Raino Isto is a Ph.D. candidate and conceptual artist, studying modern and contemporary Eastern European art with Dr. Steven Mansbach. He is a graduate of Willamette University, where he studied art history and political theory. From 2009-2011 he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in southern Albania, and subsequently worked as communications coordinator at a non-profit community arts center in Oregon. He currently works as a coordinator at the Stamp Gallery, a contemporary art gallery at University of Maryland, and is a resident blogger at ARTMargins Online. His work has recently been shown in As Soon As I Open My Eyes I See A Monument and Building Conceptual Art Through Diligence and Frugality, both at the Laboratory Research Gallery. Isto's practice fuses performance, conceptual research, historical scholarship, and nomadic curatorial endeavors.
His research interests include theories and practices of global socialist realism (especially those developed in countries 'peripheral' to the Moscow center, such as the Balkans and East Asia); the relationship between history and memory in socialist-era monumental sculpture in Eastern Europe; animal studies and the spectacle of animal labor in late 19th-century and early 20th-century academic art and mass culture; the rhetoric of the body in mid- to late-20th-century science fiction, fantasy, and sword & sorcery cover illustration; and the intersections and conflicts of postcolonial theory, post-socialist interpretive frameworks, and object-oriented ontology. He has presented on the intersections of art, politics, and historical consciousness in the Balkans in the 20th century at several conferences in Europe and America, and he has collaborated with both artists and activists in both curatorial and creative capacities.