Lunder Institute Announces 2020–21 Scholarly Senior Fellows

The Lunder Institute supports scholarly and creative research by scholars, curators, and artists. We are pleased to announce the senior fellowships of scholars Romi Crawford and David Park Curry.

Romi Crawford (Ph.D.) is a 2020–21 Lunder Institute senior fellow and is working on a monographic publication on Lunder Institute Distinguished Visiting Artist and Director of Artist Initiatives Theaster Gates. It will consider the wide scope and dimensionality of his artistic practice, with a focus on the under-examined narratives of “extreme collaboration” intrinsic to Gates’s work as it relates to building and land procurement. As part of her fellowship, Crawford will host a public program centered around a Gates work in the Colby Museum’s collection and her research. She will also participate in a recorded conversation with Gates that will become part of the Lunder Institute’s Vocal Archive, an initiative that records contemporary artists speaking about their works in the Colby Museum’s collection.

Crawford is Professor of Visual and Critical Studies and Liberal Arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Through her research and writing, Crawford explores areas of race and ethnicity as they relate to American visual culture (including art, film, and photography). She is co-author of The Wall of Respect: Public Art and Black Liberation in 1960s Chicago (Northwestern University Press, 2017). Additional publications include “Do For Self: The AACM and the Chicago Style” in Support Networks (University of Chicago Press, 2014); “Ebony and Jet on Our Mind” in Speaking of People (The Studio Museum in Harlem, 2014); Theaster Gates Black Archive (Kunsthaus Bregenz, 2017); “Reading Between the Photographs: Serious Sociality in the Kamoinge Photographic Workshop” in Working Together, Louis Draper and The Kamoinge Workshop (Virginia Museum of Fine Art, 2020), and Fleeting Monuments for the Wall of Respect (Green Lantern Press, 2020). She was the co-curator of the 2017 Open Engagement conference in Chicago and founder of the Museum of Vernacular Arts and Knowledge (MOVAK), a project-based platform for art-making that is out of sync with museum and gallery values. She was previously Curator and Director of the Education Department at the Studio Museum in Harlem. She received a B.A. from Oberlin College and A.M. and Ph.D. degrees in English Language in Literature from the University of Chicago.

David Park Curry (Ph.D.) is a 2020–21 Lunder Institute Senior Fellow, an appointment made in association with the Lunder Consortium for Whistler Studies. A highly respected scholar and curator of American and European art of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Curry is undertaking research and writing in preparation for the exhibition and publication Some Old Curiosity Shops: Whistler, Commerce, and the Art of Urban Change. Scheduled for 2023 and 2024, the exhibition will appear at the Colby Museum, the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, and additional venues. The project takes a fresh look at James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903), revealing a lifelong engagement with social and economic change despite his professed aversion to topical themes, examining why so determined a modernist addressed the past rather than the present when it came to depictions of the changing urban scene, not only in London, but also in Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, and elsewhere. Dating from the mid-1880s, the artist’s best-known shopfront pictures feature strict geometries, suppressed detail, flattened spaces, and close cropping; they numbered among Whistler’s most formally advanced compositions. Yet the shop fronts also coincide with the rise of modern merchandising and ambitious civic construction projects that displaced the working poor and demolished neighborhood landmarks. Whistler repeatedly focused upon earlier commercial venues and long-established trades. By the end of his life, the controversial artist, himself a participant in this primal moment of urban renewal, had attracted a somewhat undeserved reputation as an historic preservationist.

Curry’s project grew out of a symposium organized by the Lunder Consortium for Whistler Studies at Colby College, and his preliminary findings were published in 2015. See David Park Curry, “James McNeill Whistler: Aestheticizing Realism,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin 30, no. 2 (2015): 44–51.

Curry holds a Ph.D. in the history of art from Yale University. Since retiring from his position as Senior Curator of Decorative Arts, American Painting & Sculpture at the Baltimore Museum of Art in 2016, Curry has continued to pursue projects exploring cultural crossroads where art, decoration, and commerce intersect. He has also lectured widely in the United States and England, and published on Homer, Whistler, Sargent, American Impressionism and Realism, folk art, Victorian architecture, world fairs, and period framing. From October 2017 through May 2019, he was a Senior Fellow at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, where he conducted research in Washington, Paris, and elsewhere for a projected book, Courses of Empire: Theodore Davis and the Hayes Presidential Dinner Service, 18791881. He is the author of James McNeill Whistler at the Freer Gallery of Art (1984); his 2004 monograph, James McNeill Whistler: Uneasy Pieces, followed the 2003 Freer exhibition Mr. Whistler’s Galleries, a reconstruction of the artist’s controversial 1883 White and Yellow display of Venice etchings.