David Getsy
David Getsy, Chair

The 2014-2015 academic year will be a dynamic one for the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism.  This Fall, we launch our graduate-level Design History specialization as an option for students pursuing the Master of Arts in Modern and Contemporary Art History (MAAH).  This development contributes to SAIC’s wide-ranging design and architecture initiatives and draws upon the strength of the Department’s faculty specialties in the history of design, architecture, objects, and related disciplines.  This follows the successful start last Fall of the first nonstudio undergraduate degree at SAIC: the Department’s Bachelor of Arts in Art History (BAAH).  Both of these new degree options emerged from our curricular review and reflect the unique status nationwide of the Department as a research-oriented academic unit in a prestigious school of art and design with an interdisciplinary focus.

 We are thrilled to be joined by new faculty.  This Fall, Shiben Banerji joins the Department as Assistant Professor of Architectural History and Seth Kim-Cohen as Assistant Professor of Contemporary Art History.  Next academic year, Mechtild Widrich will also join the Department as Assistant Professor of Contemporary Art History, and we will be conducting a search for a new tenure-track faculty member in modern and contemporary East Asian or Middle Eastern Art History.

 Among the most important of last academic year’s events was the celebration of the 25th year of the Norma U. Lifton Memorial Lecture with a roundtable on the Department’s history and unique character. Throughout the year, we also hosted lectures and discussions with such scholars as Cécile Whiting, Jennifer Doyle, Lauren Berlant, Leon Wainwright, Julia Bryan-Wilson, Kevin Chua, Elise Archias, and the performance artist Lee Wen as well as an important “IdeaLab” roundtable on the “Future of Transgender Cultural Production” for the new journal TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly.

Among the many faculty accomplishments were Bess Williamson’s winning of the Inaugural Katherine C. Grier Prize for best article published in the Winterthur Portfolio. Annie Bourneuf was awarded a fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung, allowing her research time in Germany during the Fall semester, Michael Golec was awarded a Wolfsonian Fellowship, and David Raskin received a fellowship from the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, Australia.  Nora Taylor will be using her Guggenheim Fellowship to spend her sabbatical year in Singapore, where she will be a Visiting Scholar at the Center for Contemporary Art at Nanyang Technological University and working on a book on performance art in Southeast Asia.  Jim Hugunin was selected as one of a small number of international jurors for the 20th Annual Czech Press Photography Award sponsored by City of Prague and the Czech Republic. In the press, Chicago Magazine called on me to respond to a specific criticism of the Whitney Biennial, The Awl asked David Raskin what he thought of art made for the sets of TV shows, and Chicago’s New City named departmental faculty Jim Elkins, Shannon Stratton, Mary Jane Jacob, and James Yood among the “Chicago's Visual Vanguard: 50 Who Drive Chicago’s Art Conversation.”

 Faculty have given more public lectures than I can recount in this letter, but some highlights were Delinda Collier speaking on the “Afrofuturism and Beyond” symposium held by the Samek Art Museum, Daniel Quiles speaking at the conference on “Multi-Locale Pop Art in the 1960s” at Kobe University in Japan, Michael Golec and Jim Elkins speaking at a major conference on “Visualization” at Humboldt University in Berlin, Bess Williamson speaking at the Bard Graduate Center’s series in Design History Research, myself as the inaugural Pamela Simpson Lecturer at Washington & Lee University, Nora Taylor at the Asia Art Archive in Singapore, and Seth Kim-Cohen at the Barwick Colloquium at Harvard University and in a lecture series sponsored by CaixaForum in Barcelona, Spain, for Sónar 2014.  In March, Maud Lavin convened a colloquium (that included Daniel Quiles and SooJin Lee) on “Transnational Collaborative Criticism in Art and Visual Culture” for the Clark Art Institute.

 We are looking forward to a number of new books by faculty in the coming year.  In addition to recent books by Margaret MacNamidhe (Delacroix and His Forgotten World) and our new hires Seth Kim-Cohen (Against Ambience) and Mechtild Widrich (Performative Monumentsand an anthology on Ugliness), 2015 will see the publication of new books by Delinda Collier, Annie Bourneuf, Jim Elkins, Maud Lavin, and myself.  For details of publications and downloads of recent articles and essays, check faculty’s individual research profiles.

 Our graduate students continue to achieve success both at SAIC and beyond.  Current MAAH students Alison Reilly, Matt Coleman, and Kyle Riley all received EAGER grants for exploratory research from SAIC’s Shapiro Center for Research and Collaboration. MAAH student Cari Sacks designed and launched a new iPhone app titled CURATE to aid collectors. The Department gave a number of travel grants to support graduate student research and conference participation, including a Robert J. Loescher International Travel Grant to Denise Bennett to support her participation in the 2nd Istanbul Design Biennial and Goldabelle McComb Finn Research Grants that supported Raven Munsell’s work in the archives of the Venice Biennale and Erin Florence’s work in the Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris. 

 Major recent MAAH alumni accomplishments include the appointment of Katherine Pill as the inaugural curator of contemporary art at the St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts, Francesca Wilmott as Curatorial Assistant at the Museum of Modern Art New York, and Bridget Carron as Associate Curator of Saatchi Art, Los Angeles.  Katrina Mohn won a competitive Getty Foundation Internship at the Getty Research Institute, and Kate Pollasch-Thames gave a major invited lecture on her thesis research for the OUT AT CHM series of the Chicago History Museum.  The writer (and MAAH alum) Sarah Vowell gave the Annual Mark Twain Lecture at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and made media appearances including The Daily Show.  Rachel Middleman (now an Assistant Professor at Utah State University) won a postdoctoral fellowship from the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Recent MAAH alum and current UC Irvine PhD student Anna Kryczka published the book Learning by Doing at the Farm: Craft, Science, and Counterculture in Modern California. And, finally, MAAH alum and professor at Carleton College Ross Elfline had his activist teaching profiled by one of his former students in Talking Writing magazine.

 When not keeping the Department running smoothly, Senior Administrative Director (and Graduate Certificate in Art History alum) Shay DeGrandis produces the live Mortified performance events here in Chicago.  She worked on the movie Mortified Nation, which premiered last year nationally and is now officially “popular” on Netflix!  Her next show is on September 13th.

 Upcoming this semester, we have a number of other exciting events planned as well.  Be sure to check the Art History Department Events Page regularly, as we are adding new listings and details all the time.  Major events for the Fall include the 26th Annual Norma U. Lifton Lecture in Art History by Hollis Clayson on October 9th, a lecture on performance research by E. Patrick Johnson on September 25th, and welcoming back MAAH alum and Director of SITE Santa Fe, New Mexico, Irene Hofmann as the Visiting Artists Program’s Distinguished Visiting Alumni Lecturer on September 16th.  To top it all off, we will have a lecture and performance by our own Simon Anderson on November 13th where he and his ’Pataphysics graduate seminar will be re-enacting the famous Fluxus interpretation by George Maciunas and Dick Higgins of Philip Corner’s 1962 Piano Activities, involving the destruction of a baby grand piano.  Keep informed about these and other news on our departmental Facebook page.  There are many more successes from our alumni, faculty, and students than I’ve been able to list here, but we are compiling an even bigger list.  So, please send us alumni and student updates to saicarthistory@saic.edu.

Best wishes,

David Getsy

Chair, Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism