AH 341- Contemporary Art: 1970 to Present


Spring 2020
Monday & Wednesday 10:30 to 11:45 AM
Instructor: Denise Johnson
Office Hours:
Monday & Wednesday
noon to 1 PM and by appointment


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.

In this course, we will pick up in the midst of modernism’s collapse as activist provocations imagine new worlds and neoliberalism formulates daunting strongholds and formidable obstacles. 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 spring semester)

Objectives & Outcomes
Students who successfully complete the course will:


Learn major artists and movements in art from 1970 to the present day;


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 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. Additionally, two exams will be taken outside of class on Blackboard at blackboard.chapman.edu.

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


Major Study Units
  • Institutional Critique
  • Culture Wars
    • New Genres
    • Identity Politics
    • Postcolonial Critique
    • Body Politics
  • The Feminist movement
    • Regression & Abjection
    • Gaze Theory
    • AIDS Activism
  • Postmodernism
  • The Archival Impulse
    • Walter Benjamin
  • The Posthuman
    • The Simulacra
  • The end of the avant-garde?
    • Appropriation
  • Meta Modernism
    • Pictures Generation
  • Globalism
  • Neo Expressionism
  • Climate Change
  • Photorealism
  • Subjects for the future
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.
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 20%

Students may earn up to 100 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 points. Participation will be evaluated at the midterm, and at the conclusion of the semester;
  • Posting at least ten times to the class Inquiry Blog with questions and thoughts that synthesize your understanding or questions concerning class discussions, readings and individual writing projects. Posts need to be made throughout the term, but earned points are limited to one post in a single day, and up to three in the same week. Your challenge is to move the conversation from your reading, to the classroom, and into your everyday life. Please avoid simply stating that you agree/disagree, like/dislike, or find interesting/are neutral on a topic. Please remember, posts will not earn credit if made all at once, and/or just at the end of the semester. Students may earn up to five points on each post, for a total of 50 points possible; and
  • Students will be asked to pair up with another student to provide constructive feedback on Research Paper argument development, descriptive analysis, theoretic analysis, CMS citation, grammar, and organization. The constructive value of the feedback you offer your partner may earn you up to 25 points.

Visual Analysis Paper 10%

Students are required to analyze a relevant work (made after 1970) using formal description and including their own personal response. This paper is intended to be a building block towards writing the Research Paper, offer early feedback in the writing process, and may earn up to 50 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. 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 about 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 341 student to provide constructive feedback on argument development, descriptive analysis, theoretic analysis, CMS citation, grammar, and organization. The Research Paper itself may earn up to 125 points.


Exams 30%

Students will demonstrate learning through two exams worth up to 50 points each, taken online and 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.


Nick Cave, Soundsuits, 2008.



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

Art historians do not work in secluded spaces that are entirely disconnected from the world around them. Therefore, conversation and debate will be central to the 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 then 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 the time to clear your head, and practice deep focus on an incredible subject. ??

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. While engaging in class activities, we agree to avoid using derogatory, inflammatory, or otherwise hurtful language.
Pronoun Guide

Creating and maintaining a safe and inclusive classroom for all participants is our shared work! Our commitment to this effort communicates respect for each other and encourages all of us to engage in self-discovery, self-awareness, and creative decision-making. One of the easiest ways that we do this work is in 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 Julie 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 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 (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 may not be able 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, May 13.

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.
Jenny Holzer, Selection from the Survival Series, 1983-1985.



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.

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. 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.

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.



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 food should contact Lisette Martínez Gutiérrez in the Office of Student Affairs & Dean of Students at martinezgutierrez@chapman.edu or 714.532.6042 to access the food pantry.
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


Jean-Michel Basquiat, Bird on Money, 1981.



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
February 3
February 5

Institutional Critique

Art Since 1900: Preface & Introductions
February 10

Performing the Era

Art Since 1900: 1970 to 1974

February 12

Disrupting the Narrative

Art Since 1900: 1975

February 17

The Personal is Political

Research Paper Thesis Proposal Due

Barnet: Chapter 12
February 19

Pictures Generation

Art Since 1900: 1976, 1977, & 1993a
February 24

Art in the Simulacrum

The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

February 26

Return of the Real

Art Since 1900: 1980 to 1984

March 2

The Painterly Mess

Art Since 1900: 1988

March 4

Writing Art History

Barnet: Chapters 9, 11, 13 & 14

March 9

Acting Up and Boiling Over

Exam 1 Due

Art Since 1900: 1987 & 1989
March 11
Culture Wars
Claire Dederer, Beckman 404 at 7 PM
March 16
Annotated Bibliography Due
Art Since 1900: 1989 & 1992
March 18

Turning the Tables

Art Since 1900: 1993b, 1993c, & 1997
March 23
Spring Break
March 25
March 30

The Broken Body: Abjection

Art Since 1900: 1994a

April 1

The Broken Body: Regression

Visual Analysis Museum Paper Due

Barnet: Chapter 7
April 6

Beyond the Frame

Art Since 1900: 1994b & 1997

April 8

The Archival Impulse

Art Since 1900: 2001

April 9

Memory & History

Rough Draft Due

April 11
For the Love of God
Art Since 1900: 2003, 2007a & 2007c
April 18
Art History Symposium, AF 209 B, 11 AM to 5:30 PM
April 16


Exam 2 Due

Art Since 1900: 1986 & 2003
April 18

The Art Market

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

April 20

After the Fall

The Highest Degree of Illusion

April 22

Regarding the Pain of Others

Art Since 1900: 2009c & 2010a

April 27


Research Paper Due

April 29


Art Since 1900: 2010a & 2010b

May 4
May 6
May 11

Everyday Rebellions

The Work of Art in the Age of Spectacular Reproduction

May 13



May 19
Socratic Circle Final Exam 1:30 to 4 PM



Important Dates
Late Registration
The last day to add this courses is Friday, February 14.
Drop Deadline
Students wishing to drop the course without record must do so by Friday, February 14. The last day to withdraw from a course is Friday, April 17.
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, June 1.



Olga Koumoundourous, Rainbow Couch, 2012.