Nell Irvin Painter Lecture and Book Signing on October 27

October 13, 2015

Artist and Historian Nell Irvin Painter Visits Rutgers,

Will Lecture on October 27 at Zimmerli Art Museum


New Brunswick, NJ – The Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers is pleased to welcome artist and historian Nell Irvin Painter for a lecture and book signing on Tuesday, October 27. Painter’s talk, entitled “Three Words: Conceptual, Formal, and Abstract,” focuses around the work of artist Melvin Edwards, whose retrospective Five Decades is on view at the Zimmerli through January 10, and begins at 5 p.m. A reception follows at 6 p.m. During the reception, Painter will sign copies of her most recent book, The History of White People, a New York Times bestseller that guides audiences through more than 2000 years of Western civilization, illuminating not only the invention of race but the frequent praise of “whiteness.” The lecture, reception, and book signing are free and open to the public, but seating is limited and registration is required at Books will be available for purchase during the reception. This event is co-sponsored by the Office of the Chancellor, Rutgers-New Brunswick.


A Professor of History for more than 40 years, Painter retired from Princeton University in 2005 and returned to college to study painting. She earned a B.F.A. from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers and an M.F.A. from Rhode Island School of Design. She currently lives and works in Newark, and regularly exhibits her paintings at galleries in the region.


As a scholar, Painter has authored seven books, as well as scores of articles and reviews. She frequently explores issues of racial and gender identity and how they have figured into the history of America and the West. Painter received her Ph.D. from Harvard University, where she also was awarded a Centennial Award from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 2011. Among other honors, she has been a fellow of the Guggenheim Foundation, the Bunting Institute, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Painter was selected as the President of the Southern Historical Association  and the Organization of American Historians, and is a recipient of the Brown Publication Prize awarded by the Association of Black Woman Historians.


Melvin Edwards’s career spans crucial periods of upheaval and change in American culture and society, and his socially charged sculptures synthesize a diversity of artistic approaches, ranging from abstraction to minimalism. Over the past five decades, Edwards has produced a remarkable body of work that has not only redefined the modernist tradition of welded sculpture, but powerfully addresses African and American identity and universal ideals such as freedom and individualism.


Melvin Edwards: Five Decades – the first retrospective of his work in more than 20 years – presents a full range of the sculptor’s achievements. The exhibition’s stop at the Zimmerli represents a triumphant return for the artist to New Brunswick: Edwards was a professor at Rutgers from 1972 to 2002, teaching sculpture, drawing, and an introduction to Third World artists. His sculpture Education Is an Open Book (1987) is located on the Livingston Campus as part of the university’s public sculpture collection that spans all campuses.


Melvin Edwards: Five Decades is on view at the Zimmerli Art Museum through January 10, 2016. The exhibition is organized by the Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, and its Associate Curator, Catherine Craft. The exhibition is made possible by the Henry Luce Foundation. Additional major support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.


The presentation at the Zimmerli is coordinated by Donna Gustafson, Curator of American Art and Mellon Director for Academic Programs. It is supported by the Estate of Ralph Voorhees and donors to the Zimmerli’s Major Exhibition Fund: James and Kathrin Bergin; Alvin and Joyce Glasgold; Charles and Caryl Sills; Voorhees Family Endowment; and the Jerome A. Yavitz Charitable Foundation, Inc.—Stephen Cypen, President. Additional support is provided by the Office of Institutional Diversity and Improvement at Rutgers. 


Following its presentation at the Zimmerli, the exhibition travels to the Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio. Melvin Edwards: Five Decades is accompanied by a richly illustrated scholarly catalogue with essays by Craft, scholars Alex Potts and Tobias Wofford, a conversation with the artist, and a catalogue of Edwards’s public sculptures by Nasher Assistant Curator Leigh A. Arnold.



The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum houses more than 60,000 works of art, ranging from ancient to contemporary art. The permanent collection features particularly rich holdings in 19th-century French art; Russian art from icons to the avant-garde; Soviet nonconformist art from the Dodge Collection; and American art with notable holdings of prints. In addition, small groups of antiquities, old master paintings, as well as art inspired by Japan and original illustrations for children’s books, provide representative examples of the museum’s research and teaching message at Rutgers. One of the largest and most distinguished university-based art museums in the nation, the Zimmerli is located on the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Established in 1766, Rutgers is America’s eighth oldest institution of higher learning and a premier public research university.



Admission is free to the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers. The museum is located at 71 Hamilton Street (at George Street) on the College Avenue Campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick. The Zimmerli is a short walk from the NJ Transit train station in New Brunswick, midway between New York City and Philadelphia.


The Zimmerli Art Museum is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., and the first Tuesday of each month (except August), 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The museum is closed Mondays and major holidays, as well as the month of August.


Z Café featuring the Food Architects is open Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., with a variety of breakfast, lunch, and snack items. The café is closed major holidays, as well as the months of July and August.


For more information, visit the museum’s website or call 848.932.7237.



The Zimmerli’s operations, exhibitions, and programs are funded in part by Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and income from the Avenir Foundation Endowment and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Endowment, among others. Additional support comes from the New Jersey State Council of the Arts, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts; the Estate of Victoria J. Mastrobuono; and donors, members, and friends of the museum.


Who to contact: