CAA News Today


posted by Christopher Howard — Aug 06, 2012

Nora Griffin is an artist and CAA assistant editor.

Kirk Ambrose (2013–16)

Kirk Ambrose

Kirk Ambrose, associate professor of medieval art history and chair of the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Colorado in Boulder, will become editor-in-chief of The Art Bulletin. His three-year term begins on July 1, 2013, after he concludes a year as editor designate. Ambrose will succeed Karen Lang of the University of Warwick in England, who has led the journal since 2010.

As incoming editor, Ambrose plans to build on the legacies of two previous Art Bulletin editors, Karen Lang and Nancy Troy, and to develop alternative forums for debate within the journal, such as the recently inaugurated special features “Regarding Art and Art History” and “Notes from the Field.” Like Lang, he is also inspired by the journal’s approaching centennial, in 2013, and sees The Art Bulletin’s current moment as intellectually parallel to the “speculative and creative” art history that was being practiced in its pages in the early twentieth century. The recent decision of the German government to fund “clusters of excellence” has resulted in new structures at universities and has spurred Ambrose into dialogue with a group of international scholars from Brazil, France, India, and Turkey, to better understand the nuances of how “art-historical research and pedagogy is now conceived.” This international perspective on art history will be thoroughly addressed in a new series of short essays for The Art Bulletin, tentatively titled “Whither History?” in which invited scholars will “reflect upon how trends toward globalization in the humanities have had an impact on the ways we conceive art history.”

In 1999, Ambrose earned his PhD in the history of art from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor with a dissertation on “Romanesque Vézelay: the Art of Monastic Contemplation,” completed under the guidance of Ilene Forsyth and Elizabeth Sears. Ambrose’s education also includes a BA from Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, in 1990 and additional study at the Goethe Institut in Düsseldorf, Germany, and McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

A faculty member at the University of Colorado since 1999, Ambrose has taught a range of courses on topics of medieval art history and methodology at the undergraduate and graduate level and has served as an MA and PhD thesis advisor for many students. A specialist in Romanesque sculpture, Ambrose is dedicated to the idea of art history as a global discipline and to this end has worked to diversify his department at Colorado. He recently worked with the administration to create a tenure-track position for an art historian specializing in colonial Latin America.

Within Ambrose’s own field of interest, he has consistently chosen topics and methodologies of inquiry that enlarge the scope of medieval studies. His book Monsters in Twelfth-Century European Sculpture, is forthcoming from Boydell and Brewer, and he received a Samuel H. Kress Foundation grant for the volume The Nave Sculpture of Vézelay: The Art of Monastic Viewing (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2006). Recent book chapters include “Male Nudes and Embodied Spirituality in Romanesque Sculpture,” published in Meanings of Nudity in Medieval Art (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2012), edited by Sherry Lindquist. A 2011 essay, “Viollet-le-Duc’s Judith at Vézelay: Romanesque Sculpture Restoration as (National) Art,” published in Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide, discusses the restoration of a medieval monument in nineteenth-century France as it relates to the country’s republican politics. He recently contributed to The Art Bulletin a review of Friedrich Kittler’s Optical Media: Berlin Lectures 1999, translated by Anthony Enns, that was published in the March 2011 issue, and a short piece on appropriation and medieval art in the multiauthored section “Notes from the Field” in June 2012.

Ambrose’s practice of a socially and culturally mindful art history has led to opportunities beyond the classroom. With colleagues Davide Stimilli and Lisa Tamiris-Becker, he is currently planning a 2014 exhibition at the University of Colorado Art Museum, tentatively titled Aby Warburg and the Beginning of Cultural Studies in the American Southwest. Ambrose states, “Warburg’s 1895–86 expedition to the Southwest is well known, but this journey looks very different when viewed from an American, rather than European, perspective. Much of Warburg’s vision appears indebted to a network of mostly Jewish merchants across the Southwest, who sold photographs of Indian rituals as well as ceramics and other objects that Warburg collected.” For Ambrose the exhibition is a means to explore the multifariousness of art-historical vision, and how “art practices can serve as vehicles of knowledge” for scholars at the turn of both the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

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