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Modern art authority to speak at 101st commencement

STANFORD -- Stanford alumnus Kirk Varnedoe, director of the Department of Painting and Sculpture at New York's Museum of Modern Art, has been selected to speak at Stanford's 101st commencement on Sunday, June 14.

In addition to his duties at the Museum of Modern Art, Varnedoe organizes exhibitions for other institutions nationwide and lectures around the country.

He is an authority on 19th- and 20th-century European painting and sculpture, law and the visual arts, and the history of photography.

Recently, Varnedoe was invited to accept the Slade Professorship in Art History at Oxford University, a visiting professorship that will entail a series of public lectures scheduled for November 1992.

"Kirk Varnedoe is an acknowledged intellectual leader in defining the role of the arts in modern American life," said Stanford President Donald Kennedy, in announcing the selection.

"Through distinguished scholarship and a notable creative flair, this Stanford graduate has helped shape our understanding of the relationship between art and popular culture."

Born in Savannah, Ga., Varnedoe, 46, graduated from Williams College and received his master's and doctoral degrees in art history from Stanford in 1970 and 1972.

His former adviser, art Prof. Albert Elsen, called Varnedoe "a distinguished art historian whose publications have been not only well-received but influential."

"He has been responsible for several major provocative art exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and his position at that institution makes him one of the most influential people worldwide in field of modern in New York, and his position at that institution makes him one of the most influential people worldwide in the field of modern art," Elsen said.

After his graduate studies, Varnedoe remained at Stanford as an assistant professor of art history in 1973-74, then went on to teach at Columbia University and at New York University's Institute of Fine Arts, where he continues to hold an adjunct teaching post.

He first became affiliated with the Museum of Modern Art in 1984, when he helped to organize the exhibit "Primitivism in 20th- Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern." In 1986 he assumed the position of adjunct curator, and was made director of the Department of Painting and Sculpture in 1988.

As director, Varnedoe has initiated a series called "Artist's Choice," in which artists select and install temporary exhibitions of works from the museum's painting and sculpture collection.

Among his numerous articles and books are Gustave Caillebotte and Northern Light: Nordic Painting at the Turn of the Century, published by Yale University Press in 1987 and 1988, and A Fine Disregard: What Makes Modern Art Modern, published by Abrams in spring 1990.

About 3,000 graduates and 25,000 guests typically attend Stanford's annual commencement ceremony, which also features an address by Stanford President Donald Kennedy and presentation of awards for outstanding teaching and service.

Individual diplomas are awarded after the main ceremony at departmental ceremonies scattered throughout the campus. The university's baccalaureate ceremony, a spiritual convocation, will be held this year on Saturday, June 13.

Stanford commencement speakers in recent years have included ABC "Nightline" host Ted Koppel in 1986, retired speaker of the House of Representatives Tip O'Neill in 1987, Oakland Tribune editor and president Robert Maynard in 1988, "Doonesbury" cartoonist Garry Trudeau in 1989, Children's Defense Fund president Marion Wright Edelman in 1990 and Haas Centennial Professor of Public Service John Gardner in 1991.


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