AH 341 Syllabus


Contemporary Art: 1970 to Present
Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitled (Water), 1995


Spring 2018
Monday and Wednesday 2:30 to 3:45 PM
Instructor: Denise Johnson
Phone: 714.289.3569
Moulton Center 217 A

Office Hours by appointment
2 to 2:30 PM
2:30 to 3:30 PM
10 to 11 AM & 1 to 2:30 PM
10 AM to 11 AM


click here for a printable syllabus



Course Description

AH 341 explores the evolution of art since 1970 in Europe, America, and Asia. Traditional media, performance, video, and installation are discussed in light of post-modernist theory, feminist and Marxist criticism, and the impact of mass media and new technologies.

(Offered spring semester)

Objectives & Outcomes
Students who successfully complete the course will:


Learn major artists and movements in art from 1970 – Present;


Be able to identify and compare the aesthetic and philosophical characteristics associated with each of the major movements of art from 1970 to the present;


Become familiar with the resources in contemporary art that are available to be directly experienced in Southern California;


Analyze and evaluate the social, political, and technological influences upon the production of art in the late 20th century and early 21st century;


Learn the predominant theoretical ideologies that affect art movements of this period, and be able to recognize and apply them when looking at contemporary art; and


Synthesize strategies in critical theory to write analyses of contemporary artworks.


Art History 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 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.


Required Textbook

Foster, Krauss, Bois, Buchloh. Art Since 1900: 1945 to Present. Vol. 2, Third edition. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2016.
ISBN 9780500285350

Recommended Texts

Barnet, Sylvan. A Short Guide to Writing About Art. Boston: Pearson Education Inc. (any edition, 10th or 11th preferred). ISBN 978-0205886999

A Short Guide to Writing About Art
Kristine Stiles. Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists' Writings. University of California Press: 2011. ISBN 978-0520257184

Osborne, Richard and Dan Sturgis. Art Theory For Beginners. Second edition. Danbury, Connecticut: For Beginners LLC, 2009. ISBN 9781934389478


Art Theory for Beginners
Jean Robertson. Themes of Contemporary Art: Visual Art after 1980. Any edition. Oxford University Press: 2009.



Instructional Websites
This course will be taught from the instructional website: www.theslideprojector.com. Lecture presentations, assignments, and other course materials will be available to students at this site, and you will need to access it regularly.
Additionally, two exams will be taken outside of class on Blackboard at blackboard.chapman.edu.



Major Study Units
  • Critiquing art history and its institutions
  • Postcolonialism
  • The Feminist movement
  • The posthuman body
    • Gaze Theory
  • The end of the avant-garde?
  • Postmodernism
  • Meta Modernism
    • Appropriation
  • Globalism
    • The Simulacra
  • New Genres
    • Identity politics
  • Critiques for the future
    • Culture Wars
Methods of Evaluation

Students will be evaluated on the frequency and quality of their contributions to in-class discussion; on their ability to make oral and written critical observations about the artists, movements, and concepts presented in the course; on the quality of the writing they present for homework assignments; and on their ability to demonstrate growth in their understanding and application of the history and theory of contemporary art from 1970 to the present.

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


Class Participation - 15%

Students will earn up to 50 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 assigned readings 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 participation points; 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 after 1970), and 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 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 after 1970 in which to conduct research and write a paper in Chicago Manual of Style (no bibliography) that reflects extensive scholarly research and demonstrates your ability to analyze works of art utilizing multiple art historical methodologies and theories. 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 and by pairing up with a classmate.


Exams 30%

Students will demonstrate learning through two exams worth up to 50 points each, and taken outside of class on Blackboard page at https://blackboard.chapman.edu. 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 demonstrated comprehension of assigned readings, critical reflection, thoughtful response to questions posed, and active engagement with the material.
100 to 97%
500 - 483 points

Writing demonstrates excellence in both articulation and critical thinking. Art historical methodologies are used thoughtfully and with skill. Questions are answered thoroughly, and discussion is carried beyond prompt with sophistication. Credible scholarly sources are employed to support the author's position, and Chicago Manual of Style citation rules are 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 by carrying the analysis and discussion beyond a basic response to the essay prompt. Writing 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 with few errors. Thesis could be 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. Distracting citation issues are present, little research was executed in support of thesis, and/or sources are not credible or academic. There are issues with language that make the writing somewhat difficult to understand.

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. Major citation issues are present, no research was executed in support of thesis, and/or sources are not credible or academic. Issues with language 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 341 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.

Please also be punctual! Students arriving 15 or more minutes after class begins should expect to be marked absent for the entire 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 a 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 according to the needs of the class during the semester. Lectures & assignments will be posted on The Slide Projector and Blackboard. Updates will be announced in class, and modified on The Slide Projector, and on Blackboard.
Discussion Topic
Assignment & Reading Due
January 29
January 31

Institutional Critique

Art Since 1900: Preface & Introductions
February 5

Performing the Era

Art Since 1900: 1970 to 1974

February 8

Disrupting the Narrative

Art Since 1900: 1975

February 12

The Personal is Political

Research Paper Thesis Proposal Due

Barnet: Chapter 12
February 14

Pictures Generation

Art Since 1900: 1976, 1977, & 1993a
February 19

Art in the Simulacrum

The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

February 21

Return of the Real

Art Since 1900: 1980 to 1984

February 27

The Painterly Mess

Art Since 1900: 1988

March 1

Writing Art History

Barnet: Chapters 9, 11, 13 & 14

Rachel Mason, AF 209 C, 7 to 9 PM
March 5

Acting Up and Boiling Over

Exam 1 Due

Art Since 1900: 1987 & 1989
March 7
Culture Wars
Claire Dederer, Beckman 404 at 7 PM
March 12
Annotated Bibliography Due
Art Since 1900: 1989 & 1992
March 15

Turning the Tables

Art Since 1900: 1993b, 1993c, & 1997
March 19
Spring Break
March 21
March 26

The Broken Body: Abjection

Art Since 1900: 1994a

March 28

The Broken Body: Regression

Visual Analysis Museum Paper Due

Barnet: Chapter 7
April 2

Beyond the Frame

Art Since 1900: 1994b & 1997

April 4

The Archival Impulse

Art Since 1900: 2001

April 6
Art History Symposium, AF 209, 11 AM to 5:30 PM
April 9

Memory & History

Rough Draft Due

April 11
For the Love of God
Art Since 1900: 2003, 2007a & 2007c
April 16


Exam 2 Due

Art Since 1900: 1986 & 2003
April 18

The Art Market

Art Since 1900: 2009a, 2009b, & 2015

April 23

After the Fall

The Highest Degree of Illusion

April 25

Regarding the Pain of Others

Art Since 1900: 2009c & 2010a

April 30


Research Paper Due

May 2


Art Since 1900: 2010a & 2010b

May 7

Everyday Rebellions

The Work of Art in the Age of Spectacular Reproduction

May 9



May 16
Socratic Circle Final Exam 1:30 to 4 PM



Important Dates
Late Registration
The last day to add this courses is Friday, February 9.
Drop Deadline
Students wishing to drop the course without record must do so by Friday, February 9. The last day to withdraw from a course, or change grading option to P/NP is Friday, April 13.
Final Exam
The in-class final for this course is mandatory, and will not be offered at an alternative date, except under extenuating circumstances. The instructor understands that the end of the academic year and 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.
Grades will be available no later than Monday, May 28.



Olga Koumoundourous, Rainbow Couch, 2012.