Faculty & Staff Directory
Kaira Cabañas
School of Art + Art History/Global Modern and Contemporary Art History

Kaira M. Cabañas (b. Hialeah) is Professor of Art History and affiliate faculty in the Center for Latin American Studies and Center for Gender, Sexualities and Women’s Studies Research. She received her BA in Comparative Area Studies with a focus on Latin America and Western Europe from Duke University; an MA in the History of Art from Yale University; and a PhD in Art and Archaeology with a Graduate certificate in Media and Modernity from Princeton University. She is a recipient of fellowships and grants from the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (the Center) | National Gallery of Art; Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute; Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant Program; Getty Research Institute; Fundação Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro – FAPERJ; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía; Mellon Foundation; Dedalus Foundation; Fulbright Program, among other institutions. Prior to arriving at UF, she held appointments in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University and the Departamento de Letras at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-RIO).

Cabañas is a specialist in modern and contemporary art of the Americas and Europe. Her research and teaching engage a series of aesthetic and cultural debates that situate her work’s significance at the intersection of various disciplines, including art history, film studies, Latin American Studies, women’s studies and, more recently, transatlantic exchanges in art and psychiatry.

She is the author of multiple books, including Immanent Vitalities: Meaning and Materiality in Modern and Contemporary Art (2021), which received the Frank Jewett Mather Award from the College Art Association, and Learning from Madness: Brazilian Modernism and Global Contemporary Art (University of Chicago Press, 2018) received the Arvey Foundation Book Award Honorable Mention from the Association for Latin American Art and was a Modernist Studies Association Book Prize Finalist.  She is also author of Off-Screen Cinema: Isidore Isou and the Lettrist Avant-Garde (University of Chicago Press, 2014) and The Myth of Nouveau Réalisme: Art and the Performative in Postwar France (Yale University Press, 2013). In 2012 she served as guest curator for the exhibition Specters of Artaud: Language and the Arts in the 1950s at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid; she also served as the catalogue’s editor. Fernando Castro, an eminent art critic in Spain, named the exhibition one of the year’s top 10 in ABC Cultural.

Cabañas’s writings on art and film in Europe and Latin America have appeared in numerous international magazines and academic journals, including Artforum, October, Grey RoomLes Cahiers du Musée national d'art moderne, O que nos faz pensar, and Oxford Art Journal. She has also contributed to leading museums' publications, among them, Among Others: Blackness at MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2019), Djanira: A memória de seu povo (Museu de Arte de São Paulo, 2019), Isidore Isou (Centre Georges Pompidou, 2019), Paris pese a todo: Artistas Extranjeros 1944–1968 (Museo Reina Sofía, 2018), Laercio Redondo: Relance (Pinacoteca Estado de São Paulo, 2018), Mário Pedrosa (Museo Reina Sofía, 2018), Jean Tinguely (Stedelijk/Kunstpalast, 2016), Mário Pedrosa, an Anthology (MoMA, 2015), Histórias da Loucura: Desenhos de Juquery (Museu de Arte de São Paulo, 2015), Gil J Wolman: I am Immortal and Alive (MACBA/Serralves, 2010), and Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers (Walker/Hirshhorn, 2010). She also served as guest editor for the catalogue Seven Circles / Seven Sounds: Lothar Baumgarten, which was published by the Kunsthaus Bregenz in 2009.

She regularly writes for Artforum, featuring women, LGBTQ, and Latin American artists' contributions to art’s histories.

Cabañas is currently at work on a study of Brazilian avant-garde artist Flávio de Carvalho and on a broader study tentatively titled "Deviant Art Histories," which addresses the constitutive roles art and artists played in the international calls for psychiatric asylum reform during the twentieth century.

Selected publications


Immanent Vitalities: Meaning and Materiality in Modern and Contemporary Art. Studies on Latin American Art. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2021.   * Winner of the 2022 Frank Jewett Mather Award from the College Art Association: https://www.collegeart.org/news/2022/01/24/caa-2022-awards-for-distinction/

Learning from Madness: Brazilian Modernism and Global Contemporary Art. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018.  Link: http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/L/bo28638781.html

Off-Screen Cinema: Isidore Isou and the Lettrist Avant-Garde. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015.  Link: http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/O/bo18756439.html

The Myth of Nouveau Réalisme: Art and the Performative in Postwar France. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2013.  Link: https://yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9780300181203/myth-nouveau-realisme

Edited volumes

Lula Wanderley, No silêncio que as palavras guardam: O sofrimento psíquico, o Objeto Relacional de Lygia Clark e as paixões do corpo [The silence that words hold: Psychic suffering, Lygia Clark's Relational Object and corporeal passions] (ed. and preface). São Paulo: n-1 edições, 2020.  Link: https://www.n-1edicoes.org/no-silencio-que-as-palavras-guardam

Jacques Derrida, Artaud the MoMA (ed. and afterword), trans. Peggy Kamuf. New York: Columbia University Press, 2017.  Link: https://cup.columbia.edu/book/artaud-the-moma/9780231181679

Laercio Redondo: Intimacies / Proximidades (ed. and intro). Rio de Janeiro: Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro; Berlin: The Green Box, 2016.  Link: https://www.thegreenbox.net/en/books/intimacies-proximidades

Specters of Artaud: Language and the Arts in the 1950s (ed., intro and afterword). Madrid: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, 2012.  Link: https://www.museoreinasofia.es/en/publicaciones/specters-artaud

Common Love, Aesthetics of Becoming: Columbia University MFA Alumni (ed. and intro). New York: Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, 2011.  Link: https://wallach.columbia.edu/publications/common-love-aesthetics-becoming

Seven Circles / Seven Sounds: Lothar Baumgarten (ed. and preface). Bregenz: Kunsthaus Bregenz, 2009.  Link: https://www.artbook.com/9783865605382.html

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