Gregg Bordowitz, whose work was recently the subject of a traveling retrospective, will lead the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program, which has cultivated multiple generations of key thinkers and artists.
It’s the first time that the program, known as ISP for short, has gotten a new director in over half a century. Its founding director, Ron Clark, is retiring after 54 years at the helm, with Bordowitz set to take up the mantle in February.
Neither a graduate program nor a traditional art school in any sense, the ISP, which was launched by Clark in 1968, combines art history and studio art, offering courses in both disciplines alongside ones related to critical studies. For that reason, its alumni traditionally work in highly conceptual, and often explicitly political, modes.
Past participants have included numerous acclaimed artists, among them Mark Dion, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Andrea Fraser, Felix Gonzalez Torres, Renée Green, Lyle Ashton Harris, Jenny Holzer, Glenn Ligon, Yvonne Rainer, Julian Schnabel, and Bordowitz himself. Art historians such as Alexander Alberro and Miwon Kwon and curators such as Naomi Beckwith and Sheena Wagstaff have also attended the program.
In a 2003 interview with Artforum, the artist Mary Kelly, an alumna of the program, credited the ISP with having “shaped an intellectual community” in New York.
While Bordowitz is best known for his art, his work has also included activism—he was a member of ACT UP during the ’80s—and education. He has taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he founded the Low-Residency Master of Fine Arts program and served as a professor in the Film, Video, New Media, and Animation department.
“My engagement with the ISP, as a participant and then faculty for over 30 years, shapes my ongoing education as an artist and a teacher. Study is a way of life,” Bordowitz said in a statement. “Teaching is the art of learning. The teacher teaches learning, as learning teaches the students; as learning teaches the teacher to teach. This is an ongoing process of continually renewing amazement.”
The ISP is currently undergoing a transition, as it is this year set to move to Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein’s former studio in Greenwich Village. Donated by Dorothy Lichtenstein, Roy’s wife, the studio will now act as the ISP’s first permanent home.
“It is so important to have an artist lead the ISP, which has long focused its program on next-generation creators,” Whitney Museum director Adam Weinberg said in a statement. “Gregg is an ideal successor to help launch the ISP into an exciting new chapter, given his deep knowledge of critical theory, art history, and curatorial work. Moreover, he has an established history with the program, as both a participant and educator.”