Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

Edith Wolfe

SCLAS Assistant Director for Undergraduate Programs

Contact Info

Edie Wolfe joined the Stone Center in July 2005. Her responsibilities include advising undergraduate students in the major and minor programs in Latin American Studies as well as coordinating events with TULASO, facilitating undergraduate-faculty communications, and teaching one section of the Introduction to Latin America course each semester. Edie has a Ph.D. in Art History with a specialization in twentieth-century Latin American modernism (UT Austin, 2005), an M.A. in Latin American Studies (UCLA, 1993), a B.A. in Art History and a B.S. in Environmental Design (UC Davis, 1986). Before coming to the Center, Edie taught in the Art History Department at Tulane and co-curated the exhibition Re-Aligning Vision: Alternative Currents in Latin American Drawing at UT Austin’s Blanton Museum of Art. Her research interests include modernism in the context of underdevelopment; national, transnational and diasporic cultures and identities; and postcolonialism, settler colonialism and subaltern studies.

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My research focuses on the transnational dialogues and intercultural exchanges that influenced the development of early twentieth-century avant-garde modernism, approached through the art and experience of Latin Americans. Theoretically, I seek to decenter modernism by exploring the alternative modernities that inspired and informed the avant-garde inside and outside of the metropole.

I am currently researching artists in Rio de Janeiro under the Vargas administration in the 1930s and 40s in an effort to redress their omission of Rio from the historiography of the Brazilian avant-garde. The dominant narrative has the modernizing São Palo Biennial subsuming any and all influence of the Vargas state that preceded it. My work critiques the dismissal of institutions like the ENBA, the MNBA and the MES, which I argue belies their complexity and ignores deeply contentious struggles over the exhibition and production of art in Rio at the time. Approaching the art of the Estado Novo relative to the total abrogation of public political life—as occupying and constituting a Habermassian public sphere—I examine the possible legacies of Carioca artistic and institutional activities in the public, subversive and popular modernist undertakings during the military dictatorship (1964-85). Grupo Guignard’s secession from the ENBA and their Os Dissidentes exhibition in 1942, the controversy surrounding Lasar Segall’s 1943 exhibition in the recently “democratized” MNBA, and social realism’s repositioning of the favela in the social imaginary suggest alternative antecedents for the relation of art and artists to communities and institutions after 1964—relations that generated immensely innovative aesthetic gestures. My findings decenter the elite, Paulista-centric narrative of Brazil’s avant-garde origins, supplanting the top-down influence of the biennial, founded and run by millionaire philanthropists, with the popular, bottom-up transgression of institutional limits in Rio under Vargas.

These questions emerged from my Ph.D. thesis, which examined the aesthetics of encounter from a non-Western perspective, focusing on German-educated, Jewish artist Lasar Segall’s relation to Brazilian. Segall’s arrival in Brazil coincided with the consolidation of a modernist, nationalist aesthetic—informed by the European cult of the “primitive”—which celebrated the mixed-race mulatto as a symbol of Brazil’s “racial democracy.” His Afro-Brazilian themes resonated with this nativist agenda, earning Segall praise for expressing the “spirit of the nation.” Yet his empathetic depictions of Afro-Brazilians, as well as of Jews, immigrants and prostitutes, disrupted rather than reinforced the coherence of modernist brasilidade (Brazilian-ness), signaling not belonging but, I contend, Segall’s own ineluctable alterity. I intend to expand this research to examine the varied contexts of Segall’s itineraries, in Dresden, São Paulo, Paris and Rio to examine the mobility of modernism as a transnational, reciprocal dialogue.

Part of this project was published as an article in the Art Bulletin examining Brazilians in Paris in the 1920s relative to questions of cosmopolitanism. These inquiries emerged from theoretical impasse I encountered in my work on Segall, above all the inadequacy of center-periphery models for understanding Latin America. Recent scholarship and exhibitions position Brazilian modernism as an anti-colonial gesture directed at Europe that reversed the hierarchy of metropole to colony. My research, however, reveals that Brazilian modernism reflected a global consciousness that undermines the linearity suggested by this model. Brazil in the 1920s was a rising force in the global economy and rapid industrialization had made São Paulo one of the fastest growing cities in the world, conditioning a sense of parity with Europe strongly reflected in Brazilian art. My work applies James Clifford’s notion of a discrepant cosmopolitanism to Brazilian modernism in order to examine a specifically Brazilian universalist project, informed by a particular experience with modernity and the legacies of slavery and colonialism. Focusing on Brazilians within the School of Paris, specifically Vicente do Rego Monteiro, this work examines the collective construction of a Brazil-centered cosmos, constituted by multiple shifting peripheries radiating toward Europe, but also beyond Europe toward kindred modern societies outside the West (in Tokyo and South Africa, for example) and emanating within Brazil to the internal peripheries in geographically remote jungles and culturally remote urban favelas (shantytowns).

In 2017 I collaborated with the Newcomb Art Museum on a class entitled “Women, Community and the Arts in Latin America,” which I designed to accompany an exhibition of contemporary Puerto Rican painting organized by the Museum; my students mounted a supporting exhibit on social practice art and the aesthetics of activism in Puerto Rico. The class and student exhibit addressed three principle considerations: How do we represent a community on its own terms, but in a way that remains relevant to a local public? How do we exhibit (institutionalize) work that is often expressly anti-institutional? And What do we exhibit in the absence of an “object” of art? I am currently planning the same class working with female cultural organizers in Oaxaca, Mexico. As of 2018, I am a member of the editorial board of Anthem Press’s Brazil series, “Anthem Brazilian Studies” (London) and am an interim executive committee member for the South Eastern Conference on Latin American Studies. I sat on the College Art Association’s Committee on Diversity Practices from 2015 to 2018 and was an elected member of the Brazilian Studies Association’s executive committee from 2014 to 2018. I was a faculty consultant for the Guantanamo Public Memory Project and Exhibition from 2013 to 2015 and for the Newcomb Art Museum’s Per(Sister): Incarcerated Women in Louisiana from 2016 to 2019.

  • B.A., University of California, Davis, Art History, 1986
  • B.S., University of California, Environmental Design, 1986
  • M.A., University of California, Los Angeles, Latin American Studies, 1993
  • Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin, Art History, 2005
Academic Experience
  • Visiting Instructor, Department of Critical Studies, Massachussetts College of Art and Design, Spring 2008
  • Administrative Assistant Professor, Tulane University, 2005-
  • Adjunct Instructor, Tulane University, 2001-2004
  • Teaching Assistant, University of Texas, 1997-1998

Research & Teaching Specializations: Alternative modernisms; avant-garde and underdevelopment; primitivism; globalization; national, transnational and diasporic cultures/identities; colonialism, postcolonialism, cosmopolitanism and subaltern studies; cultural politics and exhibition practices

Related Experience
  • Assistant Director of Undergraduate Affairs, Stone Center for Latin American Studies, Tulane University, 2005-
  • Consultant, Latin American Studies Program Curricular Review, Oberlin College, 2009
  • Consultant, Area Studies Program and Interdisciplinary Curricular Review, Stone Center for Latin American Studies, Tulane University, 2004
  • Co-Curator, “Re-Aligning Vision: Alternative Currents in South American Drawing” Archer M. Huntington Art Gallery, The University of Texas at Austin, 1996-1999
  • Stone Center Summer Faculty Research Grant, Tulane University, 2009, 2014
  • Newcomb Fellows Research Grant, Newcomb College Institute, Tulane University, 2011
  • Outstanding Dissertation in the Humanities, The Graduate School, UT Austin, 2006
  • American Association of University Women, American Dissertation Fellowship, 2001-2002
  • Fulbright (IIE) Fellowship for Doctoral Research, 1999-2000
  • Social Science Research Council, International Dissertation Field Research Fellowship, 1999-2000
Language & Proficiency:
  • Portuguese
  • Spanish
Selected Publications
  • 2020. “Modernism, Authoritarianism and the Vagaries of Freedom in Brazil” Arts Special Issue: World War, Art, and Memory: 1914 to 1945.
  • 2020. “Learning from San Juan: Democratic Education, Social Practice Art and the Prefigurative Politics of Listening,” Latin American and Latinx Visual Culture 1:6 (Spring 2020)
  • 2019. “Lasar Segall’s Mangue Portfolio,” in Among Others: Blackness at MoMA. Edited by Darby English, New York: Museum of Modern Art.
  • 2017. “Becoming Imperceptible: Adam Pendleton at the New Orleans Contemporary Art Center, 2016” in CAAReviews.
  • 2015. “‘Exiled from the World’: German Expressionism, Brazilian Modernism and the Interstitial Primitivism of Lasar Segall” in KulturConfusão: On Interculturality and German-Brazilian Encounters. Edited by Anke Finger, Gabi Kathöfer, and Christopher Larkosh. Berlin/New York: De Gruyter Collection: 267-299.
  • 2014. “Paris as Periphery: Vicente do Rêgo Monteiro and Brazil’s Discrepant Cosmopolitanism.” The Art Bulletin 96(1): 98 – 119.
  • 2014. “Brazilian Art under Dictatorship: Antonio Manuel, Artur Barrio, and Cildo Meireles. By Claudia Calirman.” Estudios Interdisciplinarios de América Latina y el Caribe 25(1): 123-125
  • 2013. “Making Art Panamerican: Cultural Policy and the Cold War. By Claire Fox.” Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 18: 548-550.
  • 2010. “O sol do Brasil: Nicolas-Antoine Taunay e as desventuras dos artistas franceses na corte de Dom João. By Lilia Moritz Schwarcz.” Review Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 15:1: 238-40
  • 2007. “Casta Painting: Images of Race in Eighteenth Century Mexico.” By Ilona Katzew. Exploring New World Imagery. Edited by Donna Pierce. (Review) Ethnohistory 54:4 (Fall 2007), 775-777
  • 2006. “Lygia Clark, Compisição 5” and “Lygia Clark, Obra mole” in Gabriel Perez Barreiro, ed., The Geometry of Hope: Abstract Art from the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection. Austin: Blanton Museum of Art, 2006, pp. 142 144, 201 202
  • 2005. “Art and Artists-Brazil,” in J. Michael Francis, ed., Iberia and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History. Santa Barbara: ABC CLIO, 2005, pp. 94-101

Recently-Taught Latin American-Related Courses: LAST-4000-01: Core seminar
LAST-6961-01: Women Community Arts in Latin America

Number of Dissertations or Theses Supervised in the Past 5 Years: 4

For more information about Edith Wolfe click here.