Action. Painting. Now.
A symposium on Abstract Expressionism

The remarkable impact of Jackson Pollock, Morris Louis and their contemporaries is still felt today. Leading American scholars Branden Joseph, Ellen Landau, Michael Leja and Richard Shiff join Australian experts to explore the development, reach and influence of Abstract Expressionism. Presented in association with the United States Studies Centre, University of Sydney and supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

The symposium is convened by Roger Benjamin, Professor of Art History at United States Studies Centre & Department of Art History and Film Studies, University of Sydney, and Lucina Ward, Curator, International Painting and Sculpture, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

Dates + times

  • Friday 24 August, 10.00 am – 4.00 pm
  • Saturday 25 August, 10.00 am – 4.00 pm


Price includes lunch, morning coffee and afternoon tea on both days.

Single day
$90 full; $80 student / member / concession

Both days
$160 full; $150 student / member / concession

Join speakers and delegates for Friday night drinks and canapes in the Gandel Hall.
Friday 24 August 4.00 – 6.00 pm
$50 full; $40 student / member / concession | Bookings essential


Phone +61 2 6240 6528

Accommodation packages

Participants of the Symposium can access discounted accommodation rates for the duration of the conference. Participants need to state that they are part of the Symposium when making the booking. View accommodation packages



Day one: Friday 24 August

  • Rex Butler: What was Abstract Expressionism?: Abstract Expressionism through Aboriginal Art
    Rex Butler is Associate Professor, Director of Research and Lecturer in Art History, The University of Queensland, Brisbane
  • Christine Dixon: Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis: No drawing, no more
    Christine Dixon is Senior Curator, International Painting and Sculpture, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
  • Michael Hill: Looking for trouble: Leo Steinberg vs Clement Greenberg
    Michael Hill is Senior Lecturer and Coordinator Art History and Theory, National Art School, Sydney
  • Michael Leja: Explosive serenity, divine hellfire: Mark Rothko's abstractions
    Michael Leja is Professor, History of Art Department, and Director, Visual Studies Program, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
  • Richard Shiff: Willem de Kooning: the kick, the twist, the woman, the rowboat
    Richard Shiff is Effie Cain Regents Professor of Art History, University of Texas at Austin

Day two: Saturday 25 August

  • Deborah Hart: Writ large: Paintings by Robert Motherwell, Tony Tuckson and Peter Upward
    Deborah Hart is Senior Curator, Australian Painting and Sculpture post-1920, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
  • Branden Joseph: To work in total art is hard as hell: Claes Oldenburg's legacy of Jackson Pollock
    Branden Joseph is Frank Gallipoli Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art, Columbia University, New York
  • Ellen Landau: Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock: The erotics of influence
    Ellen Landau is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities, Department of Art History and Art, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland
  • Chris McAuliffe: Fear of a drip planet: Jackson Pollock, punk and the decrepitude of art
    Chris McAuliffe is Director of the Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne, and was Chair of Australian Studies at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 2011–12
  •  Patrick McCaughey: ‘Every kind of painting': Early Antipodean Responses to Blue poles
    Patrick McCaughey is a distinguished critic and art historian; he was Director of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Director of the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, and Director of the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut
  • Anthony White: Jackson Pollock’s Blue poles: Unfinished business
    Anthony White is Senior Lecturer in Art History, The University of Melbourne