Visual Studies

Introduction to the Modern Arts

Instructor: Lynn Robinson
OAK / VISST–108 / 15 sessions
Prerequisite: Intro to the Arts, Writing 1
July 7–August 11 (no class 7/18), Mon./Wed./Fri., 1–4 p.m.

This course is a survey of the arts from the early 19th century to the present time. The class examines profound transformations within modern culture: mechanized industry and transportation, mass urbanization, individual expression, political pluralism, cultural extremism, the avant-garde; and their impact upon the traditional arts of painting, sculpture and architecture. Also explored are the new mechanical arts of photography, film, and video.

This course satisfies the Introduction to Modern Arts requirement.

Contemporary Art History: 1945-Present

Instructor: Michael Leonard
SF / VISST–200 / 15 sessions
Prerequisite: Intro to the Modern Arts
July 14-August 14, Mon./Tues./Thurs., 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Since 1945 we have witnessed a number of artistic developments: the rise and fall of abstract expressionism, the appearance of pop art and minimalism, the extension into earth, body, and conceptual art, the movement toward performance, installation, public art, new media, appropriation, social practice, institutional critique as well as the always dramatic "death" and "return" of painting. Amidst all these transformations, how does contemporary art continue to make meaning, communicate, and become significant to us? This course is a specialized survey of art produced after World War II.

The first half of the course, from 1945 to 1989, focuses on artworks mainly produced in the United States and Europe during the Cold War. In the second half of the course, from 1989 to the present, we widen our view, both in terms of geography and media, to consider the expanding definition of recent art produced in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. To this end, we investigate the meaning of postmodernism as a theory, an aesthetic notion, a politics, and a periodization. The objective of the course is to gain a sense of the major ideas, movements, and figures in contemporary art, as well as a better understanding of the social, cultural, and intellectual contexts in which these objects and ideas have emerged. Weekly readings include critical and contextual materials such as artists' statements, newspaper and magazine articles, theoretical texts, and contemporary art historical commentary.

This course satisfies a 200-level Visual Studies requirement or an H&S Elective.

The Ecological Imagination

Instructor: Stuart Kendall
SF / PHCRT 200 / PHCRT 300 / SSHIS 200 / SSHIS 300 / VISST 200
15 sessions
Prerequisite: Intro to the Modern Arts
August 4-22, Mon.-Fri., 1-4 p.m.

Ecology is a branch of biology that studies the interrelationships of organisms and the environments in which they live. As a mode of systems-based analysis ecology offers an approach to our environment and often a mode of environmentalism. But ecological thinking isn’t just for biologists. Designers across the design disciplines interested in sustainability ground their work in ecological thinking. And artists interested in environmentalism and environmental activism use ecological thought to inform both the form and content of their works. In readings, films, and field trips, this course studies the ecological imagination as it appears in and informs ecological thought, design and art. We will read ecological and environmental philosophy as well as examining works of art and design that exemplify diverse approaches to the problems of ecological thinking and the necessities of sustainability. This will be a course in ecological philosophy, design and aesthetic activism and a study of the presentation of our environment and environmentalism in contemporary culture.

Due to its interdisciplinary nature, this course fulfills a 200- or 300-level Philosophy & Critical Theory, 200- or 300-level Social Sciences/History, or 200-level Visual Studies.

Macrotrends in Design & Visual Culture

Instructor: Mara Holt Skov
SF / VISST-200 / VISST–300 / 15 sessions
Prerequisite: Writing 2, Intro to the Arts, Intro to the Modern Arts
June 2-July 7 (no class 7/3), Mon./Tues./Thurs., 2–5 p.m.

Macrotrends in Design & Visual Culture is a survey of the global and local trends that have been bubbling up in recent years across the design disciplines—architecture, graphics, furniture, fashion, industrial and interaction design. Though the content is design-centric, the class also discusses fine arts, crafts, music, film, writing and performing arts. In the process, students discover that macrotrends are the physical expressions of the historical, technological and psychological concerns of our time.
Subjects include: Less is More (again), Text as Ornament, Appropriation/Sampling/Stealing, Biology as Master Metaphor, Techno/Craft, Contemporary Futurism, Mathematics/Geometry/Parametrics, Neo-Baroque and others. Macrotrends are explored through a series of illustrated lectures, discussions of theoretical and popular readings, written assignments, student-led presentations, and object lessons in which students have the opportunity to closely observe and handle objects that embody the macrotrends discussed in class. 

This course satisfies a 200- or 300-level Visual Studies requirement or H&S Elective.

Russian & Soviet Avante-Garde

Instructor: Hossein Khosrowjah
SF / VISST–300 / 15 sessions
Prerequisite: Writing 2, Intro to the Arts, Intro to the Modern Arts, Jr. standing
June 2-July 7 (no class 7/3), Mon./Tues./Thurs., 6:30-9:30 p.m.

While there was never a singular 'Russian Avant-garde' movement, the category is often invoked as a blanket term to bring together a disparate group of visual artists (including filmmakers and photographers), playwrights and theater directors, writers, various art projects, journals, and collectives involved in cultural experimentation and formal innovation from 1910 to 1930. As John Bowlt and Olga Matich in Laboratory of Dreams observe, these divergent personalities and groupings fundamentally shared "certain attitudes to the artistic process and to the purpose of culture." Working in a politically and socially tumultuous milieu, they endeavored to unfix artistic conventions and field boundaries.

This course intends to re-situate art movements (Constructivism, Futurism, Suprematism), well-known Russian avant-garde figures such as Khlebnikov, Rotchenko, Kandinsky, Poppova, Rosanova, Lizzitsky, Mayakovsky, Malevich, Tatlin, Meyerhold, Vertov, Eisenstein, and Kuleshov, as well as Lef, Proletkult, and other similar movements within the fluid and revolutionary moment in history that spans the decade leading to the October Revolution of 1917 and the decade that followed up to the Stalinist purges and the establishment of Socialist Realism as the official art of the Soviet Union. The course also examines the lasting influence of Russian avant-garde on the artistic practices transnationally and throughout the 20th century.

This course satisfies a 300-level Visual Studies requirement or H&S Elective.

Divine Feminine

Instructor: Barbara Forbes
SF / VISST–300 / 15 sessions
Prerequisite: Writing 2, Intro to the Arts, Intro to the Modern Arts, Jr. standing
June 2-July 7 (no class 7/3), Mon./Wed./Thurs., 9:30-12:30 p.m.

This course is an exploration of the gendered sacred in both a pre-modern and a postcolonial setting, including transformations of spiritual philosophies in the accounts of writers, visionaries, and revolutionaries in two different, yet parallel, historical contexts.

Resisting medieval Christian misogyny, women mystics' aesthetic visions, bodily ecstasies, and transmutations of martyred saints into mounted Amazons reframed the divine in illuminated manuscripts, music, and poetry.

Similarly, transformations of Catholicism imposed on enslaved Africans in French colonies, notably Haiti, produced a transculturated experience in which African gods overran the constraints of Catholic saints, constructing vodou (a religion often overseen by priestesses), which fueled the Haitian Revolution. Haitian artists from the 1900s to the contemporary period, including recent Haitian American women artists, continue creating vodou-influenced works, including drapo painting that frequently focused on Erzulie, the powerful female lwa, indigenous to Haiti. Feminist, postcolonial theory, primary historical texts, art criticism, and film focus our analysis of these divine transformations.

This course satisfies a 300-level Visual Studies requirement or H&S Elective.

The following summer study abroad courses also satisfy a Visual Studies requirement:

Berlin Past/ Present + Biennale
Italy: Art and Contemporary Culture
London/Paris: Across the Pond