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posted by Christopher Howard — Sep 04, 2012

Michael Corris (2013–16)

Michael Corris, incoming Art Journal reviews editor

Michael Corris, professor of art and chair of the Division of Art in the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, has been appointed reviews editor of Art Journal. He will serve one year as reviews editor designate, taking over from Howard Singerman of the University of Virginia in July 2013.

As both an artist and an author of many works on postwar and contemporary art and theory, Corris is looking forward to bringing new voices and perspectives into the conversation that surrounds the literature of art. For Corris this means a thorough investigation into myriad ways in which scholars and artists are reading art history today, both inside the classroom and in the larger art world. He writes, “I’d like to know what artists are reading and why; what goes into the construction of a bibliography for students at all levels; and how technology and social media alter the way we reflect critically on art and culture. In short, how the dialogue on art is authorized, shaped, and sustained through all sorts of textual means.” The social reality of art making and writing about art has always been present in Corris’s work. In his new role as reviews editor he is committed to seeking out non-Western art practices and those that merge with political activism.

With a comparative perspective on studio-art and art-history programs from his substantial teaching record in the United States and England, Corris sees both countries as “facing a crisis in higher education” and laments the fact that programs in art education and art history “are constantly under threat to justify their existence in purely economic terms.” However, the academic intensity of art schools in England holds a great appeal for Corris: “The British higher-education system places great emphasis on individual and small-group tutorials; it also demands a great deal more of students in terms of written output. Studio-art undergraduates are generally required to produce a research paper of up to 10,000 words; master’s level students may have to produce a research paper of up to 20,000 words. This is all in addition to their artwork.”

As a visual artist who slips easily into the role of critic, and as a critic who is equally at home in academia, Corris is long familiar with the fluidity of all three roles. He also recognizes the importance of a playful attitude as a way to explore new spaces of thought production. “It’s no longer surprising to find an artist who writes, a writer who draws, or a studio-art professor who curates art. The challenge here is to find ways to destabilize all these terms: visual artist, editor, writer, and educator. I turned my office at Southern Methodist University into the Free Museum of Dallas to offset the drudgery and power of academic bureaucracy. I’m constantly seeking ways to collectivize the various activities that I engage in or fall into. When it comes to my role as educator, my current concern is trying to figure out the precise shape of this Faustian bargain called tenure and my limits of tolerance to the trend to subject the arts and humanities to a corporate logic. My great joy is that the students remain engaged and delightfully open.”

Concurrent with his position at Art Journal, Corris will remain an editor at Transmission Annual, a peer-reviewed journal of contemporary art and culture, cofounded in 2008 with Sharon Kivland and Jaspar Joseph-Lester, both professors at Sheffield Hallam University in England. “We came up with the idea to publish an annual collection of essays, structured correspondence, and artist’s projects that revisited the themes of the school’s weekly artist and theorist lecture series, while allowing academics the luxury to experiment with forms of exposition. Our first issue was based on the theme of hospitality, the second on the theme of provocation, and the third on the theme of catastrophe. We anticipate a fourth issue on the theme of agency, so you see there is a glimmer of reality amongst the poetry.” Corris hopes his Transmission Annual experience will inspire new formats for Art Journal devoted to the critical review of literature on art.

Corris received a BA from Brooklyn College, City University of New York, in 1970. Two years later he earned an MFA in painting and media from the Hoffberger School of Painting at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, and later was awarded a scholarship to attend the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. In 1971 he began participating in the Conceptual-art collective Art & Language (whose transatlantic members included Terry Atkinson, Joseph Kosuth, Mel Ramsden, and Charles Harrison) and contributed to the group’s journal, Art-Language. As a member of the collective, and as a solo artist, Corris has exhibited his artwork in galleries and museums across the United States and abroad, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, both in New York, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Michael Corris, ed., Conceptual Art: Theory, Myth, and Practice (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004)

The relationship of writing and language to the visual arts has been a paramount concern of Corris’s throughout his career. His editorial experience began with cofounding the artist-run journals The Fox in 1975 and Red-Herring in 1977. The move from art making into publishing was a natural extension of his essayistic art practice. For Corris, and for the other Art & Language artists, these journals served as “sites of artistic production and were intentionally set in opposition to the values and institutions that sustained a managerial culture of art.” His early essays, such as “The Organization of Culture under Monopoly Capitalism,” published in The Fox in 1976, and “Frameworks and Phantoms,” written with Mel Ramsden for Art-Language in 1973, reflect this radical ethos. Since then Corris has written essays and reviews for Artforum, Art History, and Art Monthly that cover a wide spectrum of artists working today, from Jeff Koons to Alfredo Jaar and Tracey Emin.

Corris’s PhD dissertation, completed in 1996 at University College London, formed the basis for a monograph, Ad Reinhardt, published by Reaktion Books in 2008. A 2006 winner of the first CAA Publication Grant, the book recontextualizes an overlooked aspect of Reinhardt’s art practice: the political cartoons and illustrations that were published in the 1930s through the 1950s in New Masses and Soviet Russia Today. Corris’s lifelong commitment to the intersection of art and politics is evident in Ad Reinhardt, as well as in two forthcoming books: The Artist Out of Work: Selected Writings on Art (Les Presses du Reel/JRP Ringier) and What Do Artists Know? Art’s Encounter with Philosophy (Reaktion). Corris is also the author of a volume on the painter David Diao, published by TimeZone8 Books in 2005, and coauthor, with John Dixon Hunt and David Lomas, of Art, Word, and Image: 2,000 Years of Visual/Textual Interaction, published by Reaktion in 2010.

A selection of Corris’s academic appointments include visiting lecturer in history of art at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London (1999–2001); head of the Department of Art and Photography at the University of Wales, Newport (2003–7); visiting professor of art theory at the Bergen National Academy of Art in Norway (2005–7); and professor of fine art at Art and Design Research Center, Sheffield Hallam University (2007–9).

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