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CFP: Made in the USA: The History and Legacy of Cold War Art & Design (2nd Annual Undergraduate Art History Conference at UMass Dartmouth)

  • Dates: 06 Feb – 11 Mar, 2013
  • Location: North Dartmouth, Massachusetts, United States
  • Email:
Showcased at the 1959 American national exhibition in Moscow, the work of American designers Buckminster Fuller, Charles&Ray Eames, and George Nelson, among others, epitomized the power and prestige of the USA at the height of the Cold War. Meanwhile, the art of Jackson Pollock and other Abstract Expressionists were being utilized as ideological weapons through the traveling exhibitions of the Marshall plan.

It is also in this context that Brutalism was born. Utilizing raw concrete and linear and blockish forms, this architectural style can be found in structures such as the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington D.C (designed by Charles F. Murphy and Associates, 1965), the Yale School of Architecture (designed by Paul Rudolph, 1963), the Boston City Hall (designed by Kallmann McKinnell & Knowles, 1968), and here on the main campus of the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth (designed by Paul Rudolph, 1968). Although fashionable at the height of the Cold War(1950s-1970s), Brutalism was later characterized as unpleasant and cold and became the subject of intense scrutiny. In recent years, the controversy has grown so prevalent that many of these buildings are threatened with demolition.

This narrative is representative of a larger trajectory whereby the material culture of the Cold War lingers on in our time in often controversial and paradoxical forms. The genre of the disaster film which was born during the Cold War has helped lay the groundwork for representations of contemporary disaster in cinema. The design elements of the Cold War continue to resurface in recent television shows such as Mad Men and the recent Cold War drama, The Americans, or the Futuristic settings of Planet of the Apes.

The Art History Department of the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth seeks proposals on the topic of Cold War architecture, design, art, and visual culture.

We invite papers from undergraduates as well as graduate students—in all categories of Art/Architectural History and related fields, including BFA/MFA and BArch/MArch programs—which will comprise a broad range of methodologies and media (painting, installation, performance, film, video, digital media, comic books, and so on). We also welcome proposals on the presentation of one’s creative design or artwork. Possible topics include but are not limited to the following themes:

- What were the utopian ideals of major designers of the Cold War era?

- What social, economic, and political factors contributed to the rise and fall of postwar/Cold War design in America?

- How did artists (e.g., Donald Judd) criticize the military-oriented mindset of the Cold War?

- How did Cold War design in the U.S. help set the stage for similar movements across the globe?

- Is protecting the design legacy of the Cold War era worthwhile?

- How does popular media contribute to the "return" of the Cold War material culture and why?

- How do the design elements of the Cold War resurface in recent television shows and popular films?

- How has American visual culture engaged with the anxieties of the Atomic Age?

- Are the widespread criticisms of the prevalent architectural style of the Cold War (Brutalism) legitimate?

Please submit a 200-word abstract to by Monday, March 11, 2013.

Time and Place of the Conference: Claire T. Carney Library, Room 314; University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. 285 Old Westport Road, Dartmouth, MA 02747.

Thursday, May 2, 2013 from 1:00 PM to 6:00 PM

Lodging will be arranged at no cost to participants who travel from far away. Light refreshments will be provided during the conference at no charge.

Conference Type: Undergraduate/Graduate