James Voorhies Assumes an Expanded Chairship of CCA’s Graduate Program in Curatorial Practice

James Voorhies to chair CCA’s Graduate Program in Curatorial Practice. James Voorhies to chair CCA’s Graduate Program in Curatorial Practice.

Curator and art historian James Voorhies, CCA’s current dean of Fine Arts, will fully assume the role of chair of the school’s Graduate Program in Curatorial Practice (CURP) on August 1, 2018. Voorhies has served as acting chair of CURP since the untimely passing of the program’s former chair, curator, and educator Leigh Markopoulos in February 2017. 

In addition to helming the acclaimed curating program—which prepares students to be productive agents and positive mediators who build connections between artists, ideas, institutions, and their audiences—Voorhies will develop and manage a selection of public-facing, college-wide academic initiatives related to CCA’s graduate programs.

These responsibilities will include organizing the graduate lecture series and identifying new partnerships with the college’s Center for Art and Public Life and CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts—a vital resource for the curatorial program—while stewarding connections among Bay Area arts institutions. Over the past year alone, he initiated collaborations with art institutions such as The Lab, the site of this spring’s conversation series Experience It, and established curricular connections between the curating program and CCA’s graduate programs in design and visual and critical studies.

With a practice that merges curating, writing, design, and education into small- and large-scale exhibition and publishing projects, Voorhies will set into motion a new vision for CCA’s curating program.

“Curating today is such an expansive and dynamic field, representing many different ways art, artists, and ideas can connect to audiences and the public realm,” Voorhies states. “I’m delighted to have this opportunity to build on the legacy of the Curatorial Practice program at CCA while thinking even more expansively about its connection to architecture, design, publishing, and public space. I’m looking forward to working more with faculty and students to identify long-term curricular connections and partnerships between curatorial practice and the incredible art institutions and curators in our immediate Bay Area vicinity.”

Regarded as a leading practitioner in examining the role of art institutions and the future of curating, Voorhies brings a breadth of experience and scholarly depth to the expanded chairship. His writing has appeared in publications by Texte zur Kunst, Frieze, Harvard Design Magazine, Sternberg Press, and Printed Matter, as well as many artist monographs and exhibition catalogs. In his 2017 publication, Beyond Objecthood: The Exhibition as a Critical Form Since 1968 (MIT Press), he charts an insightful and relevant curatorial and exhibition history of the past 50 years that frames our contemporary moment within the increasingly changing role of the spectator in relation to their involvement and participation in art.

Voorhies was recently awarded a research and development grant from the Graham Foundation in support of research for a new book titled Binding Agents: Toward an Aesthetic of the Postcolonial in Contemporary Exhibition. Binding Agents will reflect on the changing ways in which artists, curators, and institutions present and support artists whose practices address nation-state, immigration, and colonialism. The Graham Foundation support will take him to Istanbul, Cairo, and Amman, Jordan, this fall to pursue research on the book. In addition, he was awarded a 2018 curatorial fellowship by Étant Donnés Contemporary Art (FACE Foundation) to visit Paris in May, during which he will meet with curators and artists to discuss his research on Binding Agents.

Voorhies is also the founder of Bureau for Open Culture, a curatorial practice, philosophy, and strategy that inhabits and connects with institutions and publishers, and he served as deputy director of CCA Wattis Institute from 2005 to 2006. Prior to CCA, he taught art history and critical theory at Harvard University and Bennington College and was the inaugural John R. and Barbara Robinson Family Director of the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University, where he conceived and directed a contemporary arts program dedicated to the synthesis of art, design, and education through exhibition of existing works and production of new commissions.