Headshot of Barry Blinderman

Barry Blinderman

The College of Fine Arts and University Galleries has announced that Director Barry Blinderman will retire June 30. Blinderman has been the director of the University Galleries of Illinois State University since 1987.

Under his leadership, the University Galleries has gained widespread recognition for organizing the first U.S. museum surveys for artists that include David Wojnarowicz: Tongues of Flame; Peepland: Paintings by Jane Dickson; Keith Haring: Future Primeval; Melanie Schiff: Sunland; Michelle Grabner/The Suburban, and many others.

Exhibitions organized by the University Galleries have traveled to museums and galleries such as the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Queens Museum, Long Beach Museum of Art, and Deitch Projects, NYC.

“Blinderman’s connections and history in the New York art world have given us the opportunity see important artists from outside the region. He has the ability to find interesting new artists in the area who go on to do important things and has often extended the platform for mid-career artists here in the Midwest,” said Associate Professor of Painting and Drawing, Andreas Fischer. “Not only has Barry been great at shining a light on important art, but as the current staff at the gallery shows, he has been instrumental in finding innovative and energetic colleagues to extend the effectiveness of University Galleries well into the future.”

In 2014, Blinderman helped oversee the planning and construction of University Galleries’ new facility in the center of Uptown Normal. The new location was designed by Eckenhoff Saunders of Chicago.

Blinderman views the gallery as a cultural bridge between the university and the Bloomington-Normal community.

“Besides cultivating its rigorous exhibition program, I’ve always believed in the University Galleries’ role as a community meeting place. From the moment I arrived here, we opened the space up to concerts, art auctions for non-profits, prose and poetry readings, film and video screenings, and lectures and presentations by people from all areas of the university and Bloomington-Normal. This is especially true now, since our move from campus to an ultra-visible space in Uptown Normal,” Blinderman stated.

In addition to his directorial duties, Blinderman was an instructor in art history at Illinois State University from 1987-2012, teaching seminars on Pop Art, Art of the 1980s, and Marcel Duchamp. The art expeditions he organized, typically with a dozen students crammed into an ISU van, gave many their first taste of Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, and New York City, not to mention major exhibitions of work by Andy Warhol, Yayoi Kusama, and Robert Rauschenberg.

Alumnus Slate Grove, who received his M.F.A. in the School of Art in 2013, and is now Glass Facilities Manager at Ball State University, states: “[His] Pop Art class changed me, the way I think, understand, and make art.”

Prior to his time at Illinois State University, Blinderman directed Semaphore Gallery and Semaphore EAST in New York City (1980-87), representing Martin Wong, Tseng Kwong Chi, Ellen Berkenblit, Nancy Dwyer, Robert Colescott, Walter Robinson, Duncan Hannah, Cockrill/Judge Hughes, and other emerging artists. He was also a freelance writer for Arts and Arts Exchange magazines from 1978-1982, publishing interviews with Steve Reich, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, and Roger Brown, and essays on Robert Longo, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Ed Paschke, and others.

As far as the future: “My plans are indefinite at this point, except that I’m determined to spend next winter in some warmer climate. Meanwhile, I’ll have plenty of time to write and record more songs, hone my indoor rock climbing skills, hang with my kids, travel, and, of course, do some art-related projects and lecturing when the mood strikes. I’ve been taking a stab at a memoir, tentatively entitled ‘From New York to Normal: The Curator’s Tale.’”

Summarizing his experience at Illinois State University, Blinderman states, “I am grateful to have worked with some of the smartest and kindest faculty, staff, and students throughout my time here. Thirty-one years isn’t a bad run, and I’m leaving the gallery in very capable hands.”

Blinderman will be recognized for his 30 years of service to the College of Fine Arts and Illinois State University during the college’s end-of-year meeting and retirement recognition. ISU faculty and staff are invited to stop by the University Galleries in Uptown Normal from 6-8 p.m. Thursday, April 26. Remarks will begin at 6:30 p.m.

One thought on “University Galleries Director Barry Blinderman announces retirement

  1. Best thing that ever happened to the College of Fine Arts was luring Barry Blinderman to ISU University Galleries. It must have seemed a frightening move to him at the time, leaving his successful career running important gallery spaces in New York. Luckily for us he had a new baby son and thought it a good idea to get him out of NY for a try at ‘normal’ living. Amazingly Barry continued his brilliant work right here at ISU and for over thirty years has brought to us the smartest, most interesting and often challenging artwork and enlightening discussion and perspective on art and artists. It is impossible to overstate the importance of the contribution Barry has made to the cultural life of our community and well beyond, as his exhibitions, books and lectures are well known far and wide. Such a fabulous gift we received in him and we are now, in the hands of the staff he leaves, well positioned to keep up the kind of top drawer art programs that Barry first brought here. His abilities and energy will carry him on, I know, to more great works. Maybe with some more emphasis on music–another area in which he excels in knowledge and talent.