Common Ground

A Tribute to SVA’s Art Writing MFA

Featuring Debra Bricker Balken, Hakim Bishara, Michael Brenson, Phong H. Bui, Will Fenstermaker, Jessica Holmes, Emmanuel Iduma, Nancy Princenthal, Jennifer Kabat, Jennifer Krasinski, and David Levi Strauss in conversation with Charles Schultz and Ann C. Collins


1 p.m. Eastern / 10 a.m. Pacific

Rail Consulting Editor David Levi Strauss joins a panel of writers, scholars, and faculty in tribute to the MFA program in Art Writing at the School of Visual Arts in New York. We conclude with a poetry reading.

In this talk

This conversation grows out of David Levi Strauss’s feature In Memoriam: A Tribute to SVA’s Art Writing MFA in our July-Aug 2021 Issue →

Debra Bricker Balken

A portrait of Debra Bricker Balken
Independent curator and writer Debra Bricker Balken has organized numerous exhibitions on subjects relating to American modernism and contemporary art for major museums internationally. Her award-winning books include Philip Guston’s Poor Richard (2001), Abstract Expressionism: Movements in Modern Art (2005), as well as the Arthur Dove catalogue raisonné. She has been a recipient of fellowships from the Clark Art Institute, the Dedalus Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, Creative Capital, and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Arts. Her exhibition, Mark Tobey, Threading Light, organized by the Addison Gallery of American Art, opened at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection with the Venice Biennale in May 2017.

Hakim Bishara

A portrait of Hakim Bishara
Writer, curator, and artist Hakim Bishara is a staff writer for Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital Arts Writers Grant and he holds an MFA in art writing from the School of Visual Arts in New York.

Michael Brenson

A portrait of Michael Brenson
Photo by William Lamson
Art critic, scholar, and curator Michael Brenson was an art critic for the New York Times and has curated exhibitions at MoMA PS1 and the SculptureCenter. He has organized and moderated conferences or panels at the National Gallery of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Chazen Museum of Art, the Rockefeller Foundation, and New York’s Jewish Museum. He has been a Getty scholar, Guggenheim Fellow, Bogliasco Fellow, and Clark Fellow. He is a member of the sculpture faculty in Bard College’s Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts and a Visiting Senior Critic in the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design’s Department of Fine Arts.

Phong H. Bui

Photo of Phong Bui taken by Nicola Delorme
Photo by Nicola Delorme
Artist, writer, and independent curator Phong H. Bui is Publisher and Artistic Director of the Brooklyn Rail, the River Rail, Rail Editions, and Rail Curatorial Projects. From 2007 to 2010 he served as Curatorial Advisor at MoMA PS1.

Will Fenstermaker

Portrait drawing of Will Fenstermaker by Phong H. Bui
Portrait drawing of Will Fenstermaker by Phong H. Bui
New York-based art critic Will Fenstermaker is editor and producer at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he co-edits The Met’s online magazine. Will is a board member and secretary of the U.S. chapter of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA-USA). His writing on art, literature, and culture has been published in Artforum, BOMB, the Brooklyn Rail, Frieze, The Nation, The Paris Review Daily, and elsewhere.

Jessica Holmes

Jessica Holmes
New York area-based writer, editor, and critic Jessica Holmes has been rooted in the art world for the past twenty years. Among other outlets, her writing features regularly in BOMB, Hyperallergic, The Observer, and the Brooklyn Rail, where she also edits the ArTonic column. Jessica is also Editor-in-Chief of Degree Critical. She’s contributed to numerous exhibition catalogues; most recently major texts may be found in Calder: From the Stony River to the Sky (Hauser & Wirth) and Žilvinas Kempinas (Ikon Gallery). From 1999-2018 she worked for the Calder Foundation, including 6 years serving as its Deputy Director, where she wrote and lectured widely on Alexander Calder’s life and work. Jessica holds an MFA in art criticism and writing from SVA.

Emmanuel Iduma

A portrait of Emmanuel Iduma
Author Emmanuel Iduma is a writer of fiction and non-fiction. Born and raised in Nigeria, he has contributed essays and stories to journals, magazines, artists’ books, and exhibition catalogues. He is the author of A Stranger’s Pose and The Sound of Things to Come and Gambit: Newer African Writing and received a 2017 Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation Grant in arts writing for his blog A Sum of Encounters. In 2017, he was associate curator of the Nigerian pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

Jen Kabat

A portrait of Jen Kabat
Awarded a Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant for her criticism, Jennifer Kabat’s essays have appeared in Best American Essays, Granta, Harper’s, BOMB, Frieze, McSweeney’s, The New York Review of Books, Los Angeles Review of Books, VQR, The Believer and The White Review. Recently she received a Silvers Foundation Grant for “Night Shining,” a braided essay on war, weather, and climate change. She teaches in the Art Writing MFA at SVA and is on the advisory board for the poetry collective Ugly Duckling Presse and is the director of the AICA/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant Writing Workshop.

Jennifer Krasinski

A portrait of Jennifer Krasinski
Writer Jennifer Krasinski has written on the subject of art, film, video, and performance for numerous publications, such as Art In America, Spike Art Quarterly, Bidoun, N+1 Film Review, DIS Magazine, The Paris Review Blog, and the Village Voice. She is editorial director of digital at Artforum and is the author of Prop Tragedies (Wrath of Dynasty Press, 2010) and is an adjunct faculty member at New York University’s Steinhardt School, as well as a faculty member in the MFA Art Criticism and Writing at SVA, where she leads the MFA thesis seminar. She has also taught at The San Francisco Art Institute, University of Southern California, and Art Center College of Design.

Nancy Princenthal

Nancy Princenthal
A Brooklyn-based writer whose book Agnes Martin: Her Life and Art received the 2016 PEN America award for biography, Nancy Princenthal is the former Senior Editor of Art in America and has also contributed to Artforum, Parkett, the Village Voice, and the New York Times. She is the author of Hannah Wilke, Unspeakable Acts: Women, Art, and Sexual Violence in the 1970s, and a co-author of two recent books on women artists. Her essays have appeared in monographs on Shirin Neshat, Doris Salcedo, Robert Mangold and Alfredo Jaar, among many others. She has taught at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College; Princeton University; and Yale University, and is currently on the faculty of the School of Visual Arts.

David Levi Strauss

This is a pencil drawn portrait of Writer David Levi Strauss with a shaded black background, drawn by the Rail’s publisher Phong Bui.
Portrait drawing of David Levi Strauss by Phong H. Bui
One of the most urgent and critical art writers working today, David Levi Strauss’s work focuses on the intersection between image and text, and the third space that is created through that interaction. He is the author of Between the Eyes: Essays on Photography and Politics (Aperture 2012), Words Not Spent Today Buy Smaller Images Tomorrow: Essays on the Present and Future of Photography (Aperture 2014), and other books. His latest work is Co-Illusion: Dispatches from the End of Communication (MIT Press 2020) exposing a new ‘iconopolitics’ in which words and images lose their connection to reality.⁠ Find more about his books here →

Ann C. Collins

Ann C. Collins
Regular contributor to the Brooklyn Rail’s ArtSeen section, Ann C. Collins holds a BFA in Film and Television from NYU and an MFA in Art Criticism & Writing from the School of Visual Arts. Her work has also appeared in Degree Critical and Variables West. Her film editing projects include Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold; Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters, and the Netflix series The Pharmacist. Her film work has screened at Sundance, Berlin, and New York film festivals. She lives in Brooklyn.

Charles Schultz

Charles Schultz
Portrait drawing of Charles Schultz by Phong H. Bui
Writer and editor Charles Schultz is Managing Editor of the Brooklyn Rail.