Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Alan Gowans, rogue art historian
I was excited that someone at UVic remembered and appreciated Alan Gowans enough to get this long overdue memorial together last year. He was a rogue art historian, bold enough to not only completely turn his back on the mega-powerful New York intellectuals of the 1950s (Greenberg et al), but gutsy enough to tell them what was wrong with them too. Unfortunately, few listened. Gowans rewrote art history, putting illustration at its core instead of at the periphery. But his willingness to live on the margins of North America (my hometown, Victoria) and of art theory meant that he did not really join the discourse so much as yell at it from behind a closed door. His best insights were compromised by an off-hand manner, casual writing style, and disregard for citations. One of these days I will return to his work and put it through a rigorous analysis, as it deserves.