Tessa Paneth-Pollak


Tessa Paneth-Pollak



Tessa Paneth-Pollak is visiting assistant professor of modern/contemporary art in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design at Michigan State University, where she is also core faculty in the Center for Gender in a Global Context. Her research focuses on modern and contemporary art and theory, with a focus on prewar European modernism.

Tessa’s writing on artists ranging from Ad Reinhardt and Claud Cahun to Diane Simpson has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Big Red & Shiny, Modern Painters Magazine, and H-France. She is at work on her first book, titled Definite Means: Modernism's Cut-Outs, whose core analysis centers on the cut-out practices of three major modernist sculptors: Auguste Rodin, Hans (Jean) Arp, and Henri Matisse. Definite Means is a revision and expansion of the dissertation she wrote at Princeton under the supervision of Hal Foster and Rachael Z. DeLue (“Definite Means: Arp’s Cut-Outs, 1911-1930”). The book is the first study to tell the story of the cut-out in the twentieth century, to account for the cut-out’s significance in the artistic period of modernism, and to defamiliarize inherited narratives about collage and its prominence. It argues that artists turned to the cut-out (as opposed to collage) a means to answer urgent questions about the abstract artwork in the period and to negotiate some of modernism’s key dialectics—between the organic and the mechanistic and between vitality and violence.

She has also begun work on a second book project, titled Cuts from Below. This project develops her interest in the real spatial dimensions and social implications of cutting by analyzing the work of Kara Walker, Mark Bradford, and Robert Hodge through the lenses of spatial and racial division, violence, and resistance. 

Tessa’s research has been supported by Princeton’s Department of Art & Archaeology and an “ARP fellowship” from the Stiftung Arp e.V. During spring-summer 2016, Tessa was a visiting scholar at Dartmouth College’s Leslie Center for the Humanities and Department of Art of History. As a founding member of the Feminist Art & Architecture Collaborative (FAAC), together with Olga Touloumi, Martina Tanga, and Ana María León, she has also been the recipient of a Mellon Grant from the Global Architectural History Teaching Collaborative (GAHTC).

Before coming to MSU, Tessa taught American and European art spanning the 16th to 21st centuries at Princeton and at Harvard. Tessa received her Ph.D. from Princeton in 2015, and a B.A. in art history and English from Barnard College (Columbia University) in 2007.

Selected Publications

FAAC- Feminist Art and Architecture Collaborative, “Counterplanning from the Classroom,” Field Note, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. Forthcoming, September 2017.

“Sartor Resartus.” Diane Simpson. Chicago: Corbett v. Dempsey, 2016. Exhibition catalogue. Edited reprint.

“Jennifer L. Shaw, Reading Claude Cahun’s Disavowals. Farnham, Surrey and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2013.” Book review. H-France 16, no. 157 (August 2016).

 “Sartor Resartus: Diane Simpson at the ICA Boston.” Big, Red, & Shiny (February, 3, 2016).

“Understanding Reinhardt’s Newsprint Collage,” The Brooklyn Rail. Special Issue: Ad Reinhardt Centennial, 1913-2013, eds. Barbara Rose and Alex Bacon (December 2013)

“Société Anonyme: Modernism for America // December 12, 2012-July 14, 2013,” Modern Painters Magazine (June 2013)

“Jean Arp: Blain|DiDonna // November 1 – December 11, 2012,” Modern Painters Magazine (March 2013)

Selected Talks

“Counterplanning from the Classroom.” The Parity Talks II Symposium, ETH-Zürich, with Olga Touloumi, Martina Tanga, and Ana María León, March 2017.

“La Désolation”: The Violence of Pruning and Matisse’s Cut-Outs,” delivered on “Dialectics of Procedural Violence” panel, organized by Jaleh Mansoor and Vanessa Parent, CAA, Feb 2017.

“Contested Spaces: Kitchen & Closet.” Final grant presentation at annual Global Architectural History Teaching Collaborative workshop at University of Washington, Seattle. With Ana María León, Martina Tanga, and Olga Touloumi. October 2016.

“Definite Means: Modernism’s Cut-Outs.” Department of Art History, Dartmouth College. April 2016.

“‘Scissor-Running Topsy’: Kara Walker’s Cuts From Below.” Leslie Center for the Humanities, Dartmouth College. April 2016.

“Impressing the Public: The ‘Negative Intelligences’ of Peale’s Museum,” delivered at “Techniques of Reversal” panel, organized by Jennifer L. Roberts and David Pullins. CAA, New York, February 2015.

“Enclosure/Disclosure: Hans Arp’s Cardboard Reliefs,” Gallery Talk, Princeton University Art Museum. March 2012.

“Hans Arp’s Typographical Microbes,” Symposium: Reconsidering the Historiography of the Historical Avant-Gardes, CUNY Graduate Center. April 2011.