Peter Louis Bonfitto is the Director of Art Galleries and Exhibition Programming at ACC. Since 2020, he has overseen the Art Department’s gallery spaces at Highland Campus, as well as online programming and events related to gallery initiatives. Before coming to ACC, Peter worked in the Curatorial and Scholars Program departments at the Getty Research Institute (GRI) in Los Angeles, CA, where he co-curated the gallery exhibition, Connecting Seas: A Visual History of Discoveries and Encounters (2013-2014), and the online exhibition, The Legacy of Ancient Palmyra (2017). At the GRI, he also played a pivotal role assisting and collaborating with scholars and artists on projects related to annual research themes. Peter’s collaboration with resident artist Richard Tuttle resulted in the artist’s book You Never See The Same Color Twice (GRI, 2017), for which he served as managing editor and contributor. He has taught Art History and Art Appreciation at ACC since Spring 2018 and has lectured at The University of Texas at Austin. Peter is lead author and editor of the forthcoming publication, World Architecture and Society: From Stonehenge to One World Trade Center (ABC/CLIO, 2021).
Current Courses 2021-2022
ARTS 2389-Academic Cooperative
Director of Art Galleries and Exhibition Programming
Office: HLC 4.2110.10
What is an early experience with art or a specific artwork that made you decide to pursue a career in the arts? How has that experience shaped you and/or how do you view art differently now?
I spent a semester studying abroad in Greece, exploring the sites that would shape my career, at least in part. Encountering the works of the Archaic period in ancient Greek art, such as the Moschophoros (Calf Bearer)[make this a hot link: https://www.theacropolismuseum.gr/en/content/male-statues], were especially interesting to me at that time. It was very exciting to see works that were on the verge of perfecting naturalistic aesthetics, but still part of a stylistic tradition that adhered to a more ancient past. When I learned about ancient people studying objects and even excavating the sites of their predecessors, it had a profound effect on me. It demonstrated how art and architecture can make connections across time that speak to our shared humanity.
Describe some of your former projects, do you see a common thread that connects them?
Much of my work has revolved around the history of archaeology or the reception of ancient artworks or materials in different historical periods. For example, I worked on a curatorial project on Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt with my colleague Louis Marchesano at the Getty Research Institute [GRI] in 2014.
I do feel that there is a connection between these projects and some of my work with contemporary artists, such as Thomas Demand and Tacita Dean, with whom I’ve dug through archives to create new works. Using the GRI’s collection, I helped Richard Tuttle in his process of making an artist book [https://www.actualizers.com/richard-tuttle] on the concept of Color. The themes of discovery and interpretation seem to repeat themselves in many of the projects I’ve worked on.
Is there another medium or area of research that you have always wanted to explore?
I only have a basic understanding of Japanese art and culture. The refinement of artistic processes and materials seen in traditional Japanese arts, such as printmaking, woodworking, and architecture, is extraordinary. From the outside, it seems like many historic Japanese artists were wholly dedicated to creating perfection and beauty.
What is your favorite technique or topic to teach? Is there one lecture or selection that is the most fun for you to teach?
I think that the most enjoyable aspect of teaching art history is bringing students to a gallery or museum and having them select works to discuss and see them make their own connections to works.
How do you approach students who find creating or studying art difficult?
I try to make a broad comparison between thinking about art or styles of art to music. Everyone has different tastes in music, and the same is true of art. It’s fine if a student doesn’t particularly care for a period or specific artist’s work. Discovering what interests you, and why, is an important process, one that I still work on myself. What is important to convey in class is that art is a fundamental tool for visual communication in all cultures, and that it has greatly shaped the world that we live in.
What skills and abilities make a good teacher?
Patience mostly and realizing that the class isn’t about me. The most important element is for the students to grow and learn. I can get excited about a topic, and class material may be important to cover for the test, but allowing for students to make deeper connections through their own interactions with art should come first.
What do you like to do for fun?
Travel. Exploring new places and returning to favorite spots is always on my mind. During the quarantine, the list of places to go has grown and grown!
Name a place that you’ve traveled to, but feel like you need to go back to because you didn’t have enough time there.
Siena, Italy. My wife and I spent two nights there a few years ago. I think we were there for 10 minutes before we decided we wanted to live there permanently. [add Siena photo w/caption: Siena, 2016 photo by Tracy Bonfitto]
Is there something that only people that know you really well would know?
It isn’t that much of a secret, but between about 2006-2012, I dedicated a lot of my time to my own artistic practice. It was a really important period for me and, I think, has made me a better art historian. I had three exhibitions, two in Los Angeles (where I lived for many years) and one in Istanbul (I lived there for about a year). These are some of the best works from that period: [include pictures from folder]
If you could study under or interact with any living or historical artist, who would it be?
There are so many, this is a hard question to answer. But, I’ve been fascinated with the work of Gordon Matta-Clark for years. He had a singular artistic vision that was tragically cut short. He pulled off some of the wildest artistic projects in Contemporary art, such as leading demolition crews to carve up existing buildings, therefore creating aesthetic negative spaces through an industrially-inspired sculptural practice. You have to wonder what other directions his innovative work would have taken if he had a longer career.
[add this hotlink to Gordon Matta-Clark above: http://www.artnet.com/artists/gordon-matta-clark/]
If there was one artwork that you could bring home and display during this period of quarantine, what would it be?
Something that would reinvent the space throughout the day, maybe a Gothic stained glass window or a James Turrell work.