CFP: COLOR/FORMS, Parsons and Cooper Hewitt Grad Symposium

The Twenty-Fourth Annual Parsons/Cooper Hewitt Graduate Student Symposium on the History of Design

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York City

Proposals due January 26, 2015
Symposium held April 23 and 24, 2015

This symposium is seeking papers on the forms color takes and the roles color plays in the meanings of design and the decorative arts since the Renaissance. We are especially interested in research that touches on moments of change: for example, on transitions from monochrome to full-color production, or when particular colors became available, fashionable or unfashionable.

Coloration is intrinsic to the social meanings of objects. Colors shape our interaction with things and other people in fundamental ways; they can appeal to our most visceral senses of pleasure or desire. Colors affect behaviors, and we use colors metaphorically to describe attitudes, feelings and moods. In the world of consumer goods, the need to produce certain colors has driven innovations in mechanical processes, and markets can rise and fall based on color trends.

Areas of investigation might involve:

  • Graphic design and broadcast media–e.g. color printing in lithographs, newspapers and magazines; day-glo color inks and psychedelic design; Technicolor and other cinematic color systems; the advent of color television; etc.
  • Fashion and costume studies–e.g. color, or lack thereof, in menswear; aniline dyes and other technologies of coloration; color forecasting; etc.
  • Industrial design–e.g. colored plastics; anodized aluminum; the color of high technology (silver, black, white, beige) or domestic appliances; color theory and consumer choice; color-customizable products; colors in toys; etc.
  • Decorative arts–e.g. hand-painted and printed colors ceramics; tapestry, color-changing fabrics and other textiles; polychromy in sculpture; etc.
  • Architecture and interior design–e.g. colored exterior lighting; psychologies of colored interiors; wallpapers; “white cities” and exhibition architecture; etc.
  • …or any number of related fields of production and consumption.

Proposals are welcome from graduate students at any level in fields such as History of the Decorative Arts, History of Design, Curatorial Studies, Design Studies, Art History, History of Architecture, Design and Technology, Media Studies, Consumer Studies, Cultural Anthropology, Sociology, and other fields.

The symposium’s Catherine Hoover Voorsanger Keynote speaker will be Jeffrey L. Meikle, Stiles Professor in American Studies and Professor of Art History at the University of Texas at Austin, speaking on “Postcard Modernism: Landscapes, Cityscapes, and American Visual Culture, 1931-1950.” Dr. Meikle is one of the leading voices in design history and cultural history. His renown scholarship extends to industrial design and technology, popular print media, and alternative cultures from 1950 to the present. His books include Twentieth Century Limited: Industrial Design in America, 1925-1939 (1982); American Plastic: A Cultural History (1995); and Design in the USA (2005).

The Keynote will be on Thursday evening, April 23, 2015 and the symposium sessions will be in the morning and afternoon on Friday, April 24.

To submit a proposal, send a two-page abstract, one-page bibliography and a c.v. to:

Ethan Robey
Associate Director, MA Program in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies

Deadline for proposals: January 26, 2015

The symposium is sponsored by the MA Program in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies offered jointly by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and Parsons The New School for Design.

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