Waiting for the End of the World: Eschatology and Art 1939-Present

A Symposium of the Association of Scholars of Christianity in the History of Art (ASCHA)






Waiting for the End of the World: Eschatology and Art 1939-Present

Monday, February 11 and Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Department of Art History, New York University


Since the end of the Second World War, historical forces and personal motivations compelled many artists, working across a spectrum of materials and visual methods, to directly employ or obliquely reference themes of the Last Judgment and the Apocalypse. Over a historical period of wars, economic booms and devastating depressions, the rise and fall of ideologies of left and right, the collapse of colonial empires and the chaos of failed states, the threats of nuclear annihilation and ecological degradation, artists frequently turned to eschatological imagery to visualize the experience of modern life.


The Last Judgment described in the sacred texts of the Abrahamic religions threatens damnation and promises redemption for both the individual and society. This symposium will explore the way that apocalyptic beliefs and imagery have informed the work of avant-garde artists.


Keynote speaker Pepe Karmel, Associate Professor of Art History at New York University, will consider the idea of the “end of art” as an allegory for the broader, eschatological idea of “the end.”


Symposium Schedule


Monday, February 11

6:30—9:30 PM


Session 1

Hannah Hempstead

MA Candidate

Wheaton College

“Between the Center and the Edge of Things:” Art, Entropy, and Eschatology in the Work of Robert Smithson


Dr. Rory O'Dea

Assistant Professor of Contemporary Art and Design

Parsons School of Design

Entropic Apocalypse: Robert Smithson's Non-Objective World


Session 2

Dr. Suzaan Boettger

Professor, History of Art

Bergen Community College

“Life in the Lower Depths”:  Early 1960s’ Postapocalyptic Undergrounds of the ProtoPostmodernist Robert Smithson


Dr. Deborah Frizzell

Adjunct Professor of Art History

William Paterson University of New Jersey

Across Space and Time: Figuring the Structures of Nancy Spero's Eschatology


Discussion with Presenters


Tuesday, February 12

6:30—9:30 PM


Session 3

Alexander R. Bigman

PhD Candidate

Institute of Fine Arts at NYU

No Future: Sarah Charlesworth’s Doomsday Historicism from Modern History to Stills


Dr. Isabelle Loring Wallace

Associate Professor of Contemporary Art

Lamar Dodd School of Art, University of Georgia

Judgement, Jesus, and Reality TV: Christian Jankowski’s Casting Jesus



Dr. Pepe Karmel

Associate Professor Of Art History

New York University

The End of Art as a Necessary Fiction


Discussion with Presenters


Concluding Remarks




This symposium organized by Dr. Amy Hamlin (St. Catherine University, akhamlin@stkate.edu) and Dr. James Romaine (Lander University, jromaine@lander.edu) for the Association of Scholars of Christianity in the History of Art (ASCHA) and is co-sponsored by the Department of Art History, New York University.



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Above: Detail from Nancy Spero's Search and Destroy, War Series. Courtesy The Estate of Nancy Spero and Galerie Lelong & Co., New York. © 2018 The Nancy Spero and Leon Golub Foundation for the Arts.


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