Current Optional Courses taking place in 2021-22 only
Tutor: Professor Alastair Wright
The course examines modernist art produced in France in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, interrogating how diverse artistic practices engaged with the politics of class, gender, and race. Topics will include the relationship between art and mass culture; modernism’s affiliations with both reactionary and revolutionary ideologies of the ‘popular’; the gendering of modern art in period accounts and in later art historical narratives; the connections between modernism and French colonialism; and the encounter with African art and myths of the ‘primitive’. To explore these issues, the writings of artists and their contemporaries will be examined alongside recent art-historical work and a range of theoretical texts on questions relevant to the materials of the course.
Tutor: Dr Costanza Beltrami
The Gothic and the Renaissance have long been viewed as two distinct artistic periods or ‘styles’ in neat succession. But what are the chronological, geographical, and conceptual limits of Gothic and Renaissance architecture? What happens if we recast late-Gothic architecture as a global phenomenon of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries?
In addition to canonical examples from England, France, and Germany, late-Gothic buildings were erected (and decorated) in newly conquered territories such as the Canary Islands, Madeira, and Santo Domingo. In their materials and decorations, these new foundations responded to local contexts, in spite of being based on models brought from overseas. As the Gothic and other European traditions became global phenomena, they were increasingly in competition with new Renaissance designs. Architecture thus embodies a complex process of cultural interweaving: innovative late-Gothic buildings continued to appear at the height of the Renaissance; master masons constructed dynamic hybrids of different architectural modes; and linear conceptions of influence from the Italian ‘centre’ to global peripheries are dispelled by the intensity of artistic exchanges.
Challenging the perception of the Renaissance as a watershed in the emergence of architectural and cultural modernity, this course will place Gothic and Renaissance buildings not in opposition, but in dialogue. Uniquely, it will invite associations and conversations which are still relatively unexplored in architectural history. We will examine issues of reuse, communication, adaptation, exchange, and hybridisation on continental and intercontinental scales. Additionally, we will take into account the international trade networks where raw materials and luxury artworks were exported and imported, as well as the structures which enabled and enshrined commercial and territorial domination. Finally, we will study both religious and secular structures as lived-in, multi-media creations at the heart of networks of production and communication. This approach to architecture will enable students to develop personal research interests in other media, such as micro-architecture, sculpture or drawing.
Tutor: Professor Geoffrey Batchen, Professor of History of Art
Participants in this seminar class will be invited to write a version of their own history of photography. The class will begin by looking at the history of that history, and will then consider various alternatives to it. Attention will be paid to the problems of writing such a history, a quite particular challenge given the mobility and reproducibility of the photograph, and thus its reluctance to adhere to the usual art historical categories (originality, medium specificity, chronology, nationalism, biography, style, genre, and so on). Each of these ways of doing art history will nevertheless be considered, and equivalent photographic examples critically analysed. Case studies to be considered include histories of the photography produced in Africa and in the British Empire. Participants will be asked to write research essays that demonstrate their own approach to a particular kind of history of photography.
Tutor: Charlene Villaseñor Black, Terra Foundation Visiting Professor of American Art
This course expands the definition of “American” art by examining art created by minoritized populations in the US, with a particular focus on Latinx art in the 20th Century. The class begins by querying the definition of “American” art, the inclusion of Latinx art in the canon, and the evolving terminology employed in its study (including the “x” as indicative of both gender inclusivity and indigeneity). Latinx art has always manifested an uneasy relationship with mainstream artistic institutions -- the museum, art history, art criticism. As a public art created in opposition to established elite institutions such as the museum, as well as a popular art that admits low riders and home altars as the objects of scholarly study, Latinx art raises important questions about the very nature of art history and criticism. This class will focus on 20th-century Latinx cultural production and its relationship to activism, with a particular focus on alternative cultural spaces. Topics to be considered include prints, murals, photography, sculpture, and performance in light of theories of decoloniality, feminism, the Neobaroque, rasquache aesthetics, and global modernisms/postmodernisms.