Maika Pollack

BA, Harvard University. MFA, Columbia University. MA, PhD, Princeton University. Dissertation, “Odilon Redon and the Color of the Unconscious,” looks at psychology, painting, and theories of vision in fin-de-siècle France. Her writing on contemporary art and culture has been published by ArtforumThe New York Times, and Interview; museum exhibition critic for The New York Observer (2011-15). Catalogue essays include PS1 Contemporary Art Center and Château de Nyon, Geneva. Co-founder and curator of Southfirst, a contemporary art space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that has presented experimental exhibitions for more than a decade; her shows have frequently been reviewed in The New York TimesThe New YorkerArt in AmericaArtNews, and Artforum, among other publications. Served since 2005 on the faculty for the Language and Thinking Program at Bard College. SLC, 2013–

Current undergraduate courses

Contemporary Curating: Art/Contexts

Year

This seminar examines art made and exhibited since the mid-1990s. Analyzing works by artists, authors, and curators, students will study the artworks, critical debates, and exhibitions defining the contemporary moment. The seminar will entail frequent field trips to engage with contemporary art in context. We will conduct studio visits with artists, visit galleries and artist-run spaces showing new art, and discuss an exhibition alongside its curator. Speakers to the class have included Roberta Smith, co-chief critic of The New York Times; Carolee Schneemann, artist; Scott Rothkopf, curator of “Jeff Koons: A Retrospective”; Paul Chan, artist and publisher of Badlands Unlimited; Andrew Russeth, critic; Michelle Grabner, artist and co-curator of the 2014 Whitney Biennial; and Matthew Higgs, director of White Columns. For conference, students will plan an exhibition, work at an internship in a contemporary art institution, or conduct an independent or group critical project focusing on contemporary art. Students will come away from the seminar able to identify and discuss major institutions and figures creating, exhibiting, discussing, selling, and collecting new art and to construct considered arguments assessing new artworks and tendencies. Beyond current readings from periodicals including Artforum, Contemporary Art Daily, Mousse, The New York Times, Parkett, Texte zur Kunst, and others, readings will include: Doug Ashford, “The Exhibition as an Artistic Medium”; Pierre Bourdieu, “The Forms of Capital”; Claire Bishop, “Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics”; Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics; Douglas Crimp, “Pictures”; Andrea Fraser, “Why Does Fred Sandback’s Work Make Me Cry?”; Thelma Golden, “Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art”; Boris Groys, “On the Curatorship”; Dave Hickey, Air Guitar (selections); Richard Hertz, Jack Goldstein and the Cal Arts Mafia; David Joselit, “Painting Beside Itself”; Maria Lind, “The Collaborative Turn”; Michael Sanchez, “Contemporary Art, Daily”; and Peter Schjeldahl, Let’s See (selections).

Faculty
Related Cross-Discipline Paths

The History of Art, Modern to Contemporary (1789-Present)

Year

This course introduces students to the major artists, key debates, and artistic movements of the period between 1789 and the present. We begin with art made between the French Revolution and the death of Paul Cézanne. We will witness the rise of photography, the romantic individual, the modern art market, "modernism" and the avant-garde, the taste for the sketch and early forms of abstraction, as well as the shift from a tradition of history painting and the representation of the classical body in the academic atelier to the emphasis on "modern life" subjects and the modern genres of the female nude and onsite landscape painting. In the second half of the course, these themes will give way to 20th-century avant-gardes, including Futurism, Dada, and Surrealism. The course will expose students, in a global context, to the historical and critical underpinnings of artistic practice since World War II by examining artworks and artists’ writings from countries, including the United States, Japan, Italy, France, Brazil, and Germany. We will examine the rise of happenings, “specific objects,” conceptual art, relational aesthetics, and other diverse forms of practice. We will conclude the course with a consideration of contemporary art and curatorial practice.

Faculty
Related Cross-Discipline Paths

Previous courses

Art Since 1945

Spring

This course introduces students to the major artists, key debates, and artistic movements of the period between 1945 and 2000. We begin with painting, but that medium will quickly give way to the rise of happenings, “specific objects,” conceptual art, relational aesthetics, and other diverse forms of practice. Through focused primarily on American art, the course will expose students to the historical and critical underpinnings of artistic practice since World War II in a global context by examining artworks and artists’ writings from countries including Japan, Italy, France, Brazil, and Germany.

Faculty

Contemporary Curating: Art and Context

Spring

This seminar examines art made and exhibited since the mid-1990s. By analyzing works by artists, critics, and curators, students will study the artworks, exhibitions, and critical debates defining the contemporary moment. The seminar will entail frequent field trips to engage with contemporary art in context. We will preview the 2014 Whitney Biennial alongside one of its curators and explore a major contemporary art fair. We will conduct studio visits with artists and visit galleries and artist-run spaces showing new art. For a conference project, students will participate in the planning, installation and presentation of an exhibition at a gallery in Brooklyn or work on an independent critical project focusing on contemporary art. Students will come away from the seminar able to identify and discuss major institutions and figures exhibiting, discussing, selling, and collecting new art and construct considered arguments assessing new artworks and tendencies. Besides current readings from periodicals including Artforum, Contemporary Art Daily, Mousse, The New York Times, Parkett, Texte zur Kunst, and others, readings will include: Doug Ashford, “The Exhibition as Artistic Medium”; Pierre Bourdieu, “The Forms of Capital”; Claire Bishop, "Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics"; Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics; Douglas Crimp, “Pictures”; Thelma Golden, “Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art"; Dave Hickey, Air Guitar (selections); Richard Hertz, Jack Goldstein and the Cal Arts Mafia; David Joselit, “Painting Beside Itself”; John Kelsey, “Next-Level Spleen”; Maria Lind, “The Collaborative Turn”; Michael Sanchez, “Contemporary Art, Daily”; and Peter Schjeldahl, Let’s See (selections). 

Faculty

Dada and Surrealism: Art and Politics

Fall

From the explosive poetry of Kurt Schwitters to the innovative photographic experiments of the Surrealists, this course examines the art made primarily in Zurich, Berlin, Hannover, Paris, and New York between 1915 and 1945. Special emphasis will be placed on the relationships between the visual arts and literature, on the role of women in the European avant-garde, and on art as protest in the context of European culture and politics in the period spanning the two world wars. Discussion of works by Arp and Taeuber-Arp, Ball, Huelsenbeck, Schwitters, Duchamp, Breton, Aragon, Tzara, Lautreamont, Carrington, Oppenheim, Buñuel and Dali, Magritte, Tanning, Ernst, Man Ray, Bellmer, and others.

Faculty

Depicting Decadence: Bohemians, Anarchists, and “New Women” in European Art and Culture, 1863-1914

Fall

In this seminar, we will examine fin-de-siècle reactions to the depiction of decadence in the painting, printmaking, music, and decorative arts of the era. Analyzing the debates of critics and artists in Paris, Vienna, and London, we will write about the newly emergent figures of the anarchist, the aesthete, la femme nouvelle, and the dandy and craft researched arguments about cultural anxieties underlying the psychological phenomena of synesthesia, ennui, and hysteria. We will ask: Is the dandy a subversive hero, as Charles Baudelaire suggests? Is ornament a crime? What made figures like the “new woman” and the androgynous aesthete so threatening? Readings include: Deborah Silverman, Art Nouveau in Fin-de-siècle France; Max Nordau, Degeneration; Adolf Loos, Ornament and Crime; Paul Gauguin, Noa Noa; Richard Wagner, The Artwork of the Future; Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams; Carl Schorske, Fin-De-Siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture

Faculty

The Artful Science: Photography and Society, 1825-1919

Fall

When, why, and how was photography invented? This course introduces students to the history of photography in the 19th and early 20th centuries, from the medium’s invention with the parallel, contested origin stories of William Henry Fox Talbot and Nicéphore Niepce to the first motion pictures and until the earliest instances of Dada photomontage. Readings from a variety of disciplines, including historical documents and writings by artists and critics, aid us in considering the contradictions inherent to photography as a medium as we investigate its role as both art form and science. Examining photographic practices in fields as diverse as fashion, avant-garde art, anthropology, architecture, advertising, and political documentary, we will ask how early photographs were shaped by and, in turn, shaped practitioners’ conception of reality.

Faculty