Irene V. Small  Associate Professor


Irene V. Small

Associate 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, abstraction, and art and theory in Latin America, particularly Brazil. Her book, Hélio Oiticica: Folding the Frame (University of Chicago Press, 2016) examines the practice 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, it examines discourses of developmentalism and organic processes of emergence as they intersect in the articulation of a participatory art paradigm in mid-1960s Brazil. Recent essays have considered Oiticica’s last years in Rio de Janeiro (accompanying the 2016-2017 retrospective of his work); the Brazilian avant-garde movement Neoconcretism and the historiographic interventions of critics such as Ronaldo Brito and Ferreira Gullar; pigment and post-painterly practice; the concepts of medium specificity (or aspecificity) and autopoietic form; and social sculpture in the wake of the “expanded field.” Small has also written about contemporary artists in catalogue essays and publications such as Artforum, including on the artists Allora & Calzadilla, Gabriel Sierra, Zilia Sánchez, and Matheus Rocha Pitta. Her research has been supported by a number of fellowships and grants, including the Graham Foundation, 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.

As a curator, Small co-organized Blind Field, an exhibition of emerging and mid-career artists working in Brazil, presented at the Krannert Art Museum and the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum in 2013, and Multitude, a group exhibition thematizing proliferation and mutability at Artists Space, New York City, in 2002. In 2006, she curated Verbivocovisual: Brazilian Concrete Poetry at Sterling Memorial Library, and in 2015 led a student-curated exhibition, From Frame to Life: Experiential Activation, at the Princeton University Art Museum.

At Princeton, she is member of the executive committees of the Program in Media and Modernity and the Gauss Seminars in Criticism, and an affiliated faculty member of the Program in Latin American Studies and the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. She currently holds the Harold Willis Dodds Presidential Preceptorship.

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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 century art, 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, artists’ studios in New York, or even international exhibitions of contemporary art.

Current Research

Professor Small is currently at work on a new book that takes as its point of departure the Brazilian artist Lygia Clark’s notion of the “organic line.” In addition, she is at work on several articles that treat media-based practices in Brazil: one examines the political potential of structures of ecstatic mimicry in Carlos Vergara’s photographs of the carnival bloco Cacique de Ramos; another 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”; a third treats the proto-photographic experiments of the 19th century inventor Hércules Florence through rubrics of remediation and digitalization.

Selected Publications

“Insertions into Historiographic Circuits” October No 161 (Summer 2017): 69-88.    

“Permanent Evolution: Hélio Oiticica and the Return to Rio 1978-1980” in Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium, exh. cat. (Pittsburgh: Carnegie Museum of Art, Art Institute of Chicago, Whitney Museum, 2016).

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).