When I was cataloguing more actively (there is sadly little time for this important aspect of an archivist’s life in my role as head of department) I spent number of years cataloguing the fascinating papers of the American art critic and historian, Barbara Reise.
Barbara Reise was born in Chicago in 1940 and attended Wellesley College from 1958-62 majoring in Art and Art History. From 1962-66, she enrolled in the Art History & Archaeology department at Columbia University and was awarded an MA in 1965 for her thesis on ‘Primitivism in Writings of Barnett Newman and Ideology of Abstract Expressionism’. Through her research, she got to know Newman really well, who after her father’s death in a car crash in 1968 became a surrogate father-figure until his own untimely death from a heart attack in 1970. Since 1966, Reise had maintained contacts and had travelled between the USA and London where she had enrolled as a non-degree research student, at the Courtauld Institute of Art Courtauld, examining Turner’s work in Venice. Her interests and friendships also lay within the contemporary art world so, in 1968, Reise joined the teaching staff, as a Senior Lecturer in Art History, at Coventry College of Art & Design. She was hired to design teaching courses relevant to students and other departments’ programmes. This diagram and accompanying notes of May 1969 show attempts by Reise to encourage her students to always question the source material, strive to locate original work, and place oneself in the centre of the art. Barbara was acutely aware of the problems faced by British students interested in contemporary American art as art schools in England tended to concentrate on the academic teachings of European art. Coventry could not have chosen a more ‘in tune’ lecturer than Reise, who counted Carl Andre, Sol LeWitt, and Gilbert & George as close friends. The attraction of working as a part-time Associate Professor at Coventry meant that Barbara was given carte-blanche to arrange and structure the course, whilst allowing her time to pursue her post-graduate studies, lecture and write articles for art periodicals and publications. It is important to note the climate in art colleges around this time, as strikes and sit-ins by students and lecturers - such as at Hornsey School of Art - forced many institutions to change their approach to teaching and to the curriculum that still resonates today. If you could design an art school course what would it contain? TGA 786
Written by Adrian Glew