S. Elise Archias


PhD, University of California, Berkeley, Art History
MA, University of California, Berkeley, Art History
BA, University of California, Berkeley, Art History



305 Henry Hall

Elise Archias’s research and classes center around modern and contemporary art and performance art, asking questions about the relationship between abstract ideals and physical materials and needs in 20th- and 21st-century life and aesthetics. Her book, The Concrete Body – Yvonne Rainer, Carolee Schneemann, Vito Acconci (Yale University Press, 2016) was the winner of the Frank Jewett Mather Award for art criticism in 2018 and the Miess/Mellon Author's Book Award in 2015. The book (reviewed in Artforum (February 2018) explores the ways the use of the body as a material in the work of three prominent performance artists revised modernist aesthetics for the 1960s as part of a broader critique of everyday life within spectacle culture. Her next project considers painters and sculptors in the late 1950s and 1960s who held on to modern ideas and forms, in spite of the fact that these individuals belonged to identity categories formerly excluded from the modern categories of “citizen” and “human.” She has presented her work on performance, sculpture, and painting in various venues nationally and internationally, including the Getty Research Institute, the Henry Art Gallery, University of British Columbia, the Archives of American Art, and the Slought Foundation. She received her doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley in 2008 and worked as an assistant professor at California State University, Chico, before coming to UIC in 2012. She was a scholar in residence at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Research Center in 2011. She was a fellow at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in spring 2016, pursuing her research on Joan Mitchell and abstraction in the long ‘Sixties. In winter 2017, she curated Embodiment Abstracted: The Influence of Yvonne Rainer at UIC’s Gallery 400, an exhibition featuring seven artists’ performance and video work from the early 2000s. She has advised master’s theses on Sharon Hayes’s public love letters, public sculpture as a site of performative activism, the abstract painting of Pat Passlof, and Alberto Giacometti’s sculptural argument with Surrealism circa 1929, among others.

Courses Taught

AH 100 Introduction to Art and Art History
AH 265 History of Performance Art, 1900-present
AH 208 Episodes in mid-20th Century Abstract Art: Europe, the U.S., Brazil, and Japan
AH 460 Interiority: The Development of an Idea and its Crisis
AH 561 Holding Onto Modernism Circa 1960