James Merle Thomas

James Merle Thomas

Director of the Resnick Center for Herbert Bayer Studies,

A prolific scholar and curator, Thomas brings over fifteen years of academic and creative arts leadership to the Aspen Institute. He is currently a professor of Art History at the Tyler School of Art and Architecture at Temple University. Through his teaching and public engagement, he has advanced a global and inclusive vision for art while supporting initiatives focused on equity and education in Philadelphia and elsewhere. As a curator and historian of modern and contemporary art, Thomas has collaborated extensively for nearly two decades with museums, universities, and cultural institutions worldwide to create biennials, publications, and programming focused on global contemporary art and culture. His projects and research are supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the U.S. State Department, the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.

As a recognized scholar and theorist of the art of the Cold War, Thomas also brings to the Aspen Institute extensive knowledge of Bayer, the Bauhaus, and the broader contexts of German and American Art of the twentieth century. He holds a doctorate in Art History from Stanford University, where his dissertation and subsequent scholarship examined the intersections of art, design, technology, and politics of the 1960s and 1970s; he has written extensively on, among other topics, the history of the 1971 Aspen Design Conference, the work of Bayer colleague and fellow Bauhaus émigré László Moholy-Nagy, and the role of graphic design and pedagogy from the Bauhaus to the contemporary.