Critical & Curatorial Studies

The Department of Art’s Curatorial Area of study engages an interdisciplinary curriculum, combining formal, theoretical, social and political investigations on the subject of art production. Fully integrated into the Department of Art MFA and the University Art Gallery’s (UAG) exhibition platform, the Area shrugs off hardline distinctions between theoretical and aesthetic production. Accordingly, artists and writers, alike, are trained to produce new work across diverse fields, which may result in exhibitions, programs, publications and other forms, as a modality of cultural analysis and engagement. In so doing, the Curatorial Area encourages students to trespass the gates separating art production and art criticism. Students are furthermore encouraged to creatively (and destructively) engage the boundaries of set forms, fields, discourses, or classifications in the process of studying and producing “curation” in its widest definition. Consequently, the genres comprising the Curatorial Area’s field of study are expansive, equally incorporating digital and analogue exhibition platforms for: architecture, experimental writing, film, performance, plastic arts, publishing, public programming/interventions, new media, virtual technologies and beyond.

In 2019, the Curatorial Area advanced out of the Art Department’s pilot MFA program: Concentration in Critical and Curatorial Studies (C&C). Founded and directed by Professor Juli Carson in 2011, the C&C’s curriculum specialized in recruiting students wishing to pursue a career in the fields of curatorial practice, art criticism and public programming. C&C was uniquely experimental, among other curatorial programs in the field, because its program (at once theoretical and vocational) was housed within an art department. As such, student artists and curators were trained together as peers in the field of contemporary art, each being trained as scholars of art history and theory, each participating in group critique of artworks and exhibitions. Within the disciplinary conventions of academia, C&C’s courses of study would be the purview of distinct departments, hence the program’s experimental nature. That said, as C&C’s program continued to grow and thrive, its most successful enrollees were interdisciplinary artists who deftly triangulated art, theory and curatorial practices. Consequently, in 2019 C&C fully evolved from being a separate departmental Concentration into an integrated Area, further emplacing its courses of studies more impactfully within the Department of Art’s milieu. 

An archive to C&C led programs and MFA thesis shows can be found here:  


Critical & Curatorial Studies Concentration (2011-2021)
M.F.A. Art Department, UC Irvine, Claire Trevor School of the Arts


Aziz Sohail, 2021
Thesis: how to gently unpack an empire

Corrie Siegel, 2019 
Thesis: Terms of Use
Executive Director, The Museum of Neon Art


Renee Reizman, 2019 
Thesis: Spectacular Grammar: Infrastructure as a Universal Language
Creative Catalyst at LADOT


Brianna Bakke, 2018
Thesis: Matters of Time
Assistant Curator, Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery


Erin Gordon, 2018
Thesis: Do You Want to Quit? Intimacy, Site, Self


Virginia Arce, 2017
Thesis: "Who Gets To Look," Erik Benjamins and Sable Elyse Smith
Exhibitions Program Coordinator, Irvine Fine Arts Center


Ian Meares, 2017
Thesis: Simple Wares // Tessellating Tones: Facets of Practice, Consideration and Mediation
Teaching Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Andrew McNeely, 2016 
Thesis: Restless Debris


Amy Sanchez-Arteaga, 2016 
Thesis: A Conversation in Three Parts: Notes on the Occasion of the Celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement
Lecturer, San Diego State University 


Allyson Unzicker, 2015
Thesis: Paradox in Language: What I look at is never what I wish to see
Associate Director & Curator, University Art Gallery, University of California Irvine 


Kellie Lanham, 2014
Thesis: Cult of Splendor
Lecturer, California State University Long Beach