Robert Cozzolino is the Patrick and Aimee Butler Curator of Paintings at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. He curates collaboratively, in partnership with artists, colleagues, and broad communities. “Starting where you are” is critical to his practice—knowing the immediate context and deeper history of the place in which he works. It also means working with humility and accepting that there is much yet to learn from others. That is why curating in relation is so powerful. Dr. Cozzolino is drawn to artists that make work about the full range of human experience, especially those who aspire to visually express the intangible, states of consciousness, and a full range of emotions. Although he has worked on topics from the 19th and 20th centuries, he regularly works with contemporary artists in examining history. Because he gravitates to artists and subjects that have been overlooked or deliberately marginalized in his field, some have called him the “curator of the dispossessed,” especially for championing underrepresented artists and uncommon perspectives on well-known artists.
He was born and raised in Chicago, where he studied at the University of Illinois at Chicago before receiving his MA and PhD (2006) from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Before joining Mia, he was the senior curator and Evelyn and Will Kaplan Curator of Modern Art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) in Philadelphia, where he expanded the collection by more than 2,000 objects. Most of these were gifts, including the Linda Lee Alter Collection of Art by Women and major collections of work by Sue Coe, Ellen Lanyon, and Miriam Schapiro.
He has curated over sixty exhibitions, including Supernatural America: The Paranormal in American Art, World War I and American Art, Peter Blume: Nature and Metamorphosis, David Lynch: The Unified Field, and The Female Gaze: Women Artists Making Their World. His writing appears in a wide range of publications, including essays on artists such as Harriet Bart, Jim Denomie, Sylvia Fein, Henry Koerner, George Morrison, Elizabeth Osborne, Faith Ringgold, Peter Saul, Honoré Sharrer, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Bob Thompson, George Tooker, Ray Yoshida, Dyani White Hawk, and John Wilde. Originally trained as a musician, he has played free-improvised music as a percussionist since 1993.
He began at Mia on February 29, 2016—a leap day.