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Faculty

Natilee Harren, Assistant Professor

History of Contemporary Art
B.A. Rice University
M.A. UCLA
Ph.D. UCLA

Natilee Harren, an art historian and practicing critic, specializes in modern and contemporary art history and theory from 1900 to the present with a particular focus on experimental, interdisciplinary practices after 1960. Her current book project, Objects without Object: Fluxus and the Notational Neo-Avant-Garde, examines the international Fluxus collective amid transformations of the art object wrought by score-based practices of the 1960s and the epochal shift from modernism to postmodernism. Harren is also co-editor of an interdisciplinary electronic publication, forthcoming from the Getty Research Institute, that surveys and theorizes a range of 20th-century experimental notations from the fields of performance art, dance, literature, and music within a media-rich digital platform. Prof. Harren’s research engages the history and theory of Euro-American avant-gardes across the 20th and 21st centuries; intermedia art and theories of translation between artistic mediums and disciplines; the role of notations, scores, and diagrams in conceptual and performative art practices; institutional critique; social practice; and theories of appropriation. Harren’s essays and criticism have appeared or are forthcoming in Art Journal and Getty Research Journal, among other publications, and she has been a regular contributor to Artforum since 2009. Her research has been supported by a Getty Research Institute Predoctoral Fellowship, a Fulbright Graduate Fellowship at the Kunsthistorisches Institut of the Universität zu Köln, the UCLA Center for European and Eurasian Studies, and the University of California Office of the President. She currently serves on the Executive Board of the Society of Contemporary Art Historians and as caa.reviews field editor for exhibition reviews in the Southwest. 

Rex Koontz, Professor and Director, School of Art

BA, American College in Paris
MA, University of Texas, Austin
PhD, University of Texas, Austin

Dr. Koontz's work centers on the art of the Ancient Americas. He is currently investigating the portable sculpture tradition along the Gulf Coast of Mexico between A.D. 100-1000. These objects, known as yoke, hacha, or palma depending on their form, are important for the understanding of the place of artistry in Ancient Mexican politics and culture. More general interests include the construction of meaningful urban spaces in this area and how the programs of sculpture, architecture, painting, and performance seen in the center of these cities helped shape and focus the ancient urban experience. Recent books include Lightning Gods and Feathered Serpents: The Public Sculpture of El Tajin and Blood and Beauty: Organized Violence in the Art and Archaeology of Mesoamerica and Central America (the latter edited with Heather Orr, both 2009). He has done fieldwork in Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras under the aegis of the Tinker Foundation, the University Research Council of the University of Texas, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, among others. He is currently working on a digital tool for visual analysis, VWire, that was awarded a Digital Humanities Startup Grant by the NEH in 2011-12.

H. Rodney Nevitt, Jr., Associate Professor

BA, Rice University
MA, Williams College
Ph.D., Harvard University

Dr. Nevitt’s field of research is seventeenth-century Dutch art. His publications include the book, Art and the Culture of Love in Seventeenth-Century Holland (in the series “Studies in Netherlandish Visual Culture,” W. Franits, ed.), Cambridge University Press 2003, and the articles, “Bridal Decorum and Dangerous Looks: Rembrandt’s Wedding Feast of Samson (1638),” in Rethinking Rembrandt, A. Chong and M. Zell, eds., Waanders 2002; “Vermeer on the Question of Love,” in The Cambridge Companion to Vermeer, W. Franits, ed., Cambridge 2001; “Rembrandt’s Hidden Lovers,” Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 1997 (Natuur en landschap in de Nederlandse kunst 1500-1800), vol. 48, 1998; and “The Herdsman, the Rowboat, the Beetle and the Ant in Two Marriage Portraits by Gerrit Adriaensz. de Heer,” in Shop Talk: Studies in Honor of Seymour Slive, C. P. Schneider, W. W. Robinson, A. I. Davies, eds., Harvard University Art Museums, 1995. Dr. Nevitt is currently working on a book exploring changes in Dutch genre painting in the context of developing notions of privacy, love and literary narrative in seventeenth-century Holland. In 2004 he received a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend to conduct research on this project in The Netherlands.

Dr. Nevitt has delivered papers at meetings of the College Art Association, Historians of Netherlandish Art, and the South-Central Renaissance Conference. He was an invited speaker in the symposium “Rembrandt and Beyond” at the Portland Art Museum in 2007, in the lecture series “Dutch Interiors” at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., in 2005, and in the conference “Rethinking Rembrandt” at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 2000. In addition to the introductory survey in art history (Renaissance to Modern), Dr. Nevitt teaches courses in European Baroque Art, Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art, Northern Renaissance Art, and seminars on Methods of Art History, Rembrandt, and Problems in Dutch Genre Painting.

Luisa Orto, Instructional Assistant Professor

BA, Boston University
MA, New York University
PhD, New York University

In addition to her degrees in Art History, Dr. Orto also completed a minor in Art Conservation at New York University, Institute of Fine Arts. Her PhD research addressed the exchange between the fine arts and design as demonstrated by central figures of postwar design in Milan, and was supported by the Fulbright Foundation. Following two years of teaching at New York University, Dr. Orto came to the University of Houston where she teaches in the Art History Department and the College of Architecture.

Dr. Orto teaches courses on the history of design including a Twentieth Century survey, as well as courses on Italian art and design, Scandinavian design and contemporary design.

Leopoldine Prosperetti, Instructional Professor

Western Art 1500-1900
BA, University of Utrecht
PhD, Johns Hopkins University

Leopoldine Prosperetti’s research focuses on the intersection between the history of landscape painting and the fast-growing field of Environmental Humanities. She is the author of Landscape and Philosophy in the Art of Jan Brueghel the Elder (Ashgate, 2009), which is the first full-length study on the art of Jan Brueghel the Elder. This work also relates landscape painting in Early Modern Europe to a philosophical culture rooted in Neo-Stoicism. Dr. Prosperetti has published numerous journal articles that address  various aspects of natural imagery and the creative imagination including a study of the origins of the hermitage landscape (in Imago Exegetica, Brill, 2014), on the collecting of shells as trophies of repose (Art History, June 2006), on tree imagery (Nord/Sud, Silvana Press, 2008 and Il Paesaggio del Rinascimento a Venezia, Giorgio Pozzi Editore, 2012), and most recently on Titian as the true master of sylvan imagery (The Enduring Legacy of Venetian Renaissance Art, Ashgate 2016). Her current book projects include the editing of a volume entitled The Verdant earth in Early Modern Italy (to be published by Amsterdam University Press), which will include her article on Titian: Sylvan Poet.  Another book in preparation is Sylvan Moments: Woodland Imagery in Western Art. It examines a long tradition of lyrical naturalism while also emphasizing (through the lens of Gaston Bachelard’ poetics of place) the importance of expressive vegetation in the reveries of repose.   

Judith Steinhoff, Associate Professor

BA, Sarah Lawrence College
MFA, Princeton University
PhD, Princeton University

Professor Steinhoff specializes in Medieval and especially Gothic Art. Her research generally concentrates on Italian 14th century painting, although she also maintains an active interest in medieval illuminated manuscripts. Her previous work and ongoing interests include the politicization of even religious imagery to convey social and political ideals as well as changes in workshop collaboration and practices during the 14th century. These themes are explored in her book, Painting in Siena After the Black Death: Artistic Pluralism, Politics, and Patronage, which was published by Cambridge University Press in 2007. She has published essays in several volumes and articles in journals including The Art Bulletin, Zeitschrift fur Kunstgeschichte, and Renaissance Studies. Prof. Steinhoff has presented papers at national and international art historical and interdisciplinary conferences, including the College Art Association annual conference, the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo, and the International Medieval Congress, Leeds. She is also active in TEMA (the Texas Medieval Association). Prof. Steinhoff is co-editor of and contributor to a volume entitled, Art as Politics in Medieval and Renaissance Siena, forthcoming in 2012. Her current research project is a study of representations of grieving behavior by women in art and in social rituals in late medieval Italy. Her essay, “Weeping Women: Social Roles and Images in 14th century Tuscany” (forthcoming in Crying in the Middle Ages: The Tears of History Elina Gertsman, ed., Routledge Press, Fall 2011) is a part of that project.

Prof. Steinhoff is also interested in Medieval illuminated manuscripts throughout Europe and periodically works with students to produce exhibitions of medieval books and student works inspired by medieval manuscripts (these include: “Lustre: Spiritual Treasures & Sensory Pleasures. Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts in Houston Collections” 2005-06 and “Music in Medieval Manucripts” upcoming in fall 2012).

Prof. Steinhoff teaches Art & Society: Prehistoric – Gothic, and upper level courses on Medieval Art (including Arts, Artists, and Patrons In Medieval Europe; Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts; and Italian Gothic Art and Patronage).

Roberto Tejada, Professor (joint appointment with Creative Writing)

Dr. Tejada is the author of five books of poetry, a translator, an essayist, art historian and critic. His multifaceted cultural studies investigations and creative activities have been recognized with numerous fellowships and grants including awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fulbright Foundation, Creative Capital Warhol Foundation and Brazilian university Fundação Armando Alvares Pentad. He founded and co-edits the journal Mandorla: New Writing from the Americas and has served as executive editor of Artes de México and on the editorial board of the magazine Vuelta. In his own words, Dr. Tejada's practice as a poet is linked to questions of culture, issues in ethics, and the dynamics of history. He advocates on behalf of Hispanic poets and writers who explore forms of Latinidad. As an art historian and curator, Dr. Tejada specializes in Latino and Latin American art. His publications on art history include National Camera: Photography and Mexico’s Image Environment (2009) and Celia Alvarez Muñoz (2009) and, as co-editor, Modern Art in Africa, Asia and Latin America: An Introduction to Global Modernisms (2012).

Sandra Zalman, Associate Professor

B.A University of California, Berkeley 
MA and Ph.D., University of Southern California

Dr. Zalman specializes in Modern and Contemporary Art, and her research develops out of a broad interest in the interplay between high and low forms of the visual, especially as that interaction has shaped the discourses of art in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The recipient of an Andy Warhol-Creative Capital Arts Writers Grant and a fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies, Dr. Zalman is interested in the examination of institutions that consciously worked to present modern art to public audiences, ranging from museums and world's fairs to department stores, movies, and popular magazines. She is the author the book Consuming Surrealism in American Culture: Dissident Modernism, an analysis of how Surrealism's vernacular and avant-garde status influenced the direction and reception of American art. Her research has appeared in the journals Grey Room, Art Journal, Histoire de l’Art, Woman’s Art Journal, and the Journal of Surrealism and the Americas. At the University of Houston, she has taught courses on Museums and the Problem of Display, Surrealism and its Afterlife in American Art, the Spectacle in Contemporary Art and Visual Culture, Curatorial Issues, and Art and Society from Renaissance to Modern.