Surry Schlabs’s research brings the pragmatist aesthetics and pedagogical theories of John Dewey to bear on the interpretation of mid-century modernist art and architectural practices, rooting out otherwise illegible strands of collaboration, integration, and common interest among painters, architects, and educators of the era. Recent presentations include the Martlet Symposium at McGill University, in which Surry presented a paper entitled “Songs of (Art) as Experience: John Dewey’s Vegetable Eye,” addressing a range affinities shared by the composite art of William Blake and Dewey’s late work on aesthetics. At Yale’s “What a Lovely Day: a Conference on Mad Max and Interstellar,” he gave a talk entitled “A Phenomenology of Forgetting: On the Uses and Abuses of Architecture in Aeon Flux,” in which he positioned that film’s fictional dystopian future relative to ongoing debates on the architectural and urban character of contemporary Berlin.
Surry received both B.A. and M.Arch. degrees from Yale where, during his time in architecture school, he applied a longstanding interest in collaborative and experiential learning to his work as teaching assistant in the School of Architecture and in the History of Art and Political Science departments. Before returning to Yale for his Ph.D., Surry worked for several years in and around New Haven, serving as project manager and designer at both Gray Organschi Architecture and the Yale Urban Design Workshop.