Darby English


On leave until January 2024

Darby English is the Carl Darling Buck Professor of Art History. English joined Chicago’s faculty in 2003 and received the University’s Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, the nation’s oldest such prize, in 2010. He is associate faculty in both the University’s Department of Visual Arts and its Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture. From 2014 to 2020, English was Adjunct Curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

English’s teaching and advising address subjects in cultural studies as well as modern and contemporary American and European art produced since the First World War. His current research centers on Noah Purifoy (1917-2004), whose manifold commitment to “De-Mystify the Art Process” took shape during the August 1965 Watts Rebellion in Los Angeles. Also nearing completion is a short book, entitled “Uptake,” on ego, otherness, and habit (‘method’) in intellectual work with art; its argument grows from reflections on teaching in art history and studio settings, as well as on the world-work of art writing.

His book-length publications include six titles. Three are monographs: To Describe a Life: Notes from the Intersection of Art and Race Terror (Yale, 2019), 1971: A Year in the Life of Color (University of Chicago, 2016), and How to See a Work of Art in Total Darkness (MIT, 2007). Three are coedited volumes: Among Others: Blackness at MoMA with Charlotte Barat (Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2019); Art History and Emergency with David Breslin (Yale, 2016); and Kara Walker: Narratives of a Negress with Ian Berry, Vivian Patterson, and Mark Reinhardt (MIT, 2002 and Rizzoli, 2007). For this work, English has been the recipient of fellowships and awards from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts/Creative Capital Foundation, the Clark Art Institute, Getty Research Institute, Institute for Advanced Study (IAS), National Endowment for the Humanities, National Humanities Center, and the College Art Association, which awarded English the 2020 Frank Jewett Mather Award for To Describe a Life. The same publication also received the 2020 Book Prize from the Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present (ASAP).

A periodic contributor to exhibition catalogues, he has recently published “Course, Track, Flow,” in Zoe Leonard: Al río/To the river (2022); “The Fluid Part” in Walter Price: Pearl Lines (2022); “Get on the Floor,” in Silke Otto-Knapp: In the Waiting Room (2021); “The Talking at Money” in Six Scripts for NOT I (2020); “A Way beyond Art” in Rachel Harrison Life Hack (2019); and, “The Dome as Fact and Façade” in Martin Puryear: Liberty/Libertá (2019). His short-form writing has appeared in Art Bulletin, Artforum, Art Journal Open, ARTMargins, caareviews, The Guardian, The International Review of African-American Art and other venues. English is a subject of What It Means to Write about Art: Interviews with Art Critics (2018).

English delivered “Scheme and Otherness in Our Work with Art” as the West Memorial Lecture at the Stanford Humanities Center in 2022.



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