Art History Survey Class Syllabus

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ISSUES IN CONTEMPORARY ART

Woodbury University Professor Kathleen Onofrio
FN 205 Spring 2004Office Hours: by appointment

Required Text: Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists’ Writings, eds. Kristine Stiles and Peter Selz, University of California Press, 1996.

General Information
Attendance and participation is mandatory. Our lectures and discussions ARE the course. Assigned readings are not optional either, as they are the substance behind the form of the classroom interaction: if you don’t have one, the other doesn’t materialize. The course consists of two one hour and fifteen minute sessions per week, Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons from 4:30 until 5:45.

Oral component: Class participation is part of the course; you will choose and research an artist and make a 15-minute presentation to the class, including slides, a brief biography, and overview of the artist’s work. Discussions will center on the readings and the presentations. Presentation topics are subject to my approval.

Written component: You will keep and periodically hand in a journal of your reactions to each reading(s). From those writings you will construct three 5-page essays: two essays on topics within course parameters, but of your own choosing; the third and final essay will be a personal artist’s statement.

Course Premise: Art as Story
Making art is one method we use to tell stories—about ourselves, about where, when, and how we lived. Art is the process of bringing something within ourselves to bear upon a particular impulse: a thought, situation, or feeling, and using that impulse to express something, sometimes materially, sometimes not.

While art emanates from that impulse to discover, play, entertain a process, open a dialogue, build, or exteriorize an internal occurrence, it also always tells a story. Art IS our “story”. Whether it’s Non-, Neo-, Post- or Pre-, it’s still us. We look back over our art to read the narrative of our story. Even the attempt to say nothing tells us something.

What fascinates is the view: how each individual tells the story from where they sit. The process, how this energy manifests, is what interests me: the thoughts, visions, intentions that bring a particular story to “life”.

We will attempt to answer some of these questions:
How contemporary is contemporary art? Is art circular?
Is art simply what we “tell ourselves” it is? How do we define ourselves Now? What do contemporary artists think about, what issues do they address, what stories do they tell? Are all the stories ultimately the same one?

Who is an artist now, today?
Within the process of art, what changes when you truly learn to See? How do you know what to look for?

The history of contemporary art is an oxymoron; but we will examine the most recent stories of our collective narrative.

Your work: Thinking, Writing, Speaking.

Thinking: To decide what you think, it is important to understand what others think. A worthy goal is to keep one’s mind ever open to revising any and all creative decisions you may make. Our readings will center on the thought processes of contemporary artists. No one will be held to a particular opinion, and I guarantee the one who learns most will be the one who leaves our discussions thinking something he/she never dreamed they might think.

Keeping a journal provides access to your fleeting thoughts as you read. Notes, quickly jotted then organized into a brief paragraph, exercise your creative impulses: to articulate often allows one to formulate, to make decisions you didn’t know you knew how to make and discover what you really think.

We will examine contemporary processes involved in making art, the process of thinking about making art, and the process of thinking itself.

Good thinking and good writing go together, and symbiotically feed one another, partially because the activity of using the imagination combined with the tool that is...
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