Course Descriptions


Spring Quarter

Dept Course No and Title Instructor
This course examines compelling images and objects of spirit and power created in Japan over many centuries, presenting an overview of developments in art in the Japanese archipelago from the prehistoric period to the present day. Focus will be placed on religious expression, artistic technologies, urban design, painting formats, political functions of art, and art historical methodology. Topics include Buddhist icons, narrative illustration, popular prints, architecture, manga, and the avant-garde. Japanese interactions with Korean, Chinese, and European culture are emphasized. This course fulfills General Education Requirements IV (Arts and Humanities) and VIII (International/ Global Issues).
What is an image? How do images operate? What do images do? Focusing on the central role of images in contemporary culture as mediators and active participants in issues of race, gender, sexuality, and socialization, this course pays close attention to how these basic questions about images and their socio-cultural powers in the age of social media can be inform by historical works of art from antiquity to the early modern period. Each course will be structured through a series of central image collisions. These collisions serve as critical comparisons between two representative images (one from a distant past and another from a near present), which exemplify the tensions and themes addressed by the course. For example, medieval cults around images will be collided with contemporary fandoms and their practices, representations of minorities in the Classical world will be collided with modern representations of minority groups in film, and images of early modern trade and discovers will be collided with contemporary manifestations of globalization and social networking.
This course explores the art, architecture and archaeology of Sasanian Iran. “The Empire of the Iranians” ruled by the Sasanian dynasty was the last great Iranian empire before the coming of Islam. This course will provide students a foundational overview of Sasanian art and architecture as well as explore the impact of Sasanian art and architecture on the wider world of late antiquity including the arts and archaeology of late Kushan and Sasanian-period Central and South Asia and Sogdiana, Topics include the impact of Parthian art/architecture, the transformation of the ancient tradition of Iranian rock reliefs, the Achaemenid legacy, the development of Persian palace and garden architecture, fire temples and sacred spaces, urbanism, painting, glyptic, silver and luxury wares, the Persian legacy in Islam, Medieval Europe and China after the fall of the empire. This course is intended for graduate students and advanced undergraduates.

This course is an introduction to the visual culture of northern Europe from about 1400 to 1550, with an emphasis on painting, sculpture, and print-making in what is today Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany. The course traces the transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance in the work of Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, Hieronymus Bosch, Albrecht Dürer, Matthias Grünewald, Hans Holbein, and Pieter Bruegel the Elder, with special attention to the issues of gift-giving, private devotional images, art and liturgy, the print revolution, iconoclasm, artistic self-awareness, and the emergence of genres including portraiture and landscape.
The names Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti are associated with some of the greatest achievements of the Italian Renaissance: the Mona Lisa, the Last Supper, the Pieta, the Sistine Chapel. Through their individual personalities and artworks, each artist has come to define what we imagine as the special and unique character of "the artist": an individual of extraordinary creativity, invention, skill, intellect and tortured mentality. Concepts like "artistic personality" or "artistic genius" are inventions of the Renaissance, and they emerged explicitly from the biographies of Leonardo and Michelangelo. The careers of these two artists intersected—both were Tuscan and were trained in Florence. Contemporaries clearly compared them, and each was seen as an outstanding master of art. The two artists knew each other, and at one point, they were placed into a competitive situation, each having been commissioned to produce a battle scene for the Palazzo della Signoria in Florence. Exploring the myths, histories, artworks, sexuality, writings and reputations associated with these two artists, we will seek to understand how and why they achieved fame in their lifetimes and why they continue to hold our fascination to this day.
Explore the revolutionary art and ideas of the Russian and Soviet avant-garde from the first decades of the twentieth century, including abstract painting, utopian architecture, modernist photography, and experimental film. Discover the connections between Russian art of the period and Western avant-gardes, including Dada and Cubism, as well as the presence of the avant-garde in far-flung corners of the Soviet Union. Learn about the influence of politics on the development of art, and the end of radical art-making under Stalinism. Artists studied include Goncharova, Malevich, Lissitzky, Rodchenko, Tatlin, Stepanova, Vesnin, Vertov, Eisenstein, Kandinsky.
The concept of contemporary art is continuously reshaped by emerging artistic practices from around the world and by the curators, critics, and scholars who engage audiences in a growing viewership. In this course, we look primarily at art from 1989 to the present alongside legacies of modernism, postmodernism, and their respective critiques. We develop a contextual understanding of contemporary art in relation to the words and actions of governments, philosophers, entrepreneurs, and revolutionaries. Intersections between art and technology, transnationalism, diaspora, and decoloniality emerge as broad themes as we study the work of artists from Iran, India, China, Japan, Korea, Nigeria, Mexico, Brazil, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Art is so highly valued, with such a strong emotional and political charge, that disputes—even wars—over its acquisition, ownership, and display can be traced for millenia. Acute problems surround the acquisition of antiquities that typically surface through illegal digging, theft or plunder, and this scavenging destroys contexts, resulting in the irreversible loss of history. Art of more recent periods may be offensive, or may record or reflect atrocities and be painful to view.  How do historians of art assess and advise these ethical challenges?  What are the legal frameworks that seek to control ownership and display of art?  What should be the role of modern museums?  What happens to cultural property, including art, in time of war, and is it possible to anticipate and regulate this?  Should modern countries have the right to claim past artistic production from much earlier periods as their own exclusive state property, or does the art of the past belong to everyone as a part of global heritage?  How can we try to avoid the deliberate destruction of art by ideologues?  This course addresses a broad range of ethical and legal issues pertaining to art, ownership and cultural heritage. We will explore ways to come to a consensus on controversies, and also consider how concern about these issues reflects our contemporary values.
In recent years contemporary Asian art has become an increasingly important category of the global art world, sometimes eclipsing the national identity of Asian artists, movements, and regions. How has Asian art been changed by the intensive global travel of artists and curators “based” in two or more regions in and out of Asia?  What markers of Asianness hold currency in the art world? This seminar investigates new tendencies in Asian art with an emphasis on the globalization of art, avant-garde theory, diasporic Asian communities, historical antecedents, the economic structure of the art world, and biennial exhibitions.  Media to be investigated include digital image display, installation, painting, performance, and photography.
Art and Medicine analyzes the relationship between medicine and the visual arts from the late medieval to modern periods, covering topics such as anatomy, optical medical technologies, gender and race in medicine, and popular representations of disease and doctors.

For the most up-to-date information, check the Schedule of Classes.