April 6, 2011

Jessica Stockholder, an artist whose work has transformed the traditional conception of sculpture, will join the University of Chicago faculty as a Professor in Visual Arts and the College and chair of the Department of Visual Arts. Her appointment takes effect July 1.

“I am delighted by our faculty’s selection of Jessica Stockholder, an internationally recognized artist and arts leader, to become the new chair of the Department of Visual Arts,” said Martha Roth, Dean of the Division of the Humanities. “She brings her extraordinary level of artistic accomplishment as well as her record of institution-building and leadership at Yale University to our programs here. She will provide a strong and distinctive voice for the visual arts and for the humanities at the University of Chicago and in the city of Chicago.”

Using found objects and bold, vibrant colors

Stockholder has won international acclaim for her genre-defying multimedia installation pieces, which incorporate found objects and painting in bold, vibrant colors. In 2007, she received the Lucelia Artist Award, which recognizes exceptional American artists under 50, from the Smithsonian American Art Museum. “Her new, nonchalantly precise arrangements of everyday stuff—fake fur, socks, plastic bowls, a surfboard, a lamp, a plastic shower curtain—look both unsinkably fresh and supremely formal,” the New Yorker wrote of Stockholder’s work in 2009.

"Jessica Stockholder will not only be a stellar addition to the DOVA faculty, but, more broadly speaking, an inspiring leader for our transformative arts initiatives campus-wide,” said Larry Norman, Deputy Provost for the Arts. “Her appointment demonstrates the depth of the University's commitment to boldly strengthening the role of arts in our distinctive culture of inquiry."

Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts

Stockholder’s appointment comes as the University prepares for the opening of the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, which will house DOVA, as well as studio, teaching, rehearsal, and performance space for several arts programs on campus.

“This is an exciting time for contemporary art at the University of Chicago,” said Bill Michel, the executive director of the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts. “Jessica will be joining an incredible group of faculty and students and will contribute greatly to the vibrant arts community at the Logan Center and beyond.”

Arts Community

Stockholder said the University’s lively intellectual atmosphere, as well as the building of the Logan Center, were key factors in her decision to join the faculty.

“The [University of Chicago] community seems really dynamic and full of conversation and energy. I am excited and happy to be part of the effort to bring more energy to the practice of the arts at the University,” she said.

Current DOVA chair Elizabeth Helsinger praised not only Stockholder’s artistic accomplishments, but also her achievements as a teacher at Yale, where she has taught sculpture since 1999.

“Jessica Stockholder is a major artist whose work is both beautiful and edgy, pushing at the boundaries of traditional media like sculpture and painting. In her tenure at Yale, she has been formative in the careers of some of the leading young sculptors in this country,” said Helsinger, the John Matthews Manly Distinguished Service Professor in English Language & Literature, Art History, and the College. “She has impressed everyone with her genuine excitement about the possibilities of leading DOVA now, as it prepares to move into the Logan Center in spring 2012. Her appointment should help bring the University's small but excellent visual arts programs and unusually talented, dedicated young artist faculty the wider recognition they deserve.”

Site-specific installations

Stockholder is perhaps best known for her temporary site-specific installations. Her work has been compared to the works of assemblage artist Robert Rauschenberg, collage artist Kurt Schwitters, painters Henri Matisse and Paul Cézanne, as well as artists of the Cubist and Minimalist traditions.

Stockholder’s installations, “shifted the contemporary dialogue about what sculpture is,” said Laura Letinsky, Professor in Visual Arts, Cinema & Media Studies, and the College. “Her reputation exceeds local, and even national boundaries.”

Although her art has been described as “messy” and “riotous,” Stockholder said she tries to balance the chaotic qualities of her work with careful attention to composition. “Those [aspects] are in contrast to a very classical, crisp, and almost minimal structure that is also embedded in the work,” she said.

“I don’t consider myself either a painter or a sculptor,” she said. “My work is very pictorial at its core, even though it involves space and material.”

Stockholder’s work has been shown at the Dia Center for the Arts, the Whitney Museum for American Art, Museum of Modern Art PS1, the Venice Biennale, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid. The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago exhibited Stockholder’s installation, “Skin Toned Garden Mapping,” in 1991. She received a 1988 National Endowment for the Arts grant for sculpture and a 1996 Guggenheim Fellowship.

Stockholder studied painting at the University of Victoria, and received an MFA from Yale University, where she has taught sculpture since 1999.

By Susie Allen


Jessica Stockholder, who will become the new chair of the Department of Visual Arts, talks about “Becoming An Artist.” (Video co
Jessica Stockholder discusses “Beauty & Politics.” (Video courtesy of Art21)