In September 2017 the Block Museum welcomed Tamar Kharatishvili as a 2017-2018 graduate fellow. Block Museum Graduate Fellowships are offered to two graduate students annually, one from Art History and one from any department within the Graduate School. Graduate Fellows are integral members of the museum staff and support projects through exhibition and collection research, curating, writing and catalog production. We took a moment to sit down with Kharatishvili, a PhD candidate in Art History, to discuss her background and forthcoming work.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and your field of study?
I am a third-year Ph.D. student here at Northwestern in the Department of Art History, where I specialize in modern European art. Before coming to Northwestern, I spent my formative years split between the United States and Tbilisi, Georgia, eventually moving to the United States for college. I majored in art history at Yale, and it was at this time that I started to become interested in museums and the work they do not just in advancing scholarship, but also within their broader communities to address wider publics. As an undergraduate, the Yale Center for British Art and the Yale University Art Gallery were constant sources of inspiration for me. While in college I had the opportunity as well of interning at the RISD Museum of Art, which I now identify as a decisive point in my desire to work and study within the arts.
In my academic work I’m particularly drawn to thinking about art and artists in relation to notions of travel, migration, and movement, and am currently developing a research focus that will allow me to engage with histories of transportation technology, issues of nationality and cultural identity, and histories of image-making technologies in exciting ways.
What will you be focusing on while you are here?
I’m currently working on an exhibition of the work of Hank Willis Thomas. I’m finding the way he addresses issues of race, class, and gender through engagements with advertising media fascinating. And as a scholar of primarily 19th and early 20th-century art, I’m thrilled to be learning more about contemporary artists and their work.
What drew you to the Block Museum mission, exhibitions, and collection?
I’ve always harbored a particular fondness for museums affiliated with universities. I’m especially interested in the Block given the institution’s mission to rethink the museum as a platform for interdisciplinary conversations. Given the prominence within the Block’s collection of reproducible and graphic media, such as prints and photographs, I’m especially interested in thinking about the wider and more complex forms of legibility that more broadly-circulated objects might intrinsically entail (or even elide).
What museum exhibitions or programs (outside the Block) have inspired you lately?
In September I had the opportunity to see a retrospective of Sonia Delaunay-Terk’s work at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid. The show might have inspired my future dissertation — I’m still thinking about how to engage with the notions of visual abstraction, modernism, and cultural mobility highlighted by the exhibition. Here in Chicago, I’m really looking forward to the opening of “Rodin: Sculptor and Storyteller” at the Art Institute of Chicago in just a few days!