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Jordana Saggese

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Associate Professor, American Art, Art History and Archaeology

(301) 405-1488

4220 Parren J. Mitchell Art-Sociology Building
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Education

Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Research Expertise

African American/African Diaspora
Critical Theory
Modern and Contemporary
Photography
Race/Ethnicity
The Americas
Visual Culture

Curriculum Vitae

Dr. Jordana Moore Saggese is an Associate Professor of American Art and the current Editor-in-Chief for the College Art Association's Art Journal. Her research focuses on modern and contemporary American art, with an emphasis on expressions of Blackness. Across Dr. Saggese's research projects there is an investment in the line between popular culture and critical culture. This investment manifests in the subjects and methodologies of her research, which draw equally from visual culture studies and the traditional history of art, as well as in the dissemination of findings across both academic and general audiences. Dr. Saggese's art history capitalizes on the cultural appeal of the popular in order to speak back to the exclusionary tactics of cultural institutions, while also making connections between pop culture and the reality of life in the United States.

Professor Saggese's first two books have centered on the work of the contemporary American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-88) - one of the most popular yet critically overlooked artists of the twentieth century. Reading Basquiat: Exploring Ambivalence in American Art  (University of California Press, 2014), the first (and still only) monographic study of Basquiat to be published by an academic press, reconsiders the artist's place in the history of modern American art. This research also expands the parameters of aesthetic discourse to consider the impact of Basquiat's musical and literary interests on his working protocols as a painter. More than a monographic study, Reading Basquiat uses the work of one artist as a means to engage larger issues concerning the reception of Black artists, as well as debates over key artistic practices of the late twentieth century, including appropriation and expressive painting. This book was recognized as an Exceptional First Book by the PEN Center USA in 2015, and will be reissued in paperback in April 2021.

Professor Saggese's forthcoming book The Jean-Michel Basquiat Reader: Writings, Interviews and Critical Responses will be published by the University of California Press as part of the award-winning ""Documents of Contemporary Art"" series, edited by Jack Flam, in March 2021. Until now, the sustained study of this artist has been inhibited by the lack of a dedicated archive, as well as access to specific works. The majority of extant scholarship exists in the form of exhibition catalogues with limited circulation, while what remains of the artist's personal records and papers is divided between private collections and the artist's estate. Through a combination of interviews with the artist, hard-to-find articles, and previously unpublished research conducted during the course of Professor Saggese's dissertation and first book, The Jean-Michel Basquiat Reader provides a full picture of the artist's views on art and culture, his working process, as well as the critical significance of his work both then and now.

In addition to these two books, Professor Saggese has continued to publish on Basquiat in both academic outlets as well as in catalogues for exhibitions in New York, London, Germany, Montreal, and Paris. She has lectured recently on this research at both Columbia and Princeton Universities, given interviews for public radio in the U.S. and the UK, and currently serves as a consulting advisor for a forthcoming exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. You can see a Ted-Ed video on Basquiat (with a script by Dr. Saggese) here.

Saggese's current book project Game On: Boxing, Race, and Masculinity maps the visual terrain of racial ideology in the United States, paying particular attention to the intersecting discourses of blackness, masculinity, and sport in the late nineteenth century. This new research has been supported by an Alisa Mellon Bruce Senior Visiting Fellowship at Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. and by the University of Maryland's Independent Scholarship, Research, and Creativity Awards (ISRCA).Professor Saggese has also published additional essays and reviews in Art Journal, The International Review of African-American Art, Nka: The Journal of Contemporary Art, exposure, and Artforum.

Professor Saggese's teaching is informed by her interests in the history of photography, print culture, abstraction, conceptual art, performance art, post-colonial theory, and disability studies. Most classes rely on the rich resources of the DC Metro area - particularly galleries and museums - to bring the history of art into real time and space for students. For undergraduate students Professor Saggese offers courses in American art (from the colonial period to the present), African American art, and critical race art history. At the graduate level she currently teaches the required methods seminar for the department as well as special topics seminars in American Art (e.g., The Athletic Turn: Sports in American Art in Fall 2019).

Graduate Supervision

Professor Saggese is interested in supervising graduate research on gender, race, sexuality or class in American art or visual culture from the late nineteenth century to the present, as well as projects on Modern or Contemporary American art or visual culture more broadly. She welcome inquiries from prospective students for MA and PhD study.

Personal Website: www.drsaggese.com

Awards & Grants

Independent Scholarly Research and Creativity Award

An award from the University Provost and the Vice President for Research to support my third book project "Game On: Boxing, Race, and Masculinity"

Art History and Archaeology

Lead: Jordana Saggese
Dates: -
Book Project: The concept of race organizes our national, political, and social lives. Yet its legibility depends almost exclusively on visual perception. The images of Black men that circulate in the public sphere often function to shore up ideologies around both race and masculinity. Drawing connections between sports history and visual studies, Game On: Boxing, Race, and Masculinity maps the visual terrain of racist ideology in the United States, paying particular attention to the intersecting discourses of Blackness, masculinity, and sport. Game On uniquely brings together a unique social history of the white middle class in the late nineteenth century, combining a history of boxing in the United States with a visual history of images and objects from this period to produce an analysis of the racist and gendered stereotypes these representations produce. This book shows how images of Black male athletes play a key role in building, modifying, and even naturalizing constructs of race and gender for twentieth- and twenty-first-century audiences.

Alisa Mellon Bruce Senior Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts

The Paul Mellon and Ailsa Mellon Bruce Senior Fellowships are intended to support research in the history, theory, and criticism of the visual arts of any geographical area and of any period.

Art History and Archaeology

Lead: Jordana Saggese
Dates: -
The Paul Mellon and Ailsa Mellon Bruce Senior Fellowships are intended to support research in the history, theory, and criticism of the visual arts of any geographical area and of any period.

Digital

"The Chaotic Brilliance of the Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat"

Learn about the life of American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, from his start as part of graffiti duo SAMO to his rise as an internationally renowned painter.

Art History and Archaeology

Lead: Jordana Saggese
Dates:
Learn about the life of American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, from his start as part of graffiti duo SAMO to his rise as an internationally renowned painter. A Ted-Ed Video.

Publications

The Jean-Michel Basquiat Reader: Writings, Interviews, and Critical Responses

The first comprehensive collection of the words and works of a movement-defining artist.

Art History and Archaeology

Lead: Jordana Saggese
Dates:
The Jean-Michel Basquiat Reader: Writings, Interviews, and Critical Responses
Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988) burst onto the art scene in the summer of 1980 as one of approximately one hundred artists exhibiting at the 1980 Times Square Show in New York City. By 1982, at the age of twenty-one, Basquiat had solo exhibitions in galleries in Italy, New York, and Los Angeles. Basquiat's artistic career followed the rapid trajectory of Wall Street, which boomed from 1983 to 1987. In the span of just a few years, this Black boy from Brooklyn had become one of the most famous American artists of the 1980s. The Jean-Michel Basquiat Reader is the first comprehensive sourcebook on the artist, closing gaps that have until now limited the sustained study and definitive archiving of his work and its impact. Eight years after his first exhibition, Basquiat was dead, but his popularity has only grown. Through a combination of interviews with the artist, criticism from the artist's lifetime and immediately after, previously unpublished research by the author, and a selection of the most important critical essays on the artist's work, this collection provides a full picture of the artist's views on art and culture, his working process, and the critical significance of his work both then and now.

"Writing Black Archives: African-American Art History in Real Time"

Session at the CAA Annual Conference (online) co-organized with Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, Harvard University, and moderated by Nicole Fleetwood.

Art History and Archaeology

Lead: Jordana Saggese
Non-ARHU Contributor(s): Sarah Elizabeth Lewis
Dates:
This session further explores the challenges and the potential within writing African American art history in the absence of archives. Of particular interest is the reclamation of overlooked histories as reparative gestures. Each presentation reveals the historic failures of the discipline to recognize black artists, as well as the deep tensions one must confront working with artists and their estates. We also consider the labor that goes into archive-building projects. Such work does not qualify as original scholarship under the requirements for academic promotions, and institutional commitments to building these archives and collections are often temporary. We ask, therefore, not only what it means to perform this work, but what are its consequences.

"Diversity and Difference"

An edited collection of essays concerning issues of diversity in higher education published in Art Journal.

Art History and Archaeology

Lead: Jordana Saggese
Dates:
For the Spring 2016 issue of Art Journal, I edited a collection of essays and a roundtable discussion concerning issues of diversity in higher education. In my introduction, I argue that the complex experience of identity in the contemporary world has yet to produce a truly intersectional scholarship—that is, one that considers the relationships among gender, race, ability, and so forth, as well as how the theoretical frameworks from one particular camp (e.g., queer studies) might be mobilized by scholars outside that field. The very terms that we seek to expand begin to constrain us and even potentially reinforce the marginality of those positions we hope to move to the center of our art making and our scholarship.

Jean-Michel Basquiat's "Horn Players" (1983)

A short essay on the work of Jean-Michel Basuiat for the new collection of AP Art History Resources on Khan Academy.

Art History and Archaeology

Lead: Jordana Saggese
Dates:
Writing for the general public is a high priority for me. I was excited by the opportunity to write about Basquiat for the new collection of AP Art History Resources on Khan Academy. This was a chance to revise many of celebrity-focused opinions of his work and to communicate his accomplishments as a painter to a new audience.

Reading Basquiat: Exploring Ambivalence in American Art

The first monographic study of one of the post popular artists of the late twentieth century.

Art History and Archaeology

Lead: Jordana Saggese
Dates:
Reading Basquiat: Exploring Ambivalence in American Art
Before his death at the age of twenty-seven, Jean-Michel Basquiat completed nearly 2,000 works. These unique compositions—collages of text and gestural painting across a variety of media—quickly made Basquiat one of the most important and widely known artists of the 1980s. Reading Basquiat provides a new approach to understanding the range and impact of this artist’s practice, as well as its complex relationship to several key artistic and ideological debates of the late twentieth century, including the instability of identity, the role of appropriation, and the boundaries of expressionism. Jordana Moore Saggese argues that Basquiat, once known as “the black Picasso,” probes not only the boundaries of blackness but also the boundaries of American art. Weaving together the artist’s interests in painting, writing, and music, this groundbreaking book expands the parameters of aesthetic discourse to consider the parallels Basquiat found among these disciplines in his exploration of the production of meaning. Most important, Reading Basquiat traces the ways in which Basquiat constructed large parts of his identity—as a black man, as a musician, as a painter, and as a writer—via the manipulation of texts in his own library.

"The Pictures Generation"

A short essay for the online education platform Khan Academy on the group of artists known as "The Pictures Generation."

Art History and Archaeology

Lead: Jordana Saggese
Dates:
A short essay for the online education platform Khan Academy on the group of artists known as "The Pictures Generation." I introduce the main critical concerns of these artists, as well as their legacy for contemporary art. Artists discussed include Sherrie Levine and Carrie Mae Weems.

"Cut and Mix": Jean-Michel Basquiat in Retrospect"

A review of the 2010 Basquiat retrospective at the Fondation Beyeler.

Art History and Archaeology

Lead: Jordana Saggese
Dates:
"Cut and Mix": Jean-Michel Basquiat in Retrospect"
In 1992, during the first retrospective of Basquiat's work, Richard Marshall lamented: "Jean-Michel Basquiat first became famous for his art, then he became famous for being famous, then he became famous for being infamous—a succession of reputations that often overshadowed the seriousness and significance of the art he produced." The artist's place is even now much more secure in pop culture than in academe, so the Basquiat retrospective that opened at the Fondation Beyeler in 2010 and subsequently traveled to the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris was not just a museum show to celebrate the artist's fiftieth birthday but also an argument for Basquiat's place in art history. Following precedent, this latest exhibition focused on the artist's larger, midcareer canvases, but this essay reads several of Basquiat's small-scale, early works as marked by often-overlooked inquiries into modernism, epistemology, and the potential of appropriation.

"The Myth of Neutrality"

This essay reconsiders the visual rhetoric of documentary strategies in conceptual art photgoraphy.

Art History and Archaeology

Lead: Jordana Saggese
Dates:
"The Myth of Neutrality"
In 1969, Joseph Kosuth proclaimed that “aesthetics…are conceptually irrelevant to art.” More than 35 years later, discussions of conceptual art still focus on the ideas rather than on the material documentation, placing these ideas within a particular social or political discourse. Artists and scholars have continued to argue that the photograph, one of the most common objects used by these artists, is almost arbitrary, with no artistic value. Nancy Foote summarizes this argument in her 1976 essay “The Anti-Photographers,” where she states that conceptual art “strips the photograph of its artistic pretensions, changing it from a mirror to a window. What it reveals becomes important, not what it is.” Due to the context of its production and exhibition, many continue to read the photography of the conceptual artists as neutral, ignoring any artistic possibilities...."

Talk

"A Conversation with Peter Williams"

Artists' Legacy Foundation presents a conversation between 2020 Artist Award recipient Peter Williams and Dr. Jordana Moore Saggese, associate professor of American art at the University of Maryland.

Art History and Archaeology

Lead: Jordana Saggese
Dates:
This talk was part of the award ceremony for the Artist Award, granted by the Artist Legacy Foundation to recognize and honor accomplishments of an outstanding visual artist whose primary medium is painting or sculpture.

"Basquiat’s Currency: Art, Blackness, and the Market"

Invited paper for the conference “Political Values, Market Values, Art Values: The Ethics of American Art in the 1980s."

Art History and Archaeology

Lead: Jordana Saggese
Dates: -
While few have questioned Basquiat’s status in the international art market, scholars have yet to determine the degree to which this has eclipsed his relationship to the critical “canon.” This lecture considers Basquiat’s engagement with the market, or more explicitly, his interrogation of the relationship between commercial and critical success. As an artist whose career closely followed the explosive trajectory of the 1980s bull market, Basquiat was caught on the wrong side of a critical debate that privileged the de-commodification of the art object. Through a careful analysis of the artist’s works and methods I frame Basquiat’s appropriative impulses and his obsession with the signs and symbols of commodification as part of a larger interrogation of the relationship between international market appeal and critical acclaim. Moreover, I argue that the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat encourages us to consider the specificity and the complexity of contemporary modes of recognition and success in a global art history whose parameters are increasingly defined by the art market.