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College of Arts & Sciences
School of Visual Art and Design

Faculty & Staff Directory

Ross Barrett

Assistant Professor
Art History
School of Visual Art and Design
University of South Carolina

Office MM 226
Phone Number 777-8766

I specialize in nineteenth and twentieth-century American art and visual culture. My research and teaching concentrate on the social and political implications of art, exploring the ways that American artists have navigated the rise of corporate capitalism and mass consumer culture, struggles over the limits of popular political expression, dialogues about the nature of property and the economic potential of the landscape, and other significant conflicts and crises.  My forthcoming book Rendering Violence (University of California Press, 2014) examines American artists’ creative responses to the political violence that unsettled public life in the U.S. in the years between 1820 and 1890.  Analyzing violent canvases by Thomas Cole, Nathaniel Jocelyn, George Henry Hall, and others, the book demonstrates that representing disorder in paint was a risky and difficult venture that required artists to negotiate debates about the legitimacy of violent protest, the character of democracy, and the political function of fine art.

Together with Daniel Worden, I recently coedited Oil Culture (University of Minnesota Press, forthcoming 2014), a volume of essays that examines how cultural representations of petroleum and the oil industry have contributed to, and worked to contest, the establishment of a global system of oil capitalism and the reorganization of everyday social experience around the consumption of fossil fuels.

I am currently developing a second book project that will examine speculation as a mode of cultural representation that linked landscape painting and real-estate markets in the nineteenth-century United States.  The book will examine a series of artists—including John Quidor, Martin Johnson Heade, Eastman Johnson, and Winslow Homer—who speculated in real estate and found creative possibility in the conflicting constructs of value that speculative discourses assigned to land.

I teach courses on American art from the early republican period to World War II, including courses on American art and the Civil War, American landscape painting, the visual culture of American urban life, modern art and technological media, and the methods of art history. I earned my Ph.D. from Boston University (2009) and have received research support from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  I have published articles in Prospects, Winterthur Portfolio, The Art Bulletin, Journal of American Studies, and American Art, along with catalogue essays and entries on American painting and vernacular photography.