The New Social Environment#921

October Critics Page Discussion: Always Historicize?

Featuring Rex Butler, Todd Cronan, Penny Florence, Joe Fyfe, W. J. T. Mitchell, Joseph North, Saul Ostrow, and Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe, with G.E. Schwartz


1 p.m. Eastern / 10 a.m. Pacific

Join the Rail’s October 2023 Critics Page contributors for a conversation with Guest Critic Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe. We conclude with a poetry reading by G.E. Schwartz.

In this talk

Read the Brooklyn Rail’s October 2023 Critics Page →

Rex Butler

Photo of Rex Butler
Rex Butler is Professor of Art History in the Faculty of Art Design and Architecture, Monash University, Melbourne. He is the author or editor of eleven books, most recently UnAustralian Art, with ADS Donaldson, to be published by Power Publishing, University of Sydney, and Stanley Cavell and the Arts, for Bloomsbury Publishing, London.

Todd Cronan

Photo of Todd Cronan
Todd Cronan is Professor of Art History at Emory University and editor-in-chief of His latest book, Nothing Permanent: Modern Architecture in California, appeared in June with University of Minnesota Press. Last year he published Red Aesthetics: Rodchenko, Brecht, Eisenstein with Rowman and Littlefield. He is completing A Guide to the Films of Charles and Ray Eames for SUNY Press and editing Minor White’s photographic daybooks, Memorable Fancies, for Princeton University Press. He has written for The Nation, Jacobin, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Art Bulletin, and Critical Inquiry.

Penny Florence

Photo of Penny Florence
Penny Florence is Professor Emerita at The Slade School of Fine Art, UCL and an inter/cross/un/disciplinary artist and writer. She is a feminist materialist whose scepticism over “isms” manifests in her theoretical writing and in mixed installations including digital, printed and film poetry. She performs gallery readings internationally, including e.g. at Tate Modern, Tate Britain and LA MoCA. Appointments include: Head of Research Programmes (The Slade), leading practice-based Art PhDs; Professor & Director of Research at Falmouth University where she established practice-based PhDs; and Chair of Humanities and Design Sciences at Art Center, Pasadena, USA. Resisting the label “academic”, her work fundamentally explores how forms and processes of thinking intersect with art and media.

Joe Fyfe

Photo of Joe Fyfe
Joe Fyfe, a painter and writer, has shown internationally throughout the last three decades, including 3 solo exhibitions in Vietnam, where he received a Fulbright in 2006. Other recent solos include Galerie Christian Lethert, Cologne; Ceysson & Benetiere, Luxembourg and Ste. Etienne and Nathalie Karg, NYC. Fyfe has written reviews and essays for Artforum, Art in America, the Brooklyn Rail, Tablet, Hyperallergic, Modern Matter, Kilimanjaro, Alta, and BOMB as well as numerous catalog essays. He was awarded the Rabkin Foundation Prize for art journalism in 2022. He is working on a biography of John Coplans and teaches Graduate Fine Arts at Pratt Institute.

W. J. T. Mitchell

W.J.T. Mitchell
Scholar and theorist of media, visual art, and literature W. J. T. Mitchell is Senior Editor of the interdisciplinary journal Critical Inquiry, a quarterly devoted to critical theory in the arts and human sciences. Mitchell is associated with the emergent fields of visual culture and iconology (the study of images across the media). He is known especially for his work on the relations of visual and verbal representations in the context of social and political issues. He has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Guggenheim Fellowship and the Morey Prize in art history given by the College Art Association of America. In 2003, he received the University of Chicago’s prestigious Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching.

Joseph North

Photo of Joseph North
Joseph North is the author of Literary Criticism: A Concise Political History. He is currently at work on two further books. Our Mobs is a history and critique of the concept of the ‘mob,’ which organizes so much political feeling nowadays (e.g recent moral panics about “woke mobs,” “antifa mobs,” “BLM mobs,” “twitter mobs,” and - differently - “the mob that stormed the Capitol”). The Aesthetic Life of Centrism is a history, analysis and critique of political centrism over the last two centuries, focusing especially on its aesthetic and literary elements. North teaches literature at Yale.

Saul Ostrow

Photo of Saul Ostrow
Independent curator and critic, and co-founder of Critical Practices Inc., Saul Ostrow has organized over 80 exhibitions and his writings have appeared in art magazines, journals and catalogues in the USA and Europe. He served as Art Editor, Bomb Magazine, was Co-Editor of Lusitania Press (1996-2004) and Editor of the book series Critical Voices in Art, Theory and Culture (1996-2006) published by Francis & Taylor.

Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe

Drawing of Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe by Phong H. Bui
Portrait by Phong H. Bui
Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe, Professor and Chair Emeritus at Art Center College of Design, is a painter who also writes about art. He has been exhibiting since 1970 and is the author of four books and numerous essays.

The Rail has a tradition of ending our conversations with a poetry reading, and we’re fortunate to have G.E. Schwartz reading.

G.E. Schwartz

G.E. Schwartz, by C.S. Schwartz
Photo by C.S. Schwartz
G. E. Schwartz lives in Upstate New York (Wenrohronon lands), and is the author of Only Others Are (LEGIBLE PRESS), THINKING IN TONGUES (Hank’s Loose Gravel Press), Odd Fish (Argotist Press), Murmurations (Foothills Press), and The Very Light We Reach For (LEGIBLE PRESS), & work in the Brooklyn Rail, Alaska Review, Ghost City, & Fracture, among others, and he’s in the band The Solomons… recordings at Bandcamp.

❤️ 🌈 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.