Courses

Required for all M.A. Students

Research Methods in Art History

This course prepares students for advanced art historical research employing sophisticated and effective research tactics and strategies. Students need a broad sense of the questions posed by the discipline of art history in order to pursue work in this field. Understanding the history of discipline and the breadth of its modes of inquiry enables them to work toward making research contributions of their own. By exploring specific art historical tools and methods, as well as the history, evolution and nature of art historical inquiry, this course provides foundations for students’ own research. In conjunction with other courses in our curriculum, this course helps students raise questions which they can continue to consider in other contexts, particularly in M.A. theses. It is at once practical and theoretical. Students are introduced to the wealth of New York City’s research libraries, archives, museums and other resources, thereby developing “hands-on” research skills, as well as refining on-line research techniques.


African Art

Introduction to the Arts of Africa

What constitutes art in Africa? In what ways are objects of aesthetic value produced, circulated, and understood, both within and beyond their societies of origin? How are canons classifying these works constructed in the discipline of African art history, and how do such canons help clarify or obscure their objects? This course offers an introduction to the classical, popular, modern, and contemporary arts of Africa, from ancient periods through the 20th century.

African Art and Cosmopolitan Modernisms

It is a commonplace to say that African sculpture influenced 20th-century art, but what has been the nature of that influence? This course investigates the question of influence both formally and at the level of broader histories of global modernities and modernisms. How has African art radically transformed the formal possibilities imagined in modern painting, sculpture, and other media, while also playing a crucial role in disrupting—even shattering—notions of Western superiority and exclusivity both in art-making and in the sphere of cultural politics? This course traces the reception and appropriation of African art among artists and critics of various backgrounds, beginning in Paris at the turn of the century and continuing to other locations in Europe, the US, South Africa, Senegal, Nigeria, and elsewhere.

Problems in African Art History: Portraiture

This course explores portraiture by contemporary artists of African descent, concentrating primarily on photography, but touching also on painting, sculpture, and multi-media. Given these artists’ common engagements with practices of citation and pastiche, historical revision and social commentary, abstraction and theatrical self- representation, their works additionally offer insights toward exploring portraiture as it developed historically in Africa, in dialogue with Europe and the diaspora.

Exhibiting Art from Africa

This course examines major paradigms surrounding the exhibition of material objects and other cultural products from Africa. It first explores the influx of objects, artists, and artisans from Africa to Europe beginning in the 19th century, examining presentations at Colonial Expositions and other colonial-era venues; issues of commodification and classification; and the framing and ideologies involved in presentations of African objects in private collections, art museums, and ethnographic museums. The second half of the course surveys more recent curatorial strategies, particularly in conjunction with permanent installations but also including theme-based exhibitions and biennials. We will also touch on topics related to markets, value, and conservation: provenance, quality, fakes and forgeries, looting, repatriation, and growing interests in museums in Africa.


Asian Art

The Art of China, Japan, and Korea

This course offers an introduction to the art and architecture of China, Japan, and Korea from the earliest times to the turn of the 20th century. Lectures range from paintings, bronzes, and ceramics to temples and gardens. We also examine the development in Asia of indigenous theories and histories of art. Lectures and readings provide a contextual and theoretical framework for understanding the material. Class discussions and papers are designed to encourage students to bring their own looking to bear on the material, to read critically in light of what they see, and to consider new approaches to the subject matter.

The Art of the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia

This course offers an introduction to the art and architecture of the Indian Sub-Continent (India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh) and of Southeast Asia, from the earliest times until the turn of the 20th century. The course focuses in depth on a selection of Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Islamic, and secular works of art, including architectural sites, sculptures, paintings and painted manuscripts. Lectures and readings provide a contextual and theoretical framework for understanding and discussing the material. Class discussions and papers are designed to encourage students to bring their own looking to bear on the material, to read critically in light of what they see, and to consider new approaches to the subject matter.

The Artist in Society: Perspectives from the Indian Subcontinent

This course is about the painters, sculptors, architects and craftspeople of the Indian Sub-continent. We compare Western with South Asian perceptions of artists, and consider how these perceptions contributed to the making, interpreting, and valuing of works of art. Our focus is on the artists of northern India’s Mughal and Rajput courts (16th - 19th c.). However, we begin with architects and sculptors from earlier periods, discuss the designers and makers of luxury goods such as ceremonial swords, textiles, and jewelry, and look at folk as well as 20th-century artists. Major themes include the use of art to legitimate power, relationships between artists and patrons, artists’ workshops, techniques and materials, the role of tradition in artistic practice, methods for studying artists, and the ways that artists inserted themselves as individuals into arts that were intended first and foremost to delight and serve the elite. We question basic assumptions, derived from European traditions, about the value of individuality and creativity in the arts, and we consider alternative understandings of who artists were and how they individually contributed to works of art.

Asian Art Since 1850: Tradition and Nation

Many students will be familiar with the basic history of European and North American art of the 19th to the 21st centuries. This course reaches out to the very different histories of art in Asia during this period. The focus is on a central problem that Asian artists, patrons, and viewers faced as communications among nations became frequent and global, namely how to foster a Modern (and subsequently a contemporary) art that was not exclusively Western in style and aims. To understand the Asian arts that variously addressed this problem, we will focus our studies on a comparison of the arts of the Indian Sub-continent, which was colonized by Britain until 1947, and the art of Japan, which maintained its autonomy and itself colonized neighboring regions. The arts of China and Korea will also be considered. Topics include: traditional arts, museums and art schools, cinema, folk art, comics, figurative and abstract oil painting, architecture and city planning, nationalism and colonialism.


Modern and Contemporary Art of Europe and the Americas

Early Twentieth-Century Art

This course traces the development of modernism in France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and the U.S. between 1905 and 1945, including Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism, Futurism, Constructivism, Dada, and Surrealism. Discussions focus on the rise of abstraction and non-objective painting, the tension between figuration and abstraction in the first half of the twentieth century, and the historical significance of avant-garde culture and thought. Other issues discussed include: the effects of psychology and spirituality on creative production, the impact of war and crisis on visual culture, the role of art in modern society, and the interaction of high art and popular culture.

Postwar Art in the U.S. and Europe

This course examines art from 1945 through 1980 in the U.S. and Europe, including Abstract Expressionism, Pop art, Minimal art, Conceptual art, the development of earthworks and public art, and feminist and other issue-based art. Discussions will concentrate on art and the social politics of the period related to the cold war, civil rights, the Vietnam War, and other historical events.

Art since 1980

This course will explore art since 1980 and consider the questions and ideas embedded in the new work in relation to prior historical movements. We will consider a range of questions, including approaches on how to write about contemporary art; when and where to apply philosophical theories; what a socio-cultural and historical context for a body of work might be; how to write about living artists and their work, if the work is still developing and changing; and who, how and why some artists make it into the art history books and others don’t. There will be weekly presentations of a text in class and a number of writing assignments where students will present their takes on current exhibitions discussed in relation to examples of the literature read in class.

Modern Art in Latin America

This course explores the various currents of modernism that developed in Latin America from 1900 to 1945. Emphasis is placed on the artistic production of certain countries, such as Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Cuba, and Uruguay. Discussions focus on how artists responded to emerging trends of nationalism and indigenism while forging distinctive vanguard movements that contributed to international modernism.

Modern Mexican Art

This course is an in-depth look at the period known as the “Mexican Renaissance” when numerous artists, intellectuals, and government institutions responded to the goals, proposals, and failures of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), the first social uprising of the twentieth century. It provides an overview of Mexican muralism and considers the role of diverse media (easel painting, graphic art, and photography) in expressing issues such as cultural nationalism, gender, class, and race in post-Revolutionary Mexican society.

Post-War Art in Latin America

This course examines a broad spectrum of artistic manifestations in post-World War II Latin America, including the work of Latino/a artists in the United States. Discussions focus on the emergence of geometric abstraction in the Americas; the effects of war, modernization, immigration, exile, violent dictatorships, and on-going political crises on the artistic production of various countries and artists; the relation of Latin American art and artists to European and American cultural centers; the rise of multi-media art; the role of art criticism on popular perceptions of Latin American art; and the foundation of institutions in Latin America, Europe, and the United States (modern art museums, international biennials and fairs, galleries, cultural exchanges) in the international promotion of art from the Americas.


Museum Studies

Museology: An Introduction to Museum History and Issues

This course is designed to introduce students to the field of museum studies. It provides an overview of museum history and contemporary issues. The class meets four times a semester in museums in the metropolitan area where different professionals discuss their projects and what they consider critical issues. The semester ends with a symposium with NYU museum studies students focusing on key topics in the field.

Exhibition Analysis

In this course students analyze a group of exhibitions currently in the metropolitan area. Occasionally, these are clustered around a theme such as re-evaluating the retrospective or constructing identity through exhibitions. Each student studies one exhibition in depth, presenting a class lecture on the content and ancillary programs one week and leading a walk through the exhibition the next to evaluate the installation.


Photography

History of Photography

Photography touches our lives with unique immediacy. A medium equally capable of truth and of fiction, it is central to the formation of modern visual culture. This course surveys the history of photography from its invention in 1839 to the 1980s. Primarily European and American traditions are explored in a chronological framework with attention to photography's roles as fine art and documentary, its relation to painting and graphic arts, as well as to advertising, and reportage. Historiographic vagaries of this relatively new field of art history are also addressed. Readings include primary sources, social history, literature, and other texts, which illuminate photography’s connections to the wider culture. How do photographs reflect the world or influence it? How have ideas about photography's nature changed since its invention? How do we tell the story of the history of photography? What is excluded? Students use museum collections to examine works by specific photographers in depth.

Photography, Architecture, and the City

Architecture was the very first photographic subject; buildings and the urban built environment have comprised important subjects for photographers ever since. This course explores photographic renderings of buildings and urban centers from 1839 through the 1980s. Architectural photography encompasses documentary and fine art practice, extended public and personal photographic projects, social statements and personal expressions. From occasion for abstract composition to subject of dynamic social reportage, the city appears as much more than a collection of individual buildings in photographic representation. Photography and architecture are kindred media--applied as well as autonomous. What can photography tell us about architecture and the city? How do architecture and cities shape, inform and inflect photographic practice? The course is organized around close study of bodies of work by specific photographers, which students explore through assigned readings, examination of original prints in museum collections, and independent research. Readings include texts drawn from the history of photography, literature, and critical writing on architecture and the city.

History, Art and Commerce: Photographic Practices in the United States

This course explores American photographic practice from the 1850s-1980s, with reference to fine art, documentary, and commercial traditions. Photography was invented in Europe but quickly spread throughout the world. From the 1850s onwards, American photographers have been acknowledged as exceptional for their mastery of technique and innovation in conceptualization and expression, well before other American artists gained such prominence. Themes include public and private patronage, photographic publishing, the rise of American photographic modernism in response to and as an influence upon the other arts and upon European photography, the role of gender in the photographic professions, and the role of American museums in the establishment of photography as a fine art. How do we see the history of the United States through the photographic record, and how does American photography’s development reflect larger social and historical contexts? Students will explore the work of specific photographers through firsthand examination of their works in museum collections, and original documents drawn from a wide range of sources.


Public Art in the US: Memorials to New Media

A History of Public Art in the U.S.

This course considers the paradigms, evolution, and problematics of public art from memorials to modern sculpture to urban design and social practice. It includes contemporary artists’ updates of traditional memorials and various forms of new media public art including large-scale public installations and politically based locative media projects. The class features visits to local agencies commissioning public art to discuss the parameters of current patronage practices.


The United States (See also Modern and Contemporary Art of Europe and the Americas)

Art of the United States

The course surveys art of the region which became the United States from the colonial period to the 1980s, primarily painting, sculpture, prints and photographs. Students use primary source documents of many kinds to explore social history, literature and philosophy in relation to works of art, and problems of historiography and methodology in American art history are addressed. Themes include: development of a purely American idiom in art; uses of images in articulating American identities; encounters between ethnic and racial groups in American culture; geographical and metaphorical frontiers: nature vs. culture; emergence of modernism in American art; Depression-era government arts patronage; post-war rise of American avant gardes to dominance on the world scene. How is American art autonomous from and in dialogue with that of other cultures? How did art help shape American values? How are the experiences of different constituencies within American society represented in art?