Tessa Paneth-Pollak

Ph.D., 2015


Tessa Paneth-Pollak is Director of the LookOut! Gallery and other Exhibition Spaces in the Residential College in Arts & Humanities at Michigan State University (MSU) and a Core Faculty Member in the Center for Gender in a Global Context at MSU. She joined RCAH after teaching for three years in the Art, Art History, & Design department at MSU. Tessa’s research concerns modern and contemporary art and theory, with a focus on prewar European modernism. She is currently working on a book titled Definite Means: Modernism's Cut-Outs. The book tells the story of the under-acknowledged device of the cut-out in the European twentieth century. The book distinguishes between cut-outs — which privilege shape, color, and the unity of the organic (particularly feminine) body and the artwork alike — and the more heroically celebrated innovation of collage. The key figures in this story are the artists Auguste Rodin, Hans (Jean) Arp, and Henri Matisse, all of whom practice forms of cutting that stand aloof from the main line of collage history and that face questions about the status of the organic in modernity.

 A second book project, Cuts From Below, develops her interest in cutting’s ability to intervene in real space and social and power relations. Cutting is a gesture that typically comes from above—from a position of power or leverage. But can it be practiced from below? This book argues that it can, through a look at three contemporary American artists—Kara Walker, Mark Bradford, and Robert Hodge—whose work harnesses the constitutive power of cutting to intervene in a history of U.S. race relations that has historically reserved the prerogative to make images and arrange space for whites.

Tessa has a Ph.D. in Modern and Contemporary Art from Princeton University and a B.A. in Art History and English from Barnard College. Her writing has appeared in Art History, Journal for the Society of Architectural Historians; Big Red & Shiny; The Brooklyn Rail; and Modern Painters Magazine. Her research has been supported by fellowships from Princeton University and the Stiftung Arp. She is also a founding member of the Feminist Art & Architecture Collaborative (FAAC), together with Olga Touloumi, Martina Tanga, and Ana María León.

Selected Publications

“Hans Arp’s counter-typography,” Article. Forthcoming in Art History.

“‘Strange Addition’: The ‘Apocryphal’ Cardboard Reliefs,” in The Nature of Arp, ed. Catherine Craft. Dallas, TX: Nasher Sculpture Center, 2018.

Paneth-Pollak, Tessa, Ana María León, Martina Tanga, and Olga Touloumi (FAAC- Feminist Art and Architecture Collaborative), “Counterplanning from the Classroom,” Field Note. Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians Vol. 76, No. 3 (September 2017)

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