Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Art History

First Advisor

Dr. Catherine Roach


This dissertation breaks new ground by investigating the unasked research question, “What can an exhibition catalog reveal or clarify about itself as an artifact and about exhibition catalogs as a material, aesthetic, and textual medium?” by analyzing four twentieth-century New York City exhibition catalogs: Machine Art (1934) at the Museum of Modern Art; A Wartime Guide Book to the American Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1942) and Harlem On My Mind: Cultural Capital of Black America, 1900–1968 (1969), both at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and the Xerox Book (1968), produced by Seth Siegelaub’s commercial art gallery in Manhattan. By building on Gerard Genette’s theorization of the paratext from 1987, this dissertation codifies the printed exhibition catalog as a dexterous medium capable of clarifying, buttressing, shielding, concretizing, and even eliminating their corresponding exhibitions. Within the discourse of originality, these volumes are also handheld confrontations between mediated printed exhibition documents and physical artifacts that exist autonomously from their exhibitions with unique paratextual materiality from copy to copy regardless of their status as multiples of an edition. This method ultimately shows that American exhibition catalogs have historically formed meaning through much more than their texts and illustrations. Scholars treat countless catalogs merely as supplementary visual and textual resources, but exhibition catalogs are poised for art historians’ more curious attention.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission


Available for download on Tuesday, May 09, 2028