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 projects at MoMA concerned collection and acquisitions research, culminating in Among Others: Blackness at MoMA, conceived and co-edited with Charlotte Barat.
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 both art history and studio settings; pandemic alienations; and the world-work engaged art writing might seek to do.
His book-length publications include seven titles. Four are monographs: Charles Ray: Adam and Eve (Gregory R. Miller and Co., forthcoming September 2023); 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), which was a 2020 PROSE Award finalist, a New York Times Notable Book, and received recognition as an Art News Best Book of the Decade; 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 American Academy in Rome, 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 "Unavoidable Nature," in Woven Histories: Textiles and Modern Abstraction (National Gallery of Art, 2023); "Hopper's Welcome," in Edward Hopper's New York (Whitney Museum of American Art, 2022); “Course, Track, Flow,” in Zoe Leonard: Al río/To the river (MUDAM, 2022); “The Fluid Part” in Walter Price: Pearl Lines (Camden Art Centre, 2022); “Get on the Floor,” in Silke Otto-Knapp: In the Waiting Room (Renaissance Society, 2021); “The Talking at Money” in Six Scripts for NOT I (LACMA, 2020); “A Way beyond Art” in Rachel Harrison Life Hack (Whitney Museum of American Art, 2019); and, “The Dome as Fact and Façade” in Martin Puryear: Liberty/Libertá (U.S. Pavillion, 2019 Venice Biennale). 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 the 2022 West Memorial Lecture at the Stanford Humanities Center. He will be at the American Academy in Rome as an invited Resident in the History of Art in 2024.