2016 Distinguished Contributions Award Recipient John Bowlt
The 2016 Distinguished Contributions to Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies Award, which honors senior scholars who have helped to build and develop the field through scholarship, training, and service to the profession, is presented to John E. Bowlt, Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures and Director of the Institute of Modern Russian Culture at the University of Southern California.
The contributions of John E. Bowlt to the study of Russian visual culture of the 20th century are exceptionally deep and multi-faceted. Starting from the late 1960s, when much of the material he has spent his career studying was taboo in the USSR, Professor Bowlt has worked sedulously to uncover, make available, and analyze the oeuvres of once almost forgotten (and now world-renowned) artists such as Kazimir Malevich, Pavel Filonov, Liubov Popova, and Varvara Stepanova as well as a host of lesser lights. He has curated exhibitions, translated and published collections of documents, written monographs, and given countless public lectures that have brought the seminal contributions of Russian modernist art and artists to the attention of specialists in the fields of art history and Russian culture as well as a broad general public. Indeed, it would be fair to say that without the efforts of Professor Bowlt, Russian avant-garde art would not have anywhere near the level of international recognition that it now possesses.
Professor Bowlt’s first book, The Russian Avant-Garde: Theory and Criticism 1902-1934, was published in 1976. In the forty years since, he has followed that foundational anthology with a steady stream of monographs, book chapters, exhibition catalogues, and translations. Among his most influential contributions are Pavel Filonov: A Hero and His Fate: Writings on Revolution and Art 1914-1940 (1984, with Nicoletta Misler); Moscow and St. Petersburg 1900-1920; Art, Life and Culture of the Russian Silver Age (2008), the latter written for a non-specialist audience. He was also the editor of the Art and Architecture section for the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Russia and the Former Soviet Union (1994). Perhaps even more influential have been the exhibitions he has curated (and their accompanying catalogues) including the path-breaking “Amazons of the Russian Avant-Garde” (with Matthew Drutt and Zelfira Tregulova, for the Guggenheim) and “A Feast of Wonders. Sergei Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes” (for the Nouveau Musée de Monte Carlo and the Tretiakov Gallery). All of Professor Bowlt’s publications are based on scrupulous and painstaking archival work. However, unlike many scholars who make a career in the archives, Professor Bowlt has the ability in his lectures and publications to transcend the myriad facts he has uncovered and create compelling visual and narrative presentations that enthrall and inspire both scholars and the general public.
Professor Bowlt has been a faculty member at both the University of Texas and the University of Southern California and in 2015 was elected Slade Professor of Fine Art at Cambridge University. Professor Bowlt willingly engages in collaborative projects and his publications and exhibitions are often co-curated with younger scholars and scholars from Russia. One of Professor Bowlt’s innovative collaborative projects is the Institute of Modern Russian Culture and its journal Experiment, which has made available a broad range of primary documents on a wide range of topics drawn from 19th and 20th century Russian culture and cultural history.
For his tireless work in creating and promoting the field of Russian modernist visual culture, John Bowlt has been selected as the recipient of the 2016 ASEEES Distinguished Contributions to Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies Award.