Irene Small  Assistant Professor


Irene Small

Assistant ProfessorContemporary Art and Criticism


Ph.D., Yale University, 2008

Irene V. Small teaches modern and contemporary art and criticism with a transnational focus. Her areas of specialization include experimental practices of the 1960s and ’70s, and art and theory in Latin America, particularly Brazil. Her book, Hélio Oiticica: Folding the Frame, examines the production of the Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica, who worked in Rio de Janeiro, London, and New York from the mid-1950s through the late 1970s. In particular, the book examines discourses of developmentalism and organic processes of emergence as they intersect in the articulation of a participatory art paradigm in mid-1960s Brazil. Small’s recent essays have considered autopoiesis and medium specificity and the historiography and ideology of the Brazilian avant-garde. Her research has been supported by a number of fellowships and grants, including the Getty Research Foundation, the Dedalus Foundation, the Creative Capital and Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant, the Lemann Institute of Brazilian Studies, and the Research Board of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she was an assistant professor of art history from 2009 to 2012.

As a curator, Small organized Verbivocovisual: Brazilian Concrete Poetry at Sterling Memorial Library, Yale University, in 2006, and co-curated Multitude at Artists Space, New York City, in 2002. She contributed essays to the award-winning exhibition catalogue Picasso and the Allure of Language (Yale University Art Gallery, 2009) and in 2013 co-curated Blind Field, an exhibition of emerging and mid-career artists working in Brazil, which was presented at the Krannert Art Museum and the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum.

She is a member of the São Paulo–based research platform Fórum Permanente of the Institute of Advanced Studies, University of São Paulo. At Princeton, she is member of the executive committees of the Program in Media and Modernity and the Gauss Seminars in Criticism. She is an affiliated faculty member of the Program in Latin American Studies and the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.

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Teaching Interests

Professor Small teaches courses on modernism and contemporary art in a global context. She regularly teaches a survey of contemporary art since 1950, as well as selected topics in 20th and 21st centuries, and Latin American art. Her graduate seminars have treated temporalities of art, problems of methodology and interpretation, relationality and the social implications of form. Her courses often aim to engage actual works of art, whether in campus collections, area museums, or artists’ studios.

Current Research

In addition to a larger project focused on the behaviors and temporalities of form, Professor Small is at work on two articles that treat media-based practices in 1970s Brazil: one examines the political potential of structures of ecstatic mimicry in the photographs of Carlos Vergara; the other considers the typed drawings of the Swiss-Brazilian artist Mira Schendel in relation to the nomadic philosopher Vilém Flusser’s notion of the “technical image.”

Selected Publications

Hélio Oiticica: Folding the Frame (University of Chicago Press, 2016).

Pigment pur and the Corpo da Côr: Post-painterly Practice and Transmodernity” October 152 (Spring 2015).

“Live Streaming:  Documentary Strategies in Brazilian Art and Activism,” Artforum (May 2014).

“Towards a Deliterate Cinema: Hélio Oiticica’s & Neville D’Almeida’s Block-Experiences in Cosmococa-Program in Progress, 1973,” in Performativity (Living Collections Catalogue) (Walker Art Center, 2014).

“Medium Aspecificity/Autopoietic Form,” in Contemporary Art: 1989 to the Present, ed. Alexander Dumbadze and Suzanne Hudson (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013).

Blind Field, exhibition catalogue, coauthored with Tumelo Mosaka (Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2013).

“Exit and Impasse: Ferreira Gullar and the ‘New History’ of the Last Avant-Garde,” Third Text 26.1 (January 2012).

“Openings: Matheus Rocha Pitta,” Artforum (Summer 2011).

“Believing in Art: The Votive Structures of Conceptual Art,” Res: Anthropology and Aesthetics 55/56 (Spring/Fall 2009).

“Morphology in the Studio: Hélio Oiticica at the Museu Nacional,” Getty Research Journal 1 (February 2009).