The study of modern and contemporary art at Penn is expansive in geographic range and media. Supported by seven core faculty members, teaching areas focus on European, American (including some Latin and South American), and East Asian painting, sculpture, architecture, urbanism, prints, time-based art, photography, popular culture, decorative arts, cinema and new media. Established relationships with the Institute of Contemporary Art on Penn’s campus and the Philadelphia Museum of Art offer several students per year the opportunity to give spotlight lectures. Graduate students may also serve in the Print Room of the PMA as Zigrosser Fellows. Many other institutions frequently collaborate with the department, including the Arthur Ross Gallery at Penn, the Slought Foundation, International House, Scribe Video Center, and the Foundation for Self-Taught Artists, offering students the chance to organize exhibitions and serve as research fellows or curatorial interns. Graduate students may earn Certificates in Cinema Studies, or in Gender, Sexuality, and Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies while fulfilling the requirements for the History of Art Ph.D.

Core faculty interests: 

A historian of modern architecture and urbanism, David Brownlee has a special interest in the political and philosophical contexts of artistic practice.  He has written on a wide range of topics, including the monumental classicism and city planning of the early twentieth century and the work of Louis Kahn, Denise Scott Brown, and Robert Venturi.  He participates actively in Philadelphia’s lively design community.

Julie Nelson Davis teaches the art and architecture of East Asia from the early modern through the contemporary (ca. 1600 to the present).  Davis is a leading scholar of the prints and paintings of the “images of the floating world” (ukiyo-e); her work engages this subject both in its own time and in twentieth-century discourses.

With a continuing interest in the uses of biography and history in the art of the United States and the African Diaspora, Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw’s teaching focuses on issues of class, gender, sexuality, and race.  In 2012, she is co-curating an exhibition of twentieth-century Afro-Brazilian art at Penn’s Arthur Ross Gallery and organizing a symposium on circum-Atlantic visual culture. Her recent course offerings include “Art Since 1945,” “American Art Between the Wars,” and “Biography and Art History.”

Karen Redrobe’s teaching and research focus on the history of photography, film, and video art, as well as on the theoretical discourses surrounding these practices. She is currently writing about artists’ uses of animation, particularly within the context of war. She is a core faculty member of the Program in Cinema Studies.

Kaja Silverman came to Penn after teaching for nineteen years at Berkeley, and is currently working on photography and time-based art. She also has an abiding interest in painting, from the late-nineteenth century to the present, continental philosophy, and literary modernism, and all of these interests are reflected in her teaching. Silverman was recently awarded a Mellon Distinguished Achievement Award.

History of Art Department faculty members who also contribute to teaching and advising students in modern and contemporary art include Timothy Corrigan (cinema), Renata Holod (modern Islamic visual culture and urbanism), and Michael Meister (modern South Asian art and architecture). Members of the Graduate Group who work on modern and contemporary art include Annette Fierro (modern and contemporary European architecture), Catriona McLeod (word and image, modern German cultural and aesthetic theory), Robert St. George (American vernacular architecture and material culture), and Liliane Weissberg (critical theory, Frankfurt School, photography).