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Art Historian Christine Poggi to Deliver Reckford Lecture

January 18, 2024 | Kristen Chavez

Reckford Lecture in European Studies. From Primal Matter to Surrogate Veneer: Wood and Faux Bois in Picasso’s Cubism.” Christine Poggi, New York University. February 29 at 4 p.m. University Room, Hyde Hall.


On Feb. 29, the Institute for the Arts and Humanities will host the Mary Stevens Reckford Memorial Lecture in European Studies, with keynote speaker Christine Poggi, an art historian at New York University.

Poggi’s lecture, “From Primal Matter to Surrogate Veneer: Wood and Faux Bois in Picasso’s Cubism,” will explore the artist’s use of wood in his works from 1906-08 and 1912-14.

Poggi is a professor of fine arts and the Judy and Michael Steinhardt Director of NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts. Her research focuses on European avant-garde artists, collage and constructed sculpture, the rise of abstract art, and how art intersects with new and developing forms of labor, technology, and media.

Poggi’s first book, In Defiance of Painting: Cubism, Futurism, and the Invention of Collage (Yale University Press), examined Picasso and Braque’s invention of the collage form, and how it was then interpreted by cubist and futurist artists.

Picasso’s use of wood in his proto-cubist and cubist work during this period incorporates themes of sexual identity and desire as an inner psychic state. His construction of phallic-shaped wooden sculptures, use of wooden supports for his paintings, and forest settings paired with explicit sexual gestures and range of different attitudes from ambivalence to fear shows the artist’s fascination with wood as an avatar of primal matter. In the latter period, Picasso moves away from the association with the primitive sexual state and approaches wood differently, instead raising questions about authenticity and the relation between motion and form.

In her faculty biography at NYU, Poggi notes that her “work on the 20th century avant-gardes informs and enriches my perspective on contemporary art and vice versa.”

The Mary Stevens Reckford Memorial Lecture in European Studies was established in 1990 by classics professor Kenneth J. Reckford to honor his wife, Mary Stevens Reckford. The lecture is designed to provide a public audience with “pleasure, instruction, an interdisciplinary approach and a sense of shared humanity.” Because Mary Reckford’s birthday is Feb. 25, the Institute hosts the lecture within the month of February.

The lecture is is co-sponsored by the Center for European Studies. Previous Reckford Lecturers include Ana Lucia Araujo, Magdalena Zaborowska, Zia Haider Rahman, and Stephanie Schrader.

The 2024 Reckford Lecture will be on Feb. 29 from 4:00-5:00 p.m. in Hyde Hall’s University Room. Tickets are not required, but reservations are requested.


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