May 20, 2018
Art historian and curator Kellie Elisabeth Jones brings recognition to underappreciated artists, deepening our understanding of art of the African Diaspora and securing its place in the canons of modern and contemporary art. Her research and curatorial practice have been instrumental in introducing the work of now-seminal black artists—such as Martin Puryear, David Hammons and Lorna Simpson—to wide audiences and bringing to light long-forgotten or overlooked black and Latinx artists.
Jones is interested in issues in contemporary museum theory and, as an associate professor in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University, calls herself a “de-institutionalized curator.” She has curated and co-curated acclaimed and groundbreaking shows such as Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles, 1960–1980 at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties at the Brooklyn Museum, named one of the best exhibitions of 2014 by Artforum. Jones is the author of two books: EyeMinded: Living and Writing Contemporary Art (2011) and South of Pico: African American Artists in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s (2017), which was named one of the best art books of the year by The New York Times.
Jones has received many honors and recognitions, including a MacArthur Fellowship in 2016 and the inaugural Excellence in Diversity Award from the College Art Association in 2018. Her research has been supported by the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard and by a Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant. She returned to Amherst in 1988–1989 as a Wade Fellow.
“Choosing Amherst allowed me to find the path to who I am now. I will always be amazed and thankful for that choice,” Jones has said. She graduated summa cum laude with an interdisciplinary major in Spanish, black studies and fine arts. In addition to her B.A. from Amherst, Jones holds a Ph.D. in art history from Yale.