Common Ground

A Tribute to SVA’s Art Writing MFA

Featuring Debra Bricker Balken, Hakim Bishara, Michael Brenson, Phong H. Bui, Will Fenstermaker, Jessica Holmes, Emmanuel Iduma, Nancy Princenthal, Jennifer Kabat, Jennifer Krasinski, and David Levi Strauss in conversation with Charles Schultz and Ann C. Collins


1 p.m. Eastern / 10 a.m. Pacific

Rail Consulting Editor David Levi Strauss joins a panel of writers, scholars, and faculty in tribute to the MFA program in Art Writing at the School of Visual Arts in New York. We conclude with a poetry reading.

In this talk

This conversation grows out of David Levi Strauss’s feature In Memoriam: A Tribute to SVA’s Art Writing MFA in our July-Aug 2021 Issue →

Debra Bricker Balken

A portrait of Debra Bricker Balken
Debra Bricker Balken is an award-winning independent curator, scholar, and writer who has assembled numerous exhibitions on subjects relating to the American modernism and contemporary art for major museums internationally. Her recent publications include Arthur Dove, A Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings and Things (Yale University Press, 2021), Harold Rosenberg, A Critic’s Life (University of Chicago Press, 2021) and Alex Katz: Collaborations with Poets (GRAY and Artbook | D.A.P. 2023) She is currently serving as the lead curator on Americans in Paris, Artists Working in Postwar France, 1946-1962 for the Grey Art Gallery at New York University among other projects.

Hakim Bishara

A portrait of Hakim Bishara
Writer, curator, and artist Hakim Bishara is a staff writer for Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital Arts Writers Grant and he holds an MFA in art writing from the School of Visual Arts in New York.

Michael Brenson

Photo of Michael Brenson
Photo by David Lackey
Art critic, scholar, and curator Michael Brenson was an art critic for The New York Times and has curated exhibitions at MoMA PS1 and the SculptureCenter. He has been a Getty scholar, Guggenheim Fellow, Bogliasco Fellow, and Clark Fellow. For many years he was a member of the sculpture faculty in Bard College’s Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts and a Visiting Senior Critic in the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design’s Department of Fine Arts. His biography of David Smith, David Smith: The Art and Life of a Transformational Sculptor, was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in October 2022. He is the artistic director of the Jonathan and Barbara Silver Foundation.

Phong H. Bui

Photo of Phong Bui taken by Nicola Delorme
Photo by Nicola Delorme
Artist, writer, and independent curator Phong H. Bui is Publisher and Artistic Director of the Brooklyn Rail, the River Rail, Rail Editions, and Rail Curatorial Projects. Among many other awards, Bui received The Dorothea and Leo Rabkin Prize for Arts Writers in 2017, was the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate from University of the Arts in 2020, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts in 2021.

Will Fenstermaker

Portrait drawing of Will Fenstermaker by Phong H. Bui
Portrait drawing of Will Fenstermaker by Phong H. Bui
New York-based art critic Will Fenstermaker is editor and producer at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he co-edits The Met’s online magazine. Will is a board member and secretary of the U.S. chapter of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA-USA). His writing on art, literature, and culture has been published in Artforum, BOMB, the Brooklyn Rail, Frieze, The Nation, The Paris Review Daily, and elsewhere.

Jessica Holmes

Jessica Holmes
Writer, editor, and critic Jessica Holmes’s writing features regularly in BOMB, Hyperallergic, and The Brooklyn Rail, where she also edits the ArTonic column. Other bylines include Vanity Fair Spain, The Magazine Antiques, and The Woman’s Art Journal. Recent exhibition catalogue contributions include Judith Braun: My Pleasure (Opalka Gallery, Russell Sage College), Ellsworth Ausby: Somewhere in Space, Paintings from the 1960s and 1970s (Eric Firestone Gallery) and Markus Linnenbrink: THEREARESPACESTHATBREATHE (Museum of New Art, Portsmouth). Previously she served as Editor-in-Chief of the arts publication Degree Critical. For nearly two decades, she worked for the Calder Foundation, including 6 years as its Deputy Director.

Emmanuel Iduma

Photo of Emmanuel Iduma
Emmanuel Iduma is the author of two works of nonfiction, including the travelogue A Stranger’s Pose, and I Am Still With You, a memoir, forthcoming in February 2023. His criticism and nonfiction have appeared in Aperture, Art in America, Artforum, Granta, n+1, the New York Review of Books, Yale Review, and other publications. His honors include the inaugural Irving Sandler Award for New Voices in Art Criticism from AICA-USA, the C/O Berlin Talent Prize for Theory, and the Windham-Campbell Prize. He is based between Lagos, Nigeria and Norwich, UK.

Jen Kabat

A portrait of Jen Kabat
Awarded a Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant for her criticism, Jennifer Kabat’s essays have appeared in Best American Essays, Granta, Harper’s, BOMB, Frieze, McSweeney’s, The New York Review of Books, Los Angeles Review of Books, VQR, The Believer and The White Review. Recently she received a Silvers Foundation Grant for “Night Shining,” a braided essay on war, weather, and climate change. She teaches in the Art Writing MFA at SVA and is on the advisory board for the poetry collective Ugly Duckling Presse and is the director of the AICA/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant Writing Workshop.

Jennifer Krasinski

A portrait of Jennifer Krasinski
Writer Jennifer Krasinski has written on the subject of art, film, video, and performance for numerous publications, such as Art In America, Spike Art Quarterly, Bidoun, N+1 Film Review, DIS Magazine, The Paris Review Blog, and the Village Voice. She is editorial director of digital at Artforum and is the author of Prop Tragedies (Wrath of Dynasty Press, 2010) and is an adjunct faculty member at New York University’s Steinhardt School, as well as a faculty member in the MFA Art Criticism and Writing at SVA, where she leads the MFA thesis seminar. She has also taught at The San Francisco Art Institute, University of Southern California, and Art Center College of Design.

Nancy Princenthal

Nancy Princenthal
A Brooklyn-based writer whose book Agnes Martin: Her Life and Art received the 2016 PEN America award for biography, Nancy Princenthal is the former Senior Editor of Art in America and is a contributor to many other publications including The New York Times. She is the author of Hannah Wilke, Unspeakable Acts: Women, Art, and Sexual Violence in the 1970s, and a co-author of two recent books on women artists; a third, Mothers of Invention will be released this spring. She has taught at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College; Princeton University; Yale University; and the School of Visual Arts.

David Levi Strauss

This is a pencil drawn portrait of Writer David Levi Strauss with a shaded black background, drawn by the Rail’s publisher Phong Bui.
Portrait by Phong H. Bui
One of the most urgent and critical art writers working today, David Levi Strauss’s work focuses on the intersection between image and text, and the third space that is created through that interaction. He is the author of Between the Eyes: Essays on Photography and Politics (Aperture, 2012), Words Not Spent Today Buy Smaller Images Tomorrow: Essays on the Present and Future of Photography (Aperture, 2014), and other books. His latest work is Co-Illusion: Dispatches from the End of Communication (MIT Press, 2020) exposing a new ‘iconopolitics’ in which words and images lose their connection to reality.⁠

Ann C. Collins

Ann C. Collins
Regular contributor to the Brooklyn Rail’s ArtSeen section, Ann C. Collins holds a BFA in Film and Television from NYU and an MFA in Art Criticism & Writing from the School of Visual Arts. Her work has also appeared in Degree Critical and Variables West. Her film editing projects include Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold; Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters, and the Netflix series The Pharmacist. Her film work has screened at Sundance, Berlin, and New York film festivals. She lives in Brooklyn.

Charles Schultz

Charles Schultz
Portrait by Phong H. Bui
Writer and editor Charles Schultz is Managing Editor of the Brooklyn Rail.

❤️ 🌈 We'd like to thank the The Terra Foundation for American Art for making these daily conversations possible, and for their support of our growing archive.