Maika Pollack

Pollack 1 cropped

Maika Pollack

19th-Century, Modern, and Contemporary


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. She currently teaches as a visiting assistant professor of art history at Sarah Lawrence College with a focus on contemporary curatorial practice, the history of photography, and 19th- and 20th-century art history.

Upcoming exhibitions include “Jared Bark: Photobooth Works, 1969–1976” (2015), on the artist’s work in the intersection of photography and performance in downtown New York, with an accompanying catalogue. Her catalogue essays include those for PS1 Contemporary Art Center and the Château de Nyon, Geneva. Maika was a curatorial assistant at PS1 Contemporary Art Center from 2000 to 2002, where she organized the “Warm Up” series and programs in contemporary dance and coedited a catalogue on temporality and video art, “Loop: Alles auf Anfang” (2001). 

Talks and Papers

“‘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.