Dr. Joseph Underwood Selected for Warhol Arts Writers Grant
KENT, Ohio – Kent State University’s School of Art is pleased to announce that Dr. Joseph Underwood, professor of art history, was selected as one of the 2020 recipients of the Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant. “Forging a New Contemporary: Art from Senegal in Transnational Networks, 1974–1984” was one of six book projects selected and carries a $50,000 award toward the research and production of his new book. The grants are issued in support of contemporary-art writing and are aimed at preserving critical writing in relation to the visual arts.
“We are extremely proud of Dr. Joseph Underwood’s work and thrilled that his research has been recognized with the prestigious Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant,” said Dr. John Crawford-Spinelli, Dean of Kent State’s College of the Arts. “This is a tremendous accomplishment and one of the highest honors bestowed upon art historians.”
In its 2020 cycle, the Arts Writers Grant awarded a total of $675,000 to twenty-two writers. Ranging from $15,000 to $50,000 in three categories—articles, books and short-form writing—these grants support projects addressing both general and specialized art audiences, from short reviews for magazines and newspapers to in-depth scholarly studies.
“This award is timely, as it acknowledges Dr. Joseph Underwood’s research in contemporary art in social, political, and cultural climates. His work is unique in addressing global art in these contexts. I am proud of the work of Dr. Underwood and the prestige he brings to his career and to Kent State University’s School of Art,” said School of Art Director, Marie Bukowski.
Dr. Underwood’s book will revisit an overlooked exhibition of contemporary art, “Art Sénégalais d’Aujourd’hui” (or “Contemporary Art of Senegal”), that traveled across 24 cities (15 countries, 5 continents) between 1974 and 1984. It remains the sole large-scale African exhibition to tour so extensively. Connecting artists from Africa with audiences and opportunities in Europe, North America, South America, and Asia, Underwood’s book aims to redefine the nascence of so-called non-Western contemporary art, diversifying the canon by addressing the imbalances of power inherent to art’s transnational framework. Across six chapters, Underwood’s book will examine the exhibition content that made “Contemporary Art of Senegal” resonate with its local audiences: francophone affinities in Quebec, the role of primitivism in local modernity in Mexico, experiences of peripherization from the art world with Tokyo, and the history of slavery with the US.
"I've been traveling to archives and museums, or working with colleagues on the ground, across five continents for years trying to piece together this really unique exhibition from Senegal that became a transnational network for defining what contemporary art was in the 1970s/80s. Not only is the recognition from Creative Capital and the Warhol Foundation really encouraging as I navigate this very complex, intercultural methodology of art history, but also the funding is crucial to building the project and getting the book published," said Dr. Underwood.
About Dr. Underwood: Joseph L. Underwood is a scholar and curator whose research focuses on artists from the African continent and its diaspora and encompasses major themes of the Postwar-era such as post-colonialism, (trans)nationalism, and biennialism. After receiving his PhD in Art History from Stony Brook University, Underwood contributed to projects at the Musée Boribana, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. He currently holds an academic position at Kent State University where he teaches modern and contemporary African art, the history of exhibition and display, and curatorial studies. Complementing his academic writing and presentations with curatorial projects—including “The View From Here: Contemporary Perspectives From Senegal” and “TEXTURES: the history and art of Black hair”—Underwood has won several awards, including a Tyson Scholar fellowship from the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and an Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
About the School of Art: The School of Art at Kent State University was established in 1941 and maintains a tradition of excellence in visual arts education, creation, scholarship and leadership. Its undergraduate and graduate programs in the visual arts offer a range of directions and opportunities in the fields of art education, art history, and studio art, which includes a comprehensive array of studio disciplines: ceramics, drawing, glass, jewelry/metals/enameling, painting, print media and photography, sculpture and expanded media, and textiles. The School of Art Collection and Galleries consist of six exhibition spaces located on the Kent campus and downtown Kent and a collection of over 4,000 artworks and objects. The School of Art is located at the Center of the Visual Arts at 325 Terrace Dr. in Kent. The 27,900-square-foot facility — twice the length of a football field —had its grand opening in 2016 and houses all School of Art studios and classrooms under one roof.