Zervigón, Andrés Mario
Associate Professor and Acting Chairperson
Email Dr. Zervigon
Professor Zervigón received his doctorate in art history from Harvard University in 2000. He specializes in the history of photography and concentrates his scholarship on the interaction between photographs, film, and fine art. His work generally focuses upon moments in history when these media prove inadequate to their presumed task of representing the visual.
Zervigón’s book, John Heartfield and the Agitated Image: Photography, Persuasion, and the Rise of Avant-Garde Photomontage (University of Chicago Press, 2012: http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/J/bo12953902.html), situates the famous artist’s images at just such a moment. The book uses the case of Heartfield to propose that photography’s sudden ubiquity in illustrated magazines, postcards, and posters produced an unsettling transformation of visual culture that artists felt compelled to address. Zervigón’s aim is to challenge existing histories of Germany’s inter-war avant-garde that describe the response to mass-photography as an enthusiastic embrace. His study, by contrast, argues that artists like Heartfield turned to the medium specifically because they wished to understand its dangerous capacity to stultify and mislead. Photomontage, “New Vision” photography, and the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) as a whole, Zervigón argues, were essentially strategies devised by Germany’s young artists to salvage, reclaim, and reinvent a medium whose validity had been deeply impugned by its inability to accommodate the multifaceted complexity of modernity.
Zervigón’s second book project "Die Arbeiter-Illustrierte Zeitung -- The Workers' Illustrated Magazine," 1921-1938: Germany's Other Avant-Garde expands this discussion beyond Heartfield to the mass-circulation magazine in which he published his most famous pictures. Committed to an aggressive use of photography for leftist causes, this periodical [known as the AIZ] plied the medium in stunningly innovative ways and ultimately defined the look of photo-weeklies such as Life magazine. Behind this originality, however, were not artists like Heartfield (who only contributed) but a collective of radical politicians and traditionally trained print professionals. What spurred their inventiveness was a deep-seated suspicion about images that was typical of the German communist political movement they sought to popularize. This anxiety mirrored the artistic avant-garde's own discomfort with mimesis. The AIZ’s photographic innovation arose when radical-left iconoclasm met the photograph, the seemingly superficial medium that had otherwise obscured the era’s underlying tumult. For this study, Prof. Zervigón was awarded the Paul Mellon Senior Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, where he is in residence through May 2014.
Zervigón’s other book projects unfolded similar themes in photography. With Sabine Kriebel he is editing Photography in Doubt, an anthology investigating photography's history as a fraught and contested means of representation. He is also drafting Photography and Germany for the Exposures series of Reaktion Books. This study explores the construction of German identity through photography across the medium's history. Additionally, he and Tanya Sheehan are coediting Photography and Its Origins (Routledge, Jan. 2015), which reflects on the medium's beginnings in critical and specifically historiographical terms.
At Rutgers, Zervigón concentrates his teaching on the history of photography. With Prof. Tanya Sheehan he co-founded "The Developing Room: Photography Working Group” at the Center for Cultural Analysis. This group promotes interdisciplinary dialogue among members of the Rutgers community whose research and/or teaching engages with the histories, theories, and practices of photography.
Agitated Images: John Heartfield and German Photomontage, 1920 – 1938. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, February 21 – June 25, 2006, and Wolfsonian Museum, Miami Beach, September 20, 2007 – February 10, 2008.
Current Interests & Research:
--German and Russian photography between the two world wars
--Photomontage through 1945
--Contemporary international photography
--Contemporary South African art
--Photography and Film
Undergraduate Classes Taught:
--History of Photography, 1800-1900<
--History of Photography, 1900-Today
--Science, Art, Photography
--The Modern Photograph