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The Art Story Homepage About Us Course Syllabus: History of Western Art

Course Syllabus: History of Western Art

Week 1 – Course Intro/The Pre-Renaissance
Classroom Activities and Discussions
  1. Lead a whole-group formal analysis to preview the work of this class
  2. Break students into 4 groups, each responsible for reading and summarizing Classical, Byzantine, Romanesque, and Gothic styles, then have each group present an introduction to Spearbearer, Virgin (Theokotos) and Child between Saints Theodore and George, a scene from the Bayeux Tapestry, and the Annunciation and Visitation (Reims Cathe-dral)
Questions and Takeaways
  1. Why do you want to learn about art history and about how to look at art?
  2. Can you recall a particular art museum/gallery or artwork that you really loved? Why?
  3. What is iconoclasm and how did it feature in the Byzantine era? What does the iconoclast era tell us about the potential power of images?
Classroom Activities and Discussions
  1. Comparison of Cimabue, Maestà di Santa Trinita and Giotto, Ognissanti Madonna
  2. Whole-group analysis of Giotto’s Lamentation from the Arena Chapel
Questions and Takeaways
  1. Summarize and list Giotto’s artistic innovations (what did he do that was different from medieval art?).
  2. How does Giotto’s art embody Humanist ideals and worldviews? Give specific examples.
Week 2 – 15th century Early Renaissance in Florence
Classroom Activities and Discussions
  1. KWL chart on “The Renaissance.” Have students collaborate on a class chart of 1) what they Know; 2) what they Want to know. After this unit, bring back the chart and have them fill in 3) what they Learned
  2. Break students into groups and provide them with images of the Baptistery panels from Brunelleschi and Ghiberti, along with a list of the competition requirements. Have each group annotate where the artists incorporated these requirements and have students decide which panel they would have chosen and why.
Questions and Takeaways
  1. In your own words, what was the Renaissance a rebirth of?
  2. What is a “patron” and what was the relationship between the patron and the artist during the Renaissance?
  3. Who were the Medici and why were they important (to art history, and to the city of Florence and its legacy)?
  4. What is meant by the term trompe l’oeil and in which artworks have we seen examples of it?
  5. What were the challenges presented by the Florence Cathedral dome project, and how did Brunelleschi solve them?
  6. Which classical approaches to sculpture did Donatello “revive” and why? (Hint: think about Humanism.)
Classroom Activities and Discussions
  1. Provide students with photocopies of Perugino’s Christ Handing the Keys of the Kingdom to St. Peter and have them mark how perspective is constructed, using art historical vocabulary in their explanations.
  2. Whole-class discussion: Compare/contrast Fra Angelico’s The Annunciation (1432-34) with Masaccio’s The Trinity (1427-28), keeping in mind what we’ve already learned about how to do a formal analysis.
Questions and Takeaways
  1. How is Fra Angelico’s San Marco Altarpiece a demonstration of the artist’s adherence to Dominican ideals?
  2. In what ways can Fra Angelico’s influence be seen in the works of later artists? How can we describe his influence on Masaccio, in particular?
  3. In what ways were Masaccio and Fra Angelico important in ushering in the age of Renaissance art? (What did they do in their painting that was unique at the time?) What do these innovations have to do with changing attitudes toward religion?
Week 3 – 16th century in Rome and Northern Europe
Classroom Activities and Discussions
  1. KWL chart on “The Renaissance.” Have students collaborate on a class chart of 1) what they Know; 2) what they Want to know. After this unit, bring back the chart and have them fill in 3) what they Learned
  2. The restoration and conservation of artwork is a complicated and subjective process, but one that can bring the modern viewer closer to seeing what the artist originally intended. A recent discovery of a copy of Mona Lisa that was painted alongside Leonardo da Vinci’s version offers a tantalizing peek at what the original might have looked like. If you were the head of the conservation department at the Louvre Museum, would you recommend a restoration of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa?
  3. The original commission for Michelangelo’s David would have installed the sculpture of this biblical hero at Florence’s cathedral. Instead, it was displayed outside of the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence’s town hall, where it came to seen as a symbol of the Republic. In your opinion, is David more of a religious or political work of art?
  4. Compare/contrast Giotto’s frescoes at the Arena Chapel with Michelangelo’s frescoes at the Sistine Chapel.
Questions and Takeaways
  1. What does it mean to be a “Renaissance Man”? Which artists best exemplified this, and how? How has this notion of a “Renaissance Man” continued to the present day?
  2. Compare and contrast the main attributes of Early Renaissance vs. High Renaissance art.
  3. What did Pope Julius II do to achieve his goal of making Rome the “cultural center of Europe”?
  4. What makes Michelangelo’s Pietà sculpture unique from previous treatments of the same subject matter?
  5. Why do you think High Renaissance artists include recognizable, local landscapes, clothing, and settings into many of their paintings?
  6. What is meant by “idealized” figures and landscapes? Why did High Renaissance artists often tend toward idealization in their art? Why, at other times, did they opt for more realistic, unidealized figures?
Classroom Activities and Discussions
  1. Have students work in groups to study and identify what details are included in February from the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry by the Limbourg Brothers. What does this manuscript illumination tell us about life in the early 15th century?
  2. The National Gallery website explains that many scholars believe van Eyck’s Man in a Red Turban to be a self-portrait. What piece of evidence offered did you find most convincing to support this hypothesis?
Questions and Takeaways
  1. What elements of Italian Renaissance art were adopted by Northern Renaissance artists? (Give specific examples when possible)
  2. How did Northern Renaissance art differ from Italian Renaissance art? (Hint: think about religion, as well as technological advancements, most importantly the printing press, and the different class systems that existed in the two regions.)
  3. What is meant by “genre painting”? What are its primary attributes and intended purposes?
  4. What symbolic elements exist in Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait and what do they represent?
Week 4 – Venetian Renaissance, Mannerism, and Italian Baroque
Classroom Activities and Discussions
  1. Many examples of Venetian painting in the 16th century are challenging to decipher. Is it important to be able to understand the meaning of a work of art, or can a work be appreciated without understanding it?
  2. After students read the introduction to Mannerism, have them build a definition as a whole-group activity.
  3. Break students into groups to compare Pontormo’s Deposition to Raphael’s earlier version (1507). Then discuss how Pontormo breaks with the naturalism associated with the High Renaissance.
Questions and Takeaways
  1. What was unique about art in Venice in the sixteenth century? And what did sixteenth-century Venetian artists do that was altogether new?
  2. How did the particular social and religious climates of sixteenth-century Venice influence these artistic and architectural developments?
  3. What was unique/special about Giorgione and his art? What about Titian?
  4. If you were an artist in the fifteenth/sixteenth centuries, would you have preferred to live in Florence, Rome, or Venice, and why?
  5. What other societal and religious factors contributed to the development of Mannerism?
Classroom Activities and Discussions
  1. Start class with a comparison of David by Donatello, Michelangelo, and Bernini. How does each artist tell this story differently?
  2. The Renaissance and Baroque are two artistic movement that have powerfully defined the way many of us think about art. Indeed, many elements of our contemporary world – from architecture to advertising – have been influenced by the styles of the 16th & 17th centuries. Share an image from contemporary life that reflects the ongoing influence of these historical styles and consider why the modern artist might have chosen to draw on these particular stylistic models.
Questions and Takeaways
  1. Summarize the Baroque style in your own words. What were its major defining characteristics? Select some artworks that exemplify these characteristics.
  2. What religious developments in Europe likely influenced the development of the Baroque style, and why?
  3. Moreover, Baroque art and architecture flourished at the same time as many European nations were conquering and colonizing far-off lands (for instance, the Spanish colonizing Mexico), and many churches erected in colonized lands at this time were Baroque in style. Why do you think the Baroque style was frequently used for colonizing architecture?
  4. What was unique/special about Bernini and his art? What about Caravaggio?
Week 5 – Spanish Baroque & Dutch Golden Age
Classroom Activities and Discussions
  1. Start class with a (formal) comparison of The Immaculate Conception by Francisco de Zurabán, Esteban Murillo Bartolome, and Diego Velázquez. How does each portray the scene differently?
  2. Whole group analysis of Las Meninas. Who is the subject of this painting?
Questions and Takeaways
  1. How did the particular social and religious climates of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spain influence these artistic developments?
  2. Compare / contrast Spanish and Italian baroque art and architecture. (Use examples of specific artists and artworks when possible.)
  3. What was unique/special about El Greco and his art? What influence did he have on later artists / movements?
Classroom Activities and Discussions
  1. Read The Night Watch: Will Gompertz reviews the Rijksmuseum's high tech photo Breakout groups – does this change the way you think about restoration?
  2. Have students analyze Pieter Claesz’s Vanitas Still Life. What elements contribute to our understanding of this painting as a commentary on mortality? What would students include in a modern-day version of a vanitas painting?
  3. Divide students into two groups: Italian/Spanish Baroque artists and Dutch Baroque artists. Have them stage a mock debate in which each group is to defend their particular artistic styles (taking into consideration religion, specifically catholicism vs. the reformation)
Questions and Takeaways
  1. In your own words, what was the “Dutch Golden Age”, in terms of economics, politics, and religion? What is problematic about this term? Review NYT Article.
  2. Summarize the most significant artistic genres and mediums of the Dutch Golden Age. (Give specific examples of artists and artworks when possible).
  3. If you were an artist during the Baroque period, would you have preferred to live in Italy, Spain, or the Netherlands, and why?
Week 6 – Art in America and the Enlightenment
Classroom Activities and Discussions
  1. Think back to when we discussed Baroque architecture. Have students watch this video of the Capilla del Rosario in Puebla, and discuss what particular Baroque features of the church made it important/useful in the act of colonization and conversion of local communities to Catholicism.
  2. Whole-class discussion of the Frontispiece of the Codex Mendoza (c. 1542). (Formal analysis, and discussion of its purpose / how it achieved that aim.)
Questions and Takeaways
  1. Summarize what you remember from this class’ readings (and videos) about the Aztecs/Mexica (their history, mythology, their culture and way of life, their art and forms of visual communication) prior to colonization.
  2. How do casta paintings help us understand the complexities of identity in colonized territories?
  3. What did colonization of the Americas mean for indigenous peoples (in terms of their way of life, culture, religious/spiritual beliefs, and health/well-being)? And, from the class readings, what do you remember about the nature of indigenous-colonist relations? How were all of these issues, as well as the blending of cultures, reflected in art and architecture? (Give specific examples of works from the course resources (or others that you know of) when possible).
Classroom Activities and Discussions
  1. Whole-class analysis of Fragonard’s The Swing (formal analysis AND content analysis… what do we see in the image? Look closer… is anything (or anyone) hidden in the image? How can we interpret these more obscure details, and the work overall?)
  2. Compare the Church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola in Rome with the Hall of the “Monsieur le Prince ” of Chantilly Castle in Chantilly, France. How do they exemplify differences between Baroque and Rococo architecture?
Questions and Takeaways
  1. In your own words, what is meant by “Rococo” in art, and what were its key characteristics (as opposed to the Baroque)? (Give specific examples of artists and artworks when possible.)
  2. As you’ve read, the Rococo style was criticized by many as “superficial and decadent” … what is your personal opinion about this? Should art be expected to promote a moral example?
Week 7 – Neoclassicism and Romanticism
Classroom Activities and Discussions
  1. Break students into groups and have them study David’s Bonaparte Crossing the Grand Saint-Bernard Pass, 20 May 1800. How can they start to define elements of David’s style? Each group should share a list of characteristics they see this painting sharing with David’s Oath of the Horatii.
  2. Compare/contrast Kauffman’s Cornelia Pointing to her Children as her Treasures with Chardin’s Saying Grace. How do they present a similarly maternal message in different styles?
Questions and Takeaways
  1. In your own words, what was the “enlightenment” (considering philosophical, archaeological, scientific, religious, and other factors)? How did this influence art? (Give specific examples of artists and artworks when possible.)
  2. What was “The Grand Tour”, and what did it mean for the movement and and production of art?
  3. What were the guiding beliefs of Neoclassical artists? And as a result, what were the key characteristics of neoclassical art? (Give specific examples of artists and artworks when possible.)
  4. What was the role of arts academies in the 16th-18th centuries? How did they influence the art that was produced? Pros and cons of academies?
Classroom Activities and Discussions
  1. Ingres sits at the crossroads between the Neoclassical and Romantic movements. Review Neoclassicism and then read about his Oedipus and the Sphinx and break into groups to brainstorm ways this painting connects to Neoclassicism and ways that it breaks from that style.
  2. In The Oxbow, some scholars have questioned whether Thomas Cole really gives preference to the settled portion of the landscape, or if there is more power and awe-inspiring drama in the wilderness. They note that Cole positions himself within these untamed lands. In 1836, he wrote “I cannot but express my sorrow that the beauty of such landscapes are quickly passing away. The ravages of the axe are daily increasing. The most noble scenes are made desolate, and oftentimes with a wantonness and barbarism scarcely credible in a civilized nation. This is a regret rather than a complaint. Such is the road society has to travel.” What do you think? Is The Oxbow a celebration of westward expansion, a critique of that phenomenon, or somewhere in-between?
Questions and Takeaways
  1. In your own words, what is “Romanticism” in art, and what are its defining characteristics? What was this movement a reaction against?
  2. In your own words, what is meant by “the sublime” in art? Give examples of specific artworks that illustrate this concept. Can you find examples of the sublime in contemporary art or advertising?
  3. How did Romanticism manifest its key tenets in architectural form?
  4. What 19th-century developments in the United States propelled the artists of the Hudson River School to adopt a Romantic approach to artmaking?
Week 8 – Early Photography and Realism
Classroom Activities and Discussions
  1. Compare Daguerre’s Artist Studio with Talbot’s The Open Door and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each photographic process.
  2. Divide students into two groups, with one group playing the role of 19th-century painters, and the other group playing the role of 19th-century photographers. Stage a mock debate in which each group argues that theirs is the superior art form.
Questions and Takeaways
  1. Why is photography an art form? (Or, alternately, do you consider photography to be more of an art form or a science?)
  2. What did the invention of photography mean for painting (in terms of its aims)?
  3. How do the material properties of early photography (like materials or exposure time) impact the look of the resulting photographs?
  4. In your opinion, does photography present objective truth?
Classroom Activities and Discussions
  1. Divide students into groups. Each group is assigned a different work by Manet that was rejected by the Salon (options include Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe (1863), The Fifer (1866), The Tragic Actor (1866), The Execution of Emperor Maximilian (1867), and Argenteuil (1874)). Have students list the reasons why each work was rejected.
  2. Compare/contrast Manet’s Olympia and Alexandre Cabanel’s Birth of Venus. Why was the former rejected by the Salon while the other was accepted and highly praised (hint: think back to what you've read about perspective, nude vs. naked (and “ideal" form), symbolism, etc.)?
  3. Compare/contrast Courbet’s Burial at Ornans with Jacques-Louis David’s Funeral Games of Patroclus.
Questions and Takeaways
  1. What is the difference between “nude” and “naked” in art? Provide specific artwork examples.
  2. In your own words, what does “Modern” mean when used to describe art?
  3. What is Realism in art, and why did it emerge at the time that it did? (What was happening in Western society at the time?)
Week 9 – Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Neo-Impressionism, and Fauvism
Classroom Activities and Discussions
  1. KWL chart on “Impressionism.” Have students collaborate on a class chart of 1) what they Know; 2) what they Want to know. After this unit, bring back the chart and have them fill in 3) what they Learned
  2. Create compare/contrast Realism vs. Impressionism
  3. Should we think about Monet’s series of paintings, like his Rouen Cathedral or Grainstacks series as individual works, or as a group? What is gained/lost with each approach?
Questions and Takeaways
  1. What did the Impressionists do that was different from all previous artists?
  2. What was the relationship between photography and Impressionism?
  3. How did the urban re-planning of Paris during this period influence the Impressionists?
  4. How did the works of female Impressionists differ from that of male Impressionists?
Classroom Activities and Discussions
  1. Create compare/contrast chart for Impressionism vs. Post-Impressionism
  2. Divide students into two groups - Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. Stage a mock debate in which each group argues that their art making approach is superior.
  3. Compare Renoir’s Ball at the Moulin de la Galette with Seurat’s Sunday on the Grande-Jatte. What are the similarities between these paintings? What does Seurat do differently as a Neo-Impressionist?
  4. Compare van Gogh’s Bridge in the Rain (after Hiroshige) with Hiroshige’s Sudden Shower over Shin-Ōhashi Bridge and Atake.
Questions and Takeaways
  1. Who do you believe to be the most important Post-Impressionist, and why?
  2. In your own words, what is Pointillism (also known as Divisionism), and what was the goal of artists who used this method?
  3. What do you consider to be van Gogh’s most important artwork and why?
  4. In your own words, how do you define Fauvism, and what were its defining characteristics? In what ways did it draw from Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, and in which ways did it differ from these movements (think about form and content)? (Give specific examples of artists and artworks when possible.)
Week 10 – Symbolism and Expressionism
Classroom Activities and Discussions
  1. Symbolism has been referred to as the “antithesis" of Impressionism. Develop/demonstrate this assertion further through a discussion and comparison of Renoir’s Girl with a Hoop (1885) and Odilon Redon’s Closed Eyes (1890).
  2. Divide students into two groups, admirers and harsh critics of James Ensor’s art. Stage a mock debate in which the two sides argue their viewpoint, bringing in analyses of specific artworks to strengthen their positions.
Questions and Takeaways
  1. In your own words, what were the defining characteristics of Symbolist art? (Provide specific examples of artists and artworks when possible.)
  2. How did the particular social, religious/spiritual, and philosophical/intellectual climates of late nineteenth-century Europe influence the development of Symbolism?
Classroom Activities and Discussions
  1. Discuss what elements of Gauguin’s and/or van Gogh’s work are found in the Expressionist movement.
  2. Divide students into two groups. Assign one group Street, Berlin (1913) by Die Brücke artist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and the other group Composition VII (1913) by Der Blue Reiter artist Wassily Kandinsky. Have each group analyze and describe the works, and describe to the class how they embody Expressionist ideals and visual attributes.
  3. Next, have the entire class compare the two above works, focusing on how they exemplify the differences between the approaches of the Die Brücke and Der Blaue Reiter groups.
Questions and Takeaways
  1. Summarize Expressionism: Where, when, and why did it emerge? What was it influenced by and was it reacting against? What were its defining characteristics?
  2. What were the primary differences between the Die Brücke and Der Blaue Reiter groups, and their approach to artmaking? (Use specific artwork examples when possible.)
  3. Can you think of a Contemporary artist whose works demonstrates the influence of Expressionism? Describe the artist and describe one of their works that bears the hallmarks of Expressionism.
Week 11 – Cubism, Futurism, and Dada
Classroom Activities and Discussions
  1. Divide students into groups. Assign each group one of the following quotes about Cubism, and have each group select an artwork that best illustrates the quote: 1) “Cubism is like standing at a certain point on a mountain and looking around. If you go higher, things will look different; if you go lower, again they will look different. It is a point of view.” - Jacques Lipchitz; 2) “Cubism is not a reality you can take in your hand. It’s more like a perfume, in front of you, behind you, to the sides, the scent is everywhere but you don’t quite know where it comes from.” - Pablo Picasso; 3) “Cubism is moving around an object to seize several successive appearances, which fused in a single image, reconstitute it in time.” - Juan Gris; 4) “It was a tradition to represent a dancer frozen in a chosen position, like a snapshot. I broke away from this tradition by superimposing postures, blending light and motion and scrambling the planes.” - Sonia Delaunay; 5) "Enormous enlargements of an object or a fragment give it a personality it never had before, and in this way, it can become a vehicle of entirely new lyric and plastic power.” - Fernand Léger; “There are as many images of an object as there are eyes which look at it; there are as many essential images of it as there are minds which comprehend it.” - Albert Gleizes and Jean Metzinger. (Each group can briefly present their quote and corresponding artwork to the whole class.)
  2. Divide students into different groups and have each group come up with a brief definition of Cubism in their own words.
  3. Homework Assignment: Have students make a collage for next class, which they will then present, discussing (briefly) the component parts, and the intended meaning of the collaged work as a whole.
Questions and Takeaways
  1. Which pre-Cubist artists paved the way for Cubism, and in what way?
  2. What was so revolutionary in Cubism?
  3. What sets the (Italian) Futurists apart from the Cubists in terms of both form and content of their art, and the philosophical/intellectual/political impetus behind their art making? Which aspects of Cubism did the Futurists employ in their art and why?
Classroom Activities and Discussions
  1. Discuss collage homework assignment from previous class.
  2. Have students (in small groups) create an ”anti-art”, Dada statement. A critique of the current, contemporary world (politics, religion, media, etc.) as well as of conventional beliefs about art and the role of the artist.
  3. Class discussion: is Duchamp’s Fountain a work of art? What’s your criteria for deciding?
Questions and Takeaways
  1. Which Dada ideas continued on to influence subsequent Modern and Contemporary art movements?
  2. How did Dada take form in other creative media (music, performance, literature and poetry, etc.)
Week 12 – Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism
Classroom Activities and Discussions
  1. Have students recall the last dream they remember, and then attempt to sketch an image of the dream.
  2. In groups, have students play the Surrealist game “Exquisite Corpse”. Afterwards, have a whole-class discussion about what the Surrealists sought through this game.
  3. Whole-class discussion of Un Chien Andalou. What meanings/interpretations can students ascribe to either the film as a whole, or portions of it? Or is it entirely nonsensical and meaningless? How does the film exemplify the core tenets of Surrealism?
  4. Whole class discussion: Cubist, Dadaist, Expressionist, and Surrealist art horrified many, particularly the Nazis, who included works by Cubists in their denigrating exhibition of “Degenerate Art”, shown alongside the “Outsider” art of psychiatric patients. Why do you think this was?
Questions and Takeaways
  1. What does Surrealism borrow from Dada?
  2. Put on your critic/ psychiatrist hat, and describe and analyze Leonora Carrington ’s Self-Portrait (1937-38).
  3. Do you think it is possible to depict the subconscious mind through art?
  4. What is your favorite Surrealist work and why?
Classroom Activities and Discussions
  1. How was the abstraction practiced in this movement different than the abstractions we saw earlier in this course (Kandinsky, ..)?
  2. Whole-class discussion: how did your opinion of Pollock’s action paintings change after reading/viewing the course content for today? What exactly did you learn that affected your view?
  3. Mark Rothko considered his paintings to be a modern interpretation of the sublime. Thinking back to 19th-century ideas of the sublime in Romantic painting, discuss how Abstract Expressionism could create a similar experience for the viewer.
Questions and Takeaways
  1. What was the particular American socio-political climate of the time when this movement developed?
  2. Why did the movement connect with American freedom and democracy?
  3. What role did critic Clement Greenberg play in the notoriety and acceptance of Abstract Expressionism?
  4. Do you agree that art should be autonomous (meaning that is refers only to itself and doesn’t try to tell a narrative or connect to the everyday world)?
Week 13 – Postwar Art
Classroom Activities and Discussions
  1. Watch this video on Lichtenstein's Rouen Cathedral and think back to when we learned about Monet's original series. Then, in a few sentences, try to define how you feel about Lichtenstein's work? Is it celebrating Monet? Making fun of him? Doing something else altogether? Think about what Lichtenstein's technique adds to, or takes away from, the original.
  2. Compare Warhol’s Brillo Boxes to Duchamp’s Fountain.
  3. Look at these examples of British Pop art. What differences do you see between British Pop art and American Pop art?
Questions and Takeaways
  1. What were the defining characteristics of Neo-Dada, and which specific artists/artworks best exemplify these? What elements of Neo-Dada developed into Pop art?
  2. What did Pop artists take as their primary subject matter and why? What long-held beliefs about art did they put into question?
  3. Do you think Pop art celebrates or critiques popular culture?
  4. In your own words, what role does text play in the art of Ed Ruscha?
Classroom Activities and Discussions
  1. Divide students into groups and assign each group one of the following Minimalist artworks from the Gori Collection of Site-Specific Art in Tuscany, Italy: 1) 1-2-3-2-1 (2000) by Sol LeWitt; 2) Pencil Lines in Four Directions and All Their Combinations on Black Squares (Wall Drawing #1122) (2004) by Sol LeWitt; 3) Labyrinth (1982) by Robert Morris; 4) The Cube without a Cube (1988) by Sol LeWitt. First, have each group discuss how their artwork exemplifies the key tenets of Minimalism.
  2. Second, have students discuss whether/how the location/context of the works (out-of-doors, on a private property, not in a gallery setting, etc.) affects the meaning that can be read into the work, and compare to the Minimalist works that were viewed and read about in the course resources.
Questions and Takeaways
  1. What were the defining characteristics of Minimalism, and which specific artists/artworks best exemplify these? What were these artists reacting against and how, did they do this in their art? How did minimalist artists move beyond the purely visual? What does Minimalist art expect of the viewer? (Provide specific examples of artists and artworks when possible.).
  2. What is your personal opinion of /reaction to Minimalist art? Explain your feelings. Cite specific artists/artworks when possible.
Week 14 – Introduction to Contemporary Art
Classroom Activities and Discussions
  1. Students work in 3 groups, with one group writing a brief definition of “Conceptual Art”, another writing a brief definition of “Performance Art”, and another writing a brief definition of “Installation Art”. Then, have each group share their definition with the whole class, and ask students to think of specific artists and artworks that best exemplify each definition, explaining why.
  2. Whole-class viewing then discussion/analysis of Marina Abramovic’s Rhythm O (1974).
  3. Whole-class viewing of Félix Gonzalez-Torres’ Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) (1991) then discuss whether this is Conceptual Art, Performance Art, or Installation Art.
Questions and Takeaways
  1. Do you think that a mere idea, or art without physical form, really is “art”? Why or why not?
  2. What concurrent shifts in the social, political, and cultural climates of the Western world played a role in the development of Performance/Body Art?
  3. How does Performance Art differ from theatre?
  4. Of the artworks you viewed / read about this week, which one evoked the strongest emotional reaction in you?
Classroom Activities and Discussions
  1. Whole-class discussion: Which Conceptual, Performance/Body, and Installation artworks from our previous class fall into the categories we are examining in today’s class? Explain why/how.
  2. Students work in 4 groups, with one group summarizing “Feminist Art”, another summarizing “Queer Art”, another summarizing “Identity Politics”, and another summarizing “Earth/Environmental Art”. Then, have each group share their definition with the whole class, selecting one specific artwork that best exemplifies each of these movements, describing and explaining why.
  3. Discussion/analysis of the work of Kehinde Wiley (as shown in Brooklyn Museum video). Go beyond what is explained in the video. What does Wiley depict, how, and why?
Questions and Takeaways
  1. What are the main social and political issues that many Contemporary artists are concerning themselves with in their art? What are their goals? What concurrent movements and events are taking place outside of the artwork that link to these artistic movements?
  2. What is your favorite work of Land, Earth, or Environmental Art. Describe it and explain what you find it powerful and important.
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