Laura Ruby


 

 THEORY AND CRITICISM OF ART

 

Art 302 (WI)

1 Understanding and Evaluating Theory and Criticism

2 Reading an Artwork

Three Theoretical Models --
1)"13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"
2) Triangle Theoretical Model
3) Circle + Theoretical Model

3 Modern and 4 Postmodern Frames -- Surveying the Terrain

5-6-7 Theories that Inform and Shape the Postmodern Frame --
5) Semiotics
6) Structuralism
7) Post-Structuralism and Deconstruction
ARTISTS/CREATORS

 

 

 

This course is an introduction to the significant themes and issues in contemporary theory and criticism as they impact the ways in which art is produced, viewed, and written about today. This course will provide students with the practical knowledge and skills to comprehend and critically evaluate the vast body of theory and criticism currently being written on the arts and to critically examine their own experience and perspectivies on art education and the practice of art.
 
OBJECTIVES:
1. To gain an understanding of the development of critical discourses which inform contemporary art;
2. To engage in the written and verbal critical skills necessary to respond to and interpret theoretically-based writings and artwork;
3. To understand artistic activity as critical practice;
4. To enable students to position themselves and begin to construct a personal "voice."
 
TEXTS:
--Art on the Edge and Over--Linda Weintraub -- optional -- available at UH Bookstore
--packet of handouts purchased at Campus Center copy service -- selections from:
--Laurie Schneider Adams - The Methodologies of Art
--Appignanesi - Introducing Postmodernism
 
--Terry Barrett - Criticizing Art
--Arthur Asa Berger - Signs in Contemporary Culture
--Steven Best & Douglas Kellner - Portmodern Theory
--Victor Burgin - The End of Art Theory
--Daniel Chandler - Semiotics for Beginners
--Arthur Danto - After the End of Art
--Gloria Fiero - The Humanistic Tradition - Books #4, #5, #6
--Stuart Hall - Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices
--Suzanne Hudson & Nancy Noonan-Morrissey - The Art of Writing about Art
--Mary Klages - "Claude Levi-Strauss"
--John Lye - "The 'death of the author' as an instance of theory"
--John Lye - "differance"
--Scott McCloud - Understanding Comics
--Thomas McEvilley - Art & Discontent
--Thomas McEvilley - Sculpture in the Age of Doubt
--William S. Merwin - "What Is Modern"
--Vernon Hyde Minor - Art History's History
--W.J.T. Mitchell - Picture Theory
--Donald D. Palmer-- Structuralism and Post Structuralism for Beginners
--Tony Quagliano - "Semiotic Self-Deconstruction"
--Laura Ruby - "Interplay in Expanded Fields"
--Mary Anne Staniszewski - Creating the Culture of Art
--Jack Solomon - The Signs of Our Times
--Robert Stam - New Vocabularies in Film Semiotics - "The Origins of Semiotics"
 
GUIDE FOR ANALYZING AND INTERPRETING IMAGES:
CONTENT
-What is represented?
-What kinds of relationships are shown?
-What elements seem particularly significant?
-What associations come to mind?
FORM
-How is the artwork composed?
-How do all of the above components function in relation to one another?
 
A & B- GUIDE FOR ANALYZING AND INTERPRETING READINGS:
A - explanatory and interpretive essays on theories and critical stances
B - essays on artworks
 
-- Look at the beginning and end of the reading to see if the author summarizes the main point(s).
-- Make a list of terms/ideas that are not clear.
 
 
COURSE CONTENT:
 
C 50 %
 
C GUIDE FOR WRITING (1 + PAGES STATEMENT ON THE READINGS)
 
What argument is made and how is it supported (what visual, historical, and theoretical information does the author examine)? Include your own assessment of these arguments. Your statement should include an artwork example that supports your position. Each paper should include new thoughts generated from the readings at hand. You may refer back to earlier readings or discussions and how they bear on your current thoughts. Do not merely recapitulate the readings. Each paper should be typed double-spaced and stamped on the discussion day. (For example, Wednesday, January 30, please turn in your revised WRITING #1, your stamped first draft #1 and your stamped GREAT DEBATE papers.). Writings #2, #3 and #4 may be written in partnership with another classmate.
 
D 20%
 
D GUIDE FOR GREAT DEBATES
 
The topics of each discussion will be approached through a selection of readings. Students are expected to come fully prepared for active and informed participation in the discussions. Students will to contribute to the debates from their notes and typed short answer preparations and their typed first drafts for Writings # 1 - #5. Be prepared to share your writing in small group discussions, and in the larger class format. Please stamp your papers before each debate to receive credit. (Evaluations on reading handouts = 1 GD credit.) There are approximately 15-20 GD credits.
 
 
E 15 %
 
E EXAM
 
The take-home exam will be based on the topics raised in the first half of the course. - The exam will be on Mark Tansey - Modern/Postmodern (Please look for the particulars stated later in this syllabus.)
 
F 10 %
 
F GROUP DISCUSSION LEADER
 
Elaborate on: a. the explanatory/interpretative text and any artwork examples the authors cite, b. the critical text (and any accompanying examples of created work) and c. provide an additional contemporary artwork example to speak about. Argue from a position of critical judgment.
 
Please bring handouts or poster-size diagrams/illustrations or prepare to arrive before class time to put your discussion aids on the blackboard.
 

G 5 %

G PARTICIPATION

This includes: attendance, punctuality, class interaction in great debates, emailing and office visit. This course requires full attendance. Visual concepts are often only understood after sharing, comparing, questioning, revising and synthesizing, as well as LISTENING. A tardy or absent student diminishes the overall quality of the class. Three tardies will equal one unexcused absence. Three unexcused absences will lower the final grade.

Please respect your colleagues - plan to arrive on time and please do not talk at cross-purposes to the class discussion nor leave the classroom during the discussion time.

Please turn off all cell phones, beepers and pagers before entering the classroom.

 

 

 

 

 

GRADING CRITERIA:
 
This course is writing-intensive. This means that writing will be employed in a variety of ways for the promotion of learning. All work will be evaluated in terms of: throughness of your statement and support of that statement by further explanation or analysis and by a substantial close look at at least 1 contemporary artwork example.
 
After discussions, it is incumbant upon you to revisit your writing for the topic and revise or expand your original ideas. These papers will be turned in at assigned due dates. There is opportunity to revise papers written early in the term.

 

 

 

 

 

 
1 UNDERSTANDING AND EVALUATING THEORY AND CRITICISM BACK TO TOP
 
What do you know?
How do you know it?
 
What results you would like to get from this course?
What is your notion of history -- or passage of time?
 
What is your stance on your practice?
Why are you making art?
What do you want to say?
 

 

 

 

Treason of Images, 1928-9 -- Rene Magritte
 

READING
A McCloud -- p. 1 (all pages numbers are handwritten in the top left corner)

 

 

 
2 READING AN ARTWORK BACK TO TOP
 
What critical tools and what models might help you to better understand a work of art?
What critical tools and what models might help you in your own artistic practice?
 
-tools for criticism
-describing
-interpreting
-judging
 
Contemporary -- "existing, occurring or living at the same time--belonging to the same time." This generally refers to artworks created within the last 20 years.
 

READING
A Barrett -- pp. 2-17
A McCloud -- p. 18
A Hudson -- pp. 19-30
A McCloud -- pp. 31-39
D GREAT DEBATE participation - for the second class meeting.
 
1) Please prepare a short paragraph, or 6-8 sentences or a list of significant points in Mary Anne Staniszewski's Creating the Culture of Art.
 
2) Bring at least 6 xeroxed or scanned contemporary artwork images for future GREAT DEBATES. Please do not select commercial images (such as Wyland), fantasy, sci-fi images or other artworks for commercial gain, documentary photographs, or artworks by you or artists you know.
 
3) Also for the second class meeting, please bring your selected contemporary artwork for Writing #1. Using the Visual Communication handout, prepare a list of descriptive phrases describing this artwork (typed, double spaced with 1.5 inch margins). (For a listing of some contemporary artists please see the bottom of this website or peruse the Weintraub book.)

 

 

 

 
 The Innocent Eye Test, 1981 -- Mark Tansey
 
The Young Bull, 1647 -- Paulus Potter -- Grainstack (Sunset), 1891 -- Claude Monet
 

D GREAT DEBATE - Tansey - Innocent Eye Test - respond to the questions (pp. 40-42 located in the packet of handouts) - please type.

 

 

 

D GREAT DEBATE (participation in small group discussions--students will exchange papers and make written comments) - please remember to stamp your paper.

 

 

 

D GREAT DEBATE - First evaluation on the reading material due. Please initial the class roll sheet located in the small cardboard box when turning it in.

 

 

 

THREE THEORETICAL MODELS BACK TO TOP

 
1 -- "13 WAYS OF LOOKING AT A BLACKBIRD" BACK TO TOP
 

READING
A McEvilley -- "13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" -- pp.43-53 (43-45 for reference only)
 
D GREAT DEBATE - apply "13 Ways" to the contemporary artworks reviewed in class - list one artwork for each of the "13 Ways" and add short typed explanations for each

 

D GREAT DEBATE - images for "13 Ways"

 

 

 
2 -- TRIANGLE THEORETICAL MODEL - situated in time and place (culture) BACK TO TOP
 
  
 
 

READING
A Barrett -- review above
B Ruby -- "Interplay in Expanded Fields" pp. A - G
 
D GREAT DEBATE -- select another contemporary artwork -- apply the triangle model to this work -- sentences or lists are fine (Also, it is recommended that you choose a 3-D artwork located in the landscape.)

 

 

 

 
3 -- CIRCLE + THEORETICAL MODEL - situated in time and place (culture) BACK TO TOP
 
 
 
 
 
 

READING
A Barrett -- pp. H - > - different criteria
A McCloud -- pp. >
 
C WRITING #1 - apply the circle + model to your selected contemporary artwork - write 1-2+ pages (several paragraphs) of interpretation on your selected contemporary artwork - please type.
GREAT DEBATE - small group discussion review of Writing #1

 

 

 

 
1 -- FORM
 
2 -- FUNCTION
-continua - semantic differential
-mimetic
-expressive
-persuasive-instrumental
-formal
 
3 -- CONTENT
 
4 -- CONTEXT
 
 
 
 
Purity Test, 1982 -- Mark Tansey
 
 
3-4 MODERN AND POSTMODERN FRAMES -- SURVEYING THE TERRAIN BACK TO TOP
 
What is your relationship to history?
What is your relationship to our times?
How do you reconfigure within and across frames?
 
3 -- MODERN FRAME --THE FORMAL FRAME --IDEOLOGICAL STANCE BACK TO TOP
 

READING
A Fiero -- "Age of Enlightenment" (background opt.) -- pp. M 1-6
A Fiero -- "Romantic Era" (background opt.) -- pp. M 7-21
A Minor -- (background) - Marxism and Sociological theories -- pp.M >
A Fiero -- "Existentialism" (background opt.) -- pp. M 22-28
A Barrett -- pp. M 29-39
A Burgin -- pp. M 40-41
A Minor -- "Clement Greenberg" -- pp. M 43-45
B Greenberg -- "Modernist Painting" -- pp. M 46-50
B Greenberg -- "The New Sculpture" -- pp. M 51-52
B Danto -- After the End of Art - pp. M 53-66 (opt.)
B Danto -- "MoMA"-- pp. M 67-70
B Merwin -- "What Is Modern" -- pp. M 70 (opt.)

 

 

 

 
PHILOSOPHICAL GROUNDING
1) The Enlightenment
2) Phenomenology
3) Pragmatism
4) Existentialism
 
-progress-forward movement historical sequence of events the avant garde
-absolute/ certain
 
 
MODERN FORMALISM
-art for art's sake
 
-cult of originality
-authenticity
-non-objective (or abstract)
-formal elements-principles > composition
-purely optical aesthetic effects - purity test
 
-Greenberg - no relation to actual world -flat picture plane
-Danto - erasures
 

D GREAT DEBATE - -outline or list - Tony Smith The Fourth Sign and Alexander Liberman The Gate of Hope compare and contrast using formal considerations

 

 

 

 

 
Forward Retreat, 1986 -- Mark Tansey
 
 

Extra Credit- Tansey - Forward Retreat - "write up a storm" - Why is this a postmodern artwork?

 

 

 

 
 
 
4 -- POSTMODERN FRAME -- THE POSTMODERN CONTEXT -- THE POSTMODERN CONDITION BACK TO TOP
 

READING
 
 
 
 
 
B Danto -- "Hegel, Biedermeier..." - pp. M-PM 1-6
 
 
A Barrett -- pp. PM 1-16
 
A Minor -- pp. PM 6H-6L - feminism
 
A Fiero -- "Late 20c. Thought" -- pp. PM 17-18(background opt.)
A Fiero -- "New Physics," pp. > (background opt.)
A McEvilley -- "Value in an Age of Chaos" - pp. PM 18A-18F
A McEvilley -- Sculpture in the Age of Doubt -- pp. PM 19-29
 
B Danto -- pp. PM 30-33 (opt. peruse for familiarity with artworks) Colescott-Conner
 
B pp. PM 34 (opt.)

 

 

 

 
MAJOR INTELLECTUAL SHAPERS OF THE 20th-21st CENTURY
1) Theory of Natural Selection-Theory of Evolution - Darwin
2) Marxism [feminism, multicultural critique, and post-colonial critique]
3) Psychoanalytic Theory - Freud
-archeology fragments-layers memories dreams
-unconscious significant in works of art
-in :
art
artist
viewer's aesthetic response
cultural context
 

READING (opt.)
A Adams -- pp. PM36-42
A Fiero -- Freud "

 

 

 

 
3) 20th century physics
-2nd law of thermodynamics - entropy
-special theory of relativity - Einstein
-principle of uncertainty - Heisenberg
-Schroedinger's cat
-chaos theory
 
THE POSTMODERN IN A NUTSHELL:
-reaction against modern
OR
-on own terms - pluralist/relative
-in social- political realm
-many time frames, many histories
 
-whose voices?
-pluralist
-who's listening - and interacting?
-inclusion
 
 
POSTMODERN ARTWORK CHARACTERISTICS
-what's the discourse?
-how communicated
-what's the form of the discourse?
-appropriation, quoting, borrowing
-fragmentation, pastiche & layered
 

 
 
Modern/Postmodern, 1980 -- Mark Tansey
 
 

E TAKE-HOME EXAM -- Tansey -- Modern/Postmodern - "write up a storm" - your essay should be at least 6-8 pages (This is the equivalent of writing a bluebook exam for 30 minutes on each of 4 questions. You should make about 25 intelligent points on each topic.) -- you should include your understanding of the modern frame, the postmodern frame and the theoretical framework of the circle + model when interpreting this artwork.

 

Extra Credit- Tansey - Forward Retreat - "write up a storm" -- Why is this a postmodern artwork?

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
5-6-7 THEORIES THAT INFORM AND SHAPE THE POSTMODERN FRAME BACK TO TOP
 
How will methodologies that consider forms of communication with codes and rules help reading an artwork and facilitate artistic practice?
How will methodologies that consider the political, social, economic context of art help reading an artwork and facilitate artistic practice?
 
--social, political, anthropologic, linguistic, literary, philosophical, psychological and biological (fields and disciplines) theories applied to art
 
DISCOURSE THEORIES
 
 

READING
A A. Berger -- pp. SEM 1-9
 
A Minor -- "Semiotics" pp. SEM 10-15
A Adams -- pp. SEM 16-19
A Palmer -- "Saussure" pp. SEM 20-26
 
(A see also Hall - "Saussure's Legacy" -- located in section 5)
A Stam -- pp. SEM 27-31B (opt.) (peruse)
A Chandler -- "Introduction - Signs, Semiotics - Icons, Indexes, Symbols," "Charles S. Peirce" -- pp. SEM 32-49
 
B Danto -- "Woman of Letters" (Kruger) -- pp. SEM 50-54 (opt.)

 

 

 

 

 A Visit from Uncle Charlie, 1995 -- Robert Colescott
 
5 -- SEMIOTICS -- (from linguistics) -- sign(s) -- cultural expressions -- understood in the cultural arena BACK TO TOP
 
SAUSSURE
-structure of language
-signified + signifier = sign (no logical connection arbitrary- is agreed upon)
-syntagm and associative relationships
-synchrony -- diachrony
 
PEIRCE
--some natural relationship between signifier and signified
3 parts to the sign
-icon -- represents something we recognize
-index -- points to -- indicates causal
-symbol -- conventional agreed upon meaning

 

 

F DISCUSSION LEADERS' PRESENTATION

 

 

 

 

C WRITING #2 - select a contemporary artwork - explain Peirce's theoretical stance (relating it to visual artworks) - apply this stance to your selected artwork analyzing the work in terms of Peirce's tripartite sign - 1+ pages

 

 

 

 

D GREAT DEBATE - small group discussion of Writing #2

 

 

 

 

I Like America and America Likes Me, 1974 -- Joseph Beuys
 
We won't play nature to your culture, 1983 -- Barbara Kruger
 
 
 
 
6 -- STRUCTURALISM -- (from linguistics and anthropology) BACK TO TOP
-universal mental structures by scientific observation and analysis of larger social structures and in cultural constructs and unconscious psychological patterns
-mythic structures
-archetypes
 

READING
 
Structuralism in general
A Chandler -- p. S 1A
 
A Solomon -- "Of Myths and Men" -- pp. S 1-13
A A. Berger -- pp. S 14-23
A Stam -- "The Advent of Structuralism" -- pp. S 24-26
A Chandler -- "Denotation," "Connotation" and Codes -- pp. S 27-48
A Chandler -- "Linear Perspective" -- pp. S 49-52
 

Claude Levi-Strauss -- cultural/social structures, Marshall Sahlins and Joseph Campbell -- mythic structures

A Palmer -- "Levi-Strauss" -- pp. S LS pp. 1-14
A Appignanesi -- Introducing Postmodernism -- pp. S LS 15-16
A Chandler -- "Claude Levi-Strauss" -- pp. S LS 17-20
A Adams -- pp. S LS 21-26 (peruse)
A Chandler -- pp. S LS 27-29
A Hall -- "Saussure's Legacy" -- pp. S LS 30-35
 

Barthes -- mythic structures and death of the artist

A Palmer -- "Barthes" pp. S B 1-6
A Adams -- pp. S B 7-8 (Barthes)
A Hall -- pp. S B 9-16 (Barthes)
A Chandler -- pp. S B 17-18 (Barthes)
A A. Berger -- pp. S B 19?
 
 
 
 
 
A Chandler -- pp. S REFLECTION 20-23
 

 

 

 

 

F DISCUSSION LEADERS' PRESENTATION

 

 

 

C WRITING #3 - select a contemporary artwork - explain structuralism's theoretical stance (relating it to visual artworks) - apply this stance to your selected artwork - 1+ pages
D GREAT DEBATE - small group discussion of Writing #3

 

 

 

 

 
Pleasure of the Text, 1986 -- Mark Tansey
 
 
 Close Reading, 1990 -- Mark Tansey
 
 
7 -- POST-STRUCTURALISM (from linguistics and anthropology)
-meanings not fixed -- meaning "deferred"
-rejects authority of authors and
-rejects mimetic illusionist skill
-rejects essential "idea" ideal
-no ultimate meanings or fixed end points -- all contingent all relative
 

READING
A Best & Kellner -- pp. PS 1-5 (opt.)
A Chandler ? -- "Structuralism and Post Structuralism"-- p. PS 6
A Chandler -- "Intertextuality" -- pp. PS 7-12
 
(later Barthes -- death of the artist, studium & punctum, intertextuality)
A Palmer -- "Barthes" pp. (see previous Barthes section)
A Adams -- pp. PS B 14-15
A Lye -- "'death of the author'..." pp. PS B 16-18
 
A Palmer -- pp. PS B 19
A Appignanesi -- pp. PS B 20
 
(Foucault -- power & knowledge)
 
A Staniszewski -- pp. PS F 1
A Hall -- "From Language to Discourse" -- pp. pp. PS F 2-18
A Mitchell -- "Pictures and Power" -- pp. PS F 19-22
 
A Appignanesi -- pp. PS F 23
 
A Palmer -- pp. PS F 24-30
 
 

 

 

 

 
and 7 -- DECONSTRUCTION -- (from literary theory) BACK TO TOP
-meanings not fixed -- meaning "deferred"
-rejects authority of authors and
-rejects mimetic illusionist skill
-rejects essential "idea" ideal
-no ultimate meanings or fixed end points -- all contingent all relative
 

READING
(Derrida -- intertextuality, differance, under erasure)
A Minor -- "Deconstruction" -- pp. D D 1-5
 
A Adams -- "Deconstruction" -- pp. D D 6-13
A Chandler -- pp. D D 14
A Lye -- "differance" -- D D 15-16
A Palmer -- "Derrida" -- pp. D D 17-25

 

POST PS

 
 
A Solomon - "Deconstructing..." -- pp. POST PS 1-3 (peruse after reading the above)
B Quagliano - "Semiotic Self-Deconstruction" -- POST PS 4 (peruse after reading the above)

 

 

 

 

F DISCUSSION LEADERS' PRESENTATION

 

 

 

 

C WRITING #4 - select a contemporary artwork - explain post-structuralism's or deconstruction's theoretical stance (relating it to visual artworks) - apply this stance to your selected artwork - 1+ pages

 

 

 

 

D GREAT DEBATE - small group discussion of Writing #4

 

 

 

 
 
Hand/Heart for Ana Mendieta, 1986 -- Carolee Schneemann
 

 

 

 

 
Mining the Museum, 1992 -- Fred Wilson
 
 
 
 

C WRITING #5 - 2+ pages - Toward a Criticial Stance -This paper will take a postmodern-based critical stance. Consider the critical stances discussed throughout this course. Comenent on the nature of representation/depiction, on how artworks comment on their very existence, on how artworks communicate (the effects of meaning), on networks of meaning, and on what codes, structures and methodologies are used in meaning-making. What is your notion of value? of quality?
D GREAT DEBATE - small group discussion of Writing #5

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 
 
Artists/Creators BACK TO TOP
 
Abromovic, Marina
Acconci, Vito
Anderson, Laurie
Antoni, Janine
Armajani, Sian
Arneson, Robert
Aycock, Alice
Babenco, Hector
Beuys, Joseph
Boltanski, Christian
Borofsky, Jonathan
Bourgeois, Louise
Broodthaers, Marcel
Burden, Chris
Chicago, Judy
Chin, Mel
Christo
Coan Brothers
Colescott, Robert
Conner, Bruce
Conner, Russell
Damon, Betsy
Duchamp, Marcel
Ericson, Kate/Ziegler, Mel
Ferrara, Jackie
Finley, Karen
Fluxus
Gehry, Frank
Gilbert & George
Gilliam, Terry
Graves, Nancy
Grooms, Red
Guerilla Girls
Haacke, Hans
Hammons, David
Harrison, Helen & Newton
Heiser, Michael
Hesse, Eva
Hirst, Damien
Hollis, Douglas
Holt, Nancy
Irwin, Robert
Jencks, Charles
Johns, Jasper
Kaprow, Alan
Kawara, On
Kienholz, Ed
Koons, Jeff
Kosuth, Joseph
Kounellis, Jannis
Lachaise, Gaston
Laib, Wolfgang
Lin, Maya
Long, Richard
Longo, Robert
Lynch, David
Manzoni, Piero
Matta-Clark, Gordon
Merz, Mario
Miss, Mary
Moore, Charles
Nauman, Bruce
Oldenburg, Claes
Oppenheim, Dennis
Paik, Nam June
Pevsner, Antoine
Pfaff, Judy
Poirier, Ann & Patrick
Rauschenberg, Robert
Samaras, Lucas
Schneemann, Carolee
Shapiro, Joel
Simonds, Charles
SITE
Smithson, Robert
Sonfist, Alan
Stone, Oliver
Tacha, Athena
Tarantino, Quintin
Teraoka, Masami
Trakas, George
Vaisman, Meyer
Viola, Bill
Winders, Wim
 
 
Laura Ruby
Office 348
Phone 956-5250
lruby@hawaii.edu
 
 
August 4, 2003