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Christa Noel Robbins is a scholar of modernist and contemporary art, with a focus on abstract painting and art criticism in the twentieth century. Robbins joined the University of Virginia faculty in 2015. Before coming to UVa she was the Mellon Caltech-Huntington Postdoctoral Instructor in Art History at the California Institute of Technology. She was the advisory editor of North American modernism for the Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism and her essays and reviews have appeared in Criticism: A Quarterly for Literature and the Arts, Oxford Art Journal, Minnesota Review: A Journal of Creative and Critical Writing, Critical Inquiry, and Art in America. She is currently the Southeast Field Editor of exhibitions for caa.reiews.
Robbins recently published a book with the University of Chicago Press, titled Artist as Author: Action and Intent in Late-Modernist American Painting. Artist as Author provides the first extended study of authorship in mid-20th century abstract painting in the US. Taking a close look at this influential period of art history, the book describes how artists and critics used the medium of painting to advance their own claims about the role that they believed authorship should play in dictating the value, significance, and social impact of the art object. The book tracks this subject across two definitive periods: the “New York School” as it was consolidated in the 1950s and “Post Painterly Abstraction” in the 1960s. Through deep dives into key artist archives, the book offers detailed readings of the works of Arshile Gorky, Jack Tworkov, Helen Frankenthaler, Kenneth Noland, Sam Gilliam, and Agnes Martin, and the criticism of Harold Rosenberg and Rosalind Krauss.
Robbins teaches a range of courses at UVa, including "Art since 1945," "Art Activism," "Abstraction in Theory and Practice," and "Art Now." She is currently the Director of the Undergraduate Program in Art History.