CAA conference 2012

Photograph of attendees in a conference venue

Dr Jutta Vinzent was recently invited to give a paper at the annual conference of the CAA (College Art Association) in Los Angeles (22-25 Feb 2012). The conference, which included celebrations of the CAA’s centennial anniversary, is one of the largest fora for research on the visual arts. Over 200 sessions, panel discussions, roundtables and meetings were organised on a variety of themes from Roman art to the contemporary. Highlights included a Centennial Reception at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the CAA Distinguished Scholar Session honouring the work of American art critic and theorist Rosalind Krauss which included contributions fromHarry Cooper (National Gallery of Art), Benjamin H.D. Buchloh (Harvard University), Hal Foster (Princeton University), Ewa Lajer-Burcharth (Harvard University) and Briony Fer (University College London).

Dr Vinzent gave a paper in the session The 1930s’, chaired by Jordana Mendelson (New York University). Entitled, ‘Spatiality as a Modernist Strategy In Late 1930s Britain’, the paper focused on the debate around abstract art in Circle, a book edited by Leslie Martin, Ben Nicholson and Naum Gabo in 1937. Circle brought together like-minded British artists and refugees from Nazism and its contributors included Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, Walter Gropius and Piet Mondrian. Dr Vinzent’s paper explored spatial concepts in Circle and showed their central role in the shaping of modernism in the latter part of 1930s Britain. Based on Gabo’s articles in Circle, as well as material related to the Constructive Art exhibitionheld at the London Gallery in July 1937 to coincide with the publication of Circle, it argued that Gabo’s concept of space was not only relevant as a formal element of his sculpture, but was also at the heart of a social commitment: it hailed the creation of a new, albeit utopian, society.

In another sense and not consciously reflected in Circle, space also played a role in the lives of its contributors, if migration is understood in spatial terms. Arguably, Circle was published as a result of Gabo’s immigration; the contributors included a number of émigrés, and it attracted artists to immigrate to London, such as Piet Mondrian in 1938. In this sense Circle was the result of and also the catalyst for migration, demanding artists to create new social spaces, or – in Gabo’s terminology – ‘construct’ social spaces. Hence, Circle,and with it spatiality, lie at the heart of modernism in late 1930s Britain.

A version of Dr Vinzent’s paper will soon be published in Encounters with the 1930s, edited by Jordana Mendelson and published by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid.

The attendance of the conference was generously funded by the School Research Support Fund 2011-12 (LCAHM, College of Arts and Law, University of Birmingham).

Save the date: The next CAA conference will be held at New York, 13-16 February 2013. Session titles will soon be announced (see

[Image above - Entrance to the registration area of the CAA conference 2012 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.]