Joshua Shannon is a specialist in the history and theory of art since 1945. His areas of research and teaching interest include photography, art and the city, the landscape, modernist realism, and contemporary visual culture. Professor Shannon's first book, The Disappearance of Objects: New York Art and the Rise of the Postmodern City (Yale University Press, 2009) considers how art in New York understood the transformation of the economy and of everyday life around 1960. A finalist for the book prize of the Phillips Collection's Center for the Study of Modern Art, the book also won a General Research Board Award from the University of Maryland and a Wyeth Foundation Publication Grant from the College Art Association. (Excerpts from reviews are available here.)
Professor Shannon’s second book, The Recording Machine: Art and Fact during the Cold War (forthcoming, Yale University Press, 2017) offers a new understanding of the pivotal turn in photography and the visual arts around 1968. Revealing an oddly stringent realism in the period’s art, this book traces many artists’ rejection of essential truths in favor of surface appearances. Dubbing this tendency factualism, Professor Shannon illuminates its relationship to the Cold War’s preoccupation with data as well as the longer rise of a pervasive culture of fact. The book focuses on the United States and West Germany, closely reading works ranging from conceptual photography and earthworks to photorealist painting and abstraction. The Recording Machine is the winner of a Terra Foundation for American Art International Publication Grant.
Professor Shannon has also published essays and reviews in American Art, The Art Bulletin, The Journal of Modern Craft, Modernism/Modernity, October, and Raritan, as well as in major exhibition catalogues and edited volumes. He has lectured across the United States and Europe. In 2007, he co-founded both the Society of Contemporary Art Historians and Contemporary Art Think Tank, and he served in the leadership of both organizations until 2012. In addition to other awards, Professor Shannon has held the Terra Visiting Professorship at the Freie Universität Berlin, the Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the University of Michigan, the Patricia and Phillip Frost Fellowship at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and two General Research Board Fellowships at the University of Maryland.
In 2012 Professor Shannon founded The Potomac Center for the Study of Modernity, an interdisciplinary and inter-institutional research initiative hosting events in Washington, DC.
Professor Shannon earned his Ph.D. in the history of art at the University of California, Berkeley in 2003 and joined the University of Maryland faculty in 2005. His teaching is informed by the social history of art, by postmodern theories of culture and representation, and by the practice of close looking. Topics of his recent graduate seminars have included Modernism and the Desert, Conceptual Art, Photorealism, Methods of Art History, and Models of History in Contemporary Art.