Meet Critical & Curatorial Studies Professor Chris Reitz

Assistant Professor Chris Reitz (Head of Critical and Curatorial Studies Program and Gallery Director at the Hite Art Institute) focuses on transnational practices in art and exhibitions of the past 30 years, with a particular emphasis on art and the art market in the era of neoliberalism.

Working previously as a project manager at Public Art Fund in New York and as an independent curator, Prof. Reitz also has written for The White Review, Texte zur Kunst, and N+1,, and is a contributor to a number of exhibition catalogues on subjects ranging from Kosovar video art to the work of Santiago Sierra.

Prof. Reitz’s latest curatorial project, New Monuments: Sanford Biggers; Laocoon, is on view at the Cressman Center for Visual Arts from May 4-July 2. The New Monuments series is an irregularly scheduled series of one-work exhibitions. The idea is to turn over the entire space of the Cressman Center to one particularly significant object created in the last year, and to use this emphasis to think about the work's contemporary cultural, social, and/or economic context as well as its significance within the history of art.

“Oftentimes, art history classes will be organized around a collection of key images or objects,” Prof. Reitz said. “If you’ve taken an art history class you may remember putting together a group of flashcards to memorize—images with artist names and production dates.

“These ‘monuments lists’ are the foundation of many art history classes, and the idea behind this series is to bring those lists to life,” he said. “The New Monuments are objects that emerge from contemporary life, but nevertheless reach back into the history of art.

“You can think of this series as an update to the stack of art history flash cards—one that hopefully animates the old list in the process.”

Department: Fine Arts
Years at UofL:
Ph.D., Princeton University, Modern and Contemporary Art, 2015; B.A., Vassar College, 2005

Current Research Interests:
I write about the production, exhibition, and exchange of contemporary art. I'm particularly interested in the relationship between the art market and processes of economic globalization, and the ways in which artists and curators resist or affirm such processes.

What are the goals you most want to accomplish in your work?  Not so much the goals that are in your job description, but the goals you hold personally?
To write a few good books and to curate a few good exhibitions. I teach in the Critical and Curatorial Studies program, and historically those practices--criticism and curation--have been completely different enterprises. In some ways they're still incompatible. Yet today's curators are expected to maintain a critical vocabulary, and the role of "curator" now includes such a wide range of activities that the term is something of a catchall. One goal is to help resolve the relationship between criticism and curation--to help develop a model for critical curatorial practice, and to continue to produce critical art historical writing grounded in art objects and their organization.

Current event students should know more about and why?
If only there were just a solitary, underexposed event or issue in need of attention! On the contrary, we are in many respects lucky to live in an era of exposure--to issues, events, problems, and concerns big and small. Such exposure is due, in large measure, to advances in social media. However, this type of exposure can come at the expense of sustained analysis and critique. Analysis and critique are, I suppose, what I think students should know about.

What was the best meal you’ve ever had? Why?
My wife's birthday dinner at a little Italian restaurant in central Pennsylvania, October of 2013. Three months prior Julie had undergone a very complicated emergency brain surgery and it left her totally unable to swallow. This meal was the first time she was able to eat somewhat normal food after months of feeding tubes, speech therapy, and unpalatable thick-liquid meal supplements. I have no idea what I ate, but she had the vegetarian lasagna, spaghetti squash, and lemon ice for desert.

If you could live in any other time, when might that be? Why?
I'm optimistic about the future, despite plenty of evidence (economic, social, ecological) that the future may be bleak. So if I could live in any other time I'd like to live there--a month from now, a year, a decade. The artists and writers that I know and admire are restless. They're fatigued by the current state of art exchange and critique and are actively pursuing alternatives. Such things (alternatives, discoveries, solutions) are forever just around the corner.