The School of Art Announces New MFA Thesis Exhibition Visiting Critic Program and Inaugural Critics

Posted on April 2, 2018

The School of Art is pleased to welcome the inaugural group of distinguished curators, critics, and writers from across the United States to Pittsburgh for the new MFA thesis exhibition visiting critic program. These influential thinkers—Jessica Beck, Aria Dean, Joseph del Pesco, Laurel Ptak, Ingrid Schaffner, and Ali Subotnick—will spend two days with the graduating MFA students, completing individual studio visits and taking part in the all-day faculty walk-through and critique of “Immutable Stage,” the MFA thesis exhibition.

This noteworthy group contains leaders of some of the most forward-thinking art institutions, such as Art in General and KADIST, and innovative curators at prominent institutions including the Hammer Museum, Rhizome, Carnegie Museum of Art, and The Andy Warhol Museum. These visiting critics are at the forefront of artistic and cultural dialogue, challenging existing biases in the art world and championing underrepresented and pioneering artists.

The visiting critic program builds on the MFA program’s emphasis on what it means to be an artist within our contemporary condition. Throughout the year, graduate students have one-on-one studio visits with the School’s visiting artist lecturers and with artists and cultural figures visiting the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry or taking part in programming organized by the Center for Arts in Society. The visiting critic program provides a capstone to this education. This program was made possible through the support of the College of Fine Arts.

About the inaugural visiting critics:

Jessica Beck is the Milton Fine Curator of Art at The Andy Warhol Museum. She curated Andy Warhol: My Perfect Body, the first exhibition to explore the complexities of the body in Warhol’s practice, and is currently working on Devan Shimoyama’s first solo-exhibition, Cry, Baby, for the fall of 2018. She has published with Gagosian Quarterly and Burlington Magazine and has a forthcoming essay in the Warhol retrospective catalogue with the Whitney Museum of American Art and in Contact Warhol. She currently serves as the visiting scholar for the School of Art for the 2017-18 academic year.

Aria Dean is an artist, writer, and curator based in Los Angeles. She serves as assistant curator of net art & digital culture at Rhizome and co-directs Los Angeles project space As It Stands. Her writing has been featured in Artforum, Art in America, E-Flux Journal, The New Inquiry, and Topical Cream Magazine, among others. She has exhibited at American Medium, New York City; Arcadia Missa, London, UK; Chateau Shatto, Los Angeles; The Sunroom, Richmond, VA; Air de Paris; and Boatos Fine Art, Sao Paulo; among other venues.

Joseph del Pesco is a curator, writer, and publisher and is the international director of KADIST. Previously, he was adjunct curator at Artists Space, New York City; a fellow at the Banff Centre; and assistant curator at the UC Davis Museum. As an independent curator, he has organized exhibitions, projects, and publications at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, among others. His recent collection of short stories, The Museum Took a Few Minutes To Collect Itself, was published by Art Metropole, Toronto in October of 2017.

Laurel Ptak is executive director and curator of Art in General in New York City. She was previously director and curator of Triangle from 2014 to 2017 and has held diverse roles at non-profit art institutions in the US and internationally, including the Guggenheim Museum, New York City; MoMA PS 1, New York City; Museo Tamayo, Mexico City; and Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm; among others. She is a faculty member in the graduate program of Curatorial Practice at the School of Visual Arts and teaches in the department of Art, Media & Technology at The New School.

Ingrid Schaffner is an American curator, art critic, writer, and educator, specializing in contemporary art. She is currently at work on the Carnegie International, 57th Ed., 2018, which will open at the Carnegie Museum of Art in October. From 2000 to 2015, Schaffner directed the exhibition program at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) at the University of Pennsylvania. Schaffner’s work often coalesces around themes of archiving and collecting, photography, feminism, and alternate modernisms—especially Surrealism. Her many significant monographic and thematic exhibitions have brought attention to under-recognized artists and little-explored themes and practices in the art world.

Ali Subotnick is an independent curator. For over ten years, she was curator of the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles—where she now serves as adjunct curator—organizing over twenty solo exhibitions, including many debut American institutional exhibitions for artists. She co-curated the first Los Angeles biennial, Made in L.A. 2012, and organized the first and only Venice Beach Biennial as a collateral event. She is a co-creator of The Wrong Gallery and Charley magazine with frequent collaborators Maurizio Cattelan and Massimiliano Gioni. In 2006, the three curated Of Mice and Men, the fourth Berlin Biennial for contemporary art.

Image (left to right): Joseph del Pesco, Aria Dean, Ingrid Schaffner, Jessica Beck, Laurel Ptak