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Prof Joy Sleeman
Slade School of Fine Art
Gower Street
Prof Joy Sleeman profile picture
  • Professor of Art History and Theory
  • The Slade School of Fine Art
  • Faculty of Arts & Humanities

I studied History of Art at UCL (1987-1990) and have a PhD from the University of Leeds (Department of Fine Art, 1995). I have taught art history and theory at the Slade since 1995. From 2014-17 I was Faculty Graduate Tutor for Arts & Humanities.

My history of academic appointment includes a year as Henry Moore Fellow in the History of Sculpture in the History of Art Department at UCL (1996-97) and, from 2015-21, as visiting professor of the history of sculpture at the University of Lincoln.

I was on the editorial board of the Sculpture Journal  (2000-19) and have been a member of AICA (international association of art critics) since 2014.

My career has been spent mostly in departments of fine art and working alongside practising artists. I write, curate and lecture on aspects of land art and sculpture for a broad constituency that includes the public audiences of art galleries, museums and other arts organisations as well as academic contexts. I have a strong commitment to public engagement and communicating and developing scholarship and understanding of art related to landscape and environment in public arenas and artistic communities internationally and locally.

I have given lectures and public talks on land art and related subjects at galleries, museums and universities in the UK: including Arnolfini, Bristol; Northlands Glass, Lybster, Scotland; Yorkshire Sculpture Park; Jerwood Space, London; National Museum of Wales, Cardiff; Coventry University; University of York; University of Southampton and University of Warwick and abroad: including Hong Kong University; UNTREF, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Rice University, Houston, Texas; California State University, Long Beach and the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, USA.

Research Themes
Research Summary

My research concerns the histories of sculpture and landscape, especially land art, a contested field of art practice that continues to inspire artists and provoke debate among scholars. Land art was one of a cluster of new terms that emerged in the late 1960s to describe art works made with a new attitude to an old (and, to some, distinctly old-fashioned) area of art making: landscape. In the 1960s artists began to produce new and challenging works made directly in and of the stuff of the landscape. This has been my area of research interest since 1990 and I am acknowledged as an expert in the field and on land art in Britain in particular.

Since 2006 I have also worked collaboratively on land art. Initially (2006-08) in an AHRC-funded research network as part of the AHRC's Landscape and Environment programme, and subsequently with the two other steering committee members of the network (Nicholas Alfrey, University of Nottingham) and Ben Tufnell (independent writer, curator and gallerist), the Arts Council Collection and Hayward Touring as co-curators of the the exhibition Uncommon Ground: Land Art in Britain 1966-1979, the largest survey of this kind of work in Britain to date. It toured to four UK venues between May 2013 and June 2014. 

Since my doctoral studies in the early 1990s my work has sought to challenge a persistent view in much literature on land art that this work was predominantly American, with sub-movements in other parts of Western Europe (mainly in Britain, Germany and the Netherlands). I aimed first to re-emphasise the crucial contribution of British artists to land art's formation and to re-appraise the crucial contribution of Anglo-American and other international artistic exchange (particularly across Europe and North America) in the emergence and development of this new art of landscape.

Over the last decade or so my work on Anglo-American artistic relations has taken me to the USA and more recently, in a pattern perceptible across much art historical research into twentieth century and contemporary art, my research has embraced a wider context that both extends and challenges the dominant Western focus, looking, for example, to South America (Argentina) and Asia (Hong Kong).

In 2012-14 I was a project researcher for Lawrence Alloway: Critic and Curator at the Getty in Los Angeles, one outcome of which, a book published in 2015, includes my chapter exploring the relationship between Alloway and one of the pioneers of land art in America in the 1960s, Robert Smithson. I was advisor and wrote a catalogue essay for an exhibition, David Lamelas: A Life of Their Own, at the Art Museum of California State University, Long Beach and at MALBA (Buenos Aires) as part of the Getty's initiative Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA (Los Angeles/Latin America). Lamelas was one of the artists included in Uncommon Ground, as was the South African-based sculptor Roelof Louw who was the subject of my book project, Five Sites for Five Sculptors: Roelof Louw and British Sculpture since the 1960s (Ridinghouse: 2018).

Teaching Summary

In my role as Head of Taught Courses in History and Theory of Art at the Slade I am responsible for leading and co-ordinating the History and Theory component of undergraduate and graduate (MA) Fine Art courses. I work with my colleagues devising and developing a programme that is integral to the studio-based courses at the Slade and which supports and informs students' study of fine art practice, theory and history. Together with my colleagues in History and Theory of Art, we offer a research-based programme that is responsive to current developments in fine art and serves to introduce students to the histories and contexts which inform and locate their art and in which, as practicing artists, their work will be understood and contextualised.

My current teaching includes an MA course called Art Writing / Writing Art which takes both theoretical and more practical workshop approaches to writing. Since 2015/16 this course has included consideration of art writing in a time of climate change, recent - and not-so-recent - writings on topics such as global warming and the Anthropocene as they relate to writing and the practice of fine art. 

I supervise undergraduate Independent Studies and MA research essays and reports and mentor and manage postgraduate teaching assistants teaching on history and theory of art courses at undergraduate level at the Slade.

Academic Background
1995   Doctor of Philosophy University of Leeds
1990   Bachelor of Arts (Honours) University College London
1987   Foundation Course Warwickshire College of Technology & Art
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