Leora Maltz-Leca

Leora Maltz-Leca is a critic, curator and historian of contemporary art. At RISD she teaches courses on global contemporary art and theory, focusing on the art of the postcolonies and the global south, as well as seminars on race, critical theory and the artist’s lecture. She is interested in modernism as a series of ongoing cross-cultural exchanges and negotiations, and in contemporary art as (among other things) a historical project: a retrospective exhuming of modernism’s repressed origins. She has written extensively—especially about contemporary African art—for publications such as Artforum, Frieze, African Arts, Art South Africa, ArteEast and Art Bulletin, where she is a member of the editorial board. Before turning to art history, she worked in corporate law and in the international sales and design sectors of the fashion industry.

Maltz-Leca holds undergraduate degrees in painting and in philosophy, a background that continues to shape her interest in the stakes of studio materials and processes: both the pragmatics of making and unmaking, and the metaphorics of artistic process as a form of mental processing. Her book on William Kentridge, Process as Metaphor & Other Doubtful Enterprises (University of California Press, 2018), explores how the South African artist renders the physical processes of the studio—cutting, pasting and projecting light—as metaphors for the way we think and live. Her second book , Material Politics: Matter and Meaning In and Out of the Postcolonies, continues to explore the politics embedded in material choices, addressing how a range of contemporary artists plumb the histories and associations of specific substances to materialize the political through the formal. Her writing has been supported by a 2016 CAA Millard Mess publication award, a 2011 Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writer's book award, a 2011/12 Getty Postdoctoral Fellowship and a 2010 Library of Congress Swann fellowship for animation.

In spring 2017 Maltz-Leca founded the Redwood Contemporary Arts Initiative at Newport’s Redwood Library & Athenaeum, the nation’s oldest subscription library, its first public Neoclassical building and the original American multidisciplinary think-space. Renewing the premise that art and text depend on one another—and that what artists read remains central to what they make—the RCAI organizes lectures, symposia and exhibitions and partners with other Newport organizations, such as the inaugural Art & Newport. (For selected 2017 press coverage, see Newport Mercury, Artdailyorg, Newport Daily News and an interview with Artscope.)

Recent essays include “The Politics of Collaboration: Drowning the Piano and Other Southern Tales” in the 2016 Routledge volume Collaborative Art in the Twenty-First Century,which examines what happens when collaboration goes south, and “The Politics of Excess” for Worldshare, Pascale Martine Tayou’s 2016 exhibition at the Fowler Museum, UCLA. Maltz-Leca explored the artist’s ambivalent relationship to ground—both formal and geographic—in “Grounding Robin Rhode” for his 2014 retrospective at the Neuberger Museum, NY, and wrote on the politics of nude female resistance in postcolonial Africa in “Specters of the Original and the Liberties of Repetition,” African Arts(winter 2013). Writings on William Kentridge include “Process/ Procession: William Kentridge and the Process of Change,” Art Bulletin(March 2013), “Thinking about the Forest and the Trees: William Kentridge’s Second-Hand Reading” Invisible Culture (2014), and a review of “Nose” for Art South Africa. She has also written on Marlene Dumas, David Goldblatt, Santu Mofokeng, Malick Sidibéand other artists for Artforum; on “Lyric Documentary” for Art South Africa; on Guy Tillim for ArteEastand on Paul Stopforthfor Taxi.

Fall 2017 Courses

  • HAVC-H101-09 History Of Art & Visual Culture 1

Wintersession 2018 Courses

  • HAVC-1511-01 *Morocco: Crafting The City: Handicrafts In Context

Spring 2018 Courses

  • GRAD-148G-01 The Gradual Contemporary: Conversations On Contemporary Art
  • Leora Maltz-Leca's CV
  • BA, Yale University
  • MA, Brown University
  • MA, Harvard University
  • PHD, Harvard University


Apparel Design Architecture Ceramics Digital + Media Experimental and Foundation Studies Film / Animation / Video Furniture Design Glass Graduate Studies Graphic Design History of Art + Visual Culture History, Philosophy + the Social Sciences Illustration Industrial Design Interior Architecture Jewelry + Metalsmithing Landscape Architecture Literary Arts + Studies Painting Photography Printmaking Sculpture Teaching + Learning in Art + Design Textiles