Robert Cozzolino photo provided by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
American art expert Robert (Bob) Cozzolino has been appointed the Patrick and Aimee Butler Curator of Paintings at the Minneapolis Institute of Art starting March 1, 2016. Presently he holds an endowed senior curatorial post at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) in Philadelphia where he has organized more than 30 exhibitions since 2004.
Cozzolino's expertise complements that of the Institute's longtime painting curator, Patrick Noon, whose specialty is 19th-century British and French painting. As head of the painting department, Noon has held the Butler-endowed post. He will continue as department chair but with a new title, Elizabeth MacMillan Chair of Paintings. Financial support for chairman's position comes from a new endowment provided by Betty MacMillan, a former trustee of the museum at 2400 3rd Av. S.
A Chicago native, Cozzolino has deep roots in the Midwest and has often championed regional talent, especially artists from Chicago, Wisconsin and California. He earned his doctoral degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison with a dissertation on the paintings of Ivan Albright (1897-1983), a reclusive Chicago eccentric known for gnarly self-portraits and dark character studies.
At PAFA Cozzolino has focused especially on 20th century American art including retrospectives of Elizabeth Osborne, George Tooker, and Peter Blume. He has also worked with leading contemporary artists including Sue Coe, Vik Muniz, and Peter Saul. In 2014 he collaborated with filmmaker David Lynch on a large-scale show of Lynch's art, and subsequently purchased the artist's first work incorporating film,"Six Men Getting Sick," (1967).
His curatorial innovations include setting up a painting studio within a 2010 exhibition where PAFA students made self-portraits as part of an exhibition on the topic. Committed to expanding the number of works by women artists in the PAFA collection, he acquired as a gift the Linda Lee Alter Collection of Art by Women which encompassed nearly 500-objects including pieces by Louise Bourgeois, Joan Brown, Viola Frey, Miriam Schapiro and others.
When purchasing for the PAFA collection, he took a broad view of 20th-century American art, embracing gutsy figurative, social-realist, surrealist, and psycho-sexual themes that were for a long time dismissed or scorned by champions of mid-century American abstraction. His purchases included work by Gertrude Abercrombie, Roger Brown, Philip Evergood, Jared French, Adolph Gottlieb, Jacob Lawrence, Norman Lewis, Louis Lozowick, Jim Nutt, Nancy Spero, and Dorothea Tanning.
Not coincidentally, Cozzolino's enthusiasm for those subjects and artists was endorsed by the late Myron Kunin, a PAFA board member and long time supporter of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. In January 2015 Kunin's family loaned the Minneapolis museum about 550 art works from Myron's collection and hopes to make the loan a gift once his complex estate is settled. If that happens, Cozzolino will be an ideal curator to oversee and interpret the Kunin bequest.