Janice Robertson

Photo of Janice Robertson

Visiting Associate Professor History of Art and Design jrober10@pratt.edu 718.636.3598 p Brooklyn Campus, East Hall 2


B.A., California State University, Fresno; M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D., Columbia University.


My scholarly approach and pedagogy are informed by the desire to "out" Western precepts and develop more inclusive ways of studying and teaching art history.

My publications include: "Decolonizing Aztec Picture-Writing," in Visual Culture of the Ancient Americas: Contemporary Perspectives, ed. Finegold, Andrew and Ellen Hoobler (University of Oklahoma Press, 2017), 185-196 & 88; and "Pictures Silences by Words: Rethinking the Problem of Aztec Picture-Writing," Quaderni Di THULE, Rivista Italiana Di Studi Americanistici Atti del XXVIII Convengno Internazionale di Americanistica (2006): 105-110. Because Aztec picture-writing does not fit within the parameters of either "art" or "writing," it challenges some of art history's most fundamental conceptual building blocks; it also draws attention to the role that print literacy has played in shaping the discipline of art history.

These research interests feed directly into my teaching practices. I am using VoiceThread multimedia technology to develop a hybrid pedagogy that undoes texts, leaving room for multiple voices and group conversations, and promoting student-centered learning. Conference talks on some of the innovative VoiceThread projects that have transformed my teaching were recorded and turned into VoiceThreads, so they can be viewed online and they remain open to conversation: "Don't just go to the museum: weave museum field trips into your art history survey with VoiceThread multimedia technology, and grow the 'working space' in your classroom." Panel on "Museums, Technology and the Digital Classroom," at the Museums and Higher Education in the 21st Century: Collaborative Methods and Models for Innovation Conference, sponsored by Baruch College and the Rubin Museum of Art," April 24-25, 2013. "VoiceThread Class Projects Turn Text-Based Teahing Practices on Their Head." Session sponsored by Art Historians Interested in Pedagogy and Technology (AHPT), Southeastern College Art Conference, Savannah, Georgia, Nov. 10, 2011. "Look, Listen, Speak, Text, Link, Draw: VoiceThread Changes the Balance of Power." Session on "Technology and Collaboration in the Art History Classroom," sponsored by Art Historians Interested in Pedagogy and Technology (AHPT), College Art Association Conference, New York, New York, February 9, 2011.

Most of my conference talks are available on VoiceThread. This one is also an important part of my scholarly trajectory: "Twoness, Syncretism and Colonial Latin American Art: A Better Understanding of Nepantla and Aztec Metaphysics Could Change the Narrative." Session on "Beyond Featherwork: Mexican Visual Identity between Conquest and Independence." College Art Association Conference, Washington D.C., Feb. 3, 2016.

In Spring 2017 I co-organized "Art as resistance: Decolonizing Art History" with Professor Caitlin Cahill (Urban Geography & Politics, Social Science and Culture Studies Department). This event, supported with a Risk/Dare/Experiment (RiDE) grant from the Provost's office, introduced the work of Ruby Chacon and Maria de Los Angeles, two Latina artists who do not neatly fit into the "global" art histories, within the framework of an introductory art history "Themes in Art and Cultures II" class.

At the invitation of the History of Art and Design department, I am currently working on a talk to be delivered in Spring 2018 as part of the Talks.Pratt series. It is tentatively entitled: "Developing a South/North Latin American Axis Within the Art History Survey." It will show how ancient (Pre-Columbian), colonial, modern and contemporary Latin American art can be woven into the art history survey--not in isolating "ghetto" chapters, but in an inclusive manner--by establishing a South/North Latin American axis that interacts with the mainstream narrative. Each point of contact opens up possibilities for starting conversations that expand, challenge, and transform a narrative that does not tell the whole story.

I am also working on a paper, tentatively entitled: "Disappointment in the work of Mexican artist, Gabriel Orozco: how it serves his decolonizing art practice." This paper explains why conventional art historical strategies for reading his work fail, and develops an alternate basis for reading his work--with roots in cultures indigenous to Mexico.

Prior to my coming to Pratt, I taught art history courses at: Queens College, Columbia University, Fordham University and the Fashion Institute for Technology. At FIT I received a Teaching Institute Seed Grant (2009-2010) and conducted a "VoiceThread Pilot Project," inviting professors across the curriculum to imagine how they might use this technology to transform their teaching. This project was so successful that the Center for Excellence in Teaching took it over and VoiceThread is now site-wide at FIT.

Since joining the Pratt faculty, I have taught courses on: Pre-Columbian Art, Mesoamerican Art, Aztec Art Unearthed, Aztec Art and Metaphysics (a brand new transdisciplinary course that combines Aztec philosophy and art history), Contemporary Latin American Art, and Themes in Art and Culture I & II.