Whether having graduated with a BA in Art History after engaging a diverse undergraduate curriculum or a member of the proud ranks of Ph.D. recipients who dedicated years to rigorous and focused study, our department alumni consistently distinguish themselves in an incredible range of chosen fields and careers. We’re proud to host their stories, accomplishments, and experiences here, as remarkable and varied as the education they received in the UCLA Department of Art History.
Current Location/Position Assistant Editor for Frieze, freelance art critic
Tell us a bit about your background – where were you born and raised? How did you decide to attend UCLA?
I was born in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, just east of Hollywood, and went to high school in Beverly Hills. I’m a third-generation Bruin, so UCLA runs in my blood; my grandfather worked construction on Royce Hall to subsidize his tuition costs. I was initially reticent about attending college so close to home, but UCLA’s relative affordability and academic resources were a real draw.
Why did you decide to study Art History?
I spent my first two and a half years of college as a Philosophy major; I’ve always been attracted to big-picture thinking. UCLA’s analytic program provided me with an indispensable theoretical framework, but I craved exposure to the Continental philosophy that wasn’t being taught. I began to take classes in Art History, German, Comparative Literature, and Anthropology, and eventually traveled to Berlin to study Hegel. When I returned, I took Professor Kwon’s class on contemporary art. It introduced me to a wide range of essential artists, theories, and texts. I had never felt so intellectually engaged before. Art history became a space where I could explore big ideas—the ideas that great artists were addressing in their practices. The literary quality and interdisciplinary nature of great art historical writing was a significant catalyst in my decision to switch majors, and continues to fuel my passion for the field.
Ultimately it was Verlena Johnson, then the Student Affairs Officer, who suggested I become an Art History major rather than a minor. I was working at the Hammer Museum and editing Graphite, UCLA and the Hammer’s annual interdisciplinary journal of the arts, and getting immeasurable academic and extracurricular fulfillment from art. I am indebted to Verlena and all the art history professors who affirmed that I made the right choice.
Can you tell us a bit about the faculty you studied with at UCLA?
I could not talk about my experience in the Art History program, or indeed my academic undergraduate experience, without thanking Professor Steven Nelson. Professor Nelson agreed to serve as my senior honors thesis advisor, no more than ten minutes after meeting me—and during that time introduced me to the work of Rotimi Fani-Kayode, the artist I studied for my project. His tireless support—countless hours spent editing, discussing the work, and sharing valuable advice—has been truly indispensable. He continued to champion my research well after graduation, introducing me to Transition Magazine’s Managing Editor, who agreed to review my essay for publication. To top it off, he may be the only professor I’ve ever had who can pack a large lecture hall at 9am on a Friday and make every tired student in it laugh!
I would also like to acknowledge and thank Professor Baker, whose seminar on Picasso was a high point of my academic career. Professor Baker’s eye-opening insight and unsurpassed prose were inspiring. He encouraged my interest in the philosophical, helping me complete a mini-thesis on the Nietzschean nature of Picasso’s first collage. I also relished the opportunity to discuss the work intimately with other students, a rarity at a big university like UCLA.
Where are you now?
About five months after graduating, Professor Kwon introduced me to Dorothee Perret, the founder of Paris, LA magazine and its parent press, DoPe Press. She hired me to write for the magazine, and eventually I became Associate Editor, collaborating on the Fall 2015 Art and Education issue. I also copy edit editioned artist books and catalogues for DoPe Press. By referral of Jonathan Griffin, a Contributing Editor at Frieze, I began to write for Contemporary Art Review Los Angeles, and was asked to co-edit the second and third issues of the magazine by its founder, Lindsay Preston Zappas. Between April and October 2015, I wrote more than 25 reviews for publications such as Apollo, Art in America, Flash Art, Frieze, and SFAQ. In October 2015 I was selected to be the new Assistant Editor for Frieze. I now help Co-editor Dan Fox manage the magazine’s operations in North, Central, and South America from its New York office. Also in October 2015, my UCLA Art History senior honors thesis was published in Transition, a peer-reviewed scholarly magazine published by Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research.
Please share some of your upcoming plans, projects, and publications.
In addition to my work at Frieze, I hope to continue writing art criticism and other projects. Hopefully this will include fiction and poetry, a passion I’ve long indulged privately; a short story I wrote was featured in the most recent issue of Hello Mr. Although I’m now New York based, I plan to maintain my ties to Los Angeles and write about the arts more broadly in the various places I visit, both as an editor for Frieze and as a freelance writer.