Archive for May, 2010

From AAR Resident Jessica Helfand, Portraits of the Fellows’ Class of 2010

May 28, 2010

Jessica Helfand, self-portrait. Gouache on paper. 4.5 x 2.4 inches

Since the Ides of March, Jessica Helfand and William Drenttel have been Henry Wolf Residents in Graphic Design at the American Academy in Rome. But it was just a few short weeks ago that Helfand—an author, columnist and lecturer on graphic design—took on the enormous task of commemorating in gouache on paper the entire AAR Fellows class of  2010, as well as more than a few members of the staff. Jessica finished the portraits—based on iPhone photos taken by her daughter Fiona—just in time for the Friday 28 May rosette ceremony, in which the Fellows formally receive the designation “FAAR”.

In a recent article published by Felt and Wire, Jessica Helfand discusses her thoughts on these portraits, plus a series of more abstract line studies that she simultaneously executed. Ironically, Jessica will miss the Academy graduation: just before the Rome ceremony Jessica, Bill, Fiona and her brother Malcolm fly to Spain, the last stop of the family’s year-long 29,000 trek around the world. (more…)


Founding the American Academy in Rome, 1894-1897

May 24, 2010

Interior courtyard of the Palazzo Torlonia. The American School of Architecture in Rome first rented rooms here from November 1894 to July 1895. Photo: Nancy Austin

Visiting Scholar Nancy Austin spent February 2010 at the AAR researching the material traces of the original  Academy during its first twenty years, from 1894-1914. Her focus has been on the physical situation of the AAR before its 1911 merger with the American School of Classical Studies in Rome, and the 1914 establishment of a new home on the Gianicolo for the united institutions. In an earlier article on this blog, Austin discussed the role of the Villa Aurora in the life of the Academy from 1895-1907. Here is Nancy Austin’s second posting on the earliest history of the Academy…

“Not quite 130 years ago, the Rotch family of Massachusetts and Charles Follen McKim set up the very first traveling scholarships in America, for young architects.  These pioneering bequests are landmarks in American support of the arts. The Rotch Traveling Scholarship was founded in 1883 and continues to this day. McKim established a similar traveling scholarship in 1889 with a bequest of $20,000. In each case, the early prize winner was left to devise his own itinerary before heading off with no supervision, contacts, or any expectation besides the minimal requirement to send back letters and drawings from their travels abroad.  It was a tempting freedom, but many a pilgrim needs a host.” (more…)

In Rome, ‘Portraits’ Exhibition of Photographer Alec Soth Opens at the AAR 21 May

May 18, 2010

Photographer Alec Soth

The American Academy in Rome and Gagosian Gallery are pleased to present Alec Soth: Portraits, a selected exhibition of photographs spanning the last twelve years. The show in the AAR Gallery opens on Friday 21 May (6.00-9.00 PM), and runs to Saturday 3 July 2010.

In the unique portraits of American subjects here presented, Soth echoes the humanist tradition established by the great chroniclers of the American experience such as Walker Evans, Robert Frank, and Stephen Shore.

His images illustrate a vast array of individual subjects while capturing the shared mood of a country disillusioned with and deceived by its own identity—from mothers of marines serving in Iraq to teenage mothers in the Louisiana Bayou; from religious propaganda in the American workplace to the mortgage crisis in Stockton, CA. Soth’s incisive depictions of the current American reality expose the steady decline of the American Empire and challenge the romanticized ideology of the American Dream. (more…)

In Rome, Academy Fellows Visit, Contrast the Two St. Pauls

May 18, 2010

At St. Paul’s Within the Walls, Bill Franklin (left) and Richard Wittman

On the morning of Friday 14 May a group of Academy Fellows visited the two most important Roman churches of the 19th century: Saint Paul’s Within the Walls, the American Episcopal Church in Rome (1873-1876), and the Basilica of San Paolo fuori le Mura (1825-1929, with a medieval cloister), an early Christian church reconstructed after a fire in 1823.

Guiding the first part of the tour—within the walls—was the Rev. Dr. R. William Franklin, Associate Director of External Affairs at the American Academy. Leading the group “fuori le mura” was current AAR Fellow Richard Wittman, an associate professor of History of Art and Architecture at University of California Santa Barbara, who is the 2009/10 recipient of the Millicent Mercer Johnsen Post-Doctoral Rome Prize in Modern Italian Studies. Richard’s project at the Academy has been focused on the 19th century reconstruction of San Paolo, described in detail here. (more…)

For the Friends of the Library, Old and New Light on Rome’s Rione Testaccio

May 12, 2010

Satellite view of Rome’s Monte Testaccio. Image: Google Earth

The Friends of the Library was founded 1961 by Library readers at the American Academy in Rome so that they could help build the Library’s collections with their annual dues and special initiatives. For nearly half a century, the Friends of the Library (=FOL) has provided important financial support for acquisitions, and in thanks to the FOL the Library has organized regular programs  for the group presenting the work of scholars.

Featured on Thursday 29 April, for the 2010 Patricia Labalme Friends of the Library Lecture, was dott. Renato Sebastiani, archaeologist with the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma. Sebastiani delivered a lecture on “Testaccio: Archeologia del Paessagio du un Rione di Roma”, which treated recent excavations in the area of the future Nuovo Mercato of Testaccio. He then followed his lecture the next morning with a guided tour of the Testaccio area for the Friends.  You can see the full description of the events here. (more…)

At the AAR, Revisiting the Roman Colony of Cosa, Plus De St Phalle’s ‘Tarot Garden’

May 11, 2010

The Capitolium at Cosa

The sky from time to time looked threatening, but on Monday 10 May an Academy group managed to enjoy a mercifully dry hike among the ruins of the Roman colony of Cosa (near modern Ansedonia in southern Tuscany). The day continued with an afternoon visit to Garavicchio (not quite 10 km from Cosa) to explore the ‘Giardino dei Tarocchi’ of the French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle.

Leading the day trip was Elizabeth Fentress, former AAR Mellon Professor-in-Charge (1996-1999). Fentress was director of the Cosa excavations 1991-1997, and has published extensively on this site and numerous other archaeological areas and topics (with North Africa as a particular field of expertise), going well beyond the classical Roman era and later antiquity. Elizabeth Fentress currently is the Director of the Villa Magna Project and serves as President of the Associazione Internazionale di Archeologia Classica (= AIAC).

Cosa was founded in 273 BCE as Rome needed to consolidate its control over newly conquered territories in the heart of Etruria. The site is dear to the American Academy in Rome, which started archaeological excavations at Cosa in 1948 under the expert direction of then Professor-in-Charge Frank E. Brown, putting the US in the forefront of Roman archaeology. Scores of Academy Fellows had their first field experience unearthing the secrets of this little colony town; the University of Michigan Press in conjunction with the AAR continues to publish the most important of these findings. (more…)

At the AAR from 13 May 10, an Exhibition on Destroy All Monsters, Experimental Rock Pioneers

May 4, 2010

Cary Loren and Niagara of Destroy All Monsters

From 13 May to 10 June 2010, the American Academy in Rome, in collaboration with the DEPART Foundation and NERO, will present Hungry for Death, an exhibition of ephemera culled from the archive of Destroy All Monsters (DAM). DAM was an influential Michigan artist collective/band of the 70s and early 80s that included two prominent representatives of the contemporary US art scene—Mike Kelley and Jim Shaw—as well as Niagara, Cary Loren, then (in a later incarnation) also Ron Asheton, Michael Davis and others. For a DAM discography see here.






DAM created unorthodox music inspired by proto-punk icons such as the Stooges, MC5, and the Velvet Underground, but drew also on sources ranging from Albert Ayler and Sun Ra to Sci-Fi B movies. This exhibition celebrates DAM’s vision and outsider beliefs and conveys the influences that drove DAM’s artistic expression. The show presents DAM’s posters, flyers, photographs, blueprints, drawings, banners, magazines, and records produced especially in the 1970s, and additional material produced for their reunion in 1996. The Thursday 13 May opening at the American Academy is from 6.00-9.30 PM. Media partner for the exhibition is Rolling Stone Italia.