Janet Kraynak

Senior Lecturer and Director of MA in Modern and Contemporary Art: Critical and Curatorial Studies (MODA)

Postwar and Contemporary Art, Politics of Media, Globalization
Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2001

Contact Information

Phone: (212) 854-5676
Office: 908 Schermerhorn Hall
Office Hours: Thursdays, 2:30-4:30 by appointment only


Prof. Kraynak writes and teaches about the history and theory of postwar and contemporary art, focusing upon the transformation of the artistic object as an analogue for larger socio-political developments. Her research examines the emergence of non-traditional mediums (including time-based, linguistic, and technically mediated forms) at moments of crisis and upheaval: from the revolutionary 1960s to the post-1989 period with the emergence of globalization. With a particular interest in the interdisciplinary turn in the production and reception of art, Kraynak's scholarship traces the advent of performance strategies in the visual arts in relation to experimental sound, dance, and film. A central theme of her book, Nauman Reiterated (Electronic Mediations series, University of Minnesota Press 2014), which offers a critical interpretation of the art of the influential American artist, Bruce Nauman, these interests continue in her current research on the history of sound, the auditory sphere and geopolitics.

Kraynak is the editor of the volume, Please Pay Attention Please: Bruce Nauman's Words: Writings and Interviews (MIT Press, 2003); the author of the Survey in the monograph, Monica Bonvicini (Phaidon Press, 2014), as well as articles on artists such as Glenn Ligon, Philippe Parreno, Rosemarie Trockel, Do-Ho Suh and Rirkrit Tiravanija, among others. Across numerous writings, Kraynak has theorized the rise of participatory practices in the 1960s, their resurgence during the 1990s, and their continued transformation with the rise of the Internet, critically undermining claims for democratization by addressing modes of coercion and control. As a scholar and critic, Kraynak's writings have appeared in Art Journal, Grey Room, Artforum, Frieze, and The Journal of Visual Culture among other publications. She has lectured widely on contemporary art at such venues as the Getty Research Institute, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Institute for Aesthetic Studies, University of Aarhus, Denmark, among others. Her current book ––tentatively titled Contemporary Art and The Digitization of Everyday Life, for which she was awarded The Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant (2017) ––examines questions of politics, power and knowledge and the role of art within a digital public sphere.

Prior to joining the faculty at Columbia, Kraynak was at the New School in New York for nine years, where she was Associate Professor of Contemporary Art History. Formerly faculty at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College and Purchase College, SUNY, where she was the acting Director of the MA/MFA Program in Contemporary Art, Criticism and Theory, Kraynak has a longstanding pedagogical interest in curatorial studies and the history and theory of exhibitions, teaching classes that consider the changing role of the museum and the function of the curator in contemporary art. She has curated several exhibitions, is the former New York/International Field Editor for Exhibitions: Modern and Contemporary at caa.reviews, and had a longstanding relationship with the Whitney Museum of American Art, including as Teaching Fellow. Kraynak currently serves on the Editorial Board of Art Journal, and is the recipient of the 2010 Art Journal Award of Distinction, for her article, "'The Land' and the Economics of Sustainabilty," awarded to the forum, Land Use in Contemporary Art.

Selected Publications

Nauman Reiterated (Electronic Mediations series, University of Minnesota Press 2014).

"Survey," in Monica Bonvicini (Phaidon Press, 2014).

"Rosemarie Trockel and the Body of Society, " The Journal of Visual Culture, vol. 13 no. 2 August, 2014): 139-167.

"The Land and the Economics of Sustainability," Art Journal, vol. 69, no. 4, (Winter, 2010): 16-25. Reprinted in Critical Landscapes: Art, Space, Politics, ed. Emily Eliza Scott and Kirsten Swenson (Oakland, CA: University of California Press), 2015: 203-217.

"Art History's Present Tense," in Elizabeth Mansfield, ed. Making Art History: A Changing Discipline and Its Institutions (London and New York: Routledge), 2007: 83-101.

"Nan Goldin's Witnesses Against Our Vanishing: Representation, Cultural Politics, and the 1980's," in Rhea Anastas and Michael Brenson (eds.) A Witness to Her Art (Bard College), 2006.

Please Pay Attention Please: Bruce Nauman's Words: Writings and Interviews (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003).