The study of modern and contemporary art at Penn is expansive in geographic range and media. Supported by core faculty members, teaching areas focus on European, American (including some Latin and South American), East Asian, and South Asian painting, sculpture, architecture, urbanism, prints, time-based art, photography, popular culture, decorative arts, cinema and new media. Established relationships with the Institute of Contemporary Art on Penn’s campus and the Philadelphia Museum of Art offer several students per year the opportunity to give spotlight lectures. Graduate students may also serve in the Print Room of the PMA as Zigrosser Fellows. Many other institutions frequently collaborate with the department, including the Arthur Ross Gallery at Penn, the Slought Foundation, International House, Scribe Video Center, and the Foundation for Self-Taught Artists, offering students the chance to organize exhibitions and serve as research fellows or curatorial interns. Graduate students may earn Certificates in Cinema Studies, or in Gender, Sexuality, and Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies while fulfilling the requirements for the History of Art Ph.D.

An editor of OCTOBER and Artforum, Huey Copeland is a prolific critic, acclaimed scholar, and occasional curator of contemporary art in all media, with a focus on black, feminist, and critical practices from the 1960s to the present. 

Julie Nelson Davis teaches the art and architecture of East Asia from the early modern through the contemporary (ca. 1600 to the present).  Davis is a leading scholar of the prints and paintings of the “images of the floating world” (ukiyo-e); her work engages this subject both in its own time and in twentieth-century discourses.

Jonathan D. Katz, a pioneering figure in the development of queer studies in art history, has written many of the first accounts of the import of sexuality in the work of a wide range of key cultural figures from John Cage to Agnes Martin to Kent Monkman.While his work focuses questions of sexuality, gender and embodiment, he is most interested in non-positivist approaches that favor silence, elision, and dissimulation as key marker of sexual difference.  Katz is also a very active curator, doing queer exhibitions on a wide variety of topics worldwide.  

Sonal Khullar researches modern and contemporary art with a focus on South Asia and the postcolonial world. Her current book project examines conflict, collaboration, and globalization in contemporary art from South Asia. She has offered courses on globality and postcoloniality in contemporary art, photography- and cinema-based art practice, site-specificity and socially engaged art, the globalizing art world, and histories of global modern and contemporary art. 

Shannon Mattern’s teaching and research address the aesthetics of information. She engages with the work of contemporary artists and media makers — including Armin Linke, Otobang Nkanga, Theaster Gates, Stephanie Syjuco, Tony Cokes, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, and Zoe Beloff, among many others — whose work explores the creation and organization of information. She also examines various epistemological forms — from maps to library stacks to interactive dashboards — as aesthetic creations, and collaborates with myriad artists and creative technologists who experiment with informational and pedagogical formats. 

Karen Redrobe’s teaching and research focus on the history of photography, film, and video art, as well as on the theoretical discourses surrounding these practices. She is currently writing about artists’ uses of animation, particularly within the context of war. She is a core faculty member of the Program in Cinema Studies.

With a continuing interest in the uses of biography and history in the art of the United States and the African Diaspora, Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw’s teaching focuses on issues of class, gender, sexuality, and race.  In 2012, she is co-curating an exhibition of twentieth-century Afro-Brazilian art at Penn’s Arthur Ross Gallery and organizing a symposium on circum-Atlantic visual culture. Her recent course offerings include “Art Since 1945,” “American Art Between the Wars,” and “Biography and Art History.”

Members of the Graduate Group who work on modern and contemporary art include Annette Fierro (modern and contemporary European architecture), Catriona McLeod (word and image, modern German cultural and aesthetic theory), Robert St. George (American vernacular architecture and material culture), and Liliane Weissberg (critical theory, Frankfurt School, photography).