Monday, December 13, 2010


Marcel Duchamp, Mile of String (installed just before the opening in NY of Breton's First Papers of surrealism), 1942

This week's reading: Death of the Author by Roland Barthes

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Robert Motherwell



Clyfford Still, Untitled (PH-382), 1940



Willem de Kooning, Untitled IV, 1978

The film we watched a portion of last Thursday is Painters Painting, directed by Emile de Antonio.

Discussion question for the week: Do you think there is still room for Modernism (or abstract expressionism) in the plurality that is the art world today, and if so, how does it function?

Monday, November 29, 2010


Vincent Van Gogh, Shoes, 1888


Paul Cezanne, Still life with Plate of Cherries, 1885-87



Paul Cezanne, Pyramid of Skulls, 1901

Reading for this week: Cezanne's Doubt by Maurice Merleau-Ponty

Last week Tom assigned the final project for the class, a drawing inspired by or related to one of the terms on the syllabus that we've covered (or are going to cover). Be prepared to bring yours in on the last Thursday, and to talk about it. "Drawing" can be interpreted loosely.

Monday, November 15, 2010








American Social Realism: Isabel Bishop (1902-1988). From top, Still Life with Oranges, 1928 / School Girls, 1974 / Bishop printing



Socialist Realism: Otakar ┼ávec’s Stalin sculpture in Prague, 1951



Vija Celmins, Untitled (Ocean), 1990-1995



Colter Jacobsen, Bridal Veils Falls, 2007

Invested in representing reality, Realism  in art manifested in part as a socially and politically movement. Social realism endowed painting and sculpting with the mission of representing (underrepresented) social reality. 


The persistent interest in investigating and representing what is "real" has motivated artists to investigate visual perception, the passage of time and its effect on spaces and objects, and the material reality of artistic production.  Do you think that Realism can be meaningful in terms of art today? Does realism have to involve pictorial representation?


Reading for next week: excerpts of Van Gogh's letters from Theories of Modern Art (ed. Herschel Chipp)

Saturday, November 6, 2010


William Blake, Portrait of Newton, 1795



Bas Jan Ader, I'm too sad to tell you, 1970



Gottfried Helnwein, Untitled (After Caspar David Friedrich), 1998



Kathy Prendergast, A Dream of Discipline, 1989-2006


An increasing interest in subjectivity and individual expression in the face of oppressive regimes and economies led artists to new territories: mining the unconscious and turning towards nature in order to encounter the Sublime, and exoticizing outsiders (the insane) and foreign lands (the East), in a search of more "authentic" experiences. This complex of ideals appealed to individual human emotion in a novel way. William Blake's interior vision, Gericault's highly dramatic treatment of differences and tragedies, and Hudson River Valley landscape paintings are examples of three distinct directions these new ideas blossomed into. 


Threads of the Romantic are still very relevant in many contemporary artworks. Discussion questions: How do you think the emotional potency of early Romantic works functions today? And, can you think of examples of contemporary Romantic works? 


Reading for the coming week: The Nature of Realism, by Linda Nochlin

Saturday, October 30, 2010


El Lissitzky

This week we talked about art as an agency for change both preceding and during modern revolutions. Do you think that art has a responsibility to be of use in the way that the Bolsheviks did? Can you think of any examples of contemporary works that seriously challenge either the sociopolitical status quo or the role of art in society?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Reading for next week: Song of Myself from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. Discussion questions and images will be up soon, and next week the presentations will be on the sublime, subjectivity, Orientalism and naturalism.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Abraham Lincoln, 1862


This week's New Yorker has a short review by Peter Schjeldahl of a show at the Guggenheim that focuses on early 20th century Classicism, politics and beauty in art. You can download it here.


Last Thursday we talked about some of the ways power has influenced art and architecture in relation to ideals of beauty. Defining beauty and its role in art was complicated. Ideals of beauty seem to be dynamic, shifting through time. Can you think of any specific formal or material properties that you relate to either beauty or power (or both)? 

Thursday, October 21, 2010