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Robert Slifkin

Assistant Professor of Fine Arts

PhD Yale University; M.A. Williams College; B.A. University of North Carolina.

My scholarship addresses various themes related to the history of modern and contemporary art, with a particular focus on the art and culture of the United States, the history of photography, and critical theory. I am particularly interested in the relationship between political and aesthetic traditions of representation, the history and aesthetic implications of technology and media, the academic study of the contemporary art, and the fate avant-garde paradigms of criticality in recent art practice.

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 current book project, The New Monuments and the End of Man: American Sculpture and War, 1945-1975, will address 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. A third book project will consider the nexus of Hollywood cinema, street photography, and conceptual art through the prism of American liberalism in the 1970s.

Sample Courses

Photography and Facticity
Land Art and its Antecedents

Contemporary Art and the Plight of Publicness

Representation, Repetition, Appropriation
Is Contemporary Art History?
Abstract Expressionism

Hollywood 1967-1977
The Real and the Fictive in Contemporary Art

Selected Writings

Out of Time: Philip Guston and the Refiguration of Postwar American Art (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013).

“Fitz Henry Lane and the Compromised Landscape, 1848-1865,” American Art 27 (Fall 2013), 64-83.

“Is Contemporary Art History?,”  review of Katy Siegel, After 45 and Terry Smith, What is Contemporary Art?, Oxford Art Journal 35 (March 2012), 111-114.

“Now Man's Bound to Fail, More,” October 135 (Winter 2011), 49-69.

“Philip Guston’s Return to Figuration and the “1930s Renaissance” of the 1960s,” Art Bulletin 93 (June 2011), 220-242.

"Donald Judd's Credibility Gap," American Art 25 (Summer 2011), 57-75.

“The Tragic Image: Action Painting Refigured,” Oxford Art Journal 34 (June 2011), 227-46.

Selected Honors

Phillips Book Prize, 2012
Henry Moore Foundation, Fellow, 2011-12
Stanford Humanities Center (declined), 2010
Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Dissertation Fellowship, 2006-7
Getty Research Library Travel Grant, Getty Institute, 2006