Maika Pollack

Ph.D., 2015


Maika Pollack works on 19th-century, modern, and contemporary art with a focus on 19th-century French art, the history of photography, and contemporary art and curatorial practice. Her research interests include color in fin-de-siècle French painting and photography, and works at the intersection of visual art, photography, poetry, and performance

Her dissertation, “Odilon Redon: The Color of the Unconscious” examines the influential color work of French Symbolist Odilon Redon (1840–1916). Redon established himself in the 1880s with black lithographs and charcoals, yet around 1890 he developed an extensive body of luminous oil paintings and pastels. Their astonishing colors puzzled commentators of his era including J. K. Huysmans, Paul Signac, and Leo Tolstoy. Drawing on a range of French and Dutch archival materials from the Archives Nationales, the Musée d’Orsay, and the Rijksmuseum as well as the André Mellerio archives at the Art Institute of Chicago, the dissertation examines Redon’s late color work as a means to address broader art-historical debates about the nature of color in the development of abstraction, the relationship of technology in fin-de-siècle representation, and the role of the spectator in viewing artwork.

Maika cofounded and owns SOUTHFIRST, a gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which for 15 years has presented experimental exhibitions of contemporary and recent historical art. Her exhibitions as a curator have frequently been reviewed in the New York Times, The New Yorker, The Brooklyn Rail, ArtForum, ArtNews, and other publications. Recent shows include “Susan Bee: Photograms and Altered Photos from the 1970s,” “Group Material: Three Unrealized Proposals,” and “Language Objects: Letters in Space, 1970–2013” (on the work of poet Robert Grenier). As a writer, she has written on contemporary art and curating for publications including Interview Magazine, the New York Times, ArtNews, and The Brooklyn Rail, and from 2011 to 2015 she was art critic for the New York Observer/GalleristNY.

Maika holds a B.A. in art history from Harvard, and an M.F.A. in creative writing from Columbia University. She has served since 2005 on the faculty for the Language and Thinking Program at Bard College. As an art historian, Pollack has taught postwar art at NYU.

Maika is currently Director and Chief Curator, John Young Museum of Art and University Galleries and Assistant Professor of Art History, Department of Art and Art History, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, where in addition to running the museum and art galleries she teaches 19th century European art history, the history of photography, modern art and curatorial studies.

Selected Publications

Talks and Papers

“Odilon Redon, Paul Gauguin, and Primitivist Color,” Art Bulletin, 102:3, 77-103, September, 2020.

“‘Unconscious Nature’: Odilon Redon’s Portraits of La Femme Nouvelle, 1899–1910” Association of Historians of Nineteenth-Century Art (AHNCA), Dahesh Museum, New York, May 2015.

“Bruce Conner: Portrait of Allen Ginsberg,” Whitney Museum of American Art, 99 Objects Series, New York, June 2015.

“Eyes Closed: Odilon Redon and Molyneux’s Problem,” Philadelphia Museum of Art Annual Conference, Philadelphia, April 2011.

 ”Artist-Run Galleries: Alternative Spaces” College Art Association Annual Conference, Chicago, IL, February 2010.

“Brion Gysin: Dream Machine,” New Museum Conference on the exhibition “Brion Gysin,” New York University, October 2011.

Selected Exhibition Reviews

“Painting Outside the Lines: New Shows at the Jewish Museum and EFA Project Space,” New York Observer, October 1, 2014.

“‘Christopher Williams: The Production Line of Happiness’ at Museum of Modern Art,” New York Observer, July 30, 2014.

“‘Living with Pop: A Reproduction of Capitalist Realism’ at Artists Space,” New York Observer, July 23, 2014.

“Not a Koons Person,” New York Observer, June 26, 2014.

“‘New Photography 2013’ at the Museum of Modern Art,” New York Observer, September 25 2013.

“‘NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star’ at the New Museum,” New York Observer, February 16, 2013.

“Interiors: ‘Edouard Vuillard: A Painter and His Muses, 1890–1940’ at the Jewish Museum and ‘Merlin Carpenter: Tate Café,’ at Reena Spaulings Fine Art,” New York Observer, June 5, 2012.

“Be Here Now: Eccentric Historicism Emerges at the 2012 Whitney Biennial,” New York Observer, February 28, 2012.

“Modernism You Can Wear to the Beach: Sonia Delaunay at Cooper-Hewitt,” New York Observer, April 11, 2011.