Leah Pires

Leah Pires
Assistant Instructional Professor
Pronouns: she/her/hers

Assistant Instructional Professor, Master of Arts Program in the Humanities, Department of Art History, The College

I am an art historian and curator whose work focuses on the politics of representation in modern and contemporary art. My current book project, Finessing the Frame, looks at the intersection of art and politics in New York circa 1980. It shows how, amidst the birth of postmodernism, Louise Lawler and her contemporaries reimagined critique as a tactic that must come from within power structures themselves—a move that I call finesse. This project reflects my broader investment in questions of gender, race, and subjectivity in modern and contemporary art. My parallel work as a curator and critic brings this historical research into the present. I have curated exhibitions at the Museum Reinickendorf in Berlin, Shanaynay in Paris, the Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University, and Miguel Abreu Gallery in New York, and my writing on contemporary art has appeared in Triple Canopy4 ColumnsArt in America, and numerous museum catalogues.

Collaborating with artists on public projects is an important part of my practice. For example, I am a member of Coop Fund, an experimental cooperative funding platform, and I co-founded Museums Outside/In, a series of art workshops for incarcerated men and women taught at the Rikers Island Jail by artist-educators from the Studio Museum in Harlem and El Museo del Barrio. My work has been supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from Brown University’s Pembroke Center and a Public Humanities fellowship from Humanities New York. I earned a PhD in Art History from Columbia University and completed the Whitney Independent Study Program. Before joining the University of Chicago, I taught art history and theory at Bennington College, Brown University, Columbia University, and Providence College.