Winter Term 2017/18 (Lauren Kroiz)
Race and Representation in the United States since 1890 (BA)
This class focuses on theories and visualizations of race in the United States during the twentieth century. Class sessions will be organized around chronological case studies of diverse subjects made in varied media, including Thomas Dewing’s tonalist paintings, baby albums, the art of the Harlem Renaissance, photographs of WWII Japanese American internment, civil rights movement posters, and conceptual art by the collective ASCO. Drawing on critical theories of race and representation, in this course we will interrogate complex and sometimes vexing notions of race, ethnicity, visuality, visibility, authorship, identity and display in historical context.
U.S. Modernism and the Culture of Things (MA)
This seminar will introduce students to the burgeoning interdisciplinary field of “thing” theory to examine the relationships of objects, subjects and things. We will consider the materiality and agency of inanimate objects themselves, as well as the role of objects in establishing and mediating social relationships. In addition to our theoretical focus on things, we will also situate U.S. modernism historically as a phenomenon formulated within a culture of proliferating consumer goods. We will draw on methodologies from art history and material culture studies, as well as literature studies, anthropology, and political science. We will also examine primary source materials from the turn of the nineteenth to the twentieth century.
Summer Term 2017 (Allison Stagg)
Art in the Age of Hamilton (BA)
Following the success of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony award winning Broadway musical, Hamilton, there has been great enthusiasm and interest for the world of the Founding Fathers during the early Republic. To that end, this course will focus on the culture and art of Alexander Hamilton’s New York between the American Revolution up until the death of his wife, Eliza in the 1850s. Class meetings will consider how history has been remembered today in the musical and will explore the art of the period: the need for an artist market in early New York, the rise of portraiture, the emergence of museums and exhibitions, and the appeal for national monuments in the mid 19th century.
National Identity in American Art (MA)
The course will explore the various kinds of visual political propaganda made in America from the Revolution up until the early 20th century by focusing on representations of American power and identity as defined by both American and European artists. Several of the classes will meet at museums and study rooms in Berlin and will involve working directly with 18th, 19th, and early 20th century archival documents and art objects.This course is designed especially for students who seek in-depth knowledge of American Art and may even plan to write their thesis on the subject.
Winter Term 2016/17 (Allison Stagg)
American Art Between the Revolution and the Civil War (BA)
An introduction to art produced in America between the 1770s and the early 1860s. This class will focus thematically on the paintings, sculpture, and graphic art of the period. Several classes will meet at Berlin museums to view art objects made by both American and European artists.
"The Lovers of Fun may be gratified": Early American Caricature Prints and Visual Culture, 1789-1840 (MA)
George Washington at the guillotine, Thomas Jefferson pictured with his slave, and Andrew Jackson as King. This course will focus on the history of political caricature in Europe and its emergence in America at the beginning of Washington’s presidency as a popular medium of propaganda and attacks. There will be several class visits to the Deutsches Historisches Museum to view prints made after American artists such as Charles Willson Peale and Gilbert Stuart, and to the Kunstbibliothek to view political caricature prints.
Summer Term 2016 (Heather Diack)
The Challenge of Contemporary Art within American Culture (BA)
This course provides a critical survey of visual art practices from the 1950s to the present with the United States. By analyzing the multiple legacies of the early avant-garde and the development of the global art market, this course will consider the social, political, and philosophical questions raised by postmodernism and its formative influence on art after WWII. Movements to be covered include Conceptual art, Land art, Performance, installation, site-specificity, relational aesthetics, and other manifestations of the expanded field. Methodological approaches include deconstruction, as well as feminist and post-colonial critique. Students are encouraged to critically consider the changing status of social and cultural values in an image-saturated world alongside themes and concepts such as the everyday, the artificial, hyperreality, mass-reproduction, difference, appropriation, and affect
Theorizing American Photography (MA)
This seminar introduces students to critical methodologies for studying American photography, interrogates the historic and aesthetic boundaries between art and documentary in the American context, and examines how the photograph has been established as the central mode of self-representation in the United States for both individuals and the nation at large. Other topics under consideration include, how the American landscape has served particular intellectual constructions of ‘nature’ in the American tradition, the ways in which attitudes towards social change, along with the history of poverty, immigration, and urban development in the United States, have evolved within American documentary photography, and how the American obsession with advertising and the media shape the production of contemporary modes of image-making. Using foundational art historical texts about photography as well as recent American studies approaches to the analysis of visual culture, we will examine the cultural and political work that photographs perform at particular historical moments. We will explore the larger discourses they participate in, with a focus on the contingent roles of race, gender, class, nation, and citizenship.
Summer Term 2015 (Michele Bogart)
Arts for the Public, 1890-2010 (BA)
This course explores the history of efforts to develop forms of artistic work that engaged broad audiences of citizens and consumers. We will examine a range of enterprises, including monuments, murals, animated cartoons, propaganda, and the Web. Drawing on perspectives from art history, social history, and cultural studies, the course considers developments throughout the twentieth century in the United States such as urbanization, political and business expansion, class and racial conflict, war, and technological innovation in relation to art work.
From Public Sculpture to Public Art (MA)
This class will examine the history and significance of three-dimensional public art in the United States, with particular focus on patronage and process. We will start with public monuments of the turn of the twentieth century, and move on to investigate public art from the Depression on into the present. Our investigations will be divided (somewhat arbitrarily) between memorials and more deliberately self-expressive non-commemorative work. Readings and student-led class discussions will explore the shifting forms, sites, meanings of, and audiences for, public art, and the relationships among creativity, aesthetics, public policy, urban politics, and signification. Analysis and critique of specific works of art, as well as of the practical side of public art-making and conservation will also be a crucial objective, with inquiry guided by some of the following questions: How do we assess public art in the present day? Is it appropriate to use the same criteria as we use to evaluate art in the gallery? How do we protect the public interest but not mistreat artists? Does contemporary public art serve a real public purpose? Under what circumstances? How do concerns for excellence stack up against desires for community participation and affirmation? Should 21st-century public art be permanent? Students will do written work that either builds upon issues studied in class or proposes alternative points of view.
Winter Term 2014/15 (Michael Schreyach)
Art and Culture in the United States after 1945 (BA)
Abstract Expressionism and Formalist Criticism in Context, 1940-1967 (MA)
Summer Term 2014 (Kenneth Haltman)
History of American Art (BA)
A close consideration of representative works produced in the North American colonies, later the United States, between roughly 1750 and 1950, accompanied by an equally close scrutiny of relevant scholarly texts.
A graduate seminar involving consideration of visual analysis understood as offering a privileged avenue to historical interpretation, with close attention to relevant examples from recent scholarship in American art history.
Winter Term 2013/14 (Andrew Hemingway)
There is a scholarly consensus that the New Deal was a watershed in the history of the United States, both in terms of the emergence of a more powerful Presidency and of a more interventionist governmental role in the economy and social welfare provision. Its legacy is still a matter of contention. The policy of "bold, persistent experimentation" that Roosevelt promised in 1932 before he was even selected as the Democratic presidential candidate issued not only in such measures as the National Industrial Recovery and Agricultural Adjustment Acts, but also in the largest programs of direct state patronage of the arts in U.S. history. The most important of these initiatives were the projects for the visual arts, theater, writing, and music contained within the vast work relief program of the Works Progress Administration, 1935-43. These projects were highly controversial at the time in part because they became a focus for the cultural ambitions of the communist left and attracted the hostile scrutiny of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Another charge - that they functioned as a covert form of New Deal propaganda - has been echoed in some contemporary interpretations. The administration certainly used the media of photography and film on an unprecedented scale to publicize its policies, stimulating the development of the documentary genre in these and other fields. This course explores the tensions between the cultural programs' functions as short-term showcases of New Deal values and the more radical ambitions of the left to build a genuine cultural democracy by making state patronage a permanent feature of American cultural life and curbing the role of the market. It also considers the relation between state-sponsored culture and documentary record and the presentation of American society in the mass media. Preliminary Reading. Listening, and Viewing: Anthony P. Badger, The New Deal: 1933-40 The Depression Years (1989) Richard D. McKinzie, The New Deal for Artists (1975) Jane De Hart Matthews, The Federal Theatre, 1935-1939 (1967) Andrew Hemingway, Artists on the Left: American Artists and the Communist Movement, 1926-1956 (2002), Parts 1 and 2 James Guimond, American Photography and the American Dream (1991), chapter 4 Listen to: Marc Blitzstein, The Cradle Will Rock, Jay Productions, CDJAY2 1300 (1985 Recording + Introduction by John Houseman) Watch: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (dir. Frank Capra, 1939) The Grapes of Wrath (dir. John Ford, 1940)
Art and Radicalism in the United States, c. 1901-1929 (MA)
The starting point of this course is the year of the founding of the American Socialist Party (SP); its end point is marked by the Wall Street Crash and the onset of the Great Depression. The course also pivots around two other events, the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and US involvement in World War I from 1917-18. Although these episodes are not echoed directly in stylistic or iconographical shifts in the arts, their cultural impact was profound. The period prior to World War I witnessed the SP and the great Syndicalist union the International Workers' of the World (IWW) reach the height of their influence, as well as the rise of the New Woman and the founding of the first national civil rights movement. These developments provided the ideological framework for the radical subculture of New York City's Greenwich Village, which fostered revolutionary magazines such as The Masses and Mother Earth, and dissentient artistic groupings such as the Ashcan School and the Provincetown Players. At the same time, European modernist tendencies in the arts were increasingly taken up by American artists as a sign of their counter-cultural orientation. Over 1917-20, the war, the accompanying Red Scare, and the Palmer Raids broke up the radical culture of the pre-war period and contributed to the mood of disenchantment associated with the phrase "the Lost Generation," which has often been taken to define the culture of the 1920s. However, even with the political formations of the SP and IWW in long-term decline - and with a communist party that was small, beleaguered and fragmented - American modernist culture of the 1920s was distinctly anti-capitalist in tenor. This course tracks the culture of radical dissent across the little magazines, the modernist novel, experimental photography and film, Dada, the art of the "New Negro," and the post-Cubist painting of the decade. Preliminary Reading and Viewing: Alan Dawley, Struggles for Justice: Social Responsibility and the Liberal State (1991) Adele Heller & Lois Rudnick (ed.), 1915: The Cultural Moment (1991) Yale University Art Gallery Art for the Masses (1911-1917): A Radical Magazine and its Graphics (catalogue by Rebecca Zurier, 1985) Rebecca Zurrier et. al., Metropolitan Lives: The Ashcan School and their New York (National Museum of American Art, 1996) Andrew Hemingway The Mysticism of Money: Precisionist Painting and Machine Age America (2013) Novels: Sherwood Anderson and John H. Ferres, Winesburg, Ohio: Text and Criticism (1996) John Dos Passos, Manhattan Transfer (1925; Houghton Mifflin edition, 1991) Watch the movie: Reds (1981, directed by Warren Beatty)
Summer Term 2013 (Patricia Hills Summer)
Visual Culture of Slavery and the American Civil War, 1840-1870 (BA)
The seminar focuses on American visual culture of the Civil War era: Slavery, the Civil War, Emancipation, and early Reconstruction, including paintings, sculpture, book illustration, graphics in the illustrated weeklies, photography, exhibitions, and organized urban spectacles. Topics will include but not be limited to: slavery and the slave auction in sculpture and paintings; illustrations for such books as Uncle Tom's Cabin; the visual record of the Civil War in the illustrated press, such as Harper's Weekly; the carnage of battle in the photographs of Matthew Brady, Alexander Gardner, and Timothy O'Sullivan; picturing wartime activities of soldiers at the front and women on the home front; the "Emancipation Proclamation" in popular imagery; images of the death and mourning of President Lincoln; the radical John Brown in graphics and text; visual conceptions of the Freedmen's Bureau; and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in popular imagery.
African American Art from the Jazz Age to Hip Hop (MA)
The seminar surveys African American painting, sculpture, and photography from 1920 to 1990. Topics for discussion will include the visual arts produced during the Harlem Renaissance (1920s), the 1930s government projects, the Post-World War Two Civil Rights Era, the Black Arts Movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, and today. In these decades debates within the African American artistic communities generated lively exchanges about modernism, black nationalism, the social responsibility of art to "uplift the race," the relevance of the legacy of Africa, the persistence of Africanist traditions from slave culture, the critique of Euro-American representations of race, and issues of voice and identity.
Winter 2012/13 (Vivien Green Fryd)
American Art 1945-1970 (BA)
This course explores the theory and practice of mostly American art since 1945, focusing upon modernism and postmodernism. Beginning with the emergence of large-scale abstract painting in New York in the post-war years, we go on to explore challenges to 'formalist' conceptions of the picture and its priority on aesthetic quality as the guarantor of artistic value. We consider what was at stake in the redeployment of avant-garde artistic strategies in the 1950s, and the adoption of serial forms and mechanized production processes by Minimalist and Pop artists in the 1960s. We examine the so-called 'dematerialization' of the art object and the rise of Conceptual Art; the relationship between art, its institutions and politics; the emergence and impact of new media; and the rise of installation art as a dominant presentational form. We will also bring our concerns up to date by engaging with the work of selected contemporary artists. As well as examining a range of different art forms, we will also keep track of the critical debate that surrounded their emergence. Students will be given an initial introduction to key ideas drawn from formalist, Marxist, psychoanalytic, and postmodern theory with an emphasis upon gender, sexuality, race, and ethnicity. A priority is placed upon the visual analysis of specific art objects which we will view at the Neue National Gallery and the Hamburger Bahnhof and an attentive, critical engagement with key texts. The format will be a lecture class although class discussion is encouraged.
American Icons and Monuments (MA)
This course is designed to examine icons and monuments in American visual art and culture. Why are particular images and monuments renowned throughout the world? What do they say about national identity, historical memory, or political ideologies? How and why do different social groups contest certain monuments? How and why do certain images of people, historical events, and/or national symbols like the American flag become iconic?
Summer Term 2012 (Angela Miller)
Comparative Cold-War and Post-War Cultures (MA)
American Modernisms (MA)
Winter Term 2011/12 (Katherine Manthorne)
Global New York, 1915-1945 (BA)
This course explores New York City as a site of international artistic exchange, with artists from all over the world living, working, and training here. The phenomenon of European exiles in the interwar years is well known, as is the presence of the Mexican Muralists. We discover, however, that from the dawn of the 20th century New York was already a thriving art metropolis. We explore multiple facets of the city as sites of global dynamics: museums, commercial galleries, art publishing industry, state/government support for the arts, and art academies. The Art Students League alone drew contingencies from Europe, Asia, and across the Americas, as did the 1939 World’s Fair. As a contributor to the exhibition that reopened El Museo del Barrio in Fall 2009 – entitled New York Nexus – I put special attention on the presence of Latin American and Latino/a artists in my opening lectures. The presence of Asian pictorial artists is another understudied aspect of this phenomenon. Establishing these exchanges, we critique and in part re-write the prevailing construct that New York became a world art city after World War II.
'Sweet Fortunes': Sugar, Race, Art and Patronage in the Americas, 1750-1950 (MA)
Adopting a trans-American scope, this course interrogates the “global turn” in the field. Major artworks produced across the Americas, from J.S. Copley’s Watson and the Shark (1778), Winslow Homer’s Gulf Stream (1899), and Georgia O’Keeffe’s Pineapple Bud (1940) to Latin American artists Francisco Oller’s Hacienda Aurora (1899; Puerto Rico), Carlos Enrique’s Abduction of the Mulatas (1938; Cuba) and Wifredo Lam’s The Jungle (1943; Cuba) share a common root. They owe their subject and iconography to the trade between the US, Africa, and the Caribbean. Vessels left the United States carrying rum and other commodities to trade for African slaves, headed for the West Indies to exchange human cargo for sugar and molasses so necessary to the American economy. We therefore draw upon the visual imagery of race and slavery, but with the more specific lens of the Sugar Trade. By 1860 Brooklyn was the sugar refining capital of the world. With the Spanish American War (1898), New York City became the de-facto capital of the growing Caribbean Empire. Huge wealth derived from the sugar manufacture was used to acquire art by major patrons including the Havemeyers. We therefore also examine the legacy of these “sweet fortunes.” Lectures move chronologically from colonial through modern, analyzing visual culture – including fine and decorative arts and their patrons—intersecting with these hemispheric relations and global trade.
Summer Term 2011 (Jochen Wierich)
Picturing the Empire: Paintings and Photographs of the American West (BA)
Temporale Fotografie (BA)
In temporaler Hinsicht gelten Fotografien meist als immobile Standbilder, die sich durch die Abwesenheit von Zeit und Bewegung charakterisieren lassen. Anders als beim Film nämlich wird der einzelne Moment in der Fotografie dem Fluss der Zeit entnommen und gewissermaßen „eingefroren“. Der Blick in die Fotografiegeschichte verdeutlicht jedoch, dass das Verhältnis des fotografischen Bildes zu Zeit und Bewegung wesentlich komplexer ist und sich den historischen und technologischen Bedingungen entsprechend als äußerst wandlungsfähig darstellt. Unterschiedliche fotografische Praktiken korrespondieren in diesem Sinne auch mit unterschiedlichen „Temporalitäten“. Ziel dieses Seminars ist es, diese unterschiedlichen Temporalitäten in ihrem jeweiligen kulturellen Kontext zu erfassen und zur Diskussion zu stellen. Bezug genommen wird dabei – von der Portrait- und Momentfotografie des 19. Jahrhunderts bis zur „Street Photography“ und den „Rephotography“-Projekten im 20. Jahrhundert – auf Beispiele aus der amerikanischen Fotografiegeschichte. Zu den im Seminar behandelten Fotografen und Fotografinnen gehören u.a. Eadweard Muybridge, Etienne-Jules Marey, Berenice Abbott, Robert Frank, Jeff Wall, Sam Taylor-Wood, Mark Klett, Camilo José Vergara und Hiroshi Sugimoto.
Zwischen Demokratie und Sklaverei: Geschichtsbilder aus der Zeit des amerikanischen Bürgerkriegs (MA)
Winter Term 2010/11 (Alan Wallach)
Rethinking the Hudson River School (MA)
After a long series of blockbuster and quasi blockbuster exhibitions beginning with the Metropolitan Museum of Art's "American Paradise" (1987) and ending with the Brooklyn Museum's "Kindred Spirits: Asher B. Durand and the American Landscape" (2007), now is a perfect time to take a fresh look at the history of the Hudson River School and its offshoots. This course provides an opportunity to assess what has been learned over the past two decades and to explore further the influence of new social formations, new cultural practices, and new technologies of vision on American landscape representation in the period 1800-1875.
A Critical Historiography of the History of American Art (MA)
This course aims to develop a critical awareness of the history of writing about American art by focusing on a series of questions and conundrums: How have scholars and critics defined what is – and by implication what is not – American art? What accounts for or explains the ways in which they have written about its history? How have they dealt with the apparent historical split between a supposedly “provincial” pre-1945 American art and a “cosmopolitan” postwar American art? Finally, can the study of American art escape or evade art history’s Hegelian legacy? To help concretize our discussions, a part of the course will be devoted to sampling the voluminous scholarly literature devoted to Thomas Eakins’ best known painting, The Gross Clinic (1876).
Summer Term 2010 (David Lubin)
American Art to 1900 (BA)
Cultural Revolutions: American Romanticism from a Transnational Perspective (BA)
With its emergence in Britain and Germany in the 1790s, Romanticism fundamentally altered our thinking about questions of historical progress, religious truth, and the functions and capacities of the human imagination. Pairing both canonical and lesser known texts by writers of the American Renaissance and central works of German Romanticism, we will investigate the transformations and reconstructions which these three core concerns undergo on both sides of the Atlantic.
The body of literary writings in which America’s first major cultural movement invented itself was framed by impassioned battles over scriptural interpretations and discussions over idealist visions of the powers of the imagination. The intellectual historical cross-overs between these American debates and developments in the fields of philological, historical, and biblical research in Germany have only recently begun to take center stage in histories of Transcendentalism. We will explore this linkage in works by writers such as Emerson, the Schlegel brothers, Melville, Herder, George Ripley, James Marsh, Germaine de Staël and Margaret Fuller. In what ways does the growing popularity of historico-critical research inform their thinking about relations between ancient and modern literatures? How does the emergence of a historical consciousness alter ideas of creativity, or the role of the imagination in moments of aesthetic or religious experience? How do these writers negotiate questions of artistic truth and religious authority?
With its cross-cultural focus, this course will follow recent critical interests in exploring America’s cultural history as a transnational project. Moreover, we will also examine the functions of shared Romantic concepts and methodologies for the emergence of a specifically American culture of modernity. How can our transnational perspective contribute to illuminating the making of a uniquely American cultural tradition in the antebellum period?
Winter Term 2009/10 (Joshua Shannon)
American Photorealist Painting, 1970 (MA)
Over a forty-year career, the Canadian artist Jeff Wall has achieved extraordinary critical renown, especially for his large, back-lit photographic transparencies of contemporary interiors and suburban landscapes. But the interpretive response to Wall’s work has been widely varied, with some critics viewing it primarily as a reactionary effort to build a sumptuous naturalism after the traumas of modernism, and others arguing for its status as a uniquely revealing and critical representation of everyday life.
In this course, we will undertake an intensive and sympathetic examination of Wall’s work, looking closely and considering much of the related literature. As we go, we will address topics including landscape art, narrative representation, cinema, documentary, and the history and theory of photography since World War II. Especially important will be an investigation into whether some of these works—often appearing at once naturalistic and self-evidently staged—might indeed constitute a credible, postmodern realism, and if so, what the meanings of that strange realism might be.
Readings will include articles by Peter Bürger, Jean-Francois Chevrier, Thierry de Duve, Steve Edwards, Michael Fried, Peter Galassi, Hilde van Gelder, Rosalind Krauss, Stewart Martin, Laura Mulvey, Michael Newman, John Roberts and Gregor Stemmrich, as well as Wall’s own writings.