Theory and History of Art and Design COURSES
This page contains the description of courses taught through the Department of Theory and History of Art and Design. For a list of pre-approved courses for the THAD Concentration and concentration track designations, please visit the Approved Courses page under the Concentration tab.
This course will study the architecture, sculpture, stained glass, and treasury objects (metalwork and manuscripts) which were the Gothic cathedral. Our study will begin with an examination of the reasons such work was created and explore the stylistic origins of the cathedral in northern France in the early 12th century. We will then look at the cathedral's subsequent development and modification in England, southern France, Italy, and Germany during the 12th through 15th centuries.
An overview of modern design, tracing major developments in interiors, furniture, and product design, from the turn of the 20th century to the present, in Europe and the United States. Artifacts range from chairs to computers to cars, from singular, hand-crafted objects to mass-produced consumer goods, from avant-garde to popular. Course discussions will deal with the formal and material character of objects, as well as cultural issues such as the ethics of labor, ideologies of gender, the relationship between nature and technology, and the mediating role of institutions and publications. Emphasis will be given to utilizing original sources, including primary texts, rare books in the Fleet Library special collections, and objects at the RISD Museum.
This course will focus on the history of self-portraiture and modes of self-identity from the vantage point of feminism, queer theory, and of post-modernist critiques of the so-called author function. We will look closely at self-portraits by artists ranging from Rembrandt van Rijn to Cindy Sherman, and from Albrecht Durer to David Wojnarowicz. Students will be asked to write about artists' self-portraits and also construct their own written and visual autobiographies. We will read memoirs by artists, as well as essays by Barthes, Foucault, and Krauss.
This seminar focuses on the history, discourses and transformations of the black female body as contested site of sexuality, resistance, representation, agency and identity in American visual culture. Organized thematically, with examples drawn from painting, sculpture, photography, film, popular culture and mixed media installations, we examine how the deployment, manipulations and construction of the signification of the asexualized mammy complex is juxtaposed against the jezebel vixen in a shifting terrain from the antebellum era through the post-racial decade of the 21st century.
Photography became especially popular as a vernacular and political medium around the time of the Crimean War in the nineteenth century. Since then, photography has been a critical medium that represents, commemorates, propagates, opposes, and complicates war and militarism across the globe. Histories of photography in the twentieth and twenty-first century have also unfolded through colonization, genocide, war, liberation, globalization, and war on terror. Militarism has thus been crucial to the medium's history: photography does not merely re-present the militarized life-in-the-making; it is an integral part of it. This course examines the ways in which the subject of photography has emerged through not only war but also what we will call "everyday militarism." Organized thematically according to photographic subjects, this course will closely investigate selected bodies of photographic work with readings on war, atrocities, subjectivity, ethics, and iconicity. Student research will be presented as a final presentation and paper.
As a field of study, material culture explores how we make things and how things, in turn, make us. This class examines the material culture of late consumer capitalism, focusing on how objects organize experience in everyday life. We will investigate the practices through which things-from food and clothing to smart phones-become meaningful, as we tackle political and ethical questions related to the design, manufacture, use and disposal of material goods. The class will introduce students to a range of scholarship on material culture from several disciplinary perspectives including anthropology, history, sociology, art and architectural history, and cultural studies.
This course explores the artistic traditions of early West African kingdoms and cultures, notably Nok, Igbo Ikwu, Ife, Owo, Esie, Tsoede, Sokoto, Benin, Akan, Djenne, Mande, Nabdam and the Bamileke. We examine images in stone, bronze, terracotta and iron, and also explore the built environment. Based on archaeological, art historical and ethnographic data, we critically analyze the style elements, iconography, purposes and significance of the objects, both as viable tools and as expressions of the history, philosophy, and religious and cultural ethos of the peoples who created them.
Designers and theorists have defined the domestic environment in many ways: as individual refuge, symbol of collective identity, tool for social engineering, or fashion object, as masculine or feminine, aesthetic or functional, revolutionary or oppressive. Through close study of houses, interiors, furnishings, and a range of texts, this seminar will explore multiple concepts of domesticity and ways these have informed design practice. Classes will be conducted as collaborative workshops focusing on discussion of assigned texts and analysis of images. Student research projects will investigate a contemporary work of design.
This course examines 20th century American popular culture - both visual and material - in relation to American history in order to understand how it reinforces socio-political ideologies in everyday life. We will look at and learn to decode advertisements as key to the cultural meanings of objects and as propaganda in reinforcing and disseminating cultural values. Using pop culture objects/concepts such as Disney, Tupperware, Barbie dolls, cars, TV, and the "American Dream," we will explore democracy, capitalism, and questions of "high" and "low" cultural artifacts.
This course explores contemporary design as inspired by Moroccan artisanal crafts. Young and seasoned designers alike are poised to revolutionize the craft and design landscape in Morocco. Government and private initiatives are supporting the preservation of cultural heritage and the rise of crafts in the global marketplace. Moreover, in the realm of design theory, "craft" is experiencing a renaissance. This course will first explore contemporary craft-and-design in a broad sweep across the Middle East and other parts of the Global South. We will then take a more in-depth look at Morocco. After an overview of the colonial and post-colonial social and economic histories that have led to a revival of the crafts, we will study Morocco's diverse landscape of cultural products and styles. Selecting several case studies of contemporary designers inspired by and/or working with crafts and craftspeople in Morocco, we will discuss the ups and downs of their journeys through a complex network of traditional practices and expectations. Throughout the semester, we will draw upon visual and textual source material through in-class discussions and virtual conversations with Moroccan designers and craftspeople.
This course discusses developments in architecture, painting, and sculpture in Southern Europe, Northern Africa, and the Middle East from 900 B.C.E. to 400 C.E. Topics include Greek and Hellenistic Art, Etruscan and Roman Art, and the archaeological methods used to investigate these civilizations. Attention will also be paid to our current understanding of the role of artists and architects in society during this period, the conscious use of stylistic and aesthetic choices as vehicles of meaning, and how the works can be seen to participate in the multicultural pluralism of the ancient Mediterranean.
This course tracks the relationship between art and social, political, and aesthetic "revolutions, "predominantly in the Western context, through the twentieth century. As a starting point for our conversations on the conceptual and political revolutions reflected in and implicated by the artworld, we will examine the emergence of the avant-garde and its challenge to the Academy as it relates to shifting market forces, understandings of psychology, subjectivity, and the role of art in the public sphere. Exploring the significance of image-making to socio-political conditions in the first half of the century, we will look at movements including Russian Suprematism, French Surrealism, and Mexican Social-Realism. Moving into the latter half of the century we will examine the ways conversations about art and revolution became more abstract â€” though no less influenced by shifting socio-political conditions â€” exploring the emergence of postwar expressionism, conceptual, performance, and "relational aesthetics" as conceptual revolutions of understandings of art, object, and meaning.
“From international film festivals to university campuses, from museums of modern art to neighbor-hood theaters, Iranian cinema has now emerged as the staple of a cultural currency that defies the logic of nativism and challenges the problems of globalization.” Hamid Dabashi writes this in the introduc-tion to his landmark study of Iranian cinema, Close Up: Iranian Cinema, Past, Present and Future (Verso, 2001). This course introduces you to the history of Iranian cinema, from the Iranian New Wave (1960s) to the present. It examines the ways in which it occupies an important place on the scene of global cinema while it “defies the logic of nativism.” We will watch some of the most prominent movies by acclaimed Iranian filmmakers Dariush Mehrjui, Ebrahim Golestan, Amir Naderi, Forough Farrokhzad, Jafar Panahi, Abbas Kiarostami, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Bahram Beyzaie, Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, Marzieh Meshkini, and Asghar Farhadi. We will also look at the works of diasporic artists, including Shirin Neshat, Marjane Satrapi, Ramin Bahrani, Mitra Farahani, and Babak Anvari.
This course focuses on representations by, of, and for Latinx peoples in the United States, beginning with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848, which ended the Mexican-American War and ceded one-third of Mexican territory to the United States, until the present day. Drawing from GlorÃa AnzaldÃºa's theory of the "borderland" as a both physical and psychological "in-between space," we will address questions of identity and belonging, assimilation and resistance, and visibility and erasure as they are encountered and debated by (and about) diasporic communities in the United States. Topics of discussion will include nineteenth-century debates of Pan-Americanism, the popularization and critique of Hollywood stereotypes during the Good Neighbor era, and Chicanx activism of the 1960s and 1970s. Issues of racial and ethnic identity will be considered alongside and in dialogue with those of gender, sexuality, class, and immigration status, and our discussions will encompass not only visual art but also music, cinema, literature, and activism. We will ask ourselves, what is the relationship of Latinx art and visual culture to that of the U.S.? What is its relationship to "Latin American" history and identity? And how might we begin to expand our definitions of U.S. art history?
This course explores major movements and practices of photography in Asia from the nineteenth century to present day. Students will be introduced to a wide range of discourses on photography and will examine special topics in Asian photography each week: topics range from the diverse ways in which photography has entailed modernity to geopolitical implications in contemporary art photography in Asia. The course will investigate photography not just as documents of historical shifts but as objects, archives, and artworks in each cultural milieu. Students are expected to actively engage in class discussions. As a term project, students will write a research paper and give a short presentation on their research.
This course will trace major developments in contemporary art from the 1960s to the present. Beginning with the shift away from modernist abstraction in the late 1950s and proceeding chronologically, we will examine the diverse array of movements, practices, and events that have come to define the larger field of contemporary art: minimalism, conceptualism, and pop in the 1960s, site specific and performance art in the 1970s, the "culture wars" and postmodernist debates of the 1980s, and the various forms of "abject," project-based, and "relational" art that followed. Foregrounding problems that have remained central for artists throughout this period - the status of the body, the institutional conditions of artistic production and reception, the politics of representation and difference - we will focus on putting the shifting terrain of contemporary art into broad social, historical, and theoretical perspective. In turn, we will attempt to develop a comprehensive critical framework for understanding the aesthetic and political stakes of contemporary art today.
This course will survey the emergence of an avant-garde in the United States during and after World War II. The focus will be on the personal struggles, artistic innovation, and overarching achievement of a handful of artists including Willem De Kooning, Jackson Pollock, David Smith, Robert Motherwell and Barnett Newman, whose work catapulted American art and artists onto the world stage. Concurrently we will examine the role of public and private criticism, especially the writings of Harold Rosenberg and Clement Greenberg. Additionally we will construct a view of contemporary society and the political leanings of artists and critics of the movement, as well as the concerted effort of the American State Department to showcase Abstract Expressionist work as visible proof of American freedoms during the Cold War.
We will examine the art styles and technologies, as well as the architectural forms and implied social organization found in the archaeological record of ancient Peru. Our goal will be to trace the history of cultural development, in this isolated setting, from the earliest hunter/gatherers to the complex civilization of the Incas. This semester there will be special attention given to three media: architecture, ceramics, and textiles.
Also offered as HPSS-C736. Register in the course for which credit is desired. HPSS-S101 is a prerequisite if the student desires HPSS credit.
Loot will study the history and analysis of the destruction of archaeological remains and cultural heritage by grave robbers, collectors, and museums. Why are the Elgin Marbles in London, and not on the Acropolis? Why do there seem to be as many mummies in France as there are in Egypt? asks Sharon Waxman in her book Loot (2008). This seminar will examine the changing role of antiquities in the post-imperialist world, and access the moral and ethical questions raised by archaeologists, curators, collectors and lawyers regarding the plunder of ancient sites to feed an international art market. We will also review legal standards regarding cultural properties (1970 UNESCO Convention, 1991 NAGPRA, and 1995 Unidroit Convention) and how they have impacted the protection of ancient archaeological sites, forced the return of many art treasures and lesser artifacts, and become big headaches for everyone involved in the preservation of cultural heritage.
Also offered as HPSS-C734; register in the course for which credit is desired. HPSS-S101 is a prerequisite if the student desires HPSS credit.
William Hogarth (1697-1764) was a practical-minded painter and engraver who sought artistic independence from aristocratic patronage and cultural respect for printmaking as an art. His greatest innovation was a form of narrative painting and printmaking, marketed to the public at large, in which he presented original stories, essentially visual novels, that challenged the groups that had until then controlled the content and distribution of art, that is, the religious and political establishments. William Blake (1757-1827) was a profoundly impractical painter, poet and engraver who challenged church, state, commerce, and everything else, including time and space, illustrating his own stories and visions as well as a very large proportion of past literary works in ways that reveal their visionary potential. We will study an array of Hogarth's serial and independent works, as well as several of Blake's "illuminated books," literary and biblical illustrations, and un-illustrated poems. Students will do independent research and write short papers for all class meetings.
Also offered as LAS-C221; Register in the course for which credit is desired.
We are so familiar with these three hot drinks but they became commodities and part of our everyday only recently. This course explores what values were attached to these plants before the era of industrialized production, i.e. before ca. 1800. We will survey how Westerners adopted these beverages by looking at medical theories, the issue of morality, and the expansion of sugar production. We will also study how the craving for these products reinforced or even spurred slavery in French, Dutch, and English colonies. Special attention is dedicated to how ritual behavior affects design in terms of the sociability around these beverages, required manners, and the tableware crafted for them. The methodology is based on the analysis of images, discussions of assigned readings, written responses, visits to museums (RISD and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston), and touring the facility of a chocolate artisan.
This course explores the body as subject, object, medium, and lens. This class is intended as both a discussion of the shifting role of the human form as represented and implicated in artwork from nineteenth century to the present day, as well as an experiential interrogation of our own somatic experience as scholars, artists, and humans, in order to ask the question: what does the body have to teach us? We will address the discourses of the imaged and imagined body prior to and through European modernism as a carrier of meaning and an object to be consumed, with particular attention to the ramifications of the Cartesian mind-body distinction. From this starting point, we will track shifts and the development of alternate theories of the body from psychology, philosophy, critical theory, and neuroscience, from the nineteenth century into present day. In addition to theory and philosophy, we will address how these shifts are manifest in artwork of the twentieth century from painting, sculpture installation art, video, and augmented reality art. Students will be asked to be mindful of their own somatic (bodily) practices, including movement inside and outside class with the intention of developing a deeper understanding the body as lens for experience and production.
This course will examine art in Russia and the USSR from the October Revolution in 1917 to the death of Stalin in 1953 in the context of historical events and changing ideological climate.
After the October Revolution, art and film in Russia and later the USSR became a field of unprecedented experimentation that gave birth to many groundbreaking works by artists and filmmakers such as Kazimir Malevich, Vladimir Tatlin, Alexandr Rodchenko, Varvara Stepanowa, the Stenberg Brothers, Sergei Eisenstein, Vsevolod Pudovkin, and others. The introduction of Socialist Realism by Stalin in the 1930s terminated the Avant-Garde in the country and forced artists to become basically producers of propaganda. Despite this, a number of significant works, especially films, subverted ideological limitations.
This course examines the visual culture of social welfare and justice during the early modern era (1500-1900). A powerful guild of silk manufacturers sponsored the construction of the first large-scale orphanage for abandoned children in Renaissance Florence, employing architects, painters, woodworkers and sculptors. "Talking statues" in Rome advocated for the end of oppressive taxation by over-zealous popes. Printmakers across Europe turned out satirical woodcuts and engravings that graphically argued for better living conditions and labor laws in the age of industrialization. Josiah Wedgewood issued a plaque that poignantly pleaded for the abolishment of slavery. Here, we study a broad range of imagery, objects and architecture that forged a language of social justice that still exists today. Drawing on the rich collections of the RISD Museum, Fleet Library Special Collections and the John Hay Library at Brown, among others, we examine the role of patrons, artists and designers in advocating for, and advancing, social welfare in an increasingly urban and educated society.
The 1960s saw the expansion of the art market in the US when printmaking workshops emerged on the coasts and in the heartland. Artists and master printers worked collaboratively at ULAE, Tamarind, Gemini GEL, Tyler Graphics and others, and such presses also editioned artists' prints for sale via the gallery system. Importantly such workshops also offered an opportunity to artists primarily committed to other media to explore various printmaking methods. Collaboration among artists and printmakers thus became a hallmark of the so-called American Printmaking Renaissance. The course will investigate the nature of collaboration between artists and master printers as we study prints by epoch-making artists including Louise Nevelson, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Helen Frankenthaler, Richard Diebenkorn, Ed Ruscha, Vija Celmins, as well as lesser-known artists who contributed significantly to the popularity of prints. Technical innovation continued in the era of Pop with the use of commercial techniques by Warhol, Rosenquist and Lichtenstein, and continues today with the use of digital media. We will draw upon the collection of the RISD museum to develop an intimate understanding of the role of innovation and collaboration in American printmaking ca. 1960-1990.
While impressionism once inspired some of the most innovative thinking in art history, overexposure has blunted its edge. This course seeks to recover what impressionism meant to its time, and to ask what it could mean to ours. After a brief introduction to the major figures (Degas, Manet, Monet, Morisot, etc.), discussion will be organized around a series of debates in the history and reception of French impressionism. Was impressionism a loosely affiliated group of individuals or a coherent movement? Did it extend prior traditions or radically break with the past? Was it objective or subjective? Was it feminist or misogynistic? Was it anarchist, republican, or socialist - and why think about its politics at all? Students will learn strategies for making arguments about paintings, both as material things and as historical artifacts. Readings will focus on primary sources (Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Zola, etc.), stressing how new movements in art influenced criticism - and visa versa. We will supplement these readings with select secondary sources of methodological interest, especially landmark texts in social, feminist, and technical art history.
This class explores the discourse art and trauma. It beings with a history of trauma studies, with its roots in Holocaust studies, Freudian interpretation, and the discipline of Psychology. It ventures on to explore the ramifications of understanding trauma in the realm of imag(in)ing suffering, whether represented through journalism, popular media, or artistic representation. We will interrogate how the models posited by trauma theory hold up in the age of new media. A recurrent motif in the class will be what it means to study trauma and its representation, both abstractly and personally, ethically and psychosomatically, and establish practices for maintaining sustainable and responsible modes of inquiry.
This course will examine the myth and cultural importance placed on spaces and objects occupied and used by the so-called "geniuses" of American history alongside our general romantic interest in "the genius" as a cultural phenomenon. We will examine the designed objects and spaces of famous American artists and heroes - places such as Graceland, Dollywood, and Marfa; objects like Thomas Jefferson's writing desk; and museums created out of the homes of Louisa May Alcott and Mark Twain, among others. In an attempt to unpack and understand the importance of objects in both memory- and identity-making, we will consider how visual and material objects both communicate personality and legacy and how they act as mediators between each "genius" and their audiences, allowing visitors to come into contact with the imaginative worlds of their heroes.
A key moment and place in the history of design, eighteenth-century art was innovative and rich in criticism, especially in France. Favored themes in the graphic arts and sculpture include gallantry (fetes galantes), eroticism, and domesticity. French art dealers were responsible for new designs for furniture and decorative arts; architects developed utopian projects; and seamstresses launched extravagant fashion trends. We will examine how rococo came to be the dominant artistic trend in all Europe and the kinds of controversy that it generated from the mid-century on. Rococo Rocks will provide analytical tools for understanding the visual arts within their social and critical contexts including the Enlightenment. We will navigate between genres and media, assess how works of art were then perceived, and discuss the position of women (whether mothers, wives, or artists). We will also study the ramifications of rococos continuing curve into twentieth-century art from Art Nouveau to Cindy Sherman and Jeff Koons.
Visits to several departments of the RISD Museum are planned as well as to the Hay Library where we will study original eighteenth-century illustrations. Students final projects consist in designing a rococo-inspired object in any medium (painting, sculpture, textile, print, or drawing) accompanied by an artists statement.
This course has two primary goals: cultivating an in-depth, hands-on knowledge of a topic in indigenous art history and developing a diverse set of writing tools for documenting lived experience. First, this course will explore the history, anthropology, and overall context of the development of traditional indigenous American textile production methods. Our examination of these textiles will involve critical readings of key texts, lectures and discussions. However, above all, we will be employing a hands-on approach to reproduce the process involved in making these textiles. Focusing on the specific example of Navajo blanket and rug weaving, together we will create our own woven tapestries, replicating traditional methods from cleaning wool straight off the sheep, to dyeing with natural dyes, to building and weaving on our own traditional-style Navajo tapestry looms. The second goal of this course is to explore a variety of approaches toward documenting through writing students' own experiences in the field - ranging from more creative and artistic approaches to more formal or technical descriptions. The intention is to expose students to a variety of writing methods that may come in handy in their professional careers, be they artists' statements or grant applications. To this end, students will be keeping a semester-long field journal detailing their hands-on experiences in this course, culminating in the production of a final presentation of their work.
Junior and above
This course will examine scientific and technical applications developed by Western artists and visual theorists from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century. Concentrating on pictorial traditions, the course will address what artists, authors and artist/engineers have referred to as scientific, technical, mechanical, and purely mental solutions to optical, proportional and quantitative visual problems. General themes will be perspective, form, color, and mechanical devices, and will include discussions on intellectual training, notebooks, treatises, and collecting. The course will examine artists such as Masaccio, Leonardo, Piero della Francesca, D|rer, Serlio, Carlo Urbino, Cigoli, Rubens, Vel`zquez, Saenredam, Vermeer, Poussin, Andrea Pozzo, Canaletto, Phillip Otto Runge,Turner, Delacroix, Monet, and Seurat.
In European and American art of the 19th and early 20th centuries, women were often presented in extreme ways: either as blood-thirsty creatures from Greek mythology, as Salome obsessed with the decapitation of a lover, as poison flowers and vamps; or as personifications of love and virtue, household angels, noble virgins dying out of self-sacrifice. The literature and, later, cinema supported this dichotomy that can be still traced in contemporary culture. In this course we will analyze the images of blessed and cursed women in Western art of the last two centuries.
During this course we will discuss how America is seen by contemporary European artists and intellectuals. Jean Baudrillard's famous book "America" as well as films by Antonioni ("Zabriskie Point"), Makaveyev ("WR: Mysteries of the Organism") and Herzog ("Stroszek") will number among the works analyzed in the class.
This course will examine the role played by urban mythology in 19th and 20th - century European and American art. We will study the late - 19th - century idea of the flaneur, which influenced both visual arts and literature. We will discuss the Futurists' fascination with machines and the Surrealists' concept of a city perceived as a human body. We will analyse the Impressionists' views of Parisian streets, Frans Masereel's woodcuts The City, de Giorgio Chirico's metaphysical paintings and Edward Hopper's nostalgic images of the American metropolis. We will study how the interest in urban reality has influenced the development of new art movements of the last two centuries.
The course will explore the approaches and contexts of Leonardo da Vinci's draftsmanship. Studying primarily some of his surviving 6000 drawings and notes, the course will locate his aesthetic and analytical processes and contexts for a broad range of projects, such as paintings, sculptures, treatise literature, machines, weapons, maps, festivals, built environments, and studies of natural philosophy. We will also examine theoretical pursuits in the liberal and technical arts by Leonardo and his contemporaries, and their assessments of visual art as a science, and studies of natural science as a systematic art. Particularly informative will be Leonardo's responses to contemporary trends, to artisanal traditions, to the antique, to members of princely courts and republics, and more generally to investigative and inventive strategies.
Alexander the Great is one of the most significant figures in ancient history, and the culturally diverse empire he created gave birth to new trends in art characterized by hybrid styles and innovative new kinds of artistic propaganda. The study of the place of art in such a multicultural society has implications for the interpretation of art's role in the modern world. This course will discuss the way Alexander and his successors controlled their image in art and the styles of sculpture, painting, architecture, and urban planning that were precipitated by the socio-political changes brought about by his conquests.
This course is designed to acquaint students with a variety of non-Western traditional aesthetic expressions from the Americas. The course will explore the indigenous contexts, both historical and contemporary, in which these art forms are or were created and function. We will explore the cultural matrix and aesthetics of selected communities from the Americas, particularly from North America, such as the Inuit, the Kwakwaka, the Plains nations, the Eastern sea board, the Southwest of the US, such as the Hopi and Navajo, and Northern Mexico communities, time permitting. We will frame the presentations and discussions from both an ethnographic and an art historical perspective.
Also offered as HPSS-C517; register in the course for which credit is desired. HPSS-S101 is a prerequisite if the student desires HPSS credit.
The course offers an introduction to the arts of several sub-Saharan African communities. We will explore the creative process and the context of specific African traditions as well as the impact of the African diaspora on the arts of other communities, particularly in the Caribbean.
Also offered as HPSS-C519; Register in the course for which credit is desired. HPSS-S101 is a prerequisite if the student desires HPSS credit.
The Museum is a significant and changing institution during the 21st century. This class will subject the institution to scholarly critique. We will consider the types of museums, the organization of museums, the curating of exhibitions, the growing role of on-line components in museums and the various support areas in the museum (finance, membership, etc.). Ethics in the museum and sensitivity to audiences will also be part of our study. We will visit the RISD museum and other local Providence museums. Students will write catalogue entries, exhibition reviews and short papers that analyze readings.
This class examines different methods of interpretation employed by art historians and art critics to "read" works of art. Each week we will focus on a particular methodological approach central to the production of art historical knowledge such as Formalism, Iconography, Psychoanalysis, Semiotics, Post-Structuralism, Museum Studies, Critical Theory, Queer Theory, Critical Race Theory, Affect Theory, and Postcolonial Theory. The course also looks into the history of the discipline itself by way of reading primary texts written by art historians and thinkers whose thoughts and writings, in one way or another, have shaped the discipline of art history. We will also consider responses from non-Western scholars to the predominantly Western narratives that are at the center of the field.
This course serves as an introduction to modern and contemporary art of Latin America from c. 1900 to the present day. Beginning with the international formulation of modernismos and the institutionalization of muralism in Mexico, we will trace the development of various, contested "modernisms" throughout the Americas. Rather than adhering to a strictly linear chronology, we will approach this vast region and its histories through a constellation of themes that, together, will illuminate the uneven development of modernism across the hemisphere. We will address questions relating to the nature of national and international identity, as well considering the porous relation between Latin American modernisms and their European and U.S. counterparts. Just what is "Latin American" art? Is it defined by geography, by nationality, or in some other way? And does it fit into the received canon of "Western" art history?
This course explores objects and images used in rituals in pre-industrial Europe (ca. 1400-1800). A ritual can be defined as a codified, solemn, event that has its own temporal and spatial specificity. It occurs for staging religious practices, marriage, death, a ruler's visit to a city, or for creating responses in times of crises (epidemics, natural calamities, war, etc). Through their symbolic and artistic components, rituals create authority, assert identity, define social status, and maintain order in society but they are also ridden with conflict. Rituals work through the display of statues, reliquaries, paintings, elaborate costumes, ceremonial props, or flags for which the role of artists was primordial. We will see how such objects and images gained power and what their mobility (in processions, for example) entailed. We will study extant works as visual evidence for ephemeral events as well as representations (in the form of paintings and prints) of ceremonies, spectacles, processions, or ritual domestic settings. We will analyze art through inter-disciplinary methodologies: material culture, anthropology, social history, and iconography. Learning about artistic conventions and traditions will help us to be critical about visual "representations" and evaluate to what extent works of art manipulate reality in "re-presentations."
This course examines the history of art, architecture, and material culture of the Islamic world from the advent of Islam to the Mongol invasion of the city of Baghdad in 1258 CE. It is organized around major geographic regions (Eastern, Central, and Western Islamic lands) as well as themes that link the arts of the Islamic world together including the divine words of the Qur'an, royal patronage, geometric and vegetative motifs, religious and secular identities, cross-cultural exchange, figural representation, aniconism, etc. We will focus primarily on architecture, the art of the object, including ceramics, glass, metalwork, wood, ivory, jewelry, and textiles, and the art of the book, i.e., illuminated and illustrated manuscripts and calligraphy.
No movement in the history of twentieth-century art is more synonymous with modernist abstraction than Abstract Expressionism. Its rise to prominence in the 1940s signaled not only a new era of American dominance in the international art world, but also a period of triumph for the project of formalist modernism. Yet in the decade that marked its immediate aftermath, an array of movements and practices arose both to challenge Abstract Expressionism's singular position in the postwar art world and to call into question the aesthetic paradigm that it embodied. In this course we will trace these developments, examining the major artists who defined Abstract Expressionism, the claims made on its behalf by the critics who theorized and debated it, the uses to which it was put in the context of Cold War politics, the fundamental questions it raised about aesthetic autonomy and expressive freedom, and the various challenges directed at it in the late 1950s and into the 1960s, most notably by Pop Art, Minimalism, and Conceptual Art. In so doing, we will attempt both to construct a broad historical account of Abstract Expressionism and to develop a critical understanding of how it helped set the stage for the dominant forms of contemporary art that would follow.
The course considers modern design cultures worldwide, focusing on networks of individuals and institutions that formed across national borders since the early twentieth century. A theme of the course will be the design theories and practices initiated at the German Bauhaus in the 1920s and their subsequent international spread and local adaptation, precipitated by war, exile, migration, globalization of industry and trade, and decolonization. Case studies may include Lazlo Moholy-Nagy at the New Bauhaus in Chicago, Anni Albers at Black Mountain College, the HfG Ulm and its collaboration with schools in Brazil and India, and the recently founded Bauhaus Institute at the China Academy of Art. Throughout, we will ask what happens when the idea of universal design is adapted to local politics, economies, and design cultures.
As a stimulus to the imagination, method of investigation, or as a basic means of communication, drawing is a fundamental process of human thought. This class will examine various kinds of drawings from the history of art and visual culture moving chronologically from the medieval to the post-modern. Our studies will have a hands-on approach, meeting behind the scenes in the collections of the RISD Museum. Working from objects directly will be supplemented by readings and writing assignments as well as active classroom discussion. (This seminar is recommended for concentrators in History of Art and Visual Culture and for students especially interested in drawing.)
This course offers a chronologically arranged broad overview of Russian artistic tradition. We will study architecture, painting and design, starting from the pre-Slavic archaeological material and moving on to the Orthodox churches and icons and then to Russian creative response to European styles of Rococo, Baroque, Neoclassicism, Historicism and Art Nouveau. Later in the course, we will focus on Russian Avant-garde, exploring the multiplicity of radically new artistic currents of Cubo-Futurism, Neo-Primitivism, Suprematism, Constructivism and more. During our lectures, museum visits, film screenings, and classroom discussions, we will look at art closely, get acquainted with artists' own words in their notes and manifestoes, and become introduced to academic discourse on the relevant topics. Students will write one research paper and present it at the student conference that concludes the course.
This course focuses on contemporary art in and out of Africa, with specific reference to Nigeria. Our objective is to situate Contemporary Nigerian Art within the dialectics of modernism and postmodernism beginning first with the colonial implantation of the "modernist" trend in Africa. We examine the impact on the artistic vision and direction of the major artists in Africa, while highlighting the careers of their counterparts operating outside the continent within the postmodernist currents of Paris, New York, London, Berlin, etc.
The Bronze Age saw the development of several advanced civilizations in the Mediterranean basin. Perhaps the best-known among these is the civilization of Pharaonic Egypt. This course will focus on the art and architecture of Egypt and their neighbors to the north: the Aegean civilizations known as Cycladic, Minoan, and Mycenaean. While art historical study of these cultures will be emphasized, evidence for trade and other cultural interchange between them will also be discussed. The course will cover such topics as the Pyramids of Giza, the Tomb of Tutankhamun, and the Palace of Knossos.
The 15th and 16th centuries in Northern Europe were a period of innovation and change. In this course we will examine altarpieces by artists such as Van Eyck and Van Der Weyden which showed a new religious vision expressed in oil paint. We will consider prints by Durer, which widely distributed the ideas of the Italian Renaissance, and portraits by Hoblein and paintings by Bruegel which suggest a new post-Reformation world view. We will also study sculpture and architecture of the period.
This course explores the diversity of form, style, and narrative content of works created by African American artists from the antebellum period to the present. Specific attention will be devoted to several underlining issues including but not limited to identity, race, class, ethnicity, representation, sexuality and aesthetic sensibilities.
This course will explore the architectural traditions of the Indigenous cultures of North America, Mesoamerica, and South America in historic perspective. Examinations will focus on the critical cultural and environmental circumstances which led to the development of distinctive architectural styles throughout the Americas. Approached from an anthropological/archaeological perspective, specific topics of discussion will include the following: construction methods and material choices, spatial arrangements and use areas, the relationship between physical and social community structure, and architectural manifestation of cultural belief systems. Emphasis will also be placed on manipulations of the landscape in response to social and climatic needs. Architectural culture discussed in this course will range widely in scale, dispersal and geography - from the igloo of a small Inuit hunting party to the entire Mayan city of Chichen Itza, to the terrace and irrigation systems of the Inca.
Interdisciplinary by their very nature, textile traditions share a global history. Around the world textiles have found place in cultures as signifiers of social identity, from the utilitarian to the sacred, as objects of ritual meaning and as objects of great tangible wealth. The evolution of textile motifs, designs, materials and technology across Asia, Africa and the Americas will be explored utilizing the RISD Museum of Art with frequent visits to the textile and costume collections. We will examine such topics as: the function of textiles in the survival of traditional cultures, the impact of historic trade routes and ensuing colonialism, industrialization and its subsequent effect on traditional techniques of textile manufacture. Students will also have opportunities to examine various methods of textile display, analysis and storage appropriate to items of cultural heritage via case studies of specific objects in the RISD Museum.
Textiles majors can be pre-registered by the department.
Illumination, illustration, interpretation -- these are all terms that can apply to the images in medieval and Renaissance manuscripts. While this course seeks to introduce students generally to the history of manuscript painting from the 6th to the 16th centuries, special emphasis will be placed on how these images relate(d) to the texts they adorn. The course will be evaluated on the basis of in-class discussions, two presentations, one exam, and a final research paper that will include a creative component.
This course provides an art historical survey and thematic exploration of 9 centuries of Yoruba Art and Aesthetics and its intercession with history (including but not limited to colonialism and postcolonial impact, interventions, and discourses), religion, philosophy, and the socio-political beliefs of one of Africa's most ancient civilizations, and a visible presence in the African Diaspora.
Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints: studying from the originals - curating a temporary exhibition at the Print Room of the RISD Museum This art history course pursues two goals - (1) to familiarize students with ukiyo-e woodblock prints as a distinctive, vibrant and highly influential form of Japanese art, and (2) to introduce students to various academic methods employed in art history in the art museum setting. The outcome of this course will be putting together a temporary exhibition of approximately ten Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints united by a certain theme, studied and presented to the public in correspondence to the standards of today's curatorial practices. Students will decide upon the exhibition topic, formulate the title, choose the works for display, analyze visual and contextual aspects of individual prints, perform the necessary research, uncovering cultural/historical/literary connotations invariably present in this popular yet sophisticated art form, write gallery labels, develop and deliver educational materials. Within the scope of students' work will be also the general design of the display as well as graphic design involved in preparation of labels and of the educational materials for museum visitors.