Artist & Digital New Media Curator Janna Avner Speaks to Painter & Critic Robert Storr



Janna Avner’s Studio Visit with Robert Storr/ Los Angeles, CA / Feb. 2017.

Robert Storr is a leading curator, artist, and critic of the 20th and 21st century. He was the first American Commissioner of the Venice Biennale in 2007, the senior curator of the Museum of Modern Art from 1990 to 2002, and former Dean of the Yale School of art for the past 10 years, where in 2012 he met Janna Avner who was a senior at Yale. Storr has been a contributing editor at Art in America since 1981, and writes for major arts publications including Artforum, Parkett, Art Press (Paris), Frieze (London), and Corriere della Serra (Milan). Many of Storr’s catalogues and art historical books stem from longtime friendships with significant artists Louise Bourgeois, Philip Guston, Chuck Close, Richard Serra, John Baldessari, and many others.

In 2000, Storr was presented the medal of Chevalier des Arts and des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture, and subsequently awarded the status of Officier in the same order.

Yale School of Art’s website lists Storr’s awards, including “a Penny McCall Foundation Grant for painting, a Norton Family Foundation Curator Grant, and honorary doctorates from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Maine College of Art, as well as awards from the American Chapter of the International Association of Art Critics, a special AICA award for Distinguished Contribution to the Field of Art Criticism, an ICI Agnes Gund Curatorial Award, and the Lawrence A. Fleischman Award for Scholarly Excellence in the Field of American Art History from the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art.”

In 2012, Storr was Janna Avner’s thesis advisor in studio painting at Yale. Storr has since been an advocate for her exhibited paintings and curations through studio visits and encouraging bi-coastal chats.

Avner’s study of painting technique began with Storr’s insistence that Avner switch from acrylics to oils. A singularly minded and intuitive artist, Avner approaches the canvas like Storr might—as a variegated and opinionated painter-cum-critic. Avner engages with the art discourse as both a painter and published writer, due to her background as a double major in English and visual art at Yale, where she graduated with high honors in Yale’s Art Department. Avner’s 2017 lecture for UCLA’s Drawing Department this past March discussed the relationship of the drawn line to new software. In 2016, Avner was quoted in the Los Angeles Times for her knowledge of a former Washington Color School Painter and was quoted in the Paris Review for her exposition of humanoid robotics. In November 2016, Avner moderated a panel on brand strategy and feminism in the arts for a digital new media exhibition she co-created, titled Femmebit, which celebrates women in the Los Angeles arts. Avner has also lectured for Yale’s graduate Art History department on Gertrude Stein’s literary contributions to modern art.

Avner might also be considered a “painter’s painter”— an approach to painting that finds likeness in Storr’s curatorial tendencies made evident in the exhibitions he oversaw as senior curator of MoMA. Storr’s interest in Avner’s work might suggest their sympathetic outlooks on the genre of painting: neither artist thinks painting is “dead,” nor do they think everything has been done “under the sun.” Storr’s current studio visits with Avner guide her methodology towards deeper and richer exploration of painting processes in figuration and abstraction. A prolific artist, Avner continues to develop distinct and vivid paintings influenced by Storr’s trusted and experienced guidance.  – 2017.

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