Matthew McLendon, PhD, an art historian and curator of modern and contemporary art, became the director and chief curator of The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia on January 9, 2017. An energetic and influential leader, McLendon is widely recognized for his cross-disciplinary curatorial practice, an emphasis on community engagement and education, and activating marginalized voices in the museum setting.
“We are thrilled to have Matthew join The Fralin,” said Jody Kielbasa, UVA’s vice provost for the arts. “The University is approaching its third century and with that, the Museum is looking forward to an exciting new chapter in its own long history. We believe that Matthew provides the leadership The Fralin needs to embark on this new journey.”
In 2010, McLendon was recruited by The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the State Art Museum of Florida under the aegis of Florida State University, to revive its dormant modern and contemporary program. In a museum best known at the time for its treasury of Old Masters, McLendon undertook a series of high-profile exhibitions featuring rarely-seen pieces from The Ringling permanent collection. In 2011, Joseph's Coat, the largest Skyspace to date by artist James Turrell was opened under McLendon's leadership and his original exhibitions began drawing increasing regional and national audiences.
McLendon inaugurated and co-directed the Art of Our Time initiative, focused on living visual and performing artists, beginning in 2011. This cross-disciplinary programming series helped lead the way in The Ringling setting new records in attendance, membership, and support. Other high profile major exhibitions included the first museum survey of artist, composer, and performer R. Luke DuBois and an examination of living artists working with found objects, in the tradition of Marcel Duchamp, in Re:Purposed. Major gifts to the permanent collection in support of the Modern and Contemporary program included substantial additions to The Ringling's photography, sculpture, and works on paper holdings; a new collecting emphasis on studio glass with major collection gifts; and two permanent additions to exhibition space, the Kotler-Coville Glass Pavilion and the Keith D. and Linda L. Monda Gallery of Contemporary Art.
As an advocate for emerging and mid-career artists in the museum setting, McLendon has worked with a host of significant voices in contemporary art in both thematic and solo exhibitions, among them: Trenton Doyle Hancock, Nick Cave, Sanford Biggers, R. Luke DuBois, Mickalene Thomas, Zimoun, Anne Patterson, Vanessa German, Beth Lipman, Emily Noelle Lambert, Aurora Robson, Jill Sigman, Mac Premo, Daniel Rozin, Alyce Santoro, Gajin Fujita, Sofia Maldonado and Luis Gispert, among others. McLendon's survey of interactive cinema and live-mix performance pioneer Toni Dove is scheduled to premiere at The Ringling in February 2018.
His books and publications include: EMIT: What the Bringback Brought (Ringling/Murphy); Re:Purposed (Scala); R. Luke DuBois—Now (Scala); Beyond Bling: Voices in Hip Hop in Art (Scala); Dana Hargrove: Inhabit (Bridgette Mayer, contributing writer); Back to the Futurists: The Avant Garde and Its Legacy (Manchester UP, contributing writer); Jill Sigman: Ten Huts (Wesleyan UP, in press, contributing writer), among others. McLendon has served as teaching faculty for graduate and undergraduate students at Florida State University, New College of Florida, and Rollins College, in addition to frequent guest lectures, interviews, and media appearances.
Previously, McLendon served as the first Curator of Academic Initiatives at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum on the campus of Rollins College, where his responsibilities included curating exhibitions to engage student and local community audiences in a teaching museum setting. Prior to that, he served at Tate Britain, London. McLendon earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from the Courtauld Institute of Art of the University of London. He earned dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in Music and Art History at Florida State University, with magna cum laude honors. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Association of Art Museum Directors, American Alliance of Museums, College Art Association, and the Association of Art Museum Curators, among other professional organizations.
(Photograph by Daniel Perales)