Special Topics Courses Spring 2019

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Department of Art History: Special Topics Courses

Spring 2019


ARTH 001, First-Year Seminar: Dr. Elizabeth Walters

MWF 10:10–11:00 pm, Music Building 117

Topic to be announced


ARTH 297 Special Topics " Art and Money" Dr. Sarah Rich

T/TH 3:05-4:20pm, 110 Borland Building

Last month, an English artist named Banksy arranged for an artwork of his to self-destruct after it sold at auction for $1.4 million. Many questions have since ensued: Why did it gain that high a price in the first place? Why would the artist ensure its destruction after sale? What will happen to the work now and why?
This course examines this and many other works of art that derive some of their meaning and impact from a complex interaction with money.  We will look at works of art from the Early Modern period (Renaissance) to the Present in order to investigate the ways in which art has responded to monetary concerns: the costs of rare or precious artistic materials, guilds and other structures for regulating artistic labor, the development of galleries, auctions and other marketing institutions, royalties, copyrights, counterfeits, contraband, smuggling and taxation. In the process, the course will examine ideological implications of art’s value-adding features, such as originality, scarcity, framing (literal, institutional and discursive), and artistic signature.


ARTH 435: Modern Chinese Art 

T/TH 3:05-4:20, Borland 110

How did the arts of China move from the understated refinement of landscapes and seals to the bombastic dramatization of heroes and villains, before proceeding to the clever hybrid of the avant-garde and the kitsch that score spectacular successes in the global market today? How did the very concepts of “art,” modernity, and contemporaneity come to shape in this process, in a context where contacts with the “West” were critical yet haphazard? This course examines Chinese art from the mid-19th century to the present day, with an emphasis on the transformation of artmaking in the past four decades, during which artists experimented with mediums from prints and photography to installation and performance, and responded to styles and concepts ranging from Dada and Pop to Earthwork and Relational Art. Aside from a roughly chronological study of artworks and the critical discourse that conditioned their making, we will also read about and discuss topics such as colonialism and nationalism, the institutionalization of art education, production and exhibition, alternative and periphery modernisms, the anxiety of influence and strategies of appropriation, as well as the potentials and perils of art as activism.

ARTH 435: 2 Studies in Modern Art "Realism" Dr. Elizabeth Mansfield

T/TH 1:35-2:50, Borland 110

Realism emerged as a dominant trend in European art and literature in the 19th century. No longer persuaded that the creation of ideal beauty was the chief aim of culture, many artists and writers sought instead to represent observed reality as faithfully as possible. Artworks that presented truthful visual experiences, some thought, would improve humanity’s condition. Closely observed depictions of the natural world would heighten awareness of the Industrial Revolution’s encroachment on the landscape; frank depictions of the harsh realities of modern life would elicit public sympathy, and perhaps even motivate social action. Other artists allied with the Realist movement were preoccupied instead with the techniques of representation, seeking to create artificial sensory experiences indistinguishable from actual bodily ones. Realist experiments with themes and techniques, however, elicited from audiences as much alarm and condemnation as curiosity and support. This course will explore the historical development of Realism, emphasizing the movement’s relationship to 19th-century European and British culture and society. Among the artists and authors whose works will be addressed are David Hume (“An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding”), Henry Fielding (Preface to Joseph Andrews), Franz Messerschmidt, John Constable, John Ruskin (selections from Modern Painters), Louis Daguerre, George Eliot (Adam Bede), Rosa Bonheur, Honoré de Balzac (“Unknown Masterpiece,” “Facino Cane”) Gustave Courbet, and Emile Zola (L’Assommoir). Attention will also be paid to the after-life of Realism in the 20th and 21st centuries, including such topics as Social Realism, Photorealism, and the aesthetic implications of augmented reality and virtual reality.



This is a course about art made in the last two decades.  We will learn about drag shows and fashion shows, artists doing stand-up comedy,  artists running taco trucks, and a slow-motion dance that takes eight hours.  We will study sculpture made by incarcerated men, silver-coated lobsters perched on cars,  suits made of plastic straws, and some paintings.  We will watch excerpts from music videos, films about shipwrecks, and footage from a Youtube apocalypse.  We will also examine institutional features of the current art scene by looking closely and critically the contemporary art market, the boom in art fairs and biennials, the role of powerbroker dealers and galleries, art magazines and critics, artist collectives, advocacy groups and the changing notion of what it means to be a "successful" artist.  A centerpiece of this course will be a required field trip either to Pittsburgh’s Carnegie International exhibition of contemporary art or to the Whitney Biennial, which will offer us a potent sample of art being made today.
Monuments of Asia: Modern Architecture in Asia- Dr. Madhuri Desai
10:35-11:50 T/TH  110 Borland

 The Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier designed (1951) Chandigarh for the newly independent nation-state of India, whose leaders were intent on visibly embracing the project of national modernization by building a new city. The architect inspired devoted admiration as well as criticism among a generation of Indian architects who also took seriously, their roles as shapers of a national cultural identity. More recently, the architect Rem Koolhaas saw his iconic CCTV project completed (2012) in Beijing, the capital of the People’s Republic of China. Again, critics and admirers have been equally impassioned in this case, underlining modern architecture’s charge as a symbol of cultural identity. What has architectural modernism meant for cultures across Asia as they were transformed into various modern nation-states? This journey was often a tortuous process, marked by direct and/or indirect colonization, de-colonization, nationalism and globalization, as geographical boundaries were redrawn, and modern national identities were defined and shaped. We will explore architectural ideas, buildings built (and unbuilt), as well as publications by architects, architectural historians and theorists. 

ARTH 308 American Architecture Dr. Craig Zabel

1:25-2:15 MWF 112 Borland

This course will cover the history of American architecture, from its Native American
and colonial antecedents, through the formation of the United States, to the present. A
sample of the topics that will be covered are the architecture of: Native Americans,
Spanish Colonial missions, 17th-century Virginia, Puritan New England, Georgian
America, Southern Plantations and Slave Cabins, Thomas Jefferson, the new federal city
of Washington, D.C., the Greek Revival, the industrial revolution, utopian religious
communities such as the Shakers, Gothic Revival cottages and villas, Victorian
Philadelphia, Henry Hobson Richardson, the birth of the skyscraper in New York and
Chicago, the City Beautiful Movement, Frank Lloyd Wright, Arts & Crafts California,
Henry Ford’s Michigan, Art Deco New York, Mies van der Rohe and the glass box,
Levittown, Disneyland, Louis I. Kahn, Post-Modernism, Frank Gehry, and Green
Buildings. Selected major buildings, architects, ideas, and urban developments will be
emphasized. Architecture will be considered within the contexts of religion, politics,
philosophy, culture, economics, gender, race, society, technology, engineering,
landscape architecture, urban planning and interior design. This introductory survey
has no prerequisite and is intended for both students of architecture/art and students
unfamiliar with the field.

 ARTH 415 The Skyscraper: New York & Chicago, 1870s to the 1960s Dr. Craig Zabel

11:15-12:05 MWF 110 Borland Building

Why skyscrapers? This course will explore the early development of the American skyscraper from its origins in the second half of the nineteenth century through the 1960s. To sharpen the focus of the course, two seminal cities will be emphasized: New York City and Chicago. Traditional analyses of skyscrapers have dwelt upon structure, aesthetics, and “hero” architects. This course will expand the discussion to include issues of clients, economics, the architectural profession, the building trades, engineering, technology, politics, society, gender, religion, photography, art, cinema, and philosophy. The urban and cultural roles of skyscrapers in the changing conceptions of the modern city will also be explored. Some of the major topics that will be examined include a “prehistory” of the skyscraper, cast-iron commercial buildings, New York’s early elevator buildings, the Statue of Liberty, the Chicago School (William Le Baron Jenney, Burnham & Root, Adler & Sullivan, Holabird & Roche), the theories and skyscrapers of Louis H. Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright’s skyscrapers (Luxfer Prisms to MileHigh Illinois), turn-of-the 20th-century New York (Flatiron to Woolworth Building), highrise gendered landscapes (secretaries & businessmen, department stores, hotels, fraternal organizations, Woman’s Christian Temperance Union), the 1922 Chicago Tribune Tower Competition, Art Deco New York (Raymond Hood, Chrysler Building, Empire State Building), Rockefeller Center & the Great Depression, the 1939 New York World’s Fair, cinematic towers (The Wizard of Oz), triumph of the post-war “glass box” (SOM’s Lever House, Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building), cities in crisis (high-rise housing “projects” to the World Trade Center). 


Sunday, January 7, 2018 - 8:00am


ARTH 1 FIRST YEAR SEMINAR - Professor Elizabeth Walters
ARTH 297 SPECIAL TOPICS "ART AND MONEY" - Professor Sarah Rich
ARTH 435: 2 STUDIES IN MODERN ART " REALISM"- Professor Elizabeth Mansfield
ARTH 415: THE SKYSCRAPER-Dr. Craig Zabel