I am scholar of modern art with a specialization in the art and culture of the United States since 1945. My research aims to expand and complicate the conventional understanding of the history of modern art by considering the ways in which works of art operate within complex cultural networks that inform aspects of aesthetic production and reception. For me the larger stakes of such a project entail not simply providing a more nuanced and historically-specific understanding of a wide spectrum of artistic practices but also reevaluating the social functions of modern art. My approach to the study of art is predicated upon a conception of the work of art as a complex and often contradictory node within a multifaceted array of cultural practices, often offering a privileged perspective for understanding the epistemological foundations of significant issues and events that constitute modern society. Consequently the practice of art history is for me essentially and fundamentally interdisciplinary, always leading one to make interdiscursive connections in order to understand how works of art signify and resonate beyond the aesthetic realm.
My published work addresses these dynamics in a variety of contexts, principally in the history of postwar art of the United States, but also in the nineteenth century and more recently the history of photography. My first book, Out of Time: Philip Guston and the Refiguration of Postwar American Art reconsiders the history of postwar American art and the conception of figuration in modern art history more generally. Replacing the conventional opposition of abstraction and figuration with the rhetorical dichotomy of the ‘the literal’ and ‘the figurative,’ Out of Time provides an innovative conceptual paradigm to reconsider Guston’s art and the broader artistic production and the 1960s. My book, The New Monuments and the End of Man: American Sculpture Between War and Peace, 1945-1975, addresses the history of postwar sculpture in the United States, and in particular the increasing importance given to its spatial modes of address, in terms of the historical context in which such practices emerged, examining how these artistic practices and their accompanying discourses operated within broader cultural ideals and anxieties, particularly those related to the threat of nuclear war and the annihilation of the human race. I am currently writing a critical biography of the photographer and therapist Chauncey Hare and working on a book project that will consider the nexus of Hollywood cinema, street photography, and conceptual art through the prism of American liberalism in the 1970s.
Many of my most recent publications have focused on the history and theorization of photography, a field that I have become increasingly committed to both as a scholar and a teacher because of what I see as its crucial place within a wide spectrum of visual practices in contemporary culture.
My interest in contemporary art, and in particular the disciplinary implications of the integration of contemporary art into the broader field of art history, have similarly been driven as much by pedagogical motives as intellectual ones and I have also strived to perform what a rigorous and archivally-based analysis of contemporary art might look like in a series of essays I have written about recent art for various museums and galleries.