2014-2015 Art History Courses
History of Architecture: From Ziggurats and Pyramids to Cathedrals and Mosques: Ancient and Medieval Architecture in the Near East, the Mediterranean, and Europe
This course will look at a major focus of human endeavor: the built environment and the factors behind it, beginning with the earliest villages, towns, and cities until the emergence of the Renaissance in Europe. The course will look at all forms of architecture: public and private, religious and domestic. We will examine not only the buildings themselves and the technologies behind them but also the practical, religious, political, and economic forces that made architecture and cities a central facet of human existence. The course will start with the earliest cities in the Near East and Egypt, continuing into the classical culture of the Greeks and Romans, and concluding with Medieval Christian Europe and the Islamic world of western Asia and the Mediterranean. Group conferences will focus on relevant primary sources and, especially, on theoretical treatises like Vitruvius’ On Architecture. Midterm and final class essay assignments and a short thought piece on group conference will be required. This course is the first half of a linked sequence. Mr. Forte’s course—History of Architecture: Beauty, Bridges, Boxes, and Blobs: "Modern" Architecture From 1450 to the Present—is the second half.
History of Architecture: Beauty, Bridges, Boxes, and Blobs: “Modern” Architecture From 1450 to the Present
This course aims to give, through slides and readings, a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of modern architectural practice and theory—from its origins in Renaissance notions of ideal beauty, classical authority, and scientific function to its latest iteration in Blobs—based on the theory of the abject, pop inflatable structures, and the science of topology. Along with major movements—Baroque Corporialism, Enlightenment Rationalism, The Sublime, Arts and Crafts, Technological Sublime, Art Nouveau, Bauhaus and Figures, William Morris, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, and Frank Gehry—we will learn to read architecture and read with architects; to contextualize form and its urban, sociopolitical, and epistemological implications; and to see how architecture gives form to context. Group conferences will deal with primary sources. Three papers and an architectural notebook dedicated to class notes, readings, drawings, musings, etc. will be required. This course is the second half of a linked sequence. Mr. Castriota’s course—History of Architecture: From Ziggurats and Pyramids to Cathedrals and Mosques: A History of Architecture in the Near East, the Mediterranean, and Europe—is the first half.
Art Since 1945
This course introduces students to the major artists, key debates, and artistic movements of the period between 1945 and 2000. We begin with painting, but that medium will quickly give way to the rise of happenings, “specific objects,” conceptual art, relational aesthetics, and other diverse forms of practice. Through focused primarily on American art, the course will expose students to the historical and critical underpinnings of artistic practice since World War II in a global context by examining artworks and artists’ writings from countries including Japan, Italy, France, Brazil, and Germany.
Christianity and the Roman Empire
Roman culture has traditionally been studied for its capacity to absorb and transform the ideas and beliefs of others, most notably those of the Greeks. This course seeks to examine the interaction between traditional Greco-Roman religious belief or ideology and various religious movements within Judaism from late Hellenistic and Roman times. Judaism of this period was itself complex and diverse, including breakaway groups such as the Essenes, as well as the messianic movement that eventually produced Christianity. The course will consider such developments against the background of Hellenistic Greek and Roman imperial religion and ruler glorification, eventually focusing on the transition of Christianity from its initial setting into an evermore significant component of Greco-Roman culture that diverged increasingly from its Hellenistic Jewish origins. The course will then examine the imperialization of Christianity in the fourth century under Constantine and his successors, concluding with the emergence of the Church as the heir of imperial institutions in the fifth and sixth centuries. Though focusing extensively on historical and religious texts, the course will also examine the evidence of artistic monuments.
“A Talent For Every Noble Thing”: Art and Architecture in Italy 1300-1600
This class is an in-depth survey of the major monuments of Italian art and architecture from 1300 to 1550. Equal emphasis will be given to the canon of art works by artists such as Giotto, Donatello, Brunelleschi, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo; to readings of major critics and historians of Italian art; and to the broader intellectual trends and social realities and movements that provide a context for our understanding the artist’s and, to a lesser extent, the critics’ creations. Thus, unified Italian churches will be juxtaposed with gender-segregated social practice, theories of genius with concepts of handicraft, pagan ideals with Christian rituals. The first semester will focus on a close reading of texts surrounding the first polemical pamphlets about art in early modern history, Alberti’s On Painting and On Architecture, and will include works by Erwin Panofsky, Michael Baxandall, and Anthony Grafton. The second semester will engage the intellectual and aesthetic debates surrounding Michelangelo as genius, model, courtier, and outcast. Class papers will deal with developing a vocabulary for compositional analysis, critical issues in Italian intellectual and social history, and varied interpretive strategies applied to works of visual art and culture. Conference projects may engage from a variety of critical and historical viewpoints, European art and architecture from 1300 to 1800, and relevant historical and literary issues from 1400 to 1700.
More or Less: Architectural Theory From Modern to Contemporary
Readings in this course will focus on major statements made by architects, critics, and philosophers dealing with the built landscape from 1900 to the present. Authors include Adolf Loos, Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, Martin Heidegger, Michel Foucault, Jane Jacobs, Peter Eisenman, and Rem Koolhaas; readings will range from Ornament and Crime (1909) to Junkspace (2000) and beyond. Emphasis will be on close reading of texts, historical context for ideas, and buildings that are prescribed, described, or proscribed by theory in practice. The first assignment will deal with the uses of critical theory; the second will be a design project. Class will be broken into firms that will develop a response to a particular architectural program and project—the design of a retrofitted cultural center and residential/commercial area at the Yonkers Glenwood Power Plant.
Dada and Surrealism: Art and Politics
From the explosive poetry of Kurt Schwitters to the innovative photographic experiments of the Surrealists, this course examines the art made primarily in Zurich, Berlin, Hannover, Paris, and New York between 1915 and 1945. Special emphasis will be placed on the relationships between the visual arts and literature, on the role of women in the European avant-garde, and on art as protest in the context of European culture and politics in the period spanning the two world wars. Discussion of works by Arp and Taeuber-Arp, Ball, Huelsenbeck, Schwitters, Duchamp, Breton, Aragon, Tzara, Lautreamont, Carrington, Oppenheim, Buñuel and Dali, Magritte, Tanning, Ernst, Man Ray, Bellmer, and others.
Contemporary Curating: Art/Contexts
This seminar examines art made and exhibited since the mid-1990s. Analyzing works by artists, authors, and curators, students will study the artworks, critical debates, and exhibitions defining the contemporary moment. The seminar will entail frequent field trips to engage with contemporary art in context. We will conduct studio visits with artists, visit galleries and artist-run spaces showing new art, and discuss an exhibition alongside its curator. For a conference project, students will participate in the planning, installation, and presentation of an exhibition; work at an internship in a contemporary art institution; or work on an independent critical project focusing on contemporary art. Students will come away from the seminar able to identify and discuss major institutions and figures creating, exhibiting, discussing, selling, and collecting new art and to construct considered arguments assessing new artworks and tendencies. Besides current readings from periodicals—including Artforum, Contemporary Art Daily, Mousse, The New York Times, Parkett, Texte zur Kunst, and others—readings include: Doug Ashford, “The Exhibition as an Artistic Medium”; Pierre Bourdieu, “The Forms of Capital”; Claire Bishop, “Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics”; Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics; Douglas Crimp, “Pictures”; Andrea Fraser, “Why Does Fred Sandback’s Work Make Me Cry?”; Thelma Golden, “Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art”; Boris Groys “On the Curatorship”; Dave Hickey, Air Guitar (selections); Richard Hertz, Jack Goldstein and the Cal Arts Mafia; David Joselit, “Painting Beside Itself”; Maria Lind, “The Collaborative Turn”; Michael Sanchez, “Contemporary Art, Daily”; and Peter Schjeldahl, Let’s See (selections).