Current Graduate Students

For departmental alumni click here

Samuel Adams (ABD)
Emily Anderson
Nadya Bair (ABD)
Jessica Brier
Lauren Dodds
Rika Hiro
Karen Huang (ABD)
Yoon Hwang
Grant Johnson
Megan Mastroianni (ABD)
Christopher Mcgeorge
Brendan McMahon (ABD)
Avigail Moss
Elizabeth Murphy
Ambra Spinelli (ABD)
Samuel Adams

In spring 2016 Samuel will defend his dissertation, “Theaters of Contemporary Art in Cold War Germany, 1951-1979.” This study of performance art and theater set designs by artists such as John Heartfield and Joseph Beuys, shows that theatricality, though discredited in critical discourse of the period, was a major theme in postwar art. His research is funded by the German Academic Exchange Program (DAAD), the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, the Pittsburgh Foundation, and USC's Hovel Memorial Scholarship and Provost PhD Fellowship. Honors earned at USC include the general education graduate teaching award. After his BA at New York University he worked at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Getty Research Institute. He has shared research at the Association of Art Historians, the College Art Association, the Courtauld Institute of Art, the German Studies Association, Harvard University, the International Bauhaus Colloquium, Stanford, Tufts, and UCLA. He has written for Afterimage, ARTnews, Big Red & Shiny, caa.reviews, and the volume Representations of German Identity (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2013).

Emily Anderson

Emily Anderson is a doctoral student in Art History.  She received her BA in Art History and Archaeology at Tufts University and her Master’s in Art History from Southern Methodist University.  She has worked at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation where she compiled a bibliography of pre-1800 illustrated medical texts in special collections in the Houston area.  Before starting at USC, Emily served as the graduate intern in the Drawings Department at the J. Paul Getty Museum.  At the Getty, she worked on Renaissance Florentine drawings and also 19th-century French drawings and lithography.  She has researched and worked in variety of fields, but she is currently interested in the visual history of science and medicine.  Emily works on drawings, prints, and biological materials in the early modern period.  She is also interested in trans-Atlantic print culture and collecting practices in relation to science and knowledge in the sixteenth century.  

Nadya Bair
Nadya is beginning her fourth year as Provost Fellow in the Art History department, where she works on the history of photography and photojournalism. Her dissertation, tentatively titled "A World of Pictures: Magnum Photos and Postwar Photojournalism," examines how a group of cosmopolitan war photographers transitioned to documenting the globe in the immediate aftermath of World War II. Nadya's interests include the history of the photo book, artist and photographer networks in Europe and the United States, photo agencies, art practices during wartime, and the connection between Jews and photography. Research grants from USC's Visual Studies Research Institute and the Science, Technology, and Society Research Cluster have supported Nadya's research at the International Center for Photography, the Ransom Center, the Center for Creative Photography, the Magnum Foundation, and the UNESCO archives. In 2011, she worked on the exhibit "Through Soviet Jewish Eyes: Photography, War, and the Holocaust,"  which opened at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York in the fall of 2012. Nadya graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Barnard College in 2006, received her MA in Art History from USC in 2012 and advanced to candidacy in April 2013.
Jessica Brier

Jessica is a first year PhD student in the Department of Art History. Her research focuses on twentieth-century European and Latin American modernism with a particular interest in mechanical reproduction and works on paper, including prints, photographs, artist books and other printed ephemera. She is interested in issues including the conditions of making in the artist’s studio; the dissemination and circulation of works on paper; the intersection of art and graphic design; and the utility of art. Formerly a curatorial assistant in photography at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), she has worked on exhibitions including Public Intimacy: Art and Other Ordinary Acts in South Africa (2014); South Africa in Apartheid and After: David Goldblatt, Ernest Cole, Billy Monk (2012-2013); and Francesca Woodman (2011-2012). Her writing has appeared in art on paperCurating Now, Art Practical, Daily Serving, Daylight Digital, and on SFMOMA's blog, Open Space. Independently, she has organized exhibitions at the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts and Park Life, in San Francisco, and at Headlands Center for the Arts, in Sausalito, CA. She holds a BA from New York University and an MA in Curatorial Practice from the California College of the Arts.

Lauren Dodds

Lauren Dodds is in her second year in the Art History department at USC. Her research focuses on the art and visual culture of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Italy. She is specifically interested in the conventions of representation shaping portraiture during this period. In 2008, Dodds graduated summa cum laude from Pepperdine University with a B.A. in Art History and English literature. She received her M.A. in Art History from Southern Methodist University in 2011. Her master’s thesis, entitled “Portraiture as Metamorphosis: Reconsidering the Doni Portraits and their Verso Images,” focused on a set of portraits painted by Raphael with reverse images attributed to the anonymous Master of Serumido. In the summer of 2011, Dodds interned at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. She has also gained professional experience at the Dallas Museum of Art, Christie’s in Beverly Hills, the Frederick R. Weisman Museum in Malibu, and the Getty Museum.

Rika Hiro
Rika Hiro is starting her 6th year in the Ph.D. program. Her primary interest is in post-WWII period art and visual culture in Japan, especially the Anti-Art movement in the 1960s and 1970s and its global exchanges. Before coming to USC, she worked as a research assistant at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Getty Research Institute and co-founded non-profit art space Art2102 of Los Angeles. She is a regular contributor to Japanese contemporary magazine Bijutsu Techô, and co-curated Art, Anti-Art, Non-Art: Experimentations in the Public Sphere in Postwar Japan 1950-1970 and Radical Communication: Japanese Video Art, 1968-1988 both at the GRI. She holds M.A. in Art History and Museum Studies from USC.
Karen Huang

Karen Huang advanced to doctoral candidacy in July 2013. A Provost PhD Fellow, Karen's general research interests include modern and contemporary American art; art as political intervention; the relationship between performance and documentation; and the history of print. Her dissertation explores how contemporary American artists employ reenactment as a method for engaging with politics of the Vietnam War era, and how those reenactments can produce, alter, and interrogate collective memory in America. Karen co-organized the 2012 USC symposium, "Art and the Mind: Neuroaesthetics, Phenomenology, and the Experience of Vision," and she has worked as a research assistant at the Getty Research Institute and the Santa Monica Museum of Art. Before coming to USC, Karen worked in the departments of Prints and Drawings and Medieval through Modern European Painting and Sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago. She was an exhibition researcher and catalogue contributor to Watercolors by Winslow Homer: The Color of Light (AIC, 2008), and she contributed research to Jose Guadalupe Posada and the Mexican Broadside (AIC, 2007). Karen earned her MA in Modern Art History, Theory, and Criticism from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her BA in Art History and Spanish from Vanderbilt University.

Yoon Hwang

Yoonah Hwang is currently in her second year in Ph.D. program of Art History at USC. She received her B.A. degree in History from Yonsei University in 2007, and graduated from Seoul National University with a M.A. in Art History. Her primary field of interest is in the Buddhist art in China, particularly focusing on the artistic production and exchange along with Silk Road including the Dunhuang and Turfan regions during the ninth-tenth centuries. She also focuses on the rituals that take place inside the cave temple as well as the original context of objects found inside, including banner paintings. Hwang has gained professional experience at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the National Museum of Korea.

Grant Johnson
Grant Johnson is a Dornsife Doctoral Fellow in the department of art history and participant in the Visual Studies graduate certificate. His research focuses on postwar and contemporary painting, sculpture and fashion. His writing appears in Artforum, where he is a regular contributor to the online edition, The Brooklyn Rail, Surface, Modern Painters and Performawhere he was a writer-in-residence from 2012-2014. Recent publications include, "Citing the Sun: Marc Jacobs, Olafur Eliasson and the Fashion Show," in Fashion Theory,  June 2015. In 2014, he co-organized "Exhibit A: Authorship on Display," a conference of scholars, curators and artists at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He has contributed to curatorial projects and publications at The Frick Collection, The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Paul Kasmin Gallery and the Gund Gallery. A graduate of Kenyon College, he is also a former associate of The Kenyon Review. His poetry has appeared in Zone 3 and The Red Branch Journal.
Megan Mastroianni

Megan advanced to doctoral candidacy in August 2012. A College Doctoral Fellow, she is in her fifth year in the PhD program. Her dissertation, “An Aesthetic of Imagination: The Documentation of American Land and Conceptual Art in Germany, 1968-1975,” explores various strategies employed in the documentation and dissemination of American art of the 1960s and 70s in West Germany, demonstrating the ways in which photography, video and installation were often at pains to keep alive the contingency of the original artistic intervention. Megan has been the recipient of language study, travel and research grants from DAAD and USC’s Dornsife. She co-organized the 2012 symposium, “Art and the Mind: Neuroaesthetics, Phenomenology and the Experience of Vision," and has presented her work at the German Studies Association (2012) and UCLA (2013). Prior to joining the PhD program at USC, Megan worked in the modern art department at LACMA, where she contributed to such projects as the 2008 reinstallation of the museum's collection of modern art and the 2009-10 exhibition, "Art of Two Germanys/Cold War Cultures." She was a contributor to the recent LACMA publication, Envisioning Modernism: The Janice and Henri Lazarof Collection (2012). Megan received her BA in Art History from USC in 2006.

Christopher Mcgeorge

Christopher McGeorge is in his second year as a Dornsife Doctoral Fellow in Art History. His research focuses on nineteenth-century British art and visual culture, Victorian engagements with the past, and reproductions of Victorian paintings. In 2010, McGeorge graduated from Lawrence University with a degree in Art History and English. He completed his MA in Art History at University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2012, producing a thesis titled “Caravaggio and the Victorians: Contextualizing the Practice of Art History and Unraveling a 20th-Century Narrative of Rescue.” 

Brendan McMahon

Brendan is a Provost Fellow who advanced to doctoral candidacy in May, 2013 and currently holds an Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship from the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, as well as a Fulbright Garcia-Robles Fellowship. He is now based in Mexico City and is conducting research for his dissertation, "Colors of Deception: The Arts of Iridescence in the Early Modern Spanish World," which investigates the physical and rhetorical lives of three iridescent materials-hummingbird feathers, shot taffeta, and mother of pearl-in seventeenth-century Spain and Mexico.  Focusing on their vibrant materiality, the study situates the reception of these materials within period debates surrounding the limitations of vision, the boundaries of artistic creation, and the mechanics of sight itself. This project grows out of larger research interests that include the relationships between art and science, the reception of transient color, and the transregional circulation of objects and bodies in the early modern world.  He holds a BA in Art History and Hispanic Studies from Vassar College (2007; general and departmental honors, Phi Beta Kappa) and an MA from USC (2012), as well as professional experience as a museum educator at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Brooklyn Museum.  When not in the library, Brendan can often be found observing local bird-life with binoculars in hand.

Avigail Moss

Avigail Moss is a first year PhD student working on nineteenth- and twentieth-century art and visual culture. From 2009 to 2010 she was a researcher-in-residence at the Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht, The Netherlands, where she co-organized symposia on art, philosophy, and feminist theory. In 2012 she co-edited a book on painting after Conceptual Art (Painting - The Implicit Horizon, Jan van Eyck Academie. Co-edited with Kerstin Stakemeier). She has produced essays and presentations for art institutes in Europe and North America, including Castillo/Corrales Section 7 Books, FR; Zentrum Paul Klee, CH; de Appel Arts Center, NL; Marres House for Contemporary Culture, NL; Piet Zwart Institute, NL; Kunsthaus Bregenz, AT; Presentation House Gallery, CA; and YU Contemporary, US. She has also published exhibition reviews in Texte zur Kunst and CAA.online. She holds a BA from UCLA, an MFA in painting from Yale University, and an MA in art history from University College London.

Elizabeth Murphy
Elizabeth received her B.A. in Art History from Bard College in 2005. Her primary interest is in Contemporary Native American and Chicano art, with a focus on cross-cultural representations and appropriation. She has worked on traditional New Mexican "folkart", lowrider art, and other non-art art practices. Before starting at USC she was the co-founder and director of an alternative, collective art space (A.D. Collective) in Santa Fe, NM.
Ambra Spinelli

Ambra Spinelli advanded to doctoral candidacy in May 2014. Her Major is in Ancient Roman Art and Archaeology and she is undertaking a dissertation on the ancient Roman tablinum in the Bay of Naples. In 2005, she received her BA in Classics from the Università di Bologna. Ambra has participated in several archaeological excavations and research projects involving Etruscan, Roman, and Medieval sites in Italy, such as Marzabotto, Bologna, Herculaneum, Pompeii, Acquaviva Picena, and Albinia. She attended SOMA 2007: XI International Symposium on Mediterranean Archaeology in Istanbul, with a published paper titled: "Underwater Archaeology in Italy: the Park of Baia (Naples)." Particularly noteworthy was her M.A. thesis in Archaeology in 2008 concerning the preparation of a Museum of Antiquities inside the Department of Archaeology, Università di Bologna. Ambra served as Antiquities Graduate Intern in 2009-2010 at the J. Paul Getty Villa, Los Angeles. She also collaborated with the J. Paul Getty Villa in the 2012 show "The Last Days of Pompeii," and she is currently serving as Research Assistant in the Antiquities Department at the J. Paul Getty Villa. Ambra has been working since 2011 as Assistant to the Director in the "PARP:PS - Pompeii Archaeological Research Project: Porta Stabia," led by the University of Cincinnati, and at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) in Seattle, she presented a poster titled "Disinterring a Pompeian Middle-Class Neighborhood" on her archival research and was awarded "Best Poster Award." Ambra presented her last research "The Getty Cybele: A Portrait of Feminine Virtues" at the 2014 AIA - Annual Meeting in Chicago, at the J. Paul Getty Villa in Malibu, and at USC. She has been also invited to deliver several special talks on the 2014 "Pompeii" exhibition at the California Science Center for the Los Angeles local societies of the Archaeological Institute of America, California Classical Association, and Patrons of the Italian Culture.