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Huey Copeland

Associate Professor; Arthur Andersen Teaching and Research Professor (2018-2021)

Ph.D., 2006, University of California, Berkeley
Curriculum Vitae

Huey Copeland (on leave 2018-19) is Arthur Andersen Teaching and Research Professor, Associate Professor of Art History, and affiliated faculty in the Critical Theory Cluster, the Department of African American Studies, the Department of Art Theory & Practice, the Department of Performance Studies, and the Gender and Sexuality Studies Program. His writing—which has been translated into French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish—focuses on modern and contemporary art with an emphasis on articulations of blackness in the Western visual field. A Contributing Editor of Artforum, Copeland has also published in American Art, Art Journal, ASAP/J, The Brooklyn Rail, Callaloo, Camera Obscura, Nka, October, Parkett, Qui Parle, Representations, and Small Axe as well as in numerous international exhibition catalogues and essay collections, from the award-winning overview Modern Women: Women Artists at the Museum of Modern Art to the groundbreaking anthology Histórias Afro-Atlânticas produced by the Museu de Arte de Saõ Paulo.

Notable among his publications is Bound to Appear: Art, Slavery, and the Site of Blackness in Multicultural America, a book funded by a Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program Grant and published in 2013 by the University of Chicago Press. Focused on the work of Renée Green, Glenn Ligon, Lorna Simpson and Fred Wilson, the book considers how slavery shaped American art in the last decades of the 20th century to argue for a reorientation of modern and contemporary art history where the subject of race is concerned. At present, Copeland is at work on a new manuscript, In the Shadow of the Negress: Modern Artistic Practice in the Transatlantic World, which explores the constitutive role played by fictions of black womanhood in Western art from the late-eighteenth century to the present. He is also refining a companion volume—currently entitled Touched by the Mother: On Black Men, Artistic Practice, and Other Feminist Horizons, 1966-2016—that brings together many of his new and previously published writings and that has already been recognized with the 2017 Absolut Art Writing Award, intended to support “transformative projects by the world’s most creative talent.”

Copeland's various research interests are reflected by his interdisciplinary course offerings, which range from an introductory survey focused on Euro-American modernisms and their global entanglements to the graduate seminar “Appropriation (North and South),” conceptualized in collaboration with leading South African critic Athi Mongezeleli Joja. Copeland has advised dissertations exploring topics such as: the tension between primitivism and cosmopolitanism in twentieth-century African American painting; the third world guerilla as a model for American performance artists in the long 1970s; and early 21st-century Chinese art’s literal and figurative haunting by socialist realist aesthetics. Alongside his work as a teacher, critic, scholar, and administrator—both for The Graduate School and the Black Arts Initiative—he has co-curated exhibitions such as Interstellar Low Ways (with Anthony Elms), co-organized international conferences like "Black Collectivities" (with Naomi Beckwith), and co-edited several journal volumes, including Art Journal’s ongoing “Afrotropes” series (with Krista Thompson).

An alumnus of the Whitney Independent Study Program, the Johannesburg Workshop in Theory and Criticism, and the Academic Leadership Program, Copeland has received support from the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, l’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum Research Center for American Modernism, the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University, the Program of African Studies at Northwestern, and the Terra Foundation for American Art. He currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Black Arts Initiative, the International Advisory Board of Art History, the Curatorial Board of Iceberg Projects, and as Chair for the Center for Advanced Study of the Visual Arts Board of Advisors. In 2019, his contributions to the field were recognized by the High Museum of Art with the David C. Driskell Prize in African American Art and Art History.

Program Area: African American and African Diaspora, Global Modern and Contemporary

Regional Specialization: African American and African Diaspora, United States and Canada


Selected Publications

Huey Copeland, Love Is the Message, The Message Is Death,” b.O.s. 1.3, ASAP/Journal, June 4, 2018.

Leah Dickerman, David Joselit, and Mignon Nixon, “Afrotropes: A Conversation with Huey Copeland & Krista Thompson,” October 162 (Fall 2017): 3-18.

Huey Copeland, “Flow and Arrest,Small Axe: A Caribbean Platform of Criticism 48 (November 2015): 205-224.

Huey Copeland, "Dark Mirrors: Theaster Gates and Ebony," Artforum 52.2, October 2013, 222-229.

Huey Copeland, "In the Wake of the Negress," in Modern Women: Women Artists at the Museum of Modern Art, ed. Cornelia Butler and Alexandra Schwartz (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2010), 480-497.

Photo by Bonnie Robinson for The Graduate School, 2017

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