Art 370 Contemporary Art: 1945 to 1970
Fall 2014
Monday & Wednesday 2:30 - 3:45 pm
Instructor: Denise Johnson
Student Consultation Hours: by appointment






Course Description

This course surveys the major artistic developments in Europe and the United States between the close of World War II and the emergence of postmodernism, including abstract expressionism, pop art, assemblage, happenings, minimalism, and site-specific art. We will explore trace modernism’s provocative experiments with form up to the collapse of this discourse art historians now call postmodernism. 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 is meaningfully articulated through writing that takes nothing for granted and is actively engaged in questioning.






Learning Outcomes
Course Learning Outcomes
Students who successfully complete this course will be able to
    • 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;
    • 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 Learning Outcomes
    • Develop the writing competencies used in the discipline of art history;
    • 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;
    • Conduct advanced art historical research using the full range of scholarly resources;
    • 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: employs theories of how people frame and analyze social and / or historical phenomena.






Course Materials
Required Text
Fineberg, Jonathan. Art Since 1940: Strategies of Being. Third edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2010.
Stiles, Kristine. Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists’ Writings. Second edition. University of California Press, 2012.
Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art






Recommended Texts
D'Alleva, Anne. Methods & Theories of Art History. Second ed. London: Laurence King Publishing, 2012.
Methods & Theories of Art History



Atkins, Robert.  ArtSpeak: A Guide to Contemporary Ideas, Movements, and Buzzwords, 1945 to the Present.  Second edition.  New York: Abbeville Press, 1997.




Osborne, Richard and Dan Sturgis.  Art Theory For Beginners.  Second edition.  Danbury, Connecticut: For Beginners LLC . 2009.
Art Theory For Beginners



Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. Seventh ed. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2009.

MLA Handbook



College Dictionary and Thesaurus






Instructional Websites
This course will be taught from the instructional website: Lecture presentations, assignments, and other course materials will be available to students at this site, and you will need to access it regularly.
Various course materials will be available on the course Blackboard site at Registered students will use moodle to take online quizzes, review their current grade, utilize a discussion board, and access other materials.






Class Schedule and Required Reading
Please complete and be prepared to discuss the assigned readings before the date they will be presented in class. This is a tentative schedule, and may be changed by the instructor at any point during the semester according to the needs of the class.
Discussion Topic
Assignment Due
September 3
September 8
The Modern Avant-Garde
Chapter 1
Theories & Docs: Pages 971 - 974
September 10
American Art Before WWII
Chapter 2
Theories & Docs: Pages 1 - 10
“Approaches to Art”
September 15

European Emigres
Pages 48 - 70
Theories & Docs: Figuration Introduction

September 17
New York Becomes the Center
Pages 113 - 123
Theories & Docs: Gestural Abstraction Intro & Pages 42 - 43
September 22
Breaking It Up
Pages 88 - 99
Theories & Docs: Pages 24 -26
“Is he the greatest living painter?”
Research Paper Topic
September 24
Existential Angst
Pages 71 - 87 & Pages 133 - 141
Theories & Docs: Pages 28 - 29, 44 - 57, & 208 - 212
September 29
Pages 124 - 133
Theories & Docs: Pages 216 - 226
October 1
Seeking Transcendence
Pages 99 - 113
Theories & Docs: 26 - 28
Learning Community 1
October 6
Prowling in the Wilderness
Pages 165 - 167
Theories & Docs: Material Culture Intro
Kerouac’s introduction to The Americans
Quiz 1
October 8
The Gap in Between
Pages 167 - 186
Theories & Docs: Pages 373 -375

October 13
Signs of the Times
Pages 187 - 208
Theories & Docs: Pages 343 -347, 357, & 387 - 388
According to What: Jasper Johns' Flag
Research Paper Plan
October 15
Consuming America
Pages 228 - 239
October 20
Pop Art
Pages 187 -193 & 240 - 255
Theories & Docs: Pages 390 - 405
October 22
West Coast Funk
Pages 255 - 280
Theories & Docs: Pages 588 - 610
October 27
Action vs. Abstraction
Chapter 6
Guardians of the Avant-Garde
Visual Analysis Paper
October 29
Leaping Into Voids
Pages 208 - 217
Theories & Docs: Pages 77 -91,111 - 113, & 821 - 824
November 3
Theories & Docs: Lang Intro & Pages 91 - 110, & 974 - 982
Methodology Matrix
November 5
Pages 280 - 288
Theories & Docs: Pages 91 - 169, & 982 - 992
Learning Community 2
November 10
Anti Form
Pages 289 - 295
Theories & Docs: Pages 614 -623
Quiz 2
November 12
Depoliticized Media Spectacle
Pages 341 -353 & 827 - 831
November 17
Pages 308 - 321
Theories & Docs: Pages 624 - 663
November 19
Process Art
Pages 296 - 309
Theories & Docs: Pages 686 - 738
November 24
Thanksgiving Recess
November 26
December 1
Art in Flux
Theories & Docs: Pages 745 - 761
Research Paper
December 3
The Artist’s Body
Pages 218 - 227 & 328 - 341
Theories & Docs: Performance Intro & Pages 854 - 884
December 8
Boiling Points
Pages 322 - 327 Theories & Docs: Pages 417 - 418
December 10
The End of the Avant-Garde
Pages 353 - 361 & Epilogue

Learning Community 3

December 15
Final Exam 10:45 am - 1:15 pm






Methods of Evaluation
There are 500 points possible in this course, which will be earned through three graded components.
Exams & Testing Preparation - 150 points, 30% of total grade

We will take an inquiry based approach to the study of late modern / contemporary art history where questions are our driving force and connective tissue. To make questioning a skilled habit, students will be asked to keep a journal where questions are recorded while completing reading assignments, coursework, and during lecture discussions. Journal questions will be utilized during Learning Community meetings, where questions will be fine tuned through collaborative process and submitted to the instructor to appear on class exams. Journal entries will be checked three times over the semester, and will be worth 10 points each. The collaborative questions submitted by Learning Communities three times during the semester will also be worth 10 points.

Students will take three exams this semester, each worth 6% (30 points) of the final grade. Exams will be taken online and outside of class on the course Blackboard page at In progress quizzes can be saved, printed, and updated. However, once the quiz has been submitted, answers cannot be edited. Make-up quizzes cannot be accommodated, except under extenuating circumstances! The Final Exam will be taken in class, and on paper during our scheduled Final Exam period.

Visual Analysis Paper - 75 points, 15% of total grade

Students will be asked to attend a professional exhibition of modern works this semester and choose two works seen in person to analyze using the art historical methodologies learned in class. The Visual Analysis Paper will be worth 75 points.

Research Paper - 275 points, 55% of total grade
Over the course of the semester, you will be asked to identify an artist, body of work, or issue relevant to the study of modern art between WWII and the end of the Vietnam War in which to conduct research. You’ll be asked to write a paper in MLA style that reflects skilled research techniques and demonstrates your ability to analyze works utilizing the art historical methodologies. To oversee your progress, preparatory assignments will be submitted worth 75 points. The final Research Paper will be worth 200 points of your final grade.







Students are strongly encouraged to keep track of earned points on the Grade Table included on page 12 of the printable syllabus. If requesting an appointment to review your grade, you will be asked to bring the table with you!


Chapman’s Artistic Inquiry and Social Inquiry rubrics will be used to grade coursework. The following point table can be used to track your progress:


Grading Scale
  100 - 90% 500 - 448 points  
100 - 97%
500 - 483
96 - 93%
482 - 463
92 - 90%
462 - 448
89 - 80%
447 - 398  
89 - 87%
447 - 433
86 - 83%
432 - 415
82 - 80%
414 - 398
  79 - 70% 397 - 348  
79 - 77%
397 - 383
76 - 73%
382 - 363
72 - 70%
362 -348
  69 - 60% 347 - 298  
69 - 67%
347 - 333
66 - 63%
332 - 313
62 - 60%
312 - 298
  59% - or less 297 - 0 points  






To ensure that our learning community functions well and that everyone is treated with the respect that they deserve, we must all agree to the following courtesies and guidelines.
  Take a Break from Texting!

Please DO NOT text message during class. If you need to attend to an important message, please leave the classroom and return when you can fully commit your attention to the class discussion.

  Equity and Diversity Policy

We will often consider provocative and challenging subject matter in this class and must therefore agree to respect each other’s views and identities. Our diverse backgrounds and opinions are assets and no student shall be made to feel inferior or uncomfortable because of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs or physical/ intellectual abilities.

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. Please see the full description of this policy at violations of this policy should be discussed with the professor, the dean of students and/or otherwise reported in accordance with this policy.

  Chapman University 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's Academic Integrity policy at

  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 Disability Services Office. 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 at (714) 516–4520 or visit if you have questions regarding this procedure or for information or 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.

Helen Frankenthaler in studio

Regular attendance is mandatory. Up to three absences will be tolerated, however the instructor reserves the right to deduct 5% of total available class points (25 points) for each absence beyond the third. Please also be punctual! Students arriving 15 or more minutes after class begins should expect to be marked absent for the entire class session.

  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 NOT receive credit. Please submit coursework that is due at the beginning of class, and avoid using class time to prepare for the session you are missing because you’re doing your homework!

  Extra Credit

Opportunities to earn extra credit may be announced during class. However, students are limited to earning a maximum of five percent in extra credit points during the semester. Any points earned above 5% of the total course grade will NOT be applied to the final grade.






Important Dates
Add Deadline
The deadline to add this course is Friday, September 12.
Drop Deadline

Students wishing to drop the course without record of enrollment must do so by Friday, September 12. Students may withdraw from the course or change the grading option by Friday, November 7.

The deadline to change course to audit option is September 12.

Submission Deadline
All coursework must be submitted by the last day of lecture. NO COURSE WORK WILL BE ACCEPTED AFTER 3:45 PM ON December 10!!
Grades will be available Thursday, January 1, 2015.