David Getsy Goldabelle McComb Finn Distinguished Chair in Art History, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

I came to Northwestern from Oberlin College and was the first doctoral student in the department’s new “Theory and Interpretation” track. My intention was to work on contemporary art and queer theory, with a focus on Minimal and Postminimal sculpture. My advisor, Whitney Davis, urged me to get a grasp of the trajectory of sculpture theory of the modern period, and I started working through the origins of modern sculpture in Germany, France, and then Britain. When I hit the British material, I encountered an episode comparable to Minimalism in which sculpture, for a time, took the lead as the central site of innovation. Ultimately, I focused my dissertation on this material, arguing that late-Victorian sculptors chose to retain verisimilitude but activate it through materiality and an attention to the bodily encounter with the viewer. For this project, I received a two-year Kress Fellowship at the Courtauld Institute of Art and, after completing the dissertation, a Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. My book based on this material, Body Doubles: Sculpture in Britain, 1877-1905, came out in 2004 with Yale University Press. In that same year, I brought together new approaches to British sculpture in an anthology titled Sculpture and the Pursuit of a Modern Ideal in Britain.

I returned to the U.S. to take up a two-year postdoctoral fellowship with the Leslie Center for the Humanities at Dartmouth College followed by a year at Harvard University as a Getty Postdoctoral Fellow. During this time, I redirected my interests to questions of bodily interactivity in new media and focused my historical work on modern art in France. In 2005, I began the tenure-track at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago teaching nineteenth-century art. The research from these years manifested itself as two books. First, I published with Yale in 2010 a book on Auguste Rodin titled Rodin: Sex and the Making of Modern Sculpture, in which I argue that Rodin’s famously sexualized artistic persona emerged from a reaction to Michelangelo’s homoeroticism and became embedded in his manipulation of nineteenth-century sculptural practices (and not just his subject matter). The second project was an anthology on game studies and art history titled From Diversion to Subversion: Games, Play, and Twentieth-Century Art (Penn State, 2011). Since that time, I’ve expanded my writing to include post-war art and performance, and many of my new projects are in that arena. Later in 2012, I will publish a book of Postminimalist artist Scott Burton’s writing titled Scott Burton: Collected Writings on Art and Performance, 1965-75, and I am completing a book on post-war sculpture and its affinities with transgender theory, preliminarily titled Abstract Bodies in American Sculpture, 1962-76, for which I was a Senior Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts. I was tenured in 2008 and appointed to the Goldabelle McComb Finn Distinguished Chair in Art History. I was SAIC’s “Teacher of the Year” in 2007.