Queer Zen: Cy Twombly, Abstraction, and Identity

College Art Association Annual Conference, 2014

“Abstraction and Difference” Panel

David Getsy and Tirza True Latimer, co-chairs

A revised and expanded version of this paper was published as the chapter titled, “Queer Zen: Unyoking Genealogy in Asian American Art History.” In Queering Contemporary Asian American Art, edited by Laura Kina and Jan Bernabe. University of Washington Press, Spring 2017. This chapter was then further expanded through a discussion of the artworks of Natvar Bhavsar in Productive Failure: Writing Transnational South Asian Art Histories.


Chicago, IL

February 12 - 15, 2014


This paper is part of a larger project extending research beyond the contemporary to works produced in the 1950s and 1960s, to works produced by artists genealogically linked to Asia (not just South Asia), and to works of artists identified as gay or lesbian (but not of Asian descent). This project continues pulling against the stabilizing effect of genealogy and social construction of identity in art history while not jettisoning either of them wholesale; focusing on abstraction has been pivotal in doing so. More specifically, focus is placed on both Zen Buddhism and queer as two core organizing and overlapping concepts to explore the abstract works of Cy Twombly, specifically his Ferragosto series from 1961.