Janet Kraynak

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

Post-war and Contemporary Art
Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2001

Contact Information

Phone: (212) 854-5676
Office: 908 Schermerhorn Hall
Office Hours: Thursdays, 4-5:30 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 geopolitics of sound.

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 Rosemarie Trockel, Do-Ho Suh and Rirkrit Tiravanija, among others. 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 project––tentatively titled The Digitization of Everyday Life: Coercion, Conflict and Dissent in Recent Art and Cultural Practices––is examining the status of the political public sphere given the pervasiveness of the Internet and digital mechanisms in contemporary life.

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).