Craven, David L. 1951-

views updated

Craven, David L. 1951-

PERSONAL: Born March 22, 1951, in Alexandria, LA; son of Albert L. (a professor) and Peggy (McCombs) Craven. Education: Vanderbilt University, degree in art history, 1974; University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Ph.D. (art history), 1979. Politics: Democratic Socialist.

ADDRESSES: Home—1310 Marquette Pl. NE, Albuquerque, NM 87106-4615. OfficeUniversity of New Mexico, Department of Art and Art History, Albuquerque, NM 87131-1401.

CAREER: State University of New York, Cortland, professor of art history, 1978-93; University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, professor of art history and associated with Latin American Institute, 1993-. Lecturer, Duke University, Durham, NC, 1978; visiting fellow, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, 1980; visiting lecturer, Trinity College, 1985; visiting professor, University of Bremen, 1988, University of Leeds, 1991, and Instituto de Investigaciones Esteticas of U.N.A.M., Mexico City, 1995; guest lecturer at other universities, including Cambridge University, University of Essex, and University of London, 1991, Universidad de Centroamerica, Managua, Nicaragua, and Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas, Nicaragua, 1995. Member of Southern Poverty Law Center.


AWARDS, HONORS: Excellence Award, New York State and U.U.P. Faculty Union, 1991, for scholarly publications and distinguished teaching; Collegium Budapest fellow, 1998.


Art of the New Nicaragua (monograph), New York Council for the Humanities (Cortland, NY), 1983.

The New Concept of Art and Popular Culture in Nicaragua since the Revolution in 1979, E. Mellen Press (Lewiston, NY), 1989.

Mythmaking: Abstract Expressionist Painting from the U.S. (catalog), Tate Gallery (London, England), 1992.

Poetics and Politics in the Art of Rudolf Baranik, Humanities Press (Atlantic Highlands, NJ), 1996.

Diego Rivera: As Epic Modernist, G. K. Hall (New York, NY), 1997.

(With Anne E. Gibson and others) Norman Lewis: Black Paintings, 1946-1968 (catalog), Studio Museum in Harlem (New York, NY), 1998.

(With Dore Ashton and others) Á rebours: la rebelión informalista, 1939-1968, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (Madrid, Spain), 1999.

Abstract Expressionism as Cultural Critique: Dissent in the McCarthy Period, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1999.

Art and Revolution in Latin America, 1910-1990, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2002.

Contributor to anthologies and reference books, including The Unnecessary Images, edited by Peter D'Agostino and Antonio Muntadas, MIT Committee on the Visual Arts/Tanam Press (New York, NY), 1982; Canadian Encyclopedia, Hurtig Press (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada), 1985; Papers for the XXV Congrès International d'Histoire de l'Art in 1989, Université Press de Strasbourg (Strasbourg, France), 1990; The Dictionary of Art, Macmillan (London, England), 1996; Encyclopedia of Latin-American Art, Grove Press (London, England), 1999; From Expressionism to Postmodernism, edited by J. Turner, Grove Press (London, England), 2000; Polock and After: The Critical Debate, second edition, edited by Francis Frascina, Routledge (New York, NY), 2000; A Companion to Art Theory, edited by Paul Smith, Basil Blackwell (Oxford, England), 2002; The Third Text Reader on Art and Culture, edited by Rasheed Araeen, Continuum (New York, NY), 2002; Key Writers on Art, Volume 2, edited by Chris Murray, Routledge (New York, NY), 2002; and Papers for the XXV Coloquio de la Historia del Arte en 2001, San Luis Potosí, Editorial Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (Mexico City, Mexico), 2002. Also contributor of articles to professional journals, including Arts Magazine, Telos, Oxford Art Journal, and Nuevo Amanecer Cultural. Member of advisory board to ArteFacto and Third Text.

SIDELIGHTS: Art historina and educator David L. Craven has built a reputation as an authority on nineteenth-and twentieth-century Latin-American art, as well as in the area of critical theory. His studies of artistic movements and individual artists have received wide praise from many critics, beginning with his first book, The New Concept of Art and Popular Culture in Nicaragua since the Revolution in 1979. In a Meaning assessment, Robert C. Morgan described the book as telling the "story of a bold vision: the democratization of art and how Nicaragua came to terms with the process of cultural empowerment and artistic self-realization." Focusing on the effects of the Sandinistas on the culture of Nicaragua, Craven asserts that these revolutionaries tried to redefine the popular views of their country's history through its art. The historian notes how they attempted to revive interest in pre-Columbian forms of art, while also discussing modern forms of artistic expression, such as street murals. "Given Craven's training in art history," stated Morgan about the chapter on street art, "and his remarkable gift for dialectical criticism, it is no surprise that … 'Art in the Streets' is one of the most spirited and original [chapters] in terms of its research." Morgan concluded, "One cannot leave this book unconvinced of the originality and timeliness of the Sandinista experiment in the arts and its transformative cultural aspirations. It is an important statement on the growing need for a more democratized art that would really connect with people on an everyday level of necessity."

Craven focuses on an important political artist with his 1996 book, Poetics and Politics in the Art of Rudolf Baranik. Baranik, who died in 1998, was best known for his protest art of the 1960s, such as his anti-war posters and paintings. Art Journal contributor Richard Leslie, in fact, said Baranik "was one of the first in the New York art world to raise his voice against the Vietnam War." The book is divided into two sections: in the first, Craven discusses Baraniks work through the 1980s, while the second half includes essays written by the artist himself. "The attempt to produce a book through a dialogue equally shared between the author and the artist provides an alternative construction to the standard monograph," observed Leslie. The critic concluded that "the result is an important restitution long overdue an artist for whom there has been no full consideration and who helped form an era only to be overlooked by subsequent mainstream accounts." David McCarthy, writing in New Art Examiner, similarly labeled Craven's book an "insightful discussion of Baranik's life and work … [that] should help this artist achieve the broader attention he so justly deserves."

When Craven followed up his book on Baranik with one on Diego Rivera, he received a similar welcome from reviewers. Diego Rivera: As Epic Modernist fills a gap in the treatment of the noted Mexican muralist, according to Alejandro Anreus in an Art Nexus article. "Throughout the book Craven explores Rivera's life and work chronologically, but also multilaterally, moving forwards and backwards in history, engaging us with the politics, literature, and culture-at-large issues of the artist's time," commented Anreus. Craven covers all the bases involving the artist, from a discussion of the history of the Mexican mural form to an analysis of Diego's painting techniques. "I cannot stress enough … the brilliance of Craven's analysis," asserted Anreus, who concluded that "Craven has produced the most thorough, critical study on Rivera in either English or Spanish." Anthony Lee, writing in Oxford Art Journal, held a similar opinion, writing that the historian should "be applauded for such an immense undertaking."

More recent books by Craven include Abstract Expressionism as Cultural Critique: Dissent in the McCarthy Period and Art and Revolution in Latin America, 1910-1990. In the former, according to Nancy Jachec in Third Text, Craven challenges "the basic presuppositions about this movement that have dictated our understanding of the political significance of Abstract Expressionism for the past thirty years." The scholar reexamines this movement through his historical microscope and insights into individual artists in the 1950s who were interested in the civil rights movement and were inspired by non-Western art. What separates the abstract expressionism movement from other artistic movements, Craven concludes, is how it became disassociated from the elite classes who traditionally supported and appreciated the arts. This modern school instead addressed the relationship between common people and the state. As Craven notes in his book, abstract expressionism is "a visual language fundamentally at odds with the homogenized Anglo-American culture of the McCarthyists and in opposition to the largely Eurocentric pedigree whereby cold-war liberals valorised 'major' art."

Following Abstract Expressionism as Cultural Critique, Craven returned to Latin-American art with Art and Revolution in Latin America, 1910-1990, in which he analyzes how political unrest in Nicaragua, Cuba, and Mexico has affected the work of the artists there.



Craven, David L., Abstract Expressionism as Cultural Critique: Dissent in the McCarthy Period, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1999.


Archives of American Art Journal, Volume 39, numbers 1-2, Claude Cernuschi, "The Politics of Abstract Expressionism", pp. 30-42.

Art Bulletin, December, 1994, Lowry Stokes Sims, "Subject/Subjectivity and Agency in the Art of African Americans," pp. 587-590.

Art in America, July, 1993, Jack Rosenberger, "Nicaragua's Vanishing Sandinista Murals," p. 27.

Art Journal, fall, 1998, Richard Leslie, review of Poetics and Politics in the Art of Rudolf Baranik, pp. 96-98.

Art Nexus, May-July, 1999, Alejandro Anreus, review of Diego Rivera: As Epic Modernist, pp. 40, 42.

Boston Globe, December 8, 2002, Christine Temin, "Ideology and Enchantment," p. D9.

Journal of Scholarly Research, autumn, 1989, Félix Masud-Piloto, review of The New Concept of Art and Popular Culture in Nicaragua since the Revolution in 1979, p. 23.

Meaning, number 9, 1991, Robert C. Morgan, review of The New Concept of Art and Popular Culture in Nicaragua since the Revolution in 1979, pp. 46-48.

Modern Painters, autumn, 1999, Dore Ashton, "More than One Class of Value."

New Art Examiner, November, 1997, David McCarthy, review of Poetics and Politics in the Art of Rudolf Baranik, pp. 66-67.

Oxford Art Journal, summer, 2000, Anthony Lee, review of Diego Rivera: As Epic Modernist, pp. 53-55.

Sunday Times (London, England), March 22, 1992, Andrew Lambirth, "Hit and Myth in American Art," p. 12.

Third Text, winter, 1999-2000, Nancy Jachec, review of Abstract Expressionism as Cultural Critique: Dissent in the McCarthy Period, pp. 108-110.

Washington Post Book World, December 7, 1997, Dore Ashton, "Informed Opinions," p. 10.