Karen Moss

Lecturer of Critical Studies and Acting Vice Dean of Critical Studies

Karen Moss

Karen Moss, a Los Angeles-based art historian, curator, educator and writer, organized exhibitions, artists’ residencies, performances, public programs and pedagogical projects.

Her areas of expertise include conceptual, performance and intermedia art since the 1960s, contemporary art and public practices, and experimental education.  She is Interim Chair and Adjunct Professor at Otis College of Art and Design’s Graduate Public Practice MFA program and faculty at the USC Roski School of Fine Arts Curatorial MA Program.


Moss is the curatorial consultant for Talking to Action, a multi-platform exhibition of research-based, social practice artists from seven Latin American countries and Los Angeles that is part of the upcoming Getty Pacific Standard Time LA/LA initiative at Otis’ Ben Maltz Gallery.

Recently, she was one of four curators for CURRENT: LA, the inaugural Los Angeles Public Art Biennial with 15 site-specific installations along the LA River (July – August 2016) and worked on projects with Mel Chin, Rirkrit Tirnavanija, Kori Newkirk and Refik Anadol/Peggy Weil.  


Previously, Moss was Deputy Director of Exhibitions and Programs and Curator of Collections at Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA) from 2005 - 2010. At OCMA she co-curated State of Mind: New Art from California Circa 1970 for the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time Los Angeles initiative which subsequently travelled to UC Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archives, the Belkin Gallery, University of British Columbia, Vancouver; SITE Santa Fe, the Bronx Museum of Arts, and the Smart Museum, University of Chicago. Among her other OCMA exhibitions are:

15 Minutes of Fame: Portraits from Ansel Adams to Andy Warhol (2010) Illumination: The Paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe, Agnes Pelton, Agnes Martin and Florence Pierce (2009); Disorderly Conduct: Recent Art in Tumultuous Times (2008) and Art Since the 1960s: California Experiments (2007).  Moss was co-curator and catalogue essayist for the 2006 California Biennial and oversaw organized artists’ residencies, performances and public programs for the 2006, 2008 and 2010 Biennials.


Prior to OCMA, Moss was Director of Exhibitions and Public Programs at San Francisco Art Institute (1999-2004) where she curated exhibitions such as Sharon Lockhart/Kelly Nipper, James Siena, Topographies, and The World on Its Head: Contemporary Belgian Art and organized Touch: Relational Art from the 1990s with Nicolas Bourriaud. Moss also did international residencies with artists Ghada Amer, Tania Bruguera, Lee Bul, Wim Delvoye, Pierre Huyghe/Philppe Parenno, Los Carpinteros and Rirkrit Tiranvanija.


As Director of Education and Community Programs and curator at the Walker Art Center (1995-1999) she curated Performance in the 1970s: Experiencing the Everyday, Art of the 1960s: Media is the Message, co-curated Visitor’s Voices: Recomposing the Collection, and also organized numerous artist residences and public programs.  

As the first Director of Programs at the Santa Monica Museum of Art (1989-1993) Moss curated exhibitions such as Altered Egos: Making As Another and Kim Abeles: Encyclopedia Persona and organized Art in the Raw the museum’s inaugural site-specific installations that evolved into SMMOA’s Artists’ Project Series. Earlier in her career she was an Assistant Curator at MOCA, Los Angeles (1985-87) and attended Whitney Independent Study Program in Art History and Museum Studies.


Moss has a B.A. in studio art and art history from U.C. Santa Cruz, did her initial graduate work in art history at U.C. Berkeley and received her MA and PhD at University of Southern California. Her doctoral dissertation “Performance in Pedagogy: Anna Halprin, Allan Kaprow and Alison Knowles’ Scored-Based Events in Experimental Arts Education” is the first scholarly study to delve deeply into how these artists integrated event structures into experimental education in both self-generated contexts or within established art schools and universities


Moss has taught undergraduate and graduate level art history, critical theory and curatorial studies at art schools and universities including California State University, Long Beach, Otis College of Art and Design; San Francisco Art Institute, and University of Southern California. Moss has authored numerous museum exhibition catalogues, written guest essays for arts publications, and contributed to scholarly journals

Email moss@usc.edu