The Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough

Looking Like a Person: Portraits after Coloniality

Sat., Oct. 2, 2021 | 9:15 a.m.–1:30 p.m.
Huntington Zoom event (PDT)
Event Notes: 
Free with reservation
Add to Calendar 10/02/2021 09:15 AM 10/02/2021 01:30 PM America/Los_Angeles Looking Like a Person: Portraits after Coloniality - Virtual Conference Visit page - The Huntington - Huntington Zoom event (PDT)

This symposium interrogates the issues raised by a new painting by contemporary artist Kehinde Wiley that responds to a "grand manner masterpiece" by Thomas Gainsborough. Between these two paintings, separated by 250 years, lies a colonial history that has managed representation across a field of visuality, nominating certain figures for human status and others for something less or more. What does it take, in a Euro-American art tradition, to look like a person? And what might come after coloniality in art?

An opening panel of interdisciplinary scholars will address the philosophical issues, considering what is at stake in depicting humans in the genres of modernity; and two art historical panels, one focused on the 18th century and one focused on contemporary art, will explore specific examples of the ways in which artists have reflected, reinforced, or resisted the power of representation.

The event will be held online via Zoom. Zoom link will be sent to attendees in registration confirmation email. This event will be recorded.

Conference Schedule


9:15 a.m. - Welcome: Steve Hindle, The Huntington
Opening remarks: Malik Gaines, New York University

9:30 a.m. - Session 1: Modernity's Genres
Moderator: Malik Gaines, New York University

Simon Gikandi, Princeton University
“Inside and Outside Genre: On Portraiture and Black Subjectivity”

Zakiyyah Iman Jackson, University of Southern California
“Black Light: On the Materiality of the Image”

Joseph M. Pierce, Stony Brook University
“Sensing Red, Seeing Flesh: Mimetic Failures in the Photographic Archive”

10:30 a.m. - Break

10:45 a.m. - Session 2: Humans and Other Depictions in 18th-century Art
Moderator: Melinda McCurdy, The Huntington

Zirwat Chowdhury, UCLA
“Locke and the Impossible Portrait”

Amy Freund, Southern Methodist University

Amelia Rauser, Franklin and Marshall College
“Textiles and Personhood in 18th-Century Portraiture”

11:45 a.m. - Break

12:30 p.m. - Session 3: Undoing Representation in Contemporary Art
Moderator: Alhena Katsof, New York University

Nana Adusei-Poku, Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College
"Breaking Through Literalness"

Jeannine Tang, The New School

T. Jean Lax, The Museum of Modern Art
"The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face"

1:30 p.m. - Closing Remarks