Grant Kester is an art historian and critic whose research focuses on socially-engaged art practice, the visual culture of American reform movements, and aesthetic theory. He received a BFA in photography from the Maryland Institute, College of Art and an MA and PhD from the Visual and Cultural Studies program at the University of Rochester, where his dissertation examined the relationship between aesthetic and political philosophy in eighteenth-century English culture. Prior to joining UCSD Kester taught at Arizona State University, Washington State University, and the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, New York. He was previously scholar-in-residence and coordinator of the critical studies program at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
Between 1990 and 1996 he was editor of Afterimage, a visual and media arts journal published by the Visual Studies Workshop. At Afterimage he established one of the first paid internship in the country for minority writers and editors at an arts publication. He has also served as the Washington D.C./Mid-Atlantic Editor of the New Art Examiner. In 1986-87 Kester was a fellow in the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program. Kester edited the anthology Art, Activism and Oppositionality: Essays from Afterimage (Duke University Press, 1998) and the "Aesthetics and the Body Politic" issue of the College Art Association Art Journal (Spring 1997). His book, Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art (University of California Press, 2004) outlines a critical framework for recent art practices based on performative interactions with participants outside of normative art contexts. For publications, essays, and course syllabi see: digitalarts.ucsd.edu...~gkester.
Kester has worked as a curator and curatorial consultant for projects including Expanding Commitment: Diverse Approaches to Socially-Concerned Photography (with Ann Fessler, Maryland Institute, 1986), Ruins in Reverse: Time and Progress in Contemporary Art (CEPA Gallery, 1999) and Unlimited Partnerships: Collaboration in Contemporary Art (CEPA Gallery, 2000). His current curatorial project, “Groundworks: Environmental Collaborations in Contemporary Art,” opens at the Regina Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University in October 2005. Kester's essays have been published in The Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Art Since 1945 (Blackwell, 2005), Theory in Contemporary Art Since 1945 (Blackwell, 2004), Poverty and Social Welfare in America: An Encyclopedia (ABC-Clio, 2004), Politics and Poetics: Radical Aesthetics for the Classroom (St. Martins Press, 1999), the Encyclopedia of Aesthetics (Oxford University Press, 1998), Ethics, Information and Technology: Readings (McFarland, 1997) and Photo Manifesto: Contemporary Photography in the USSR (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 1991) as well as journals including Afterimage, Variant (Scotland), FOCAS (Singapore), Public Art Review, Exposure, Mix (Canada), the Nation, New Art Examiner, Third Text, Social Text and Art Papers.
Photo courtesy of Ofunne Obiamiwi, (Class of 2009)
Transitory Publico Symposium, 2007