My research and teaching center on late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century European art and avant-garde culture, principally the Netherlands, France, and Germany, as well as broader questions of modernism and abstraction as these also extend into the field of contemporary art. Different forms of abstraction in their pioneering, early twentieth-century manifestations, such as Piet Mondrian, Georges Vantongerloo, and De Stijl, and currently Kurt Schwitters, Katarzyna Kobro and Władysław Strzemiński, and Hans/Jean Arp and Sophie Taeuber-Arp, are particular interests. I am fascinated by how these artists imagined they could migrate among or merge different artistic disciplines, making abstraction a cross-disciplinary phenomenon encompassing the visual arts, architecture, music, literature, philosophy, and utopian theories. How and why do artists transgress the disciplinary boundaries of their medium, engage new aesthetic considerations, or find inspiration in scientific discoveries and historical and socio-political events? Where should we look today for artists who push their work into new territory, engaging the question of abstraction anew? Current interests include contemporary abstraction, the photographic turn in contemporary art, the implications of 3D printing, as well as “bioart,” which some critics have identified as the next step in contemporary art exploring new approaches and nontraditional materials (after video, performance, and the digital revolution). I am especially interested in those artists who blur boundaries between art, science, and ethics by working with genetic materials, creating new, transgenic life forms. My broader interests are also reflected in exhibitions I have contributed to through catalogs and consulting, such as a large Vantongerloo retrospective (Duisburg and The Hague, 2009-10), a major De Stijl exhibition (MNAM, Centre Pompidou, 2010-11), and an exhibition on Mondrian and his Studios (Tate Liverpool, 2014), as well as shows I have curated and co-curated: “The Desire of the Museum” (Whitney Museum of American Art, 1989), an exhibition of Vantongerloo’s De Stijl-period sculptures, paintings, architectural drawings and models, furniture, and design (Centraal Museum, Utrecht, 2002), “International Abstraction: Making Painting Real” (Seattle Art Museum, 2003-04), “Resonance: Nature, Glass, and Standing Waves in the Art of Joe Davis” (Jacob Lawrence Gallery, Seattle, 2011), and “Videowatercolors: Carel Balth Among His Contemporaries” (Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, 2011-12).
Modern and Contemporary Art
Modern European art historical avant-gardes and abstraction
Critical theory and interdisciplinarity