History of Art


Cora Chalaby

PhD supervisor: Dr Cadence Kinsey 
Working title for PhD: 'Control Systems: Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Mitchell, Howardena Pindell and Alma Thomas’s Orderly Abstractions'

My PhD explores American abstract painting by women artists during the 1960s and 1970s, focussing on the work of Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Mitchell, Howardena Pindell and Alma Thomas. Fundamentally, my research questions the restrictive categories of freedom and control which underpin scholarship on this period. I will provide an original critical framework ‘control systems’ and ‘orderly abstractions’. My concept of control systems is grounded in studio practice and tests existing understanding of artistic technology. It is also in dialogue with systems theory. Orderly abstractions theorises new artistic approaches to form, line and arrangement. My research examines the formal, material and political limits of scholarship on abstract painting. I analyse the intermedia dialogues in these artists’ work, reimagining the studio as a space of indeterminacy. Drawing on feminism and critical race theory, my PhD will also question how gender and race are inscribed in abstract painting. 

My PhD is fully funded by one of UCL’s Graduate Research Scholarships.


  • ‘The Immateriality of Materiality: Ruth Asawa’s Looped Wire Sculptures’, Immediations, 18, December 2021 (forthcoming).


  • 2021-2024, Graduate Research Scholarship which fully funds my PhD, UCL. 
  • 2018 - Lander Prize for History of Art, Pembroke College, University of Cambridge.
  • 2018 - Foundation Scholarship for outstanding examination results, Pembroke College, University of Cambridge.
  • 2017 - Patrick Graham Travel Grant for archival research in the US, Pembroke College, University of Cambridge.