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 Artforum, The 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 Times, The New Yorker, Art in America, ArtNews, and Artforum, among other publications. Served since 2005 on the faculty for the Language and Thinking Program at Bard College. SLC, 2013–

Undergraduate Courses 2017-2018

Art History

The Politics of Aesthetics From David to Impressionism

Open , Seminar—Spring

This seminar will look at European art produced between 1789 and 1889, between the transformations of the French Revolution and the rise of Impressionism. We will focus primarily on painting, with forays into the history of photography and glimpses into developments in printmaking and sculpture. Topics include the development of the urban and artistic modernity, the role of women both in the atelier and in the public sphere, the construction of an imaginary orient, the rise of romantic individualism, and the notion of the avant-garde. The course will include visits to the Frick, the Met, and the Museum of Modern Art. Students will write about individual artworks, analyze texts and artworks as they are situated within the politics of their time, and craft researched papers making arguments about some aspect of 19th-century European art. Readings include Winckelmann’s “Thoughts on the Imitation of Greek Art in Painting and Sculpture”; Lynn Hunt’s Politics, Culture, and Class in the French Revolution; selected letters and notes by Eugène Delacroix from his journey to North Africa in 1832; Griselda Pollock, "Modernity and the Spaces of Femininity”; and Paul Signac, From Eugène Delacroix to Neo-Impressionism.

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Depicting Decadence

Open , Seminar—Fall

Permission of the instructor is required.

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 will then 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; and Carl Schorske, Fin-De-Siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture.

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Previous Courses

The History of Photography: New Technologies and Theories, 1914-Present

Open , Lecture—Spring

This lecture continues the fall lecture on the history of photography, taking photography into the postwar era and up until the present day. We will look at photography and the European avant-garde, photography and conceptual art practices, and artists working with photographic technologies in the context of postmodernity. We will consider the curatorial history of exhibiting photography. We will also consider new technologies such as video art, with its possibilities of live transmission and feedback, and the notion of “post-Internet” art. In group conference, we will read major theorists and practitioners—from László Moholy-Nagy to Walter Benjamin and Vilém Flusser—on the photographic image and its role in contemporary society.

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Dada and Surrealism

Open , Seminar—Spring

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 will focus on works by Arp and Taeuber-Arp, Ball, Huelsenbeck, Schwitters, Duchamp, Breton, Aragon, Tzara, Lautréamont, Carrington, Oppenheim, Buñuel and Dali, Magritte, Tanning, Ernst, Man Ray, Bellmer, and others. Readings will include: Andre Breton, Nadja; Peter Bürger, Theory of the Avant-Garde; Hal Foster, Compulsive Beauty; Sigmund Freud, Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria; Thierry de Duve, Pictorial Nominalism: On Marcel Duchamp’s Passage from Painting to the Readymade; and texts by Tzara, Carrington, Schwitters, and others.

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Art Writing

Open , Seminar—Fall

This seminar introduces students to the history and practice of writing about art. We will consider the different forms that art writing has taken, including poetry and the novel, as well as journalistic and magazine reviews, creative works, art historical monographs, and catalog essays. Beginning with the advent of modern art criticism in the 18th century, we will read selected classics in the genres of the salon report and the literary tract and then proceed to look at certain key moments and arenas in the 19th and 20th centuries in which art criticism was particularly lively, especially in Paris and New York. We will consider the demands of critical writing more generally, comparing the criticism of painting to that of photography, dance, film, and literature. We will also consider the exhibition catalog essay as a form and the process of shaping a monographic essay about an artist. For conference projects, students will write their own critical and creative pieces based on in-class and outside-of-class visits to exhibitions to galleries and museums. Authors include Denis Diderot, Gotthold Lessing, Charles Baudelaire, Clement Greenberg, Roland Barthes, Rosalind Krauss, Jill Johnston, Frank O’Hara, and James Schuyler.

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The Artful Science: Photography and Society, 1839-1914

Open , Lecture—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 in 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.

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Contemporary Curating: Art/Contexts

Intermediate , Seminar—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).

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Related Disciplines

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

Open , Lecture—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.

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Related Disciplines

Art Since 1945

Open , Lecture—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.

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Dada and Surrealism: Art and Politics

Open , Seminar—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.

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