Modern Art and Art Since 1945

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Lecture, Open—Year

This yearlong course sequence provides an introduction to the artistic practices that characterize modernism and postmodernism in the visual arts and to some of the critical debates around them. Taking a chronological approach, we will trace the twinned aspects of primitivism and mechanization, of figuration and abstraction, of autonomy and engagement, and of purity and impurity as they inflect the aesthetic production of key movements in the European and American contexts. Fall lectures will cover modernism in the visual arts from Impressionism to the New York School. Work in the spring is addressed to critical and aesthetic problems that have dominated advanced artistic practices in the West since World War II, including the tensions between high art and mass media, the problem of articulating historical memory in an abstract visual language, and issues of “global” and “local” cultural production. We will be looking at a large number of artworks, authors, and texts, focusing our critical energies on the debates that constitute and are constituted by those bodies of work. The emphasis in lectures is on covering a broad spectrum of art and critical ideas; group conferences are devoted to in-depth analyses of specific images and texts.