Art 1
Contemporary Art: 1950 - Present
Fall 2010 Tuesday and Thursday 2 pm - 3:20 pm
section 62770

Instructor Denise Johnson
  Office Hours: By appointment
  email: or
  Voice mail: 909-652-7867
  Mailbox: CAA 302

Course Description

This course will explore the history of contemporary art from WWII to the present day.  We will trace modernism’s provocative experiments with form and examine 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 along with a general level of knowledge and appreciation for modern and postmodern art and its practice.

This is a 3-unit UC/CSU course.







Required Text (Please choose one)
Arnason, H.H. and Elizabeth C. Mansfield. History of Modern Art. Sixth edition. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2010.
History of Modern Art
Fineberg, Jonathan. Art Since 1940: Strategies of Being. Any edition. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Art Since 1940









Recommended Texts  

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
College Dictionary & Thesaurus
College Dictionary









Instructional Website

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.  Please let the instructor know if you do not have internet access.


Good attendance is essential to your success!  While you will not be graded directly on your attendance, numerous absences are sure to negatively affect your grade.

The deadline to add this course is September 7. If you wish to drop this course, it is your responsibility to formally drop via MyChaffey View by September 10 without record, or by November 19 with a "W" grade.

Special Accommodations
Please discuss any special accommodations you require with the instructor as soon as possible.  Any student having difficulty is strongly encouraged to contact the DPS office at 941-2379 for information regarding the valuable resources that are available.
Success Centers
Students are highly encouraged to make use of the resources and consultation services available at the Writing Center, located in the library (909) - 652 – 6820 and the Rancho Success Center in the Educational Excellence Building (909) 652 – 6932.  The Writing and Rancho Success Centers are open: Monday – Thursday from 8 am to 8 pm, Friday & Saturday from 9 am to 2 pm and are closed on Sunday.










There are 500 points possible in this class. Twenty Five percent of your grade will be earned with Community Assignments, 21% on the Research Paper, 18% on two exams, 18% on the Final Exam, 15% on worksheets and 3% on your effort. Honors students must additionally write a research paper that is at least 10 pages, attend at least one relevant event and conduct a 15 minute class presentation or similar speaking engagement to successfully complete their contracts.

The grading scale is as follows:
  100 - 90% 500 - 448 points  
  500 - 483
  482 - 466
  465 - 448
  89 - 80% 447 - 398  
  447 - 433
  432 - 418
  417 - 398
  79 - 70% 397 - 348  
  397 - 373
  372 -348
  69 - 60% 347 - 297  
  347 - 333
  332 - 318
  317 - 297
  59% - or less 296 - 0 points  









Worksheets – 6 @ 10 = 60 points

Students are required to submit six worksheets of their choice worth up to 10 points each. Credit is earned for effort and completeness – incomplete assignments will NOT earn points. Worksheets are available at on the "Worksheets" page.

Up to two extra credit worksheets may be submitted for 10 points each. Worksheets requiring students to watch a movie are only worth extra credit points.

Community Assignments – 4 @ 20 + 1 @ 40 + 5 @ 5 = 145 points

Each student will be assigned to a "Learning Community" that will work together to complete writing assignments and activities designed to develop art writing skills that combined, are worth a maximum of 120 points for each participant. Communities will first develop descriptive strategies to effectively articulate what they are seeing when looking at a work of art and then will become familiar with art historical methodologies that are commonly used to interpret works. Next, each community will complete a scavenger hunt at the Wignall Museum of Contemporary Art and view an exhibition of relevant works made after 1945 in order to write a review of one of the works seen in person. Specific exhibitions are recommended on this syllabus. Finally, community members will team up to edit each other's research paper rough drafts.

Group assignments function best when community members are accommodating with their time, interested in working together and open to feedback from their peers. Students will be encouraged to rely on their communities and to be responsible constituents themselves. Once each community assignment is completed, each student will be asked to submit a Community Assessment worth 5 points each. The instructor will only consider allowing individual students to submit independent assignments once a sincere attempt has been made at remedying any miscommunications within their group.

Research Paper – 3 @ 5 + 85 = 100 points

Students are required to write a Research Paper that adequately covers a topic relevant to this course. The paper should reflect extensive research as well a basic understanding and application of descriptive techniques and art historical methodologies. The paper must follow MLA guidelines, and at least three different, credible sources of information originating in print should be cited within the paper. In preparation, students will be required to submit a Topic Report, Source Report and Paper Plan, each worth 5 points. The paper itself is worth a maximum of 85 points.

Exams – 2 @ 45 + 1 @ 90 = 180 points

The first two exams will be worth 45 points each and will consist of image i.d.s, multiple choice, fill-in-the blank, matching and short-answer essay questions. The cumulative Final Exam will be worth 90 points, and will be taken with your community Jeopardy style.

Exams may NOT be made up. If you have extenuating circumstances that prevent you from being able to take an exam, you are required to discuss your options with the instructor BEFORE the exam takes place to be allowed to take the exam outside of class.

Effort - 15 points

Students may earn up to 15 points based on their active participation and general commitment to learning.

Extra Credit

Multiple opportunities to earn extra credit will be announced during class. However, students are limited to earning a maximum of 40 extra credit points.



Participation Scale
15 points
never absent and frequently talked
few absences and frequently talked
few absences and talked
few absences
few absences but didn't participate
sporadic attendance but talked
sporadic attendance
sporadic attendance and didn't participate
little attendance but participated
came to class to take the tests
never came to class and didn't take all tests









Class Policies
I know, rules, rules, rules!  But in order for our community to function effectively we’ve gotta have ‘em. 
  Respect is Key

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.

  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.

  Late Assignments

You may turn one assignment in 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.

The instructor’s mailbox is located on the third floor of the Center for the Arts building A (a.k.a. “the new art building” and CAA) in the Art Department Office, CAA 302.  If you cannot attend a class when an assignment is due, but can deliver the assignment to my mailbox NO LATER than 12 hours before the next class begins, I will not consider your assignment late.

  Complete Assignments Before Class Begins

Please DO NOT complete assignments in class.  Assignments should be turned in at the beginning of class.  Any work done during class will NOT be given credit.

  Cheating & Plagiarism

Cheating and plagiarism will not be tolerated.  If the instructor finds evidence of cheating or plagiarism, the offending student will not receive credit on the assignment in question and further action may be considered.

  Study Time

Students should plan on spending three hours reading, fulfilling assignments and studying for class for every hour spent in the classroom.  That’s at least 135 hours of Art 6 study this semester! 

  Submission Deadline

All course work (except the Final Exam) must be submitted by the last day of lecture. NO COURSE WORK WILL BE ACCEPTED AFTER 3:20 PM ON DECEMBER 9!!!


Grades will be available online by January 4.









Recommended Exhibitions
Country Music & Endless Summer
Blum & Poe Gallery
July 3 - August 21

Even Better Than The Real Thing

Wignall Museum

August 23 - September 25

John Baldessari: Pure Beauty


through September 12

The Artist's Museum: LA Artists 1998 - 2010

MOCA Geffen

September 19 - January 24

Arshile Gorky Retrospective
MOCA Grand Ave
through September 20
Dennis Hopper: Double Standard
MOCA Grand Ave
through September 20
Stephen G. Rhodes & Fountain
UCLA Hammer Museum
through September 26

Separation Anxiety

Wignall Museum

October 11 - November 13

Catherine Opie: Figure and Landscape


through October 17

Selections from the Permanent Collection

UCLA Hammer Museum

through January 30

The Artist's Museum: LA Artists 1998 - 2010

MOCA Grand Ave

October 31 - January 31









Your Fragility

Kate Kretz. Your Fragility. 2010.

Separation Anxiety
Wignall Museum of Contemporary Art
October 11 - November 13, 2010
curated by Denise Johnson and Rebecca Trawick

As significant numbers of women have entered the work force since the 1970s in response to shifting economic needs and the influence of the Feminist movement, Jean-Jacques Rousseau's long honored notion of the "Good Mother" and the demand that she blithely sacrifice all for the good of her children and household has been challenged and re-evaluated. But as women have demanded a place within the domestic AND public realms, conservative groups have predictably lamented the decline of "family values." Within that cry, the child has often been portrayed as endangered and lost as mothers seek to redefine their roles and obligations. While far from being resolved, such debates are symptomatic of a cultural anxiety over the state of childhood and a realization that idealistic, largely unattainable notions of the family continue to be frankly reconsidered in the 21st century.

Drawing from the curator's own efforts to balance the demands of motherhood with creative and professional endeavors, Denise Johnson and Rebecca Trawick consider how contemporary artists have explored modern parenthood under the pressures of changing economies and evolving definitions of family. Artists in the exhibition explore the often unacknowledged angst and unease that all parents, traditional or not, must navigate. Through these investigations, cultural anxieties and debates over the definition of family, parenthood and childhood are explored in surprising and interesting ways.









Extra Credit Events
Date & Time
Even Better Curator's Walkthrough
Wignall Museum
September 22 @ 6 pm
Iranian Modern & Contemporary Art
MOCA Grand Ave Ahmanson Theatre
September 23 @ 6:30 pm
Ideas on Trial
MOCA Grand Ave Ahmanson Theatre
September 30 @ 6:30 pm
Art 21: Screening & Discussion
CAA 211
October 13 @12:30 - 2 pm
Separation Anxiety Artists Round Table
CAA 218
October 13 @ 5 - 6:30 pm
Defining Modern Family
CAA 218
November 3 @ 12:30 - 2 pm
Boundary Lines performance by Leslie Dick
CAA 211
November 10 @ 12:30 - 2 pm
Who Does She Think She Is? screening & talk
CAA 211
November 13 @ 1 - 4 pm









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
August 17
August 19
The Modern Avant-Garde
Student Information

Arnason: Chapter 15 & 16
Fineberg: Chapters 1 - 2

August 24
New York Becomes the Center
Arnason: pages 403 - 408
Fineberg: pages 42 - 67
August 26
Breaking It Up
Worksheet #1

Is he the greatest living painter in the US?
Arnason: pages 409 - 419
Fineberg: pages 86 - 98

August 31
Existential Angst
Worksheet #2
Arnason: pages 419 - 428
Fineberg: pages 67 - 73
September 2
Seeking Transcendence
Community #1 - Fine Art of Describing
Fineberg: pages 98 - 115
September 7
Dialogue with Europe
Topic Report
Arnason: pages 439 - 471
Fineberg: Chapter 5
September 9
The Hero's Gesture
Arnason: pages 428 - 438
Fineberg: pages 74 - 85 & 115 - 127
September 14
Action vs. Abstraction
Worksheet #3
Guardians of the Avant-garde
Arnason: pages 518 - 531
Fineberg: Chapter 6
September 16
Exam #1
September 21
Neo Dada & the Beats
Worksheet #4

The World of Mrs. N.
Arnason: pages 486 - 491
Fineberg: pages 172 - 206

September 23
Considering the Sign
Worksheet #5
According to What: Jasper Johns's Flag
Arnason: context page 588
Fineberg: pages 206 - 221
September 28
Consuming America
Community #2 - Methods Match

Arnason: pages 492 - 508
Fineberg: pages 237 - 243

September 30
East Coast Pop!
Worksheet #6
October 5
West Coast Funk
Research Paper Plan
Arnason: 509 - 517
Fineberg: 277 - 293
October 7
Nouveau Realisme
Arnason: 472 - 486
Fineberg: 222 - 231
October 12
Arnason: pages 532 - 546
Fineberg: pages 294 - 304
October 14
In the Nature of Materials
Worksheet #7

The Fictive Spaces of Richard Serra
Arnason: pages 626 - 637
Fineberg: 311 - 323

October 19
Anti Form
Worksheet #8

Spatial Overtures
Arnason: pages 547 - 556 & context page 593
Fineberg: pages 304 - 310 & 356 - 365

Ocotber 21
Earth & Ideas
Community #3 - Scavenger Hunt

Arnason: pages 587 - 593 & 615 - 626
Fineberg: 323 - 345

October 26

Art in Flux
Arnason: pages 593 - 597
Fineberg: 231 - 236 & 354 - 356

Source Report
October 28
Exam #2
November 2
The Artist's Body
Worksheet #9

Marina Abramovic & Vito Acconci
Arnason: pages 597 - 602
Fineberg: pages 346 - 353

November 4
Gender Politics
Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?
Arnason: pages 603 - 614 & 646 - 657
Fineberg: pages 376 - 383
November 9
80s Art Boom
Community #4 - Exhibition Review
Exchange Rough Draft with Peer
Arnason: 696 - 723
Fineberg: Chapter 13 & pages 376 - 383 & 444 - 453
November 11
The Return of Painting
Arnason: pages 637 - 646 & 695 - 717
Fineberg: pages 371 - 375 & 384 - 387
November 16
The Graffiti Show
Community #5 - Peer Editing
Arnason: pages 718 - 723
Fineberg: pages 454 - 463
November 18
Worksheet #10
The Polemics of Play
Arnason: pages 658 - 686
Fineberg: pages 365 - 371 & 387 - 443
November 23
Worksheet #11

The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
Arnason: pages 686 - 694
Fineberg: pages 466 - 477

November 25
November 30
Culture Wars
Worksheet #12
Arnason: Chapter 26
Fineberg: pages 478 - 483
December 2
Research Paper
Arnason: pages 744 - 768
Fineberg: pages 463 - 465 & 484 - 503
December 7
December 9
Art in the Global 21st Century
Worksheet #13
Arnason: pages 769 - 773
Fineberg: Chapter 16
December 14
Final Exam 2:15 - 4:45 pm









Recommended Periodicals with a focus on Modern & Contemporary Art
Art Issues
Art in America
Modern Painters
Woman's Art Journal



art 6
lecture presentations
study guides
primary sources
additional course material
email instructor