Grant H. Kester

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Grant Kester is Professor of Art History at the University of California, San Diego, and the founding editor of FIELD: A Journal of Socially Engaged Art Criticism. Kester is one of the leading figures in the critical dialogue around socially engaged art practice. He was the editor of Afterimage from 1990 to 1995. (2023)



  • editor, Art, Activism and Oppositionality: Essays from Afterimage, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, Mar 1998, 328 pp, IA. Sixteen essays on activist and community-based art from the pages of Afterimage, spanning fifteen years—roughly from Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential win to the 1994 Republican victories in Congress, a period marked by waning public support for the arts and growing antagonism toward activist art. Contributors: Maurice Berger, Richard Bolton, Ann Cvetkovich, Coco Fusco, Brian Goldfarb, Mable Haddock, Grant H. Kester, Ioannis Mookas, Chiquita Mullins Lee, Darrell Moore, Lorraine O’Grady, Michael Renov, Martha Rosler, Patricia Thomson, David Trend, Charles A. Wright Jr., Patricia R. Zimmerman. TOC. Introduction (draft). Publisher, [1].
  • Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, Aug 2004, 239 pp, IA; new ed., upd., Apr 2013, 264 pp, IA. Discusses a disparate network of artists and collectives—including The Art of Change, Helen and Newton Harrison, Littoral, Suzanne Lacy, Stephen Willats, and WochenKlausur—united by a desire to create new forms of understanding through creative dialogue that crosses boundaries of race, religion, and culture. Traces the origins of these works in the conceptual art and feminist performance art of the 1960s and 1970s and draws from the writings of Mikhail Bakhtin, Jürgen Habermas, and others as he explores the ways in which these artists corroborate and challenge many of the key principles of avant-garde art and art theory. Publisher. Reviews: Dahlberg (Leonardo), Schrank (Public Hist), Pollard [2]
  • The One and the Many: Contemporary Collaborative Art in a Global Context, Duke University Press, Sep 2011, 320 pp, IA. Provides an overview of the broader continuum of collaborative and collective art, ranging from the work of artists and groups widely celebrated in the mainstream art world, such as Thomas Hirschhorn, Superflex, Francis Alÿs, and Santiago Sierra, to the less-publicized projects of groups, such as Park Fiction in Hamburg, Networking and Initiatives for Culture and the Arts in Myanmar, Ala Plastica in Argentina, Huit Facettes in Senegal, and Dialogue in central India. Publisher.
  • editor, with Bill Kelley Jr., Collective Situations: Readings in Contemporary Latin American Art, 1995-2010, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, Nov 2017, 456 pp. Scholars, artists, and art collectives present a range of socially engaged art practices that emerged in Latin America during the Pink Tide period, between 1995 and 2010. Contributors: Gavin Adams, Mariola Alvarez, Gustavo Buntinx, Fabian Cerejido, Kency Cornejo, Daniel Correia Ferreira Lima, Raquel de Anda, Ricardo Dominguez, María Fernanda Cartegena, Jose Figueroa, Sofía Gallisá Muriente, David Gutierrez Castaneda, Suzanne Lacy, Interdisciplinario La Linea, Ana Longoni, Rodrigo Marti, Elize Mazadiego, Alberto Muenala, Prerana Reddy, Marina Reyes Franco, Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, Juan Carlos Rodríguez, Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, Federico Zukerfeld, Pilar Riaño-Alcalá. Introduction. Publisher. Reviews: Montgomery (CAA), Zilberg (Leonardo).

Articles, book chapters[edit]

  • "Dialogical Aesthetics", ch. 3 in Kester, Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art, University of California Press, 2004, pp 82-123, n211-217. Draws on Habermas and discusses Fiumara, Bakhtin, Levinas and Irigaray.