Darby 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. English is currently writing ‘An Essay on Discomposure,’ which—through historical and contemporary questions posed in fine art and popular culture—thinks about the passing of difference as we have known it.
English is associate faculty in both the University’s Department of Visual Arts and its Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture. In 2010, he received the University of Chicago’s Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, the nation’s oldest such prize. In July 2019, he will assume the directorship of the University’s Karla Scherer Center for the Study of American Culture.
English’s scholarship explores the roles of art and artists in the process and experience of cultural change. English is the author of To Describe a Life: Notes from the Intersection of Art and Race Terror (Yale University Press, 2019), 1971: A Year in the Life of Color (University of Chicago Press, 2016), and How to See a Work of Art in Total Darkness (MIT Press, 2007). He is co-editor with Charlotte Barat of Among Others: Blackness at MoMA (Museum of Modern Art, New York, forthcoming June 2019); with David Breslin of Art History and Emergency (Yale UP, 2016); and, with Ian Berry, Vivian Patterson, and Mark Reinhardt of Kara Walker: Narratives of a Negress (MIT Press, 2002 and Rizzoli, 2007). English’s short-form writing has appeared in Art Bulletin, Artforum, caareviews, The Guardian, The International Review of African-American Art and other venues. Though he does not write criticism, English is a subject of What It Means to Write about Art: Interviews with Art Critics (David Zwirner, 2018) and is serving as Exhibition Scholar for the United States Pavillion of the 2019 Venice Biennale, which features the work of Martin Puryear.
For this work, English has been the recipient of fellowships and awards from the Clark Art Institute, the Institute for Advanced Study, the National Humanities Center, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts/Creative Capital Foundation, the Getty Research Institute, and the College Art Association, among other bodies.
English also serves as Adjunct Curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. During a two-year hiatus from the University of Chicago, where English first taught from 2003 to 2013, he was Starr Director of the Research and Academic Program at the Clark Art Institute.