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The Picassos of Art History

The Picassos of Art History
Karen Lang, associate professor of art history at USC College, left, and John Pollini, professor of art history and history at the College

Since its founding in 1913, The Art Bulletin has for the first time tapped a West Coast scholar to lead art history’s premiere journal in the English language.

That scholar is USC College‘s Karen Lang, associate professor of art history, who earlier this year became editor in chief and will produce her first issue in late June. Published by the College Art Association in New York, the quarterly journal features scholarly articles and critical reviews in all areas and periods of art history.

The association will celebrate its centennial anniversary in 2011. Its premiere, roughly 125-page journal contains 12,000- to 20,000-word articles written by scholars worldwide.

“I am being recognized with this rare honor and so is my institution,” said Lang, whose research focuses on modern German art and aesthetic theory. “This is another way USC College is coming into the limelight.”

Joining the College in 1999, Lang has been on the association’s editorial board since July 2009. She was asked to apply to the board during her time as a Getty Research Institute Scholar in Residence.

During her three-year term, she will review the up to 225 essays submitted per year and select about 20 for print consideration. She also will introduce a new feature, an editor’s introduction to each issue. This introduction will discuss each essay’s subject in relation to other articles in the journal and in light of the discipline of art history today.

She wants to personalize the scholarly journal and highlight the viewing experience of art by introducing a new feature that asks historians to describe in 1,000 words a work of art that greatly influenced them.

“It’s fascinating to learn who the person is behind the books,” Lang said of those who will be asked to write these short pieces. “We want to see what motivates them. It shows the human side of scholarship.”

Another of her many innovative ideas is “Notes From the Field,” a section in which eight art historians from vastly different fields each give their take on one topic — anthropomorphism, for example.

“I want to retain the supremely scholarly credentials of the journal and to leaven that a bit with fascinating features that do not require hours to read.”

Lang’s new post also benefits her students. Her Ph.D. student, Erin Sullivan, is acting as the journal’s editorial assistant.

“It’s wonderful to have a hand in shaping the field,” Lang said. “And learning firsthand what scholars in other areas are doing and helping to shape their research. I love being an editor.”

In other USC College Department of Art History news, John Pollini, professor of art history and history, was chosen from hundreds of nominees throughout the nation to be the Martha Sharp Joukowsky Lecturer. This is the most prestigious of the Archaeological Institute of America’s named lectureships.

Throughout the 2012-13 academic year, Pollini will deliver 12 lectures across the country.

“This is a great honor,” Pollini said. “Meeting new people will be great, and I’ll be traveling to some places I haven’t been before. I’ll be able to try out new ideas and get reactions from a variety of people.”

Pollini’s research focuses on methodologies of classical art and archaeology, ancient history, classical philology, epigraphy and numismatics. He also studies ancient religion, mythology, narratology, rhetoric and propaganda.

Over the years Pollini has excavated at the Greco-Roman site of Aphrodisias (Turkey) and the Etruscan site of Ghiaccio Forte (Italy), and he participated in the underwater survey of the port of Tarquinia (Italy). This summer he will direct excavations at Ostia Antica, the ancient port city of Rome, for USC College students.

The namesake of Pollini’s lectureship, Martha Sharp Joukowsky, is a retired Brown University archaeology professor. She is the daughter of the late American philanthropist Martha Ingham Dickie Sharo-Cogan, who along with her husband, Waitstill Sharp, helped hundreds of Jews escape Nazi persecution by sending them to America, Britain and France via Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic and Slovakia).

Brown University’s Artemis A.W. and Martha Sharp Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World promotes the investigation, understanding and enjoyment of the archaeology and art of the ancient Mediterranean, Egypt and Western Asia.

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