Irene Small teaches modern and contemporary art and criticism with a transnational focus. Her research interests include historical and neo-avant-gardes; modernism in a global context, particularly Brazil and Latin America; abstraction; temporalities of art; problems of methodology and interpretation; relationality and the social implications of form. She is an affiliated faculty member of the Program in Latin American Studies.
Her current book project, Hélio Oiticica: Folding the Frame, examines the experimental practice of the Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica, who worked in Rio de Janeiro, London, and New York in the 1960s and 70s. In particular, the book examines discourses of developmentalism and organic processes of emergence as they intersect in the articulation of a participatory art paradigm in mid-1960s Brazil. Her research has been supported by a number of fellowships and grants including the Getty Research Foundation, the Dedalus Foundation, the Creative Capital and Andy Warhol Foundations, the Lemann Institute of Brazilian Studies, and the Research Board of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she was an Assistant Professor of Art History from 2009 to 2012.
As a curator, Small organized Verbivocovisual: Brazilian Concrete Poetry at Sterling Memorial Library, Yale University in 2006 and co-curated Multitude at Artists Space, New York City, in 2002. She contributed essays to the award-winning exhibition catalogue Picasso and the Allure of Language (Yale University Art Gallery, 2009), and is currently co-curating Blind Field, an exhibition of emerging and mid-career artists working in Brazil which opens at the Krannert Art Museum at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in January 2013 and travels to the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University in June 2013.
“Medium Aspecificity / Autopoietic Form” in Alexander Dumbadze and Suzanne Hudson, eds. Contemporary Art: Themes and Histories, 1989 - Present. London: Wiley Blackwell Publishing, 2013.
Tumelo Mosaka and Irene V. Small, Blind Field. Champaign: Krannert Art Museum, 2013.
“Exit and Impasse: Ferreira Gullar and the ‘New History’ of the Last Avant-Garde” Third Text Vol 26 No 1 (January 2012) 91-101.
“Ped•a•go•gia: Como fazer coisas com palavras” (“Ped•a•go•gia: How To Do Things With Words”) Reconfigurações do Público: Arte, Pedagogia e Participação, Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro (March 2012)
“Openings: Matheus Rocha Pitta” Artforum (Summer 2011) 386-389.
“Our Literal Speed: Events in the Vicinity of Art and History” Journal of Visual Culture Vol 9 No 2 (August 2010) 237-41.
“Material Remains: On the Afterlife of Hélio Oiticica’s Work” Artforum (February 2010) 95-96.
“Believing in Art: The Votive Structures of Conceptual Art” Res: Anthropology and Aesthetics Vol 55/56 (Spring/Fall 2009) special issue on “Absconding”, ed. Francesco Pellizzi, Jonathan Hay, Wu Hung, 294-307.
“Site and Sociality: Joseph Beuys and the Relics of Modernist Sculpture” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (November 2009) pp. 86-88.
“Morphology in the Studio: Hélio Oiticica at the Museu Nacional” Getty Research Journal No 1 (February 2009) 107-126.
“One Thing After Another: How We Spend Time in Hélio Oiticica’s Quasi-Cinemas” Spectator: USC Journal of Film and Television Criticism, special issue “The Instant”, ed. René T. Brucker Vol 28 No 2 (Fall 2008) 73-89.