AH 340 Syllabus
Contemporary Art: 1945 to 1970
Gorky, How My Mother's Apron Unfolds
Fall 2018
Monday and Wednesday 2:30 to 3:45 PM
Instructor: Denise Johnson
Office Hours by appointment


click here for a printable syllabus



Course Description

AH 340 - Contemporary Art 1945 to 1970 surveys the major artistic developments in Europe, America, and Asia between the close of World War II and the emergence of postmodernism, including abstract expressionism, pop art, minimalism, conceptualism, and site-specific art.

(Offered fall semester)

Objectives & Outcomes
Students who successfully complete the course will:


Demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the major artists, movements, and events that shaped contemporary art practice between 1945 and 1970;


Describe and discuss the formal/stylistic/material qualities of works of art produced between 1945 and 1970;


Discuss the relationship of art theories and critical debates to specific artists and art movements of the period;


and Analyze the relationships that existed between innovations in artistic practice and the social, cultural, and political changes that took place in Europe and the United States between the end of World War II and the end of the Vietnam War.


Program Learning Outcomes
Students will be able to:

Write both descriptively and analytically about works of art in a variety of media;


Write an independent research paper that uses visual analysis and scholarly research to develop and support a thesis;


Conduct advanced art historical research using the full range of scholarly resources; and


Recognize the theoretical concerns of art history and its allied disciplines and apply specific theoretical perspectives to their research projects.


General Education Learning Outcomes
7AI Artistic Inquiry: students compose critical or creative works that embody or analyze conceptually an artistic form at a baccalaureate/pre-professional level.
7SI Social Inquiry: employs theories of how people frame and analyze social and/or historical phenomena.



Instructional Website
This class will be taught from the instructional website The Slide Projector at, www.theslideprojector.com. Lecture presentations, assignments, and other course materials will be available for you at this site and you will need to access it regularly. Additionally, two exams will be taken outside of class on Blackboard.
Required Textbook

Foster, Krauss, Bois, Buchloh. Art Since 1900, vol. 2. Thames & Hudson. Third Edition. ISBN978050029723

Recommended Texts

Atkins, Robert. ArtSpeak: A Guide to Contemporary Ideas, Movements, and Buzzwords, 1945 to the Present, 3rd edition. New York: Abbeville Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0789211514


Barnet, Sylvan. A Short Guide to Writing About Art. Boston: Pearson Education Inc. (any edition, 10th or 11th preferred)

A Short Guide to Writing About Art

Osborne, Richard and Dan Sturgis. Art Theory for Beginners. Hanover, New Hampshire: Steerforth Press, 2009.


Art Theory for Beginners
Kristine Stiles. Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists' Writings. University of California Press: 2011.



Instructional Strategies
Students will work toward course objectives through: lecture presentations; student reports on readings, active participation in class discussions; in class partner exercises; reading assignments; writing assignments; exams; viewing images, videos, and audio representations of art from the prehistoric era to the medieval period; and viewing of an off-campus exhibition that will require a commute, and may entail a parking fee, and/or entrance fee.



Major Study Units
Modernism & the avant-garde
The Beat Generation

• Cubism

• Neo Dada

• Surrealism

• Semiotics

Social Realism

• Los Tres Grandes

• Pop Art


• West Coast Funk

European emigres

• Happenings & Performance Art

New York becomes the center
Nouveaux Realistes

• Abstract Expressionism


• Anti Form

• Taschisme

• Conceptualism

• Art Brut

Situationists International
Greenberg & Rosenberg
Color Field & Hard Edge



Methods of Evaluation

Students will be evaluated on the presentation of evidence that they have achieved the course objectives; the frequency and quality of their contributions to in-class discussion; their ability to make oral and written critical observations about the artists, movements, and concepts presented in the course; the quality of the writing they present in written assignments; and on their ability to demonstrate growth in their understanding of, and application of art historical methodologies for analyzing contemporary art from WWII to the end of the Vietnam War.

There are 500 points possible, which will be earned through the following graded components:


Class Participation - 15%

Students will earn up to 75 participation points through the following activities:


• Actively and consistently contributing to in-class discussions and applying theoretical ideas to works to earn up to 25 participation points;


• Report on at least five of the assigned readings NOT in your textbook through a post on the class blog that outlines three main points or “take aways” from the reading. Your challenge is to avoid repeating the comments made in previous posts. Each post may earn up to 5 points and must be made the week the reading was due; and


• Attending one lecture in the Visual Thinker Lecture Series, the Art History Symposium, or the Bensussen Lecture, and submitting a VTLS Report on Blackboard within two weeks of the event may earn up to 25 participation points. Please be reminded that Art, Graphic Design and Art History majors and minors are required to attend all VTLS.


Visual Analysis/Museum Paper 10%

Students are required to see a professional exhibition, in person, featuring contemporary works relevant to our course of study (made between 1945 and 1970), and analyze a work on view using a formalist methodology. This assignment will require students to commute to a relevant venue, pay for parking and/or an entrance fee. The Museum Paper is worth 50 points.


Research Paper 45%

Over the course of the semester, you will be asked to identify an artist, body of work, or issue relevant to the study of contemporary art between WWII and the end of the Vietnam War in which to conduct research. In response, you will write a paper in Chicago Manual of Style that demonstrates your ability to apply concepts, theory, and the art historical methodologies to the analysis of a minimum of three works of art. The Research Paper may earn up to 150 points. To oversee progress on your research and writing, you will be asked to propose a paper thesis, participate in the Writing Art History group activity, and compose an annotated bibliography. These assignments combined may earn 75 points.

Students will be asked to submit a rough draft of the Research Paper, and may choose to accept points earned on the draft, or further develop their papers using feedback offered by the instructor. If choosing to re-submit your paper, students will be asked to pair up with a classmate to review each other’s drafts and exchange feedback.


Exams 30%

Students will demonstrate learning through two exams worth up to 50 points each, and taken outside of class on Blackboard. Due to the nature of online testing, and the multi-day duration offered to submit, exams may not be made up. Please use the class schedule to plan accordingly.


A final examination in the form of a Socratic Circle will be worth 50 points and will be conducted in class during our scheduled final exam period.


Extra Credit

Students are limited to earning a maximum of 25 points, 5% of the total points possible (500), in extra credit points during the semester. Any points earned above this cap will NOT be applied to the final grade.



Points will be earned on writing assignments through committed consideration of the material, demonstration of learned concepts and language, and evidence of critical thinking. In addition to the individual requirements, each writing assignment will earn points based on rigorous analysis through the skilled application of the art historical methodologies, as well as pointed and thoughtful responses to the questions proposed.
100 to 97%
500 - 483 points

Writing demonstrates excellence in both articulation and critical thinking. Art historical methodologies are used thoughtfuly and with exceptional skill. All questions are answered thoroughly, and disussion points carry beyond basic responses with sophistication. Credible academic sources were employed to support the author's positions, and Chicago Manual of Style citation rules were carefully followed. The written assignment leaves little to no room for improvement, and demonstrates committed interest in the discipline.

A -
96 to 90%
482 - 448 points
B +
89 to 87%
447 - 433 points

Writing demonstrates clear focus and an above average consideration of the subject matter. While all questions have been answered, there is room for improvement in carrying the analysis and discussion beyond a basic response. The work exhibits potential for excellence however, a clearer application and understanding of the art historical methodologies is needed. Author has met the requirements for research and citations, but the stated positions could be significantly served by additional research.

86 to 84%
432 - 418 points
B -
83 to 80%
417 - 398 points
C +
79 to 77%
397 - 383 points

Most of the material is understood, but the focus is not entirely clear, and analysis is cursory. Question responses could be more fully realized, and the material, more thoroughly examined. Citation issues are present, little research was executed in support of the author's positions, and/or sources are not credible or academic. There are issues with language that make the writing somewhat difficult to understand. The highest Passing grade is a C-.

76 to 74%
382 - 368 points
C -
73 to 70%
367 - 348 points
D +
69 to 67%
347 - 333 points

Writing demonstrates little understanding or connection with the material and is flawed in content and form. Question responses do not provide evidence of critical thinking. Citation issues are present, no research was executed in support of the author's positions, and/or sources are not credible or academic. There are issues with language that make the writing very difficult to understand.

66 - 64%
332 - 318 points
D -
63 - 60%
317 - 298 points
< 59%
297 - 0

Work fails to meet any requirements satisfactorily.



Assignment is incomplete but shows potential. Student is offered one additional class day to revise, add to, and re-submit the assignment.



Instructor Policies
Commitment to the Conversation

Conversation and debate will be central to the learning experience this semester. Art historians do not work in secluded spaces that are entirely disconnected from the world around them. Given the importance of engagement, students will be expected to fully commit to in-class dialogues and will agree to refrain from sleeping, texting, emailing, and completing out-of-class or other class assignments during AH 340 class meetings. Distracted students may be asked to leave class until their full attention can be directed to our course.

Respect is Key
We may consider provocative, challenging, even vulgar subject matter in this class. It is assumed that each of us undertakes this learning endeavor with honorable intent and a commitment to understanding diverse perspectives and histories. When this is difficult for us, we agree to keep an open mind and to respect all views and identities, even those with which we do not personally agree. While engaging in class activities, we agree to refrain from using derogatory, inflammatory, or otherwise disrespectful language. We do so, fully committed to the principles of academic freedom outlined in the 2016 Chapman University Faculty Manual, holding “that the widest possible scope for freedom of expression is the foundation of an institution dedicated to vigorous inquiry, robust debate, and the continuous search for a proper balance between freedom and order,” “that censorship is always suspect, that intimidation is always repugnant, and that attempts to discourage constitutionally protected expression are antithetical to the central focus of the university's mission: education and discovery of new knowledge,” and that these principles are “accompanied by a corresponding principle of responsibility.”

Regular attendance is mandatory. You are permitted two unexcused absence without damage to your grade. More than two missed classes will potentially lower your grade, and missing four or more classes will put you at risk of failing the class.

Letting the instructor know that you will be absent by email is always appreciated! Please understand, due to the large number of emails received, the instructor may not be able to reply. The instructor will maintain a simple record of attendance that will not distinguish between excused and unexcused absences. If you are not present, you are not able to participate. The circumstances that prevented you from being able to attend class do not change this.


Please submit all coursework on Blackboard before class begins, on the day the assignment is due, whether you will be absent or in attendance. If you encounter a problem submitting on Blackboard, please notify the instructor via email as soon as possible and attach the completed assignment.

Late Assignments
You may submit one assignment, one class day late. The late assignment will not be marked down, however any assignments turned in more than one class late, or in addition to the one accepted assignment, will only receive credit at the discretion of the instructor.



Chapman University Policies
Academic Integrity Policy
Chapman University is a community of scholars which emphasizes the mutual responsibility of all members to seek knowledge honestly and in good faith. Students are responsible for doing their own work, and for submitting coursework completed this semester, for this class. Academic dishonesty of any kind will not be tolerated anywhere in the university. Academic dishonesty of any kind will be subject to sanction by the instructor/administrator and referral to the university's Academic Integrity Committee, which may impose additional sanctions up to and including expulsion. Please see the full description of Chapman University's policy on Academic Integrity at www.chapman.edu/academics/academic-integrity/index.aspx
Students with Disabilities
In compliance with ADA guidelines, students who have any condition, either permanent or temporary, that might affect their ability to perform in this class are encouraged to inform the instructor at the beginning of the term. Upon recommendation of the Center for Academic Success, adaptations of teaching methods, class materials, including text and reading materials or testing may be made as needed to provide for equitable participation.
Equity and Diversity Policy

Chapman University is committed to ensuring equality and valuing diversity. Students and professors are reminded to show respect at all times as outlined in Chapman’s Harassment and Discrimination Policy: at www.chapman.edu/faculty-staff/human-resources/eoo.aspx. Any violations of this policy should be discussed with the professor, the Dean of Students and/or otherwise reported in accordance with this policy.



Writing Center
All Chapman students are welcome to meet with Writing Center tutors, who can help you with any part of the writing process, from understanding the assignment and finding a significant topic to editing your final drafts. The Writing Center is located in DeMille Hall 130. To guarantee time with a tutor, call (714) 997-6828 or email tutor@chapman.edu to schedule an appointment.
Food Pantry
Students in need of access to the food pantry should contact Sherri Maeda-Akau in the Office of Residence Life and First Year Experience at maeda@chapman.edu.
Sexual Assault

If you have been sexually assaulted, make sure you are in safe place. Call 911 in an emergency, Chapman University Public Safety at (714)997-6721 and, Chapman University ’s Sexual Assault Information Line at (714) 744-7000. Contact Orange PD at (714) 744-7444.

Student Psychological Counseling
If you are in need of help or support immediately you can contact:
CU Student Psychological Counseling - (714) 997-6778
Suicide Prevention Hotline - (800) 273-8255
Drug and Alcohol Abuse Hotline - (800) 662-HELP
National AIDS/STD Info Hotline - (800) 458-5231




Class Schedule and Required Reading
This is a tentative schedule that may change. Assignment directions and due dates will be posted on The Slide Projector. Updates will be announced in class, on lecture presentations, and modified on the Syllabus page of The Slide Projector.
Discussion Topic
Assignment & Reading Due
August 27
August 29
Writing Art Histories
Introductions 1 - 5
September 3

Labor Day - No Class

September 5
American Art Before WWII
Art Since 1900: 1945
September 10
Universal Voices
Research Paper Thesis Proposal Due
Art Since 1900: 1946, 1947a, & 1947b
September 12
New York Becomes the Center
September 17
Breaking It Up
Art Since 1900: 1949a
September 19
A Problem for Critics
September 24
Existential Angst
Exam 1 Due
September 26
Seeking Transcendence
Art Since 1900: 1951, 1959a, 1959c, & 1962b
October 1
Art Since 1900: 1946, & 1949b
October 3
Prowling in the Wilderness
Art Since 1900: 1953 & 1959d
October 8
The Gap in Between
October 10
Consuming America
Annotated Bibliography Due
Art Since 1900: 1958, 1959d, & 1960c
October 15
Landscape of Signs
Visual Analysis/Museum Paper Due
October 17
Pop Art
Art Since 1900: 1960a, 1960c 1962d, & 1964b
October 22
Through the Surface
Art Since 1900: 1959b, 1959e & 1960b
October 24
Action vs. Abstraction
October 29
Collaging in the Margins
Exam 2 Due
October 31
Leaping Into Voids
Art Since 1900: 1955a, 1961 1962a, & 1967c
November 5
Research Paper (First Attempt) Due
November 7
Art Since 1900: 1957b & 1963
November 12

Anti Form

Art Since 1900: 1962c, 1964a, 1965, & 1969
November 14
Eva Hesse
Art Since 1900: 1966b & 1969
November 19
Thanksgiving Recess
November 21
November 26
Research Paper (Second Attempt) Share Due
Art Since 1900: 1967a, 1968a, & 1968b
November 28
Considering Site
December 3
Art in Flux
Research Paper (Second Attempt) Due
Art Since 1900: 1964a, 1967b
December 5
Depoliticized Media Spectacle
Art Since 1900: 1957a, 1966a
December 13
Socratic Circle Final Exam 8 to 10:30 AM



Important Dates
Late Registration
The last day to add courses is Friday, September 7.
Drop Deadline
Students wishing to drop the course without record must do so by Friday, September 7. The last day to change grading option to P/NP is Friday, September 28, and to withdraw from a course is November 2.
Final Exam
The in-class final exam for this course is mandatory, and will not be offered at an alternative date, except under extenuating circumstances. The instructor understands that the holidays and holiday travel come with much urgency and pressure. Nonetheless, the hours set aside for the final exam are a part of your earned credit and as such, are an important component of your grade. Our final exam will be held on Thursday, December 13 from 8 to 10:30 AM.
Grades must be submitted by the instructor by January 1.