview with ex-GI Salvatore Scarpitta for a vivid portrait of the time.)


Left: GI painter (apparently Paul Valentino) at work in AAR studio. Right: WW II veteran (and later film actor) John Myhers (without songbook) receiving voice lessons. This latter photo appeared in LIFE 14 July 1947.

John Phillips also photographed the second group of images in February 1949, this time in both black and white and (distinctly odd) color. It does not seem that any photos from this large (100+) group ever appeared in print. Perhaps they were originally intended for the big Rome spread that graced the 1 August 1949 LIFE issue. That article included a full two pages on Rome’s take on abstract vs. representational art—but featured exclusively Italian artists.

4guston1Unpublished photo of Philip Guston (FAAR’49) in his AAR studio

5life1One of many LIFE images of Albert W. Wein (FAAR’49) with life model in his AAR studio

And we’re just over halfway through the story! (more…)

“Champagne, Yardbird, Firebird”: AAR Galleries host first in three-part experimental group show series

December 3, 2008


“Champagne, Yardbird, Firebird”, which ran at the American Academy in Rome 17-29 November, was the first in a sequence of new brief, informal exhibitions in the AAR gallery space. David Humphrey and Jeff Williams curated and coordinated this first group show.

The series as a whole features the work not just of Rome Prize Fellows and Affiliated Fellows, but also Visiting Artists/Scholars and AAR Fellow Travelers (i.e., spouse/companions). Architects, landscape architects and scholars—as well as artists—all have been called upon to contribute to what is described by the curators Humphrey and Williams as “a collision of disparate styles and interests that exist in dynamic 


The aim of the larger experimental project is to take advantage of the AAR Galleries between the public exhibitions that the Academy produces—and more generally, to foster lively interactions between the various practices that thrive at the AAR.


For the installation of “Champagne, Yardbird, Firebird” in the Academy Galleries, the official release noted that “curation is treated like collage as Humphrey and Williams playfully make use of every attribute of the space as staging areas for artwork.
 Photographs, drawings, paintings, installations and architectural renderings hang in close proximity, allowing both comical and poetic connections to form.”


Two other projects are being developed to follow.  (more…)

Former AAR Italian Fulbright Maurizio Calvesi awarded 2008 Balzan Prize in 21 November 2008 Rome ceremony

December 2, 2008

The Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei in Rome was the setting Friday 21 November for the award of the Balzan Prizes for 2008.

Among the four recipients was art historian, exhibition director and curator, editor, critic and essayist Maurizio Calvesi, an Italian Fulbright Fellow at the American Academy in Rome in 1964/5, who is Professor Emeritus in the Università di Roma “La Sapienza”, and a Fellow of both the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei and Accademia Clementina di Bologna.

In an unusually prolific scholarly and creative career that is now in its sixth decade, Maurizio Calvesi has shown a sweeping range of expertise that has illuminated the art (especially but not exclusively Italian) of an era that stretches from the early seventeenth century to the present moment. He is married to the art historian Augusta Monferini, who also held the Fulbright Fellowship in 1966.


The President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, presented Professor Calvesi a Balzan Prize in the category Visual Arts since 1700 “for his outstanding work on the modern and contemporary visual art which has contributed to a better understanding of the nature and development of modernism as well as to the study of the origin of new trends in contemporary art”.

The International Balzan Foundation awards one million Swiss Francs (=ca. $840,000) for each prize, a figure which places this distinction among the biggest prize funds for science and culture. The winners are each required to allocate half of their prize money to funding research projects carried out preferably by young scholars or scientists in their respective fields.

This is the third time in seven years that a scholar with a strong American Academy in Rome affiliation has received the Balzan Prize. Current AAR Trustee Anthony Grafton (RAAR’04) won the 2002 Balzan Prize for History of the Humanities, and Trustee Emeritus James Sloss Ackerman (FAAR’52, RAAR’65, ’70, ’75, ’80) received the 2001 Balzan Prize for the History of Architecture.

Indeed, James Ackerman used the second half of his award to create a summer school of Latin palaeography specifically at the American Academy. The AAR Summer Program in Applied Palaeography, which Christopher S. Celenza (FAAR’94, formerly Michigan State University, now Johns Hopkins) directed from 2002-2005, focused on the analysis of texts from Roman antiquity to the Renaissance in Europe.

For the Balzan, the subject fields (which change every year, with prizes divided between the humanities and the sciences) and the winners are chosen by an independent body composed of twenty leading academics from eleven European countries. The Balzan Prize award ceremony takes place in alternate years in Rome, and in Berne at the Federal Palace.

The other 2008 Balzan recipients, pictured below with Professor Calvesi (far left) and Italian President Giorgio Napolitano (center), are (second from left) Thomas Nagel (New York University) in Moral Philosophy; Ian H. Frazer (University of Queensland) in the field of Preventive Medicine; and Wallace S. Broecker (Columbia University) in Science of Climate Change.


Photo credits: International Balzan Prize Foundation.