Suzanne Hudson on Contemporary Art and Jenni Sorkin on Art in California

Suzanne Perling Hudson and Jenni Sorkin introduce their recent contributions to the noted Thames & Hudson World of Art series: Contemporary Art and Art in California, both published this year. The two art historians converse about their shared interests in revisionist history and recovering movements, artists, and trends.

The twentieth century brought radical changes in art―including the shift from modernism to postmodernism―which were accompanied by fierce debates about the place of painting in contemporary culture. Contemporary Painting argues that the medium has not only persisted in the twenty-first century, but also expanded and evolved alongside changes in art, technology, politics, and other factors. The book explores aspects of contemporary painting, from appropriation to the ways in which artists engage the body, and addresses issues such as queer narratives, race, activism, and climate. 

Hudson is associate professor of art history and fine arts at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where she was recently a Faculty Fellow in the Society of Fellows. An art historian and critic who writes with special emphasis on the history, theory, and conventions of painting and process, she is the author of Robert Ryman: Used Paint (2009) and Agnes Martin: Night Sea (2017). She is currently at work on Better for the Making: Art, Therapy, Process, a study of the therapeutic origins of art making within American modernism.

Art of California focuses on the distinctive role the state has played in the history of American art, from early twentieth-century photography and Chicanx mural painting to the fiber art movement and beyond. Shaped by a compelling network of geopolitical influences―including waves of migration and exchange from the Pacific Rim and Mexico, the influx of African Americans immediately after World War II, and global immigration after quotas were lifted in the 1960s―California was at the forefront of radical developments in twentieth-century artistic culture. 

Sorkin is associate professor of the history of art and architecture at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She writes on the intersections between gender, material culture, and contemporary art, working primarily on women artists and underrepresented media. Her publications include Live Form: Women, Ceramics and CommunityRevolution in the Making: Abstract Sculpture by Women Artists, 1947–2016; and numerous essays in journals and exhibition catalogs.