Christine Mehring works on modern and contemporary art. Her research, writing, and teaching focus on abstraction, particularly the ways in which non-mimetic forms, colors, and non-traditional materials come to signify in relation to specific historical contexts; postwar European art, especially the impact of World War II and the transformation from an international art world to a global one; the cross-overs between art and design, including interior and furniture design, wall-painting, the traditionally feminine applied arts like weaving and embroidery, and public art; and photography and the relations between old and new media, including their convergences with histories and practices of abstract art.
She recently co-curated the exhibition “Monochrome Multitudes” for the David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art, and the University’s commission of Jenny Holzer’s YOU BE MY ALLY, a text-based public artwork projecting academic discourse into the public sphere by means of an AR app and LED trucks. Some years ago, she directed the project “Material Matters,” which included the research, material investigation, and conservation of Fluxus artist Wolf Vostell’s Concrete Traffic (1970) and the university-wide year-long program "Concrete Happenings." Mehring is now at work with Lisa Zaher on an edited volume concerning Vostell’s use of concrete and the conservation of Concrete Traffic. She has spearheaded other public art projects, including the creation with students of the University’s public art website, the commission of “Nuclear Thresholds” by Ogrydziak Prillinger Architects (OPA) for the 75th anniversary of the Chicago Pile 1, the public program "Dialogo: Virginio Ferrari and Chicago," part of the Terra Foundation’s Art Design Chicago initiative, and the conservation and resiting of Jene Highstein’s Black Sphere.
She is also completing a book with IIT architectural historian Sean Keller on the art and architecture of the Munich Olympics, addressing their multiple significances for West German and North American cultures coming to terms with their “postwar” identities, for transatlantic exchange and the formation of an international art world, for the dilemmas of postwar national monumentality, and for computational methods of contemporary architectural design. Besides two other book projects, on postwar materials and the relations between abstraction and design respectively, ongoing research focuses on Joseph Beuys’ use of fat, Gerhard Richter’s overpainted photographs, and the paintings of Ted Stamm.
Her work has been supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation, the Canadian Center for Architecture, the Graham Foundation, The Friends of Heritage Preservation, the Reva and David Logan Foundation, and the Terra Foundation for American Art. In 2011, she received the University of Chicago’s Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching. She currently chairs the University Board of Publications and the University’s Public Art Committee.
As Department Chair from 2013-2016 and 2017-2020, she spearheaded the Mellon Foundation-funded Chicago Objects Study Initiative in collaboration with the Art Institute and Northwestern University, as well as related initiatives such as the Suzanne Deal Booth conservation seminars, Gold Gorvy Traveling Seminars, private collection visits, the curatorial option in MAPH, urban architecture and design studio classes, the Joel Snyder Materials Collection, and partnerships with the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, Field Museum, Newberry Library, and other local institutions to expand the department’s curriculum and student opportunities.