Belatedness of various kinds has long shaped American art and its historiography. Contextualizing this practice in the United States alongside global modernities, this study day asks: How has belatedness—framed through constructs of being behind, delayed, and not yet arrived—shaped modern art making and art historiography? How and why have art critics spurred claims of aberrations to standard notions of progress that are temporally structured? How are these cases tied to place and time, even as they seek to deny their contemporary moment? In the process, how do these examples re-define ideas of time through cultural production and reception? This study day brings together scholars working on modern art to consider how belatedness has been employed strategically by artists and critics; imposed by the colonial project; and taken up by historians of art.
In some cases, artists trying to shape their own reception or capitalize on perceptions of their national or cultural identity have reinforced the idea of belatedness in their art practice and rhetoric. At the same time, coloniality has exported such a narrative to exoticize, limit the circulation or to control the aesthetics of artists in the context of often violent asymmetrical relationships. Canonical narratives of modernism have also furthered belatedness by using the concept to draw the boundaries between inclusion and exclusion.
Key questions include: Is belatedness necessarily pejorative? Can it be operating simultaneously as control and as transculturation in the same context? Is it necessarily comparative? How does it relate to antimodernism and to primitivism? Is there a materiality of belatedness, in other words, how can belatedness be structured within works of art themselves? Can belatedness be understood as an epistemology, and by framing it in this way, does it encourage a re-writing of the history of modernism?