Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

History of Art

First Advisor

Karen Redrobe


Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, notions of a “postmodern image,” often revolving around the use of photography, emerged within American art world discourses. Building in significant part upon themes of postructuralist theory, art historians and critics gestured to the photograph’s inherent status as “copy,” implicating notions of authorial originality as contrived and unnatural. My project grapples with questions as to how the scholarly contours of preeminent histories of photographic postmodernism, in their efforts to articulate photographic shifts away from late-modernist tenets, foreclosed the inclusion of artists whose work remained invested in sociopolitical concerns and imbricated politics of cultural identity introduced during the civil rights era.

Three major case studies trace evolutions within the 1970s/80s photographic oeuvres of Patrick Nagatani, Lorraine O’Grady, and the collective Asco. Their work located within strategies of photographic postmodernism intersecting identity-oriented critiques of systemic race, citizenship, and class hierarchies, many of which were fomented amidst political mobilization and protest movements of the 1960s. Each artist’s use of the still camera entails a navigation of the diverse socioeconomic geographies of their urban surroundings of New York and Los Angeles. In turn, they consider how the spaces they depict reflect their own relationships to the valuative sociocultural hierarchies structuring these major American art world centers, in which critics, curators, and scholars propped up artist communities more embedded in predominant histories.


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