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.
In recent years, she directed the project “Material Matters,” which included the research, material investigation, and conservation of Fluxus artist Wolf Vostell’s Concrete Traffic (1970), in collaboration with conservator Christian Scheidemann. Made from a 1957 Cadillac covered in c. 20 tons of concrete, this colossal public sculpture returned to campus in fall 2016, launching the university-wide year-long program "Concrete Happenings." It included an exhibition of Vostell’s work with concrete she curated with her former PhD advisee Caroline Schopp (who also curated her own separate exhibition on postwar Germanic artists’ books). 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 since 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 early work of Walter De Maria.
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 serves as Chair of the Department of Art History and is an Adjunct Curator at the Smart Museum.