Jordan Troeller’s book Sculpture’s Progeny: Motherhood and Artistic Creation in Ruth Asawa’s San Francisco will speak to the proliferating objects generated by an unofficial group of self-defined “artist-mothers” in postwar California. Centered around Ruth Asawa, these artists—who include the sculptor-jeweler Merry Renk, the photographer Imogen Cunningham, and the print- and tapestry-maker June Wayne—rejected the difference between two- and three-dimensional media and between domestic and public space, in an effort to overcome the centuries-old opposition between motherhood and culture. Such works recast both art and motherhood as world-making practices, with profound implications for how we understand key aesthetic concerns of their period, including autonomy, medium-specificity, abstraction, and originality. Foregrounding how these works challenge what Linda Nochlin called art history’s “mythology of divine creation,” Troeller’s project proposes that this maternal counternarrative of postwar American art offers a new model of writing art history itself: rather than an Oedipal progression of generational conflict, Sculpture’s Progeny will suggest that art’s history proliferates from an engagement with caretaking, social reproduction, and futurity.

Jordan Troeller is an art historian and postdoctoral researcher at the Freie Universität Berlin. Originally from California, she has studied at UC Berkeley, Harvard, and the Whitney Independent Study Program. Her research, which has been supported by grants from the Henry Moore Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art, explores the role of gender in the writing of art’s histories, with a geographic focus on Europe, the U.S., and Latin America. In addition to researching and teaching, she has organized exhibitions and public programs for the Goethe-Institut Boston and the MIT List Visual Arts Center. She is currently a guest curator for the Kunsthalle Praha. Her recent writing can be found in The History of Photography, Hyperallergic, October, and Women’s Art Journal, as well as in the anthologies Bauhaus Bodies: Gender, Sexuality, and Body Culture in Modernism’s Legendary Art School (Bloomsbury, 2019) and Textile Moderne / Textile Modernism (Böhlau Verlag, 2019). Among her current projects supported by the DFG-funded research group on Normativity, Critique, Change is a study of the archaic in feminist art and historiography since the 1970s.