Course Descriptions


Fall Quarter

Dept Course No and Title Instructor
In this course we start with a brief look at prehistoric cave painting and megaliths, and move on to the art of the ancient Near East, Egypt, Greece and Rome, with a focus on the early cultures around the Mediterranean Sea. We study famous works of art and architecture such as the Great Pyramids and Sphinx, the Palace of Minos at Knossos, the Parthenon, the Venus de Milo and Winged Victory, Pompeii, and the Colosseum and Pantheon in Rome: a selection of the art and architecture of the past admired and studied by people for many centuries or in some instances only recently excavated. We consider how and why the peoples of antiquity created art and architecture, how the visual arts can illuminate cultural issues, and how ancient art takes on various meanings to us today. Some attention is given to archaeological methods, and the issues of ownership, conservation and presentation of ancient artifacts.
This course examines the past and present of Islam through its art and architecture, spanning 1500 years and encompassing the Americas through Indonesia. The course emphasizes that, since its emergence on the Arabian peninsula in the early 7th century, Islam has been a force for connecting different world regions and their people in commercial, ideological, artistic and religious dialogues – globalization, in the modern sense. At the same time that we examine what is “Islamic” about objects labeled as such, we will also address their regional specificities, confronting and redefining the very idea of what is “Islamic” in the process.
This course explores the role of Iran in the visual, material and intellectual exchanges among the great settled, nomadic and mercantile empires of late antiquity (ca. 200-700 CE), a pivotal period of interconnection and transformation in Eurasian history. We will investigate the art, architecture, urbanism and visualities of empire in the settled empires, such as Sasanian Iran, Rome and China, and steppe powers such as the Huns and Türks, as well as smaller states on the peripheries and interstices in Western Europe, Central and South Asia, and Africa enmeshed in these imperial struggles and intrigues. Topics include the growth and competition in images and ideologies of sacred kingship; transformations of Eurasian visual cultures through long distance diplomacy and commerce; magical and astrological practices and lore; and the formation of new liturgical spaces for imperial or universalizing religions such as Christianity, Buddhism, and Iranian religions such as Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism.
The celebrated monuments of Athens, such as the Parthenon, the Propylaia and the Erechtheion—and some which are little known or even lost—will be our focus.  We will see how the city developed, from a small village beneath the Akropolis into the seat of a far-flung empire, and the intellectual center of the Mediterranean world for many centuries.  Special attention throughout the course will be given to the historical, social, political, literary  and religious context of the monuments, art and artifacts we study:  how people made them, and why; how the temples were used and what the public buildings were for; what the sculpture and vase-painting can tell us about Athenian values and attitudes. In addition, we will consider the history and ethics of the “rediscovery” of Greece and Greek art during the past two centuries. The architects and sculptors set a high standard against which all subsequent art in the Western tradition is inevitably compared, and their art serves as an inexhaustible source of inspiration.
This class focuses on artistic, religious, material, and technological exchanges between European cultures and African, Asian, and American cultures in the early modern period (roughly 1400-1800). The emphasis will be on how these exchanges manifest themselves in visual culture from prints to paintings, sculptures, architecture, porcelain, textiles, and more.
A topical and chronological survey of major themes, artists, and critical terms of visual art in the United States from 1945 to 1989, this course begins with the rise of New York as an international art center following the Second World War and then follows a number of developments, from commodity culture to networks of new media. Class sessions will be organized around a series of central artists, such as Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Mike Kelley, Eleanor Antin, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Cindy Sherman. Rather than privileging these individuals, this format will consider the range of aesthetic practices through which each artist's work operates, including theories of abstraction, performance, feminism, and identity politics. Course readings will be drawn principally from primary sources, including art criticism and artists' writings.
This course investigates a broad selection of Asian American artists from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present.  Focus will be placed on artists representing numerous Asian American identities working in diverse media, including painting, sculpture, architecture, installation, performance, and video. These individuals were/are remarkable for their extraordinary accomplishments and exceptional life stories.  While spotlighting these exceptional artists, we will also consider their relationship to issues of Asian American history, including prejudice, war, civil rights, immigration, and transnationalism.
This course is a history of painting and pictures in later imperial China from the Song through the Qing dynasties (1000-1900 CE). Focusing on art works and images as historical, cultural, and social documents, we will examine art as an instrument of power, a tool for social and religious rituals, an expression of social status, a medium for political protest, and as a product for the marketplace.
Examines depictions of and by African American women in art and popular culture through in a variety of media including textiles, painting, sculpture, photography, and installation. Focuses on African American women’s experiences, perspectives, and strategies for contemporary representation.
Abstraction in painting and sculpture, primarily, but also in other media; a look at the politics of the distinction between ornament and abstraction, with an emphasis on the cross-cultural dialogues that the distinction between "ornament" and "abstraction" has often entailed. We will also address the distinction between abstraction and figuration, considering how this looks in light of the material turn. Readings will begin with several recent essay collections and exhibition catalogs, including: Ornament and Abstraction: The Dialogue Between Non-Western, Modern, and Contemporary Art, ed. Brüderlin and Beyeler, 2001; Abstraction: The Amerindian Paradigm, Bruxelles, 2001; Inventing Abstraction, 1910-1925: How a Radical Idea Changed Modern Art, ed. Leah Dickerman; 2012; Abstract Video: The Moving Image in Contemporary Art, ed. Jennings, 2015; and Histories of Ornament: From Global to Local, ed. Necipoglu and Payne, 2016.

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