Richard Kalina, Art Professor
Richard Kalina is professor of art and former chair of the theatre and visual arts department at Fordham.
There are three Richard Kalinas—the artist, the critic and the teacher. Each one informs the other.
To get a feel for his art, simply visit the atrium on the ground floor of the Lowenstein Center, where Alba Pompeia (1995), a colorful and playful 65-inch diameter collage of acrylic and flashe on canvas, is on permanent loan.
“My work has an underlying or an overlaid grid, which locates it spatially and adds a reference to the picture plain,” said Kalina. “It also speaks to the long history of modernism, which has a kind of gridded understructure—particularly the modernism that flowed from cubism.”
This past June, 42 years and 21 solo exhibitions after he began his professional career, he was admitted to the prestigious National Academy of Design, joining notable artists like Jasper Johns and Maya Lin.
“It’s one of the highest awards for artists and architects,” he said. “I’m very pleased to have been singled out for this.”
As a critic, Kalina is a contributing editor at Art in America, where he primarily writes about art from the 1950s through the 1970s. He said writing about the past helps to place him in the present and encourages a certain necessary humility.
“It’s very important in making art not to have it be too clever,” he said. “I am most comfortable with art that is intelligent but doesn’t feel intellectual. There’s a lot of art that says, 'Oh look how smart I am.’ I find that to be a bit problematic.”
As a teacher, instructing students in art history and studio art helps Kalina better express himself.
“Teaching allows you to close the gap between looking, making and explaining,” he said. “It allows you to be more precise without nailing everything down, because you can’t just tell your students what they have to do, or what is the proper interpretation of something.
“You can only create the boundaries for understanding—a kind of borderline—and then have the meaning coalesce in between that. Students basically have to find out this stuff for themselves. They have to put it together—both in art history and in art.”