Art Historian Rosalind Krauss Nabs High Honor

Art historian Rosalind Krauss (Photo: MIT Press)

The College Art Association will devote a Distinguished Scholar Session to Columbia University art history professor Rosalind Krauss at its next annual conference, in 2012, in Los Angeles.

Over the course of a 50-year career, Ms. Krauss has become one of contemporary art history’s most controversial and, within the academy, most influential figures. (Disclosure: this writer took an introductory lecture class on the history of 20th-century art with Ms. Krauss about seven years ago.)

Ms. Krauss began writing for Artforum in 1966 while working on her PhD at Harvard University, writing about the sculptor David Smith. Her resulting dissertation was published as Terminal Iron Works, the first of her many books on modern and contemporary art, which have included Passages in Modern Sculpture, in 1977, and The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths, in 1985.

Ms. Krauss infamously departed Artforum in 1975 with another editor to form the October journal, in part as a response to the magazine publishing an advertisement for artist Lynda Benglis’s show at Paula Cooper Gallery that featured Ms. Benglis naked, sporting a large dildo. In a letter published in the Dec. 1974 Artforum, Ms. Krauss joined some other editors in signing a letter that read, “In the specific context of this journal, [the ad] exists as an object of extreme vulgarity.”

The theory-intensive writing promoted by Ms. Krauss and some of her colleagues, like Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, Hal Foster and Yve-Alain Bois, has earned sharply mixed reviews. The theories supported in a textbook they co-wrote, titled Art Since 1900, for instance, were described as “tendentious in the extreme” by The Wall Street Journal‘s Eric Gibson, who added, “It’s appalling to think that a book like this may enter classrooms and inflict itself on young minds with little or no acquaintance with art history.”

Previous subjects of the CAA’s Distinguished Scholar Session include feminist art history pioneer Linda Nochlin, photography advocate and Museum of Modern Art curator John Szarkowski and art historian Leo Steinberg, who died earlier this year.

Correction, Aug. 24: Corrected the spelling of Linda Nochlin’s name. Art Historian Rosalind Krauss Nabs High Honor