Engendering an avant-garde

The unsettled landscapes of Vancouver photo-conceptualism

By Leah Modigliani

Engendering an avant-garde


  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: eBook
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-2674-0
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Published Date: April 2018
  • BIC Category: ART / History / General, The arts / Photography & photographs, Art & Design Styles: Conceptual Art, Art History, History of art, PHOTOGRAPHY / Criticism


Engendering an avant-garde is the first book to comprehensively examine the origins of Vancouver photo-conceptualism in its regional context between 1968 and 1990. Employing discourse analysis of texts written by and about artists, feminist critique and settler-colonial theory, the book discusses the historical transition from artists' creation of 'defeatured landscapes' between 1968-71 to their cinematographic photographs of the late 1970s and the backlash against such work by other artists in the late 1980s. It is the first study to provide a structural account for why the group remains all-male. It accomplishes this by demonstrating that the importation of a European discourse of avant-garde activity, which assumed masculine social privilege and public activity, effectively excluded women artists from membership.


'This scrutiny of the shibboleths supporting "Vancouver photo-conceptualism", more commonly reiterated than scrutinised, is telling. Modigliani opens up the possibility of new thinking rather than closing it down. For this reason, and because of her confident command of materials and sources, the book will reach the international audience avid for writing about the Vancouver School, its protagonists, photo-conceptualism, conceptual art of the late '60s, feminist deconstruction, regionalism v. internationalism and more.'
Charlotte Townsend-Gault, Professor Emeritus, Department of Art History, Visual Art & Theory, The University of British Columbia

'This is a deeply researched and carefully argued account of how avant-garde formations have continued to marginalize women's artistic production even during periods of feminist agitation, though any one of the chapters could be a stand-alone reading at the graduate level.'
Dr. Christine Conley, RACAR 44 (2019)

'Engendering an Avant-Garde insightfully expands upon earlier critical photo-historical anthologies [.] and offers compelling evidence of the need to broaden the scope of the critical treatment of Vancouver art history.'
Prefix Photo Magazine


1 Jeff Wall's Picture for Women (1979) and The Destroyed Room (1978): colonizing the space of gendered discourse
2 Emily Carr and the legacy of Commonwealth modernism
3 Myth and the 'home culture concept'
4 Establishing the theory and practice of a defeatured landscape
5 1970s and the gendered spaces of the counter tradition
6 Feminist theoretical and visual challenges to modernist representation


Leah Modigliani is Assistant Professor of Visual Studies at Tyler School of Art at Temple University

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