Julia Bryan-Wilson on Embellished Art Histories


For the 2022 FORART lecture, Julia Bryan-Wilson (Columbia University) discusses how the question of embellishment and decor in recent art may change our conceptions of art history.

Embellished Art Histories | Examining Filipinia artist Pacita Abad, Brazilian embroiderer Madalena Reinbolt, and African American quilter Rosie Lee Tompkins, Julia Bryan-Wilson considers how embellishment, particularly needlework, has served as a strategy for recent artists whose work frequently blurs the lines between function and décor. Though located in distinct geographies and rooted in different identifications, these three artists have much in common, and this talk takes seriously their decision to adorn the objects of domestic life. In doing so, Bryan-Wilson speculates about how their handcrafted practices open onto more expansive art histories.

Julia Bryan-Wilson is an award-winning author, critic, and curator whose 2017 book Fray: Art and Textile Politics received the ASAP Book Prize, the Frank Jewett Mather Award, and the Robert Motherwell Book Award. She is also the author of Art Workers. Radical Practice in the Vietnam War Era (2011) and Art in the Making: Artists and Their Materials from the Studio to Crowdsourcing (with Glenn Adamson, 2016). As an adjunct curator at the Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP), Bryan-Wilson co-curated the exhibit Women’s Histories: Artists before 1900; in 2020 she organized Histórias da Dança/Histories of Dance. Her show Louise Nevelson: Persistence, is an official collateral event of the 2022 Venice Biennale, and her monograph on Nevelson is forthcoming from Yale University Press in 2023. She is Professor of LGBTQ+ Art History at Columbia University.