Robert Cumming (artist)

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Robert Hugh Cumming (October 7, 1943 – December 16, 2021) was an American painter, sculptor, photographer, and printmaker best known for his photographs of conceptual drawings and constructions, which layer meanings within meanings, and reference both science and art history.

Robert Cumming
BornOctober 7, 1943
Worcester, MA
DiedDecember 16, 2021 (aged 78)
Desert Hot Springs, CA
EducationMassachusetts College of Art, Boston, BFA; University of Illinois, Champagne-Urbana, MFA
Known forPhotography, Painting, Sculpture, Printmaking
AwardsNational Endowment for the Arts grants (1973, 1974, 1983) Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, (1980-81)

Early life[edit]

Cumming grew up just outside of Boston, MA.[1] He earned a BFA in 1965 from Massachusetts College of Art in Boston and an MFA in 1967 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.[2]


Untitled watercolor on paper by Robert H. Cumming, 1986

His first teaching position was at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, where he was involved with mail art, an early conceptual art movement that conferred art status on items sent through the postal system. In 1970, Cumming moved to southern California to lecture on photography, and in 1974, he started teaching at the University of California, Los Angeles. In 1978, Cumming moved back to New England, where he continued to teach and make art.[3][4]

Work and themes[edit]


Cumming studied photography in graduate school, studying with Art Sinsabaugh. In the beginning he used photography as a means of documenting sculptural works, but eventually “the works became as much about photographic documentation as about the objects.”[5]


Solo exhibitions[edit]

Group exhibitions[edit]


Institutional representation[edit]

Cumming is represented in the permanent collections of various major art museums, including:

Personal life and death[edit]

Cumming died on December 16, 2021, at the age of 78 from complications of Parkinson’s disease.[3]


  1. ^ Gachot, Sarah Bay (14 January 2022). "Robert Cumming (1943–2021)". Retrieved 2023-04-28.
  2. ^ "How Robert Cumming Pushed the Boundaries of Photography and Narrative". Aperture. 2022-01-06. Retrieved 2022-01-10.
  3. ^ a b c "Robert Cumming, whose photographs transformed camera work, dies at 78". Los Angeles Times. 2021-12-22. Retrieved 2022-01-10.
  4. ^ "Robert Cumming". International Center of Photography. 2016-03-02. Retrieved 2022-01-10.
  5. ^ Hagen, Charles (9 June 1983). "ROBERT CUMMING'S SUBJECT OBJECT". Retrieved 2023-04-28.
  6. ^ "College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences". College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. Retrieved 2023-04-28.
  7. ^ The Museum of Modern Art. "Mirrors and Windows: American Photography since 1960". The Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved April 28, 2023.
  8. ^ "MCA - Art By Telephone | Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago". Retrieved 2023-04-29.
  9. ^ Museum of Modern Art. "Picture Puzzles, August 12 - November 16, 1975 MoMA". MoMA. Retrieved April 29, 2023.
  10. ^ Whitney Museum of American Art. "Whitney Biennial 1977: Contemporary American Art". Retrieved 2023-04-28.


  • Baltimore Museum of Art, 14 American photographers: Walker Evans, Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Paul Caponigro, William Christenberry, Linda Connor, Cosmos, Robert Cumming, William Eggleston, Lee Friedlander, John R. Gossage, Gary Hallman, Tod Papageorge, Garry Winogrand, Baltimore, Baltimore Museum of Art, 1975.
  • MIT List Visual Arts Center, Three on technology: New Photographs by Robert Cumming, Lee Friedlander, Jan Groover, Cambridge, Mass., MIT List Visual Arts Center, 1988.
  • Turnbull, Betty, Rooms, Roments Remembered, Robert Cumming, Michael Davis, Roland Reiss, Richard Turner, Bruce Williams, Newport Beach, Calif., Newport Harbor Art Museum, 1978.
  • Yager, David, Frames of reference, photographic paths: Zeke Berman, George Blakeley, Eileen Cowin, John Craig, Robert Cumming, Darryl Curran, Fred Endsley, William Larson, Bart Parker, Victor Schrager, the Starn twins, Baltimore, Visual Arts Dept., University of Maryland, Baltimore County, 1989.