Karen Moss is an art historian, independent curator, educator and writer based in Santa Monica, California. Former Professor of Critical Studies at USC Roski School of Art and Design, she was Director of the MA Program in Curatorial Practices in the Public Sphere, 2017-2021. Moss has held senior curatorial and education positions at the Orange County Museum of Art; San Francisco Art Institute; Santa Monica Museum of Art, and Walker Art Center. Earlier in her career she worked at MoCA, Los Angeles, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum. She received her BA in art history/studio art from UC Santa Cruz and MA and PhD in art history from University of Southern California. She has authored numerous exhibition publications and articles for art magazines and scholarly journals.
An independent curator for the past 12 years, Moss’s current project is by Alison Knowles: A Retrospective 1960 – 2022 on view at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) from July 20, 2022, through February 12, 2023. The most extensive exhibition of Knowles’s art to date, the exhibition includes 200+ objects and is accompanied by a 286-page catalogue with scholarly essays and a fully illustrated timeline of her art, live and events. After the presentation at BAMPFA, the exhibition will embark on a tour to Europe during 2024.
Moss has co-curated two exhibitions for the Getty’s ongoing Pacific Standard Time initiative. She was consulting curator for Talking to Action: Art, Pedagogy and Activism in the Americas (2015) Otis College of Art and Design’s project for the Getty’s Pacific Standard Los Angeles/Latin America. Working with lead curator Bill Kelly Jr. this exhibition focused on contemporary community-based and socially engaged art practices in sites in Latin America and Los Angeles. The exhibition traveled to Arizona State University Art Gallery, the Sullivan Galleries at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Pratt Manhattan Gallery.
Previously, Moss co-curated with Constance Lewallen State of Mind: New Art from California Circa 1970 for the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time Los Angeles in 2011. One of the first major exhibitions to investigate the development of conceptual art and related activities in the late 1960s and early 1970s in both northern and southern California. After it premiered at the Orange County Museum of Art, it subsequently travelled to the UC Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archives, the Belkin Gallery, University of British Columbia, Vancouver; SITE Santa Fe, the Bronx Museum of Arts, and the Smart Museum, University of Chicago.
In her capacity as Deputy Director of Exhibitions and Programs and Curator of Collections at Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA) from 2005 – 2010, Moss curated numerous exhibitions including 15 Minutes of Fame: Portraits from Ansel Adams to Andy Warhol (2010) Illumination: The Paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe, Agnes Pelton, Agnes Martin and Florence Pierce (2009); Disorderly Conduct: Recent Art in Tumultuous Times (2008) and Art Since the 1960s: California Experiments (2007-08). Moss was co-curator and catalogue essayist for the 2006 California Biennial and organized artists’ residencies, performances and public programs for the 2006, 2008 and 2010 Biennials.
Prior to OCMA, Moss was Director of Exhibitions and Public Programs at San Francisco Art Institute (1999-2004) where she curated exhibitions such as Sharon Lockhart/Kelly Nipper, James Siena, Topographies, and The World on Its Head: Contemporary Belgian Art and organized Touch: Relational Art from the 1990s with Nicolas Bourriaud. Moss also did international residencies with artists Ghada Amer, Tania Bruguera, Lee Bul, Wim Delvoye, Pierre Huyghe/Philppe Parenno, Los Carpinteros and Rikrit Tiranvanija.
As Director of Education and Community Programs and curator at the Walker Art Center (1995-1999) she curated Performance in the 1970s: Experiencing the Everyday, Art of the 1960s: Media is the Message, co-curated Visitor’s Voices: Recomposing the Collection, and also organized many artist residences and public programs.
Moss was the first Director of Programs at the Santa Monica Museum of Art (1989-1993) where she curated exhibitions such as Altered Egos: Making As Another and Kim Abeles: Encyclopedia Persona and organized Art in the Raw the museum’s inaugural site-specific installations that evolved into signature SMMOA’s Artists’ Project Series. Earlier in her career she was an Assistant Curator at MOCA, Los Angeles (1985-87) where she worked in Media and Performing Arts (MAPARTS) on the Territory of Art radio series and numerous performance events and was Assistant Curator and Acting Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (1983-85) where she curated projects including Lynn Hershman’s Prisoner of Paradise, an early outdoor video installation and started the ARTWATCH series of public interventions into windows on State Street.