Research & Practice Areas
Art, architecture, and art writing in the 19th- and 20th-centuries; mass culture and modernism; histories of abstraction, sculpture, and collage.
As of July 1, Prof. Luke will be Professor and Chair of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Kunsthistorisches Institut, Universität Tübingen
Megan R. Luke is Associate Professor in the Department of History of Art and member of the Executive Committee of the Visual Studies Research Institute at USC. She teaches the history of modern art, architecture, and art writing in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her research focuses on the histories of abstraction, collage, and photography, with particular interests in art reproduction, the history of sculpture, early cinema, exile studies, and theories of the image.
She received her B.A. from Yale University and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University. Prior to joining the faculty at USC, she was a postdoctoral fellow in the Society of Fellows at the University of Chicago, where she also held the position of Collegiate Assistant Professor in the Art History Department. She has been a visiting scholar at eikones Zentrum für die Theorie und Geschichte des Bildes, Universität Basel; Freie Universität, Berlin; Center for Advanced Studies, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich; and the Swiss Institute for Art Research (SIK-ISEA), Zurich. She is currently the Project Director of Images Out of Time, a three-year interdisciplinary NEH-funded Humanities Initiative in Visual Studies with colleagues in Anthropology, Comparative Literature, History, and Religion.
Her first book, Kurt Schwitters: Space, Image, Exile (Chicago 2014), investigates the German artist’s collaborations with peers in The Netherlands and Central Europe; his work in sculpture and the demands it places on perception and reconstruction; and the impact of wartime displacement on his ideas about abstract pictorial composition and on the historiography of the avant-garde more generally. This book received the 2015 Robert Motherwell Book Award, an honorable mention in Art History for the 2015 PROSE Awards, an inaugural Meiss/Mellon Author’s Book Award from the College Art Association, and support from the Henry Moore Foundation. In tandem with this research, Prof. Luke has edited the comprehensive English translation of Schwitters’s theoretical writing and criticism, Myself and My Aims: Writings on Art and Criticism (Chicago Press, 2021). She currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the Kurt and Ernst Schwitters Foundation in Hannover, Germany.
In 2022–23, Prof. Luke will be the William C. Seitz Senior Fellow at CASVA/National Gallery of Art to complete her second book, Sculpture in an Age of Mass Reproduction, which considers how the development of reproductive technologies remade the sculptural object and, in turn, the very methods enlisted to analyze its claims to embody or convey past experience. Focusing on materials ranging from rubber to plastics and technologies from electrotyping and photography to 3D printing and rendering, this book traces how historians, critics, and artists have understood sculpture to offer powerful resistance to faith in technological “progress.” For modern theorists of the medium, sculpture became a privileged site for a diagnosis of an atavistic return to magic and myth at the heart of modernity—one that was, nevertheless, increasingly dependent upon technological reproducibility for its visibility. With a focus on German intellectual history, media theory, and artistic practice, her research for this book has been supported by a Fellowship for Experienced Researchers from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. In tandem with this project, she co-edited (with Sarah Hamill) the volume, Photography and Sculpture: The Art Object in Reproduction (Getty, 2017) and received a Collaborative Research Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies.
Prof. Luke has published in Art Bulletin, Art History, kritische berichte, OCTOBER, Oxford Art Journal, RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, Texte zur Kunst, and West 86th, as well as numerous exhibition catalogues for museums in the United States, Germany, and Austria. In 2020, she was the Sponenburgh Lecturer at the University of Oregon and in 2019, she delivered the Ninth Annual Robert Rosenblum Lecture at the Guggenheim Museum, New York.
- Luke, M. R. (2021). Myself and My Aims: Writings on Art and Criticism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- (2017). Photography and Sculpture: The Art Object in Reproduction. Los Angeles: Getty Publications.
- Luke, M. R. (2014). Kurt Schwitters: Space, Image, Exile. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- Luke, M. R. (2021). “An Introduction to Merz-Thought,” in Myself and My Aims: Writings on Art and Criticism. pp. xiii–xxvi. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- Luke, M. R. (2020). “Formlinge: Carola Giedion-Welcker, Hans Arp, and the Prehistory of Modern Sculpture,” in Hans Arp and Other Masters of 20th Century Sculpture. pp. 54–67. Berlin: Stiftung Hans Arp and Sophie Taeuber-Arp.
- Luke, M. R. (2018). “Ein Bild ist ein geformtes Ding” [A Picture is a Shaped Thing (on Frank Stella, Michael Fried, and Max Imdahl)], in Michael Frieds “Shape as Form” und die Kritik der Form von 1800 bis zur Gegenwart. Munich: W. Fink.
- Luke, M. R. (2017). “Artificial Blindness: Objecthood and the Photography of Sculpture,” in Photography and Sculpture: The Art Object in Reproduction. pp. 138–152. Los Angeles: Getty Publications.
- Luke, M. R., Hamill, S. (2017). “Reproductive Vision: Photography as a History of Sculpture,” in Photography and Sculpture: The Art Object in Reproduction. pp. 1-32.
- Luke, M. R. (2009). “Spazio irradiante, fantasmagoria didascalica” [Radiating Space, Didactic Phantasmagoria], in Riga. Kurt Schwitters. pp. 256-264. Milan: Marcos y Marcos. Vol. 29,
- Luke, M. R. (2006). “Objecting to Things,” in Frank Stella 1958. pp. 1-65. New Haven: Yale University Press.
- Luke, M. R. (2022). “Sculpture in an Age of Mass Reproduction,” in Future Bodies from a Recent Past: Sculpture Technology and the Body since the 1950s (Munich: Museum Brandhorst), pp. 195–202.
- Luke, M. R. (2018). “An Art History of Intensive Intentions,” in Harald Szeemann: Museum of Obsessions. pp. 182–199. Los Angeles: Getty Publications.
- Luke, M. R. (2017). “The Trace of Transfer,” in Artists in Exile: Expressions of Loss and Hope. pp. 129–141. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.
- Luke, M. R. (2016). “Corollary Happenings: On Frederick Kiesler’s Galaxies,” in Frederick Kiesler: Life Visions. Frederick Kiesler: Life Visions pp. 166–171. Vienna: MAK.
- Luke, M. R. (2015). “Still Life/Commodity,” in New Realities and Neue Sachlichkeit: Modern German Art during the Weimar Republic. New Objectivity pp. 228-241. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
- Luke, M. R. (2013). “Togetherness in Exile,” in Schwitters in Britain. Schwitters in Britain pp. 42-51. London: Tate Publications.
- Luke, M. R. (2023). “Der Autor als Ersatzteil. Albert Renger-Patzsch sieht zurück und betrachtet sich selbst”. Fotogeschichte.
- Luke, M. R. (2023). “The Ghost and the Rock: Albert Renger-Patzsch and the Shape of Time”. Art History.
- Luke, M. R. (2021). “Metalwork and Serial Sculpture in Germany, 1870–1930,” West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture 28, no. 2 (Fall–Winter 2021): 284–89..
- Luke, M. R. (2020). “The Factotum of Industry: Max Klinger’s Beethoven”. 3 pp. 81–94.kritische berichte. Vol. 48 (3),
- Luke, M. R. (2019). “A Picture is a Shaped Thing”. 168 pp. 148–65.October.
- Luke, M. R. (2017). “Painting in the Round”. S1 pp. 149–182.Getty Research Journal. Vol. 9 (S1),
- Luke, M. R. (2017). “Our Life Together: Collective Homemaking in the Films of Ella Bergmann-Michel”. 1 pp. 27–48.Oxford Art Journal. Vol. 40 (1),
- Luke, M. R. (2012). “Sculpture for the Hand: Herbert Read in the Studio of Kurt Schwitters”. 4 pp. 234-250.Art History. Vol. 34 (4),
- Luke, M. R. (2010). “The Photographic Reproduction of Space: Wölfflin, Kracauer, Panofsky”. pp. 339-343.RES. Anthropology and Aesthetics. Vol. 57/58 (Spring/Autumn 2010),
- Humanities Initiatives at Colleges and Universities (PI), 2022-2025
- William C. Seitz Senior Fellow, CASVA, National Gallery of Art, 2022-2023
- Stiftung Arp Fellowship, Berlin, 2019
- Fellowship for Experienced Researchers, 2017-2019
- USC Raubenheimer Outstanding Junior Faculty Award, 2016
- Robert Motherwell Book Award, 2015
- Collaborative Research Fellowship, 2013-2015