Art historian Smith to discuss contemporary art and global change

The phrase “modern art” has been widely used for more than a century. In that time, it has become so associated with historical movements — from cubism and surrealism to abstract expressionism, pop and conceptual art — that it has ceased to describe the many new and different forms being made today.

So argues Terry Smith, Ph.D., the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory at the University of Pittsburgh. At 6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 13, Smith will explore the topic in a lecture titled “Contemporary Art and the Contemporaneity Question” in Steinberg Hall Auditorium. The lecture is free and open to the public and is sponsored by the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum.

“There is a widespread and growing sense that many significant — perhaps even epochal — changes are occurring in the world today, and that certain kinds of contemporary art seem closely connected with these changes, whereas other art seems concerned above all with itself,” Smith said.

“This lecture will explore the idea that the concept of contemporaneity is more useful than ideas of the modern, including the postmodern, if we are to understand these global changes accurately,” Smith said.

A native of Australia, Smith is a former member of Art & Language, the influential conceptual art group, and a founder of Union Media Services, a design studio specializing in community-based art initiatives.

He serves on the boards of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, Australia, and the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. He also serves as a visiting professor of architecture at the University of Sydney.

Smith has published extensively on modernism and contemporary art as well as on Australian visual arts and architecture. He is the author of “The Architecture of Aftermath” (2006), which explores how, in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, global politics, clashing cultures and symbolic warfare changed the way we experience “destination” architecture.

Other books include “Making the Modern: Industry, Art, and Design in America” (1993) as well as “Transformations in Australian Art, Volume 1, The Nineteenth Century: Landscape, Colony and Nation” and “Volume 2, The Twentieth Century: Modernism and Aboriginality” (both 2002).

He also is editor of “In Visible Touch: Modernism and Masculinity” (1997); “First People, Second Chance: The Humanities and Aboriginal Australia” (1999); “Impossible Presence: Surface and Screen in the Photogenic Era” (2001); “Jacques Derrida, Deconstruction Engaged: The Sydney Seminars” (with Paul Patton, 2001); and “Contemporary Art Philanthropy” (2007).

Smith’s current projects include “What is Contemporary Art?” a study of three approaches to the question posed by the title, as well as “Contemporary Art: World Currents,” forthcoming from Laurence King Publishers, and “The Mass Production Imaginary,” a study of the visual imaginations of the engineers Frederick Taylor and George Richardson.

A reception for Smith will be held at 6 p.m. in the Kemper Art Museum.

For more information, call 935-4523 or e-mail