BUFFALO, N.Y. – The Sept. 9 issue of the New York Times
included an article about an important new art exhibition scheduled
to open Oct. 30 in the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian
Institution: "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American
It is the first major museum exhibition to focus on sexual
difference in the making of modern American portraiture and marks a
major distinction in the career of art historian Jonathan D. Katz,
PhD, a new associate professor in the University at Buffalo Visual
Arts Department where he will direct the new doctoral program.
Katz and National Portrait Gallery historian David C. Ward
co-curated the exhibition, which will consider the role of sexual
difference in depicting modern America, how artists explored the
fluidity of sexuality and gender, how major themes in modern art
— especially abstraction — were influenced by social
marginalization, and how art reflected society's evolving and
changing attitudes toward sexuality, desire, and romantic
Ward and Katz co-authored the exhibition's 304-page catalog,
also titled "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American
Portraiture," which is scheduled to be published within the next
Katz is a pioneering academic, prodigious scholar and gay
activist who has made scholarly contributions to queer studies the
focus of his professional career. His accomplishments are
frequently accompanied by such terms as "new" and "first."
In the 1990s, for instance, he was the first full-time American
academic to be tenured in the field of gay and lesbian studies. He
founded and chaired both the Harvey Milk Institute, the largest
queer studies institute in the world, and the Queer Caucus for Art
of the College Art Association. He also co-founded Queer Nation San
Francisco, and was the first artistic director of the National
Queer Arts Festival in San Francisco.
This is a banner year for Katz. In addition to his Smithsonian
exhibition, he has another major exhibition under development, a
new book coming out, and, with two British colleagues, is a
co-investigator on a $770,000 project examining sexuality in the
And, of course, the UB doctoral program in visual studies and
its emphasis are new, if not for Katz, then for the university,
which is precisely why he is here.
"I am very excited at the prospect of directing a graduate
program in visual studies that will take into consideration -- for
the first time -- issues of gender and sexuality," he says.
"Art history has been slow to embrace 20 years of scholarship in
this field," he says, "but because of plans already in place, UB is
poised to become a world leader in this area of study."
He points out that others in his department, including Assistant
Professors Elizabeth Otto and Lori Johnson are working in this
sphere, which permits the department to advertise the program as
having a strong investment in issues of gender and sex.
Although it has barely begun, Katz says he wants to see the
doctoral program expanded, and is investigating possible sources of
private funding. The department shortly will be in the position, he
says, to announce relationships with overseas institutions
currently vested in gender and sexuality research.
Katz's central scholarly concern is why the American avant-garde
in the Cold War era came to be dominated and defined by queer
artists who remained silent about their sexuality in what was
perhaps the single most homophobic decade in this nation's
His research and writing has focused on composer John Cage and
painters Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, although he also has
written about poet Frank O'Hara, French theorist and radical
feminist Monique Wittig, artists Agnes Martin, David Hockney, Andy
Warhol, Keith Haring and others.
Katz gave his first lecture here Sept. 13 and on Oct. 6 will
present a talk in the UB Humanities Institute's New Faculty Series
titled "The Sexuality of Abstraction: Agnes Martin." It will begin
at 3:30 p.m. in 830 Clemens Hall and is free and open to the
He also is co-principal investigator on a three-year, $770,000
UK Arts and Humanities Research Council grant to fund a study
titled "Same Sex Desire in Surrealism." His co-investigators are
art historians David Lomas of the University of Manchester (UK) and
Dawn Ades, OBE, FBA, of the University of Essex (UK), both of whom
specialize in surrealist studies.
His publications also include many essays, journal articles and
book chapters and two books-in-progress, to be published by the
University of Chicago Press: "The Silent Camp: Jasper Johns, Robert
Rauschenberg and the Cold War" and "Art, Eros and the Sixties."
Katz curated several exhibitions at Yale and at SUNY Stony Brook
and now, with Rock Hushka of the Tacoma Art Museum, is co-curating
"AIDS/Art/America," a major 2013-14 international touring
exhibition funded in part by a Warhol Foundation grant.
He also is writing the exhibition's full-scale catalog, which
Katz calls, "the first large scale presentation of art from the
plague years; the first examination of the ways AIDS shifted
post-modernist premises in the art world once the 'death of the
author' became sadly, repeatedly, literalized."
Before coming to UB, Katz was a Terra Foundation Senior Fellow
at London's Courtauld Institute and an honorary research fellow at
the University of Manchester, a post he has held since 2008. He was
a visiting associate professor at Smith College (2007) and
associate professor of art history at Yale University (2002-06)
where he also was founding director of the Lesbian and Gay Studies
Program and coordinated the Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and
Gay Studies that preceded it.
Katz serves on the Board of Directors and is curator of the
Leslie-Lohman Gay Art Foundation, which is building America's first
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) Museum
in New York City.
He has taught at SUNY Stony Brook, the University of Amsterdam
and, from 1991 to 1999, was a member of the City College of San
Francisco's Department of Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Studies, which
he also chaired and where he became country's first full-time
tenured faculty member in that field.
Katz is a graduate of George Washington University with a BA in
philosophy and literature. He holds an MA in the humanities from
the University of Chicago, and a PhD in art history from
He has been a fellow of the Clark Institute and Williams
College, the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, the Social Science
Research Council, the Smithsonian Institution and the Kress
Foundation; he also was the recipient of a 2009-10 Creative
Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation Book Grant for $50,000.
His activism is extensively discussed in Phyllis Burke's "Family
Values," (1993) Frank Browning's "The Culture of Desire: Paradox
and Perversity in Gay Lives Today," (1993) and in Chieko Kuriki's
"The Gay Rights Movement in America" (1997) as well as in numerous
periodicals and newspapers.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, a flagship institution in the State University of New
York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's
more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through
more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree
programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of
the Association of American Universities.