Laura Eliasieh

Project Research Curator, San Jose Museum of Art
Dissertation Title
The Social and Environmental Turn in Late 20th Century Art: A Case Study of Helen and Newton Harrison after Modernism
Laura Eliasieh
Laura earned her PhD in Modern Thought and Literature with a dissertation arguing that the avant-garde attitude is very much alive and thriving in the contemporary art world, despite prominent New York art critic Hilton Kramer and others who have lamented its weakening and death after the “triumph of modernism” in the 1960s. Drawing primarily from the archive of Helen and Newton Harrison in the Special Collections of Stanford Libraries, Eliasieh shows how the contemporary avant-garde is exploring the creative potential of critical nomadic thought across many different traditions and ideologies including academic ones. Helen and Newton’s career as professors in the University of California system enabled them to disavow conventional modern art objects as resolved and reified things to sell on the art market and instead, in the words of art historian Tom Holert, “to adopt a strategic stance vis-á-vis research and the academic world and call for a critical reorganization of the fields of knowledge and practice.” The Harrisons tirelessly posed questions that challenged institutional norms and advanced a new model of arts research that engages with both social and environmental issues. Eliasieh holds an MA from the San Francisco Art Institute and a BA from the University of Puget Sound.