AH 340 Syllabus
Contemporary Art: 1945 to 1970
Cezanne, Still Life with Apples, 1895
Fall 2019

Monday and Wednesday 9 to 10:15 AM

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.

In this course, we will trace late modernism’s provocative experiments with form up to the collapse of this discourse art during the emergence of the postmodern era. Visual language and art terminology will be used to examine artworks from a wide assortment of historic, social, political and personal contexts. Students will develop a critical perspective that takes nothing for granted and is actively engaged in critical evaluation.

During our investigation we will model the activities of art historians–we will read, write, present, discuss, and research. Students are encouraged to establish a critical eye that is actively engaged in questioning through a shared learning experience. Think of the classroom as your lab, the textbook as your guide, and writing assignments as an adventurous expression of what you’ve learned!

(Offered fall semester)

Objectives & Outcomes
Course Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

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

2. Describe and discuss the formal/stylistic/material qualities of works of art during the late modern period;

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

4. 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.

Art History Program Learning Outcomes
Students will be able to:

1. Develop the writing competencies used in the discipline of art history;

2. Locate works of art and visual culture within the context of world art history and articulate the relationship between intended meaning/function and audience response in specific cultural and historical contexts;

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

4. Recognize the theoretical concerns of art history and its allied disciplines, and discuss and apply specific theoretical perspectives to a given art historical context and to their own 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: Student identifies, frames and analyzes social and/or historical structures and institutions in the world today.



Instructional Websites

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. Assignments and readings outside of the textbook will be posted to the AH 201 Assignments page, as well as on the course Blackboard page. Exams will be taken outside of class on Blackboard at www.blackboard.chapman.edu.

Required Textbook

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

Recommended Textbooks
Sylvan Barnet, A Short Guide to Writing About Art, any edition, 10th or 11th preferred, Boston: Pearson Education Inc.. ISBN 978-0205708253
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
Osborne, Richard and Dan Sturgis. Art Theory For Beginners, 2nd edition. Danbury, Connecticut: For Beginners LLC, 2009. ISBN 978-1934389478
Stiles, Kristine. Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists' Writings, 2nd edition. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012. ISBN 978-0520257184


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


Instructional Strategies
Students will work toward course objectives through: active participation in class discussions; student reports on readings; in-class partner exercises; reading assignments; writing assignments; exams; viewing images and videos; and attending of an off-campus exhibition that will require a commute, and may entail a parking fee, and/or entrance fee.


Methods of Evaluation

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


Museum Paper 15%

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 to analyze a work on view using a formalist methodology. This assignment will require students to commute to a relevant venue off campus, pay for parking and/or an entrance fee. The Museum Paper may earn up to 75 points.


Research Paper 40%

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 made between 1945 and 1970 in which to conduct research. In response to this research, you will write a paper in Chicago Manual of Style (no bibliography) that demonstrates your ability to apply concepts, theory, and discipline specific analytical methodologies to a minimum of three works of art important to your focus. 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 up to 75 points.

Students may choose to submit their paper just after the mid-point of the semester. If satisfied with the grade earned on this early submission, students may choose to keep the points accessed. If, however, students wish to improve their paper grade, they will be asked to pair up with another AH 340 student to provide constructive feedback on argument development, descriptive analysis, theoretic analysis, CMS citation, grammar, and organization on each other’s drafts using a Blackboard group discussion at least one week before the final due date. The Research Paper itself may earn up to 125 points.


Exams 30%

Students will take two exams worth 50 points each 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 activity 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 on writing assignments will be earned 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, demonstrated comprehension of assigned readings, critical reflection, thoughtful response to questions posed, and active engagement with the material.

(100 to 90%)
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.
(89 to 80%)
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.
(79 to 70%)
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-.
(69 to 60%)
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.
< 59%
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 resubmit the assignment.



Instructor Policies
Commitment to the Conversation
Art historians do not work in secluded spaces that are entirely disconnected from the world around them–or, at least they shouldn’t. Therefore, conversation and debate will be central to our learning experience this semester. 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 class assignments during class meetings.
Notes on Note Taking

Some students benefit greatly from taking notes during class, others gain more by completely immersing themselves in the dialogue, or doodling while actively listening. However, it’s doubtful that any student is assisted in their learning by social media alerts, text messages, online shopping, pop-up ads, news feeds, or catching up on errands during class time. Although laptops and smart phones are powerful tools that are sold to us on the (increasingly false claim) that they help us to be more efficient and productive, their potential to distract and disrupt our learning is significant enough to warrant alarm. This can be especially true for classmates with different learning styles than your own who might be substantially distracted by the flashes and swipes happening in your shopping bag, even if they don’t seem to be a bother for you.

With these issues in mind, students are strongly advised to take hand-written notes on paper. Students who find paper notes difficult to handle, or who’s learning is significantly assisted with a laptop are welcome to share their concerns with the instructor, who is open to making accommodations. No matter your note taking approach, please think of class time as a luxury–you’ve just secured an hour and 15 minutes, two times a week, to clear your head, and practice deep focus on an incredible subject. Your devices, heart and mind will thank you for the break!

Respect is Key
This semester, we will consider provocative, challenging, even vulgar subject matter and imagery. 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, we agree to keep an open mind and to respect all views and identities–even those with which we do not personally agree. At Chapman the term diversity implies a respect for all and an understanding of individual differences including race, color, religion, sex, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, national origin, ancestry, citizenship status, age, marital status, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, sexual orientation, military or veteran status, genetic information and any other characteristic protected by applicable state or federal law, so that all members of the community are treated at all times with dignity and respect. In accordance discriminatory language will not go unchallenged or unaddressed in our learning environments. Please be mindful that making this learning experience generative and valuable is collective work that requires critical rigor, courage, generosity, and humility. What will you contribute?
Pronoun Guide
Because creating and maintaining a safe and inclusive learning environment for all participants is our shared work, we are all asked to engage in self-discovery, self-awareness, and creative decision-making throughout the semester. One of the easiest ways to begin this work is by giving thought to how we refer to each other. Everyone will be asked on the first day of class to specify pronouns, if desired, and commit to utilizing correct pronouns at all times. In this endeavor, I’ve found the following guidelines helpful:
    • Some common pronouns are “she, her, hers,” “he, him, his,” and “they, their, them.” Other useful pronouns are: “ze or zie” (pronounced “zee”), and “hir or hirs” (pronounced “here”). Some people don’t use pronouns, and would like their names to be used instead (i.e. “Denise just sent Mariah an email.”)
    • Keep in mind that a person’s pronouns can’t be assumed.
    • Remember that it can sometimes be difficult to announce one’s pronouns publicly. As well, self-discovery is an ongoing process, so pronouns can change from situation to situation, and day to day. Please respect everyone’s privacy by only sharing their identities after receiving their consent.
    • Last, but not least, remember that if you make a mistake, that’s okay! Simply, apologize, move on, and continue working to utilize correct pronouns.

Regular attendance is mandatory. You are permitted two unexcused absences 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 (FW) the class. Please also be punctual! Students arriving 15 or more minutes late should expect to be marked absent for the entire class.

Letting the instructor know that you will be absent by email is appreciated! Please understand, due to the large number of emails received, the instructor will likely be unable to reply to your absence notification. Additionally, 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, however unfortunate, do not change this.

Assignment Submissions on Blackboard

Please submit all coursework–including VTLS reports, drafts, and extra credit assignments–on the class Blackboard page before class begins, on the day the assignment is due, whether you will be absent or in attendance. If you encounter a problem with your submission, please notify the instructor immediately, and attach your completed assignment to the message. Assignments will not be graded via email.

All coursework must be submitted by the last class meeting, on Wednesday, December 4.
Late Assignments
You may submit one assignment, one week late. The late assignment will not be marked down, and you do not need to receive prior permission for the late submission from the instructor. However, any late assignments 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 Policy
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 contact the Office of Disability Services at: DS@chapman.edu; chapman.edu/students/health-and-safety/disability-services/index.aspx; and 714.516.4520. If you will need to utilize your approved accommodations in this class, please follow the proper notification procedure for informing your professor(s). This notification process must occur more than a week before any accommodation can be utilized. Please contact Disability Services if you have questions regarding this procedure, or for information and to make an appointment to discuss and/or request potential accommodations based on documentation of your disability. Once formal approval of your need for an accommodation has been granted, you are encouraged to talk with your professor(s) about your accommodation options. The granting of any accommodation will not be retroactive and cannot jeopardize the academic standards or integrity of the course.
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 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 Support
Over the course of the semester, you may experience a range of challenges that interfere with your learning, such as problems with friend, family, and or significant other relationships; substance use; concerns about personal adequacy; feeling overwhelmed; or feeling sad or anxious without knowing why. These mental health concerns or stressful events may diminish your academic performance and/or reduce your ability to participate in daily activities. You can learn more about the resources available through Chapman University’s Student Psychological Counseling Services here: chapman.edu/students/health-and-safety/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
Chapman Diversity & Inclusion Program

Chapman University is deeply committed to enriching diversity and inclusion through on-going efforts to cultivate a welcoming campus climate for all members of the Chapman community. We strive to provide an inclusive academic curriculum, promote equity and access in recruitment and retention, and develop meaningful outreach programs and partnerships with our diverse local communities. We value diversity and inclusion in the learning environment and believe it is vital to the fulfillment of the university mission. It is our conviction that an inclusive learning environment facilitates complex, critical and creative thinking and that differences in identities, values, beliefs and perspectives are fundamental to a comprehensive education.

Students are strongly encouraged to get involved with the Diversity & Inclusion Program by filling out the CDP Engage Interest form at: chapman.campuslabs.com/engage/submitter/form/step/1?Guid=3fbdfffe-ac83-4d60-a505-00dab304572e to share your areas of interest and we will connect you with opportunities to further engage with the initiative. You can always reach the Diversity Project at cdp@chapman.edu if you have any questions.



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 26
August 28
Writing Art Histories
Introductions 1 - 5
September 2

Labor Day - No Class

September 4
American Art Before WWII
Art Since 1900: 1945
September 9
Universal Voices
Research Paper Thesis Proposal Due
Art Since 1900: 1946, 1947a, & 1947b
September 11
New York Becomes the Center
September 16
Breaking It Up
Art Since 1900: 1949a
September 18
A Problem for Critics
September 23
Existential Angst
Exam 1 Due
September 25
Seeking Transcendence
Art Since 1900: 1951, 1959a, 1959c, & 1962b
September 30
Art Since 1900: 1946, & 1949b
October 2
Prowling in the Wilderness
Art Since 1900: 1953 & 1959d
October 7
The Gap in Between
Annotated Bibliography Due
October 9
Consuming America
October 14
Landscape of Signs
Art Since 1900: 1958, 1959d, & 1960c
October 16
Pop Art
Art Since 1900: 1960a, 1960c 1962d, & 1964b
October 21
Through the Surface
Museum Paper Due
October 23
California Funk
Art Since 1900: 1959b, 1959e & 1960b
October 28
Action vs. Abstraction
Exam 2 Due
October 30
Collaging in the Margins
November 4
What's Happening
November 6
Destroy the Picture
Art Since 1900: 1955a, 1961 1962a, & 1967c
November 11

Leaping Into Voids

Research Paper (First Attempt) Due
November 13
Art Since 1900: 1957b & 1963
November 18
Anti Form
Art Since 1900: 1966b & 1969
November 20
Process and Flux
Art Since 1900: 1964a, 1966b, & 1967b
November 25
Thanksgiving Recess
November 27
December 2
Depoliticized Media Spectacle
Research Paper (Second Attempt) Due
Art Since 1900: 1957a, 1966a
December 4
Approaching Collapse
Art Since 1900: 1967a, 1968a, 1968b & 1969
December 9
Final Exam Activity 1:30 to 4 PM



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 6. The last day to change grading option to P/NP is Friday, September 27, and to withdraw from a course is November 1.
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 Wednesday, December 11 from 10:45 AM to 1:15 PM.
Grades must be submitted by the instructor by January 1.