posted by CAA — Sep 15, 2021
The AHA has released a statement condemning the harassment and intimidation of participants, organizers, and university sponsors of the virtual conference “Dismantling Global Hindutva: Multidisciplinary Perspectives.” “Conferences, both in person and across digital platforms, are critical to the exchange of ideas among historians and our colleagues in other disciplines,” the AHA wrote. “Disruptions to a conference represent an assault on the principle of academic freedom, and the AHA stands unequivocally with participants in this conference and its sponsors in their right to exchange ideas without fear of threats and intimidation.”
To date, 15 organizations have signed onto this statement.
posted by Allison Walters — Sep 13, 2021
Supporting excellence in the arts for over 100 years, CAA and its members are highly integrated into the fabric of art and its history, particularly in New York City. On September 1, 2021, CAA had the privilege to highlight its impact in an event featuring its distinguished awardees and partnerships. The event, an Inaugural Evening with CAA Distinguished Awardees and Artists, recognized the talent of CAA’s membership and reaffirmed CAA’s commitment and advocacy for scholars, artists, designers, teachers, young professionals, and many others.
Surrounded by recent artworks created by The League’s faculty members, CAA Executive Director and CEO Meme Omogbai introduced celebrated critic and curator Nicole R. Fleetwood. Fleetwood delivered a private presentation discussing her book and exhibition Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration, including detailed insights into the backstory and personal inspiration behind the important project. The book, published by Harvard University Press, unprecedently won both CAA’s Frank Jewett Mather and Charles Rufus Morey book awards in 2021. It was also reviewed across CAA’s publications, including The Art Bulletin, Art Journal, and caa.reviews. Fleetwood’s book accompanies a groundbreaking exhibition that began at MoMA PS1 in 2020 and continues to travel; it will open on September 17 at the Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and be on view through December 11, 2021.
The reception also commended CAA’s Outstanding Leadership in Philanthropy Award recipient, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. The Samuel H. Kress Foundation has supported CAA in its mission for over 60 years, through programs in art history and, more recently, digital transformation. With support from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, CAA’s new strategic focus on digital initiatives will bridge history, scholarship, and accessibility to better serve all segments of its constituency, especially underprivileged audiences.
The Art Students League of New York graciously hosted CAA for this event. Like CAA, The League is an organization with a long history of promoting the arts and education. Indeed, CAA and The League have been highly integrated into the fabric of art and its history in New York City and have been closely intertwined, collaborating on several events and initiatives dating back to at least the 1950s.
Located west of The League, the site-specific exhibition Re:Growth, A Celebration of Art, Riverside Park, and the New York Spirit, curated by Karin Bravin, included several artists from the CAA community: current CAA Board Member Dahlia Elsayed, former Board President DeWitt Godfrey, and CAA member Jean Shin. While the weather prevented a group walk-through of the exhibition, Elsayed spoke to attendees about the unique exhibition, her sculpture in the show, and its significance.
Altogether, the evening underscored CAA’s wide reach and impact in the arts and the talent of its members. As the largest international organization of arts professionals, CAA has a vital mission to promote the visual arts and their understanding through intellectual engagement, commitment to diversity, and advocacy. This upcoming year will provide opportunities to celebrate several milestones in this mission. CAA’s next virtual event in November 2021, will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the publication of CAA’s seminal history, The Eye, the Hand, the Mind: 100 Years of the College Art Association. In February 2022, CAA will host its first hybrid Annual Conference in Chicago and online; registration will open in October.
Museum Committee Research Survey: Developing New Directions with College Art Association Member Input
posted by CAA — Aug 26, 2021
In the spring of 2021, the CAA Museum Committee initiated a survey of our members for the purposes of revising current directions and charting new ones that respond to updated knowledge of their concerns.
The results indicate that the Museum Committee‘s previous and planned Conference sessions and professional development workshops in 2021–2022 are appropriate, that they should publicize their presence more, and should use these projects and others to strengthen connections with professional museum groups; encourage diversity, decolonization, and the use of museums to educate; in addition to fight for salary equity. In this endeavor, they ask any interested CAA members to join and help in this mission.
Key Takeaways of the Report
In general, respondents likely appreciate the recent focuses and activities of the Committee, yet wish they would also move forward in new directions.
Both the CAA panels and professional development workshops should be continued and can be used to achieve the following desired goals culled from survey responses:
- Help publicize the Museum Committee more broadly.
- Give museum and curatorial studies students, young professionals, and museum professionals, particularly those from underrepresented groups, necessary resources as they start their careers, and mentor persons who want to become museum professionals or teach museum/curatorial studies, including in concert with art history coursework.
- Support the function of museums as pedagogical sites, especially during the processes of decolonizing and defining decolonization.
- Develop and disperse a list of curatorial/museum studies programs in American universities, including those offered on conjunction with art history training, and perhaps have a dedicated space on CAA’s website or another location with a link on the CAA website homepage to publicly disperse this list.
- Renew efforts to craft and chart the implementation of policy statements and best-practice guidelines particularly concerning salary equity and unpaid internships, among similar issues relevant to the field, and to do so in concert with professional museum organizations, such as the Association of Art Museum Curators (AAMC), American Alliance of Museums (AAM), and the Association of Academic Museums and Galleries (AAMG). One way to do this is to have present and future Museum Committee members actively reach out to persons within professional museum groups to create joint projects.
posted by CAA — Aug 03, 2021
The August “Picks” from the Committee on Women in the Arts respond to the danger and uncertainty that characterizes the contemporary moment and explore how gender figures into the possibility of imagining new forms of collectivity.
April 16 – September 12, 2021
Institut Valencià d’Art Moderne
Mona Hatoum received the Institut Valencià d’Art Moderne’s Julio González prize in 2020, and this exhibition is a tribute to the influential body of work she has created over the last two decades. Across her installations, sculptures, drawings, and textiles, Hatoum’s investment in materializing spatial concepts as instruments of power asserts itself with a poetic and severe consistency. This spatial refrain emerges from the histories she inherits as an Arab woman, but Hatoum is also committed to showing that oppression can be mapped across the globe. Empty and haunted, ephemeral and permanent, each of Hatoum’s pieces creates an aperture for seeing and sensing the pervasive threat of vulnerability that cannot be cordoned off with neat geographical boundaries.
July 8 – September 21, 2021
Institute of Contemporary Art of Maine College of Art
The double has often meant trouble for women, as it can encapsulate an assembly-line definition of woman and a Stepford-wife loss of control. This exhibition, however, features the work of five artists who explore the double as a resource for upending habitual definitions of the self without indulging in the fantasy that one can leave historical patterns behind. Creating echoes of bright colors and bold graphic forms, the artwork in Double Trouble is immersed in Pop-like patterns–wallpaper is a recurring motif–as if to watch for the differences that slip free from repetitions.
Malgorzata Markiewicz: Medusa: Sensing-with and thinking-with the world
July 15 – September 30, 2021
Triangle, Riverside, Illinois
Malgorzata Markiewicz’s Medusa makes the production of textiles a form of feminist world-making. Slowly, persistently, intentionally, over seven months of the Covid-19 health emergency, Medusa’s crocheted body emerged, spreading with its fifty-feet long tentacles into the space, first from Markiewicz’s home in Kraków, Poland, and then into her studio. Markiewicz made Medusa with three double-warp fabrics specific to Podlasie, a region in the northeast of Poland. The figure of Medusa stands at the center of this exhibition, masked and regal. Her densely textured form also appears in a film, walking across a meadow and through a forest, and in a series of photographs that stage a liberating journey that moves away from the fear, disgust, and shame traditionally associated with Medusa and toward a new feminist way of sensing-with and thinking-with with the world.
New Time: Art and Feminisms in the 21st Century
August 28 – January 30, 2022
Berkeley Art Museum Pacific Film Archives
New Time: Art and Feminisms in the 21st Century is a major survey exploring recent feminist practices in contemporary art. Rather than defining feminist art, New Time reveals all that the category can encompass as artists respond to the unfolding of history in the present. Although artworks made since 2000 are the primary focus, the objects and installations on view span several generations, mediums, geographies, and political sensibilities. New affinities emerge—the silhouettes of Kara Walker resonate with the sculpture of Kiki Smith—and convey the heterogeneous, intergenerational, and gender-fluid nature of feminist practices today.
Louise Bourgeois, Freud’s Daughter
May 21, 2021 – September 12, 2021
The Jewish Museum, New York
Louise Bourgeois viewed her artistic practice as a form of psychoanalysis. Rather than relegating that claim to a footnote or a biographical aside, this exhibition makes it central. Freud’s Daughter places Bourgeois’s original psychoanalytic writings, which include dream recordings and process notes, in dialogue with 40 works of art. These texts, many of which have not been seen before, become their own form of artmaking. They attest to Bourgeois’s onerous, often lyrical, and profoundly feminist struggle to loosen the Oedipal confines placed around women’s capacities to imagine and materialize different forms of feeling.
Wangechi Mutu: I Am Speaking, Are You Listening?
May 7 – November 7, 2021
Legion of Honor Museum, San Francisco
Wangechi Mutu’s I Am Speaking, Are You Listening? intervenes in the Legion of Honor’s homage to the classical imaginary of Euro-American culture. Many of her gorgeous sculptures portray earthy hybrid beauties who stand for the vulnerable physicality western culture systemically inflicts on people of African descent. Vibrant, damaged, and thoughtful survivors of colonial extraction, Mutu’s figures rhyme with the museum’s canonical objects but also register the pathologized differences Black bodies are made to bear. The Legion of Honor is known for Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker (1904), which dominates its atrium entrance, and in his field of vision, Mutu has placed bronze sculptures of corpses covered with opaque blankets that suggest a crime scene. Except for the hands with polished nails and the feet decorated with red stilettos that stick out from the edges of the blankets, the bodies are not visible. But the feminized excesses—one of the artist’s prominent themes—evoke other possibilities for thinking that Mutu has begun to create through her dialogue with histories of willed silence.
Eileen Agar: Angel of Anarchy
May 19 – August 29, 2021
Whitechapel Gallery, London
This definitive retrospective of the British-Argentinian artist Eileen Forrester Agar (1899–1991) demonstrates just how much her work absorbed and foresaw the twentieth century’s wide array of aesthetic innovations. Agar was included in the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition, and her rebellious oeuvre certainly captures its feminist potential, but Angel of Anarchy resists the impulse to identify her work only or primarily through Surrealism. Exhibiting over 150 artworks and newly discovered archival material, Angel of Anarchy captures Agar’s nimble travels through artistic mediums, movements, and hierarchies to better see the bright, undulating landscapes of erotic anarchy she created in their wake.
Pauline Curnier Jardin, Fat to Ashes
April 12 – September 19, 2021
Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin
In 2019, the French artist Pauline Curnier Jardin won the Preis de Nationalgalerie, and the film installation Fat to Ashes lives up to the epic scale that might be associated with such an honor. In the historic halls of the Hamburger Banhof, Jardin has created a large-scale amphitheater with material that looks like pie dough—edible, soft, and supple. Inside the arena is a bright red seating area, and the elevated screen appears amidst draped fabrics of translucent pink. The film interweaves three scenes: the procession of St. Agatha in Sicily, the slaughter of a pig, and the carnival in Cologne. Jardin’s cinematic triptych, with its sensual, tactile visuality, portrays the excess and death swirling around the center of collective existence.
Lynn Hershman Leeson: Twisted
June 30 – October 3, 2021
New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York
Twisted is Lynn Hershman Leeson’s first solo exhibition in New York City and tracks her prescient engagement with technology—its sinister and generative impact on corporeal life. The exhibition displays Leeson’s drawings (many of which have never been seen before) and wax sculptures from the 1960s, and together they express her interest in the body’s porous boundaries and detachable parts. Twisted of course includes Roberta Breitmore (1973–1978), the well-known performance series that exemplifies feminist art’s look into the empty heart of identity. A new multi-media installation, Infinity Engine (2014–present), is also part of Twisted. Commissioned by ZKM Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, Infinity Engine is a simulacrum of a genetics laboratory that replicates its world of science, technology, and self. “Twisted” is a great title for this exhibition: it evokes a sinister sickness, cords, the strands of a DNA molecule, and collaboration. Working with scientists, Leeson revitalizes the historical connection between art and scientific research, but her primary collaborators have always been viewers. She addresses her audience with her accessible message that technology does not have to cancel out the human, but can actually be part of realizing its ethical potential, and creates generous invitations for a participatory response.
posted by CAA — Jul 23, 2021
We’re pleased to announce the appointment of two new editors for CAA publications: Christy Anderson, was selected to be Editor-in-Chief of The Art Bulletin. Balbir Singh will take the post as Reviews Editor of Art Journal. They begin their three-year terms July 1, 2022. Learn more about their work below.
Christy Anderson | Incoming Editor-in-Chief of The Art Bulletin
Christy Anderson is an architectural historian with a special interest in the buildings of Renaissance and Baroque Europe. Professor Anderson has taught at Yale University, the Courtauld Institute, MIT, and the University of Toronto. At Yale she received a Morse Faculty Fellowship as well as numerous teaching prizes. She received her Ph.D. from the School of Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As a Kress Fellow at the Courtauld Institute of Art and later as a Research Fellow at Worcester College, Oxford University, she studied the annotations made by the English architect Inigo Jones (1573–1652) in his collection of treatises and humanist literature. This work on literacy, architectural language, and the construction of the professional architect appeared in her book Inigo Jones and the Classical Tradition (Cambridge, 2006).
Balbir Singh | Incoming Reviews Editor of Art Journal
Balbir Singh’s scholarship focuses on the convergence of racial, gendered, and religious embodiment, with migration and policing under violent conditions of imperial and domestic security technologies. She is at work on her first book, “Militant Bodies: Violence and Visual Culture under Islamophobia,” which is rooted in questions that center post-9/11 racial and religious hyper-policing of Muslims and Sikhs, especially as they relate to bodily comportment and the donning of religious garments. Additionally, she is beginning research on a second book project — “Whose Terror? Vexed Attachments and the Contradictions of Freedom.”
posted by CAA — Jul 19, 2021
We’re delighted to announce fourteen scholars have been awarded Terra Foundation for American Art Research Travel Grants in 2021.
These grants provide support to doctoral, postdoctoral, and senior scholars from both the US and outside the US for research topics dedicated to the art and visual culture of the United States prior to 1980.
International Research Travel Grants for US-based Scholars
Thomas Busciglio-Ritter, The University of Delaware, “‘The Union of Excellences’: An Atlantic History of Early American Landscape Views (1790–1860)”
Ann Tartsinis, Stanford University, “Modernism in Pieces: Transatlantic Visual Culture Between the Wars”
Postdoctoral & Senior Scholars
Caroline Riley, Boston University, “Thérèse Bonney’s Photography: The Politics of Art, the Body,and War from 1920–1970”
Nadia Sethi, University of Washington, “Alaska Native Cultural Belongings held in Museums in Estonia, Finland and Sweden”
Kay Wells, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, “Uncanny Revivals: Designing Early America during the Rise of Fascism”
International Research Travel Grants to the United States
Max Böhner, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany, “Twilight Aesthetics: Queer Visual Culture in the United States Between 1945 and 1969”
Sarah Happersberger, Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen, Germany, “Connection, Community, Kinship, Network: Women Artists Performing Togetherness in the Long 1970s”
Jacqueline Mabey, University College London, England, “This Must Be the Place: Mapping Artistic Kinship and Economic Change in Downtown New York, 1973–1987”
Ana Gabriela Rodriguez, The Courtauld Institute of Art, England, “Tracing Puerto Rican Graphic Arts: Bridging Workshops and Crossing Borders, 1940s –1970s”
Frances Varley, The Courtauld Institute of Art, England, “Identity, Provincialism and Modernism in the US and Britain from a Comparative Perspective, c. 1870–1914”
Wen Yao, The University of York, England, “A Travelling Surrealist: Mobility and Representation in Stella Snead’s Paintings, Photographs and Collages Made in the US (1940–1980)”
Postdoctoral & Senior Scholars
Dafne Cruz Porchini, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, “Jean Charlot: A French Artist in the United States and Mexico (1921–1944)”
Maria Stavrinaki, Université Paris I Panthéon–Sorbonne, France, “‘After History’: Variations on a Theme in the Art and Thought of the 1950s–1960s”
Emily Warner, Independent Scholar, “Abstraction Unframed: Abstract Murals at Midcentury”
posted by CAA — Jul 13, 2021
Frederick M. Asher, beacon of collegiality and builder of institutions, died on June 26, 2021, having turned 80 just one month earlier. His generosity of spirit guided many scholars through their graduate years and beyond: at the University of Minnesota, where he spent his academic career, and around the world. With Catherine B. Asher, his wife and fellow historian of South Asian art, he led initiatives to document and preserve images of art, archaeological, and architectural objects and sites in India; mentored numerous colleagues and students; and contributed his energies to making academic organizations flourish across the world. He was an early, active member of the American Council for Southern Asian Art (ACSAA); served as president of the American Institute of Indian Studies; and played many roles at CAA, most recently as part of the CAA-Getty International Program where his energies encouraged many of us to reach out across physical and intellectual distances to begin new conversations.
His early research, published in 1980 as The Art of Eastern India, 300–800 (Minnesota), draws connections across the Gupta and Pala eras, thinking deeply about continuities across media—terracotta, bronze, and stone—and across belief systems. His subsequent research led him to study contemporary sculptural practices as a way of understanding the work of unnamed historical sculptors and to a deep engagement with the materiality, crafting, and afterlives of both sculptural objects and the sites where they were worshipped and excavated. His final book, Sarnath: A Critical History of the Place Where Buddhism Began (Getty 2020), published just months before his death, focused on the place where the historical Buddha preached his first sermon, tracing the establishment, excavation, and reimagining of the monastic site from that founding moment to the present. In April, Rick discussed the book with James Cuno for a Getty podcast, giving us a glimpse into his intellectual process and offering many of us a reminder of the rhythms of his class lectures. With his students, Rick always ran toward questions and tantalizing bits of information, wondering at what we don’t know about the past and at the same time marveling at contemporary uses of ancient sculptures and sites. At Sarnath, this meant both the tourists shuttling in from Varanasi with their local guides (guides who almost certainly had met Rick and discussed their mutual love of the site with him) and the international monastic Buddhist communities with pilgrimage centers nearby. Rick cared deeply about his students, and his engaging, dynamic teaching was renowned. He received the University of Minnesota’s Morse-Alumni Undergraduate Teaching Award in 2005–2006, one of his most treasured moments of recognition.
I was incredibly fortunate to visit Sarnath for the first time with Rick and Cathy as part of a trip they organized for the cohort of graduate students in the late 1990s. The trip was exemplary of the Ashers’ generosity and openness—recognizing the hurdles associated with pursuing academic research in India, they sought to pass on their extensive experience by offering us the opportunity to shadow them in their respective projects. Rick had been working with a scientist at the University of Minnesota to ascertain the locations of quarries for various Pala-era (8th–12th century) sculptures by matching stone samples. The project focused on both the materiality and the process of crafting the sculptures—he considered how stone was separated from the earth, how it would have been chosen for a sculpture, and then how it was carefully carved with the detailed iconographies of a Vishnu or a Tara.1 The project’s success relied on his ability to bring people together in a common project: Rick recruited curators and conservators at museums around the world to undertake the delicate process of excising a thin section from the back of these sculptures to compare to the samples he gathered from quarries in Bihar and Bengal. It was this latter piece of the project that he embarked on that summer, taking two of us green graduate students with him into remote areas of Bihar, where we stayed in dak bungalows (remnants of the nineteenth-century postal system) and revisited many of his early research sites from his own graduate days. Rick’s enthusiasm for reconnecting with the people of the region and introducing us to them still resonates with me today, guiding my own fieldwork experiences beyond the inert object to understand the deep interconnections between art, history, and the people who made and continue to interact with the “works of art” we study, works that remain very much alive in the present.
Rick had an incredible gift for open and positive leadership. He hosted ACSAA’s first conference in 1981, and he made sure that the group served as a space of warm, collegial exchange as it grew over the decades. He attended every conference, symposium, workshop, and meeting, seeking out the panels where colleagues and former students were presenting. He would often ask the first question, to draw out commonalities across a diverse panel and also, I came to realize, to facilitate discussion and to give everyone else in the audience time to formulate their own questions. It was primarily at conferences that he would make connections between scholars, a kind of academic matchmaking, if you will. One of the truths of my academic life is that if we have met, Rick probably introduced us. He would stride over, beaming, happy to see you, and then almost immediately say, “there’s someone here you should meet.” Then he would bound off, urging you to follow, to joyfully connect you to a towering senior scholar or newly minted PhD, offering a few choice intellectual threads to solidify the link. Rick understood that the big institutions—CAA prominent among them—only worked because of the dedication of an interconnected group of individuals who recognized their shared commitment to the field. These introductions wove the fabric of these institutions such that when he passed, my email inbox was filled with loving notes and remembrances from colleagues around the world—his colleagues, and also, because of him, my colleagues.
Rick, whose intellectual pursuits focused on the material connections between works of art and people and who cared deeply for makers of objects and sites and the ways in which places and people shaped one another over time, thus continues to connect us even at the moment of his passing. His own post-history has yet to be written, but I have a strong feeling that his energy and presence will be with us at each future academic meeting, in each future encounter. So wonderful to see you! Come, there’s someone here you should meet.
–Rebecca M. Brown, Johns Hopkins University
posted by CAA — Jul 09, 2021
For our members and the larger visual arts community, CAA is disheartened by recent and continued actions on departmental closures in Art and Art History departments. The following links offer resources to use as we continue to determine the actions going forward:
In 2020, CAA signed on to advocacy with the ACLS: http://www.collegeart.org/news/2021/02/01/caa-signs-on-to-acls-statement-on-recent-kansas-board-of-regents-actions/
Earlier Advocacy posts and response:
The 2018 survey of universities with departmental closures:
Since 2018, several other institutions have closed and continue to close. Today our constituency has been affected by this ongoing situation over the past 13 years. CAA cannot stop any institution of art, design or art-history from the decision, necessitated by financial situation or otherwise, to close. To best support our community, as a part of our ongoing repositioning and digital transformation, CAA has identified the importance and continued growth of an e-learning model and publications to recognize and support those currently and who continue to be affected.
CAA has a robust and active group of committees, Board of Directors, and other members who all continue to work together and move forward upcoming guidelines and best practices, to survey and respond to the ongoing needs of our constituencies. The advocates within our organization help strengthen the organization as a part of the community of large.
posted by CAA — Jul 06, 2021
The Professional Committees address critical concerns of CAA’s members. Each Professional Committee works from a charge that is put in place by the Board of Directors. For many CAA members, service on a Professional Committee becomes a way to develop professional relationships and community outside of one’s home institution, and to contribute in meaningful ways to the pressing professional issues of our moment.
Candidates must be current CAA members, or be so by the start of and throughout their committee term, and possess expertise appropriate to the committee’s work.
Committee members serve a three-year term, with the term of service beginning and ending at the CAA Annual Conference.
It is expected that once appointed to a committee, a member will attend committee meetings (including an annual business meeting at the conference), participate actively in the work of the committee, and contribute expertise to defining the current and future work of the committee.
All committee members volunteer their services without compensation.
The following Professional Committee are open for terms beginning in February 2022. Please click on the links in order to review the charge of each committee, as well as the roster of current committee leadership and members:
- Committee on Design
- Committee on Diversity Practices
- Committee on Intellectual Property
- Committee on Women in the Arts
- Education Committee
- International Committee
- Museum Committee
- Professional Practices Committee
- Services to Artists Committee
- Student and Emerging Professionals Committee
Committee applications are reviewed by the current committees, as well as CAA leadership (CAA’s President, the Vice President for Committees, and Executive Director). Appointments are made by late October, prior to the Annual Conference. New members are introduced to their committees during their respective business meetings at the Annual Conference in February 2022.
In applying to serve on a committee, applicants commit to beginning a term in February 2022, provided that they are selected for committee service.
Questions about the committee charge and current work to the current committee chair and/or to the Vice President of Committees: Lynne Allen (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Apply to serve by completing this form. Self-nomination submissions should include a brief statement (no more than 150 words) describing your qualifications and experience, combined with an abbreviated CV (no more than 2–3 pages) into a single PDF document and emailed to CommitteeApplications@collegeart.org. Applications will not be considered complete without a supporting statement and CV.
Deadline for applications: September 13, 2021 (11:59 PM ET)
posted by CAA — Jun 29, 2021
Moira Roth, one of the last of the founding generation of feminist art historians, died on June 14, 2021, at the age of 87. Famously warm, gracious, and charming, Roth was an outsized figure in progressive art history who treated internationally celebrated artists and her Mills College undergraduates with equal solicitousness and respect. Despite a perfectly preserved British accent after over fifty years in the US, she identified with outsiders, chiefly those who stood as the obverse of her own origins, e.g., African Americans, Jews, queers, Asian Americans—the women among them most of all. Persistent and profoundly subversive, she could electrify: at a conference on John Cage shortly after his death, amidst a welter of traditional academic papers, Roth simply read the day’s New York Times front page, a perfectly Cageian act that at once brilliantly distilled his aesthetic politics and echoed his repeated attempts to link his art with a larger politics of power and control.
A pioneering figure in multiple fields, Roth cofounded, with Flo Oy Wong and Betty Kano, the Asian American Women Artists Association (AAWAA) in San Francisco and wrote one of the earliest articles in queer studies in art history, her celebrated 1977 “The Aesthetic of Indifference” about the queer post–Abstract Expressionist generation of Johns, Rauschenberg, Cage, etc. That article became, for me and many others, a singular intellectual touchstone, demonstrating not only that a queer art history was possible, but that taking sexuality seriously offered up a new and powerful lens to the field. Equally precocious was her The Amazing Decade: Women and Performance Art, 1970–1980, an important archival resource published in 1983 that also anticipated the development of a new field. Roth was a scholar, a celebrated interviewer of artists, a poet, performance artist, and dinner host extraordinaire. Long after the era of Bay Area communes, friendship for her was something she took very seriously—a way of being in the world in close communion and interdependence with the like-minded, creating a coalition of mutual support and activist change.
Roth’s generosity was legendary, with students, colleagues, and artists alike. Those of us lucky enough to be invited to dinner would find a beautifully set, colorful table, always water in blue bottles, a written menu of dishes lovingly wrought from the wonders of Berkeley’s farmers’ markets, and Roth at her most wistful; indeed, dinners were often moved back in time and place to reflect her current imaginative engagements. The twinned currents of her life, friendship and scholarship, often intertwined, and artists, scholars, and students were frequent dinner guests in her Berkeley home with its laden lemon tree right by the door. Her generosity toward younger scholars knew no bounds, and she generously promoted their work to editors seeking her contribution. When she was approached about publishing a volume of her early work on the post–Abstract Expressionist generation, she asked me to contribute a critique of her early works from a queer studies perspective, knowing full well that as much as I loved her early writing, I also felt it didn’t go far enough in its queer analysis. The book that resulted from that astounding act of generosity, Difference/ Indifference: Musings on Postmodernism, Marcel Duchamp and John Cage, was couched less as a tribute to her historical import and more as a present-tense debate over politics and methods—a classically Roth move to all who knew her.
Roth was an artist in her own right, doing performances, writing short stories and poems, traveling the world to offer up criticism while exploring new national cultures. Her investigation of the world of Rachel Marker was a thinly disguised imaginative re-creation of the pre-Holocaust context of her “other” mother, Rose Hacker, a remarkable feminist politician in the UK who first entered Roth’s life as a Jewish refugee from the bombings in London and entranced her with her bold refusal to submit to gendered expectations and codes. Roth was also effectively the founder of a new performative approach to art history, stressing work done in collaboration, often across widely dispersed national boundaries. Her gift of uniting disparate communities and forging powerful connections among people who previously didn’t know one another remains in evidence today. Among the many artists with whom she collaborated, either on writing projects or performances, were Faith Ringgold, Suzanne Lacy, Carlos Villa, Pauline Oliveros, Rachel Rosenthal, and Dinh Q. Lê.
Roth received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women’s Caucus for Art in 1997 and a National Recognition in the Arts Award from the College Art Association in 2006. She was interviewed by Sue Heinemann for the Smithsonian Archives of American Art Elizabeth Murray Oral History project.
Remembrance by Jonathan D. Katz, University of Pennsylvania