ARHA 253              Contemporary Art: 1945 to the Present               Spring 2014

Liena Vayzman                                                                                                                                      Visiting Assistant Professor of Art History                                                                                   Wesleyan University

Course Description

This course explores the terms of debate, the key figures, and the primary sites for the production and reception of contemporary art on a global scale since 1945. Students will learn how today’s art has become more heterogeneous, contradictory, and dispersed than ever before; there is no cohesive international “art world.” At the same time, we will explore the ways in which cultures influence each other and enter into dialogue through the transnational work habits of many contemporary artists, curators, and critics. The course will be divided roughly into two halves: The first part will treat art produced primarily in the major cities of North America and Europe from 1945 through the 1980s; the second part will focus on the changes prompted by the political, social, and cultural realignments that occurred after 1989, as today’s globalizing art world began to take concrete form. In this class, you will be use a range of learning strategies — lecture, discussion, reading artists’ writings, writing art criticism, conducting original collections research, museum field trip, and collaborating on a digital publication on contemporary art.

Required Reading

Books at Broad Street Books and on 2-hour reserve at Wesleyan Art Library:

ART SINCE 1900: MODERNISM, ANTIMODERNISM, POSTMODERNISM. VOLUME 2: 1945 TO THE PRESENT. Hal Foster, Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois, Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, and David Joselit. Thames & Hudson, 2nd edition, 2011

THEORIES AND DOCUMENTS OF CONTEMPORARY ART: A SOURCEBOOK OF ARTISTS’ WRITINGS Edited by Krtistine Stiles and Peter Selz. University of California at Berkeley Press, SECOND EDITION, REVISED & EXPANDED, 2012

A COMPANION TO CONTEMPORARY ART SINCE 1945. Edited by Amelia Jones. Blackwell Publishers, 2006

Additional articles will be made available on e-reserve or Moodle.


Course Requirements and Grading

1. Description & Research Paper on work of art in Davison Art Center collection (4-6 pp. double spaced) [and 5 min. class presentation on paper*]. 20%

– Meet in small groups to read and provide feedback on each other’s drafts.

2. Exhibition review (500-750 words) peer-edited and posted online to class PopUp ArtZine blog, [and 5 minute presentation of review*] 20 %

*Students may choose between presenting to the class on their research paper or on their exhibition review. This 5-min illustrated presentation should be concise and clear, presenting the highlights of your paper or review.

3. Lead 20-30 minutes class discussion based on readings, in pairs or trios; post short blog post of key questions and insights  10 %

4. Attendance, participation demonstrating engagement with readings, & PopUp ArtZine writing, editorial & design 10%

5. Midterm Exam 20%

6. Final Exam 20%

PopUp ArtZine –  collaborate with classmates on publishing a collection of class essays to our class-created contemporary art digital journal.  Each student must upload: their exhibition review; an excerpt or summary (750 words) of their DAC research paper; plus at least one more post on an art news item at Wesleyan, locally, nationally, or internationally.

Field Trip to Yale University Art Gallery – date to be announced.                                                Round trip transportation provided; admission free.

Extra credit: short blog post with your critical take on any visual art event, news, or exhibition, publication to our class PopUp Art Zine blog  (earn 1 grade point per post).





Schedule of Lectures and Assignments

Be prepared to discuss readings on the day of class

Week 1

Thus. Jan. 23     Introduction to Course / Terms & Theories: Modernism, Avant-Garde, Postmodernism, Contemporary

Set up PopUp ArtZine  online publication. Sign up for weekly presentations of readings.

Week 2

Tues. Jan. 28  Post-WWII Europe and USA:  Art Brut, Legacies of Surrealism and Bauhaus, David Smith, Joseph Albers, Black Mountain College, COBRA, Arshile Gorky, Psychoanalysis, Cold War

1945, 1946, 1947a, 1949b (pp. 364-379 and 392-397) and  “Introduction 1: Psychoanalysis in modernism and as method” (pp.15 to 18 only) in Foster, Krauss,, eds.,  Art Since 1900: 1945 to the Present, vol. 2.

Joseph Albers, “The Origin of Art,” “On My Homage to a Square,” and “The Color in My Paintings”; Jean Dubuffet, “Anticultural Positions”; in Stiles, Theories & Documents of Contemporary Art

Thurs. Jan. 30  Abstract Expressionism & the Politics of Painting in Cold War US : David Smith, Jackson Pollock, Helen Frankenthaler, Willem de Kooning, Joan Mitchell, Romare Bearden, Mark Rothko, Ellsworth Kelly, Barnett Newman

1947b, 1949, 1960b  in Foster, Krauss,, eds.,  Art Since 1900: 1945 to the Present, vol. 2.

Jackson Pollock, “Guggenheim Application” & “Interview with William Wright”;  Mark Rothko, “I Paint Very Large Pictures,” Helen Frankenthaler, “Interview with Henry Geldzahler”;  Willem de Kooning, “Content is a Glimpes: interview with David Sylvester” in Stiles, Theories & Documents of Contemporary Art

Gavin Butt, “ ‘America’ and Its Discontents: Art and Politics, 1945-1960” in Amelia Jones, ed., A Companion to Contemporary Art 1945 to the Present, pp. 19-37.

Week 3

Tues. Feb. 4  Performance Art 1 – Performances, Assemblage & Movements                   Situationism in France,  John Cage & Yvonne Rainer in USA, Gutai in Japan, Lygia Clark in Brazil

1951, 1953, 1955a, 1957a, in Foster, Krauss,, eds.,  Art Since 1900: 1945 to the Present, v. 2

Jiro Yoshihara, “The Gutai Manifesto”; Situationist International, “Definitions”; Guy Debord “Report on the Construction of Situations…”; John Cage, “Composition as Process Part II: Indeterminacy”;  in Stiles, , Theories & Documents of Contemporary Art

Online documentation of Guggenheim Museum 2013 Gutai exhibition

Thurs. Feb. 6   Class meets at Davison Art Center (DAC)

Start RESEARCH PAPER based on object in the DAC

Week 4

Tues. Feb. 11 Performance Art 2 – Happenings & Fluxus, Experimental Video & Technology

Claes Oldenburg, George Macuinas, Alison Knowles, Joseph Beuys, Yoko Ono, Otto Muhl, Herman Nitsch, Valie Export, Ant Farm, Nam June Paik, Bruce Nauman,  Laurie Anderson

Allan Kaprow, “Untitled Guidelines for Happenings”; Nam June Paik “Afterlude to the Exposition of Experimental Television”, “Cybernated Art,” “Art and Satellite”;  Laurie Anderson “Interview with Charles Amirkhanian”, Yoko Ono, “To the Wesleyan People.”

1961, 1962a, 1962b, 1964a in Foster, Krauss,, eds., Art Since 1900: 1945 to the Present, v. 2

Anna Dezeuze, “The 1960s: A Decade Out of Bounds” in Jones, ed., A Companion to Contemporary Art 1945 to the Present, pp. 38-59

*Art Librarian presentation on research resources by Susanne Javorski, Art librarian (30 min) *

Thurs. Feb. 13  No Class. Independent and peer review work on research paper. Meet in small groups to provide peer feedback on drafts of research paper. Faculty at College Art Association Conference, Chicago. Follow the conference at


Week 5

Tues. Feb. 18  Pop Art & Material Culture in UK and USA / Robert Frank’s The Americans & Photography / Joseph Beuys in Germany: Warhol, Raushchenberg, Oldenburgs, Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, Joseph Beuys, Robert Frank, Richard Avedon, Lisette Model, Weegee

Claes Oldenburg, “I Am For An Art”; Roy Lichtenstein, “Interview with  GR Swenson”; Andy Warhol, “Warhol in His Own Words” in Stiles.

1960c, 1962d, 1964a, 1964b, 1959d

Thurs. Feb. 20  Class Meets at Davison Art Center


Week 6


Minimalism, Post-Minimalism & Conceptual Art and Photography:  Donald Judd, Ad Reinhardt, Agnes Martin, Frank Stella, Robert Ryman, Eva Hesse, Sol LeWitt, Dan Flavin, Carl Andre, Louise Bougeois, Yayoi Kusama, 1960s German Photography- Kosuth, Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, Bernd & Hilla Becher

Donald Judd, “Specific Objects”; Agnes Martin, “The Untroubled Mind”; Carl Andre, “Preface to Stripe Painting”; Dan Flavin, “Some Remarks…Excerpts from a Spleenish Journal”; Ad Reinhardt, “; Eva Hesse, “Letter to Ethelyn Honig” and “Untitled Statements”; Sol LeWitt, “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art” and “Sentences on Conceptual Art in Stiles, ed., Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art.

1962c, 1965, 1966b, 1968b 1969, 1972b

Thurs. Feb. 27 Land Art & Public Art: Installations and Process –  Robert Smithson, Nancy Holt, Richard Serra, Walter de Maria, Mierle Ukeles, Gordon Matta-Clark, Jeanne Claude & Christo, Oldenburg, Maya Lin

1967a, 1968a, 1970,

Nancy Holt, “Sun Tunnels”; Robert Smithson, “The Spiral Jetty,” Gordon Matta-Clark, “Remembrance by Susan Rothenberg”; Walter de Maria, “Meaningless Work,” “On the Importance of Natural Disasters,” and “Lightning Field,” Maya Lin, “Untitled Statements”; Mierle Laderman Ukeles “Maintenance Art Manifesto” and “Sanitation Manifesto!”; Richard Serra, “Rigging”;  in Stiles, Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art.

Week 7

Tues. Mar.  4 Performance Art 3 – Body Art   – Acconci, Stelar Adrian Piper, Marina Abramovicz & Ulay, Linda Montano & Hseih , Viennese Actionism,  Carolee Shneeman, Chris Burden, The Kitchen

Linda Montano and Teching Hseih: One Year Art/Life Performance: Interview with Alex and Allyson Grey”; Marina Abramovic and Ulay, “ Dialogue with Heidi Grundmann”;  Herman Nitsch, “The O.M. Theater” and “The Lamb Manifesto”; Adrian Piper, “Ideology, Confrontation, and Political Self Awareness”; in Stiles

1968a, 1968b,1973, 1974,  in Foster


Thurs. Mar. 6  MIDTERM EXAM

Midsemester Recess March 7-24

Week 8

Tues. Mar. 25  No class: rescheduled as field trip to New Haven on ____ (a Saturday TBD)

Thurs. Mar. 27  Politics of Gender / Art & Feminism – Martha Rosler, Guerrilla Girls, Carolee Schneeman, Dara Birnbaum, Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer

1975 in Foster

Laura Meyer, Chapter 16 “Power and Pleasure: Feminist Art Practice and Theory in the United States and Britain” in Amelia Jones, ed. A Companion to Contemporary Art Since 1945, pp. 317-342

Judy Chicago, “The Dinner Party: Symbol of our Heritage”; Barbara Kruger, “Pictures and Words: Interview with Jeanne Siegel,”; and others to be assigned  in Stiles, Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art

Week 9

Tues. Apr. 1  1980s Postmodernism, Simulation & Appropriation / Censorship & Culture Wars Pictures, Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, Jeff Koons, Mapplethorpe, Karen Finley, Andres Serrano

1980, 1984a, 1984b, 1986, 1988, Jesse Helmes “Senator Helms Objects to Taxpayers’ Funding for Sacrilegious Art” on e-reserve

Howard Singerman, “Pictures and Positions in the 1980s” in Amelia Jones, A Companion to Contemporary Art Since 1945 pp. 83-106

Jonathan D. Katz, “The Senators Were Revolted: Homophobia and the Culture Wars” in Amelia Jones, ed., A Companion to Contemporary Art Since 1945pp. 231-248

Karen Finley, “I Was Not Expected To Be Talented” and “Letter to the Washington Post”; Cindy Sherman, “Untitled Statement” in Stiles, Theories and Document of Contemporary Art


Thurs Apr 3  AIDS, Art & Activism – Gran Fury, AIDS Quilt, Keith Haring, ACTUP, Feliz Gonzalez-Torres, David Wojnarowicz,

1987 in Foster

Video: ACTUP documentary excerpts, location/link TBD

Jennifer Gonzalez and Adrienne Posner, “Facture for Change: US Activist Art Since 1950” in Amelia Jones, A Companion to Contemporary Art.

David Wojnarowicz, “Postcards from America: XRays from Hell” ; Keith Haring, “Untitled Statement” in Stiles, Theories and Document of Contemporary Art

Douglas Crimp, “AIDS: Cultural Analysis/ Cultural Activism,” October 43 (Winter 1987), 3-16 ereserve





Week 10

Tues Apr. 8 Ethnicity, Race, & Identity Politics in the US – Carrie Mae Weems, Glenn Ligon, Kara Walker, James Luna, Lorna Simpson, Rotim Fan Kayode, Yinka Shonibare, others TBD

“Implications of Blackness in Contemporary Art, in Amelia Jones, A Companion to Contemporary Art.

1989, 1993 in Foster

Video: Adrian Piper (in class or link TBD)

Thurs. April 10  Museums, Galleries & Institutional Critique – Art & Its Publics :  Fred Wilson, Kristof Wodiczko, Hans Haacke, Maya Lin Vietnam Memorial, Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc

Lisa G. Corrin. “Mining the Museum: Artists Look at Museums, Museums Look at Themselves”  in Mining the Museum: An Installation by Fred Wilson, ed. Lisa G. Corrin. Baltimore: The Contemporary & New York: The New Press, 1994: 1-22.

Leslie King-Hammond. “A Conversation with Fred Wilson” in Mining the Museum: An Installation by Fred Wilson, ed. Lisa G. Corrin. Baltimore: The Contemporary & New York: The New Press, 1994: 23-34.

Elizabeth Hess, “A Tale of Two Memorials,” Art in America 71 (April 1983), 121-128; Robert Storr, “‘Tilted Arc’: Enemy of the People?” Art in America 73 (September 1985), 90-97

Krystof Wodiczko, “Memorial Projection” and “The Homeless Projection: A Proposal for the City of New York” in Stiles

1971, 1992 in Foster, Krauss,

Fraser, Andrea. “From the Critique of Institutions to an Institution of Critique.” (PDF)Artforum 44, no. 1 (2005): 278–83.
Grant Kester: Crowds and Connoesiurs, Art and the Public Sphere in America” in Amelia Jones, ed. Companion to Contemporary Art

Week 11

Tues Apr 15  Post-colonialism, Post-communism & Globalization 

Steve Nelson, “Diaspora: Multiple Practices, Multiple Worldviews”in Amelia Jones, ed. Companion to Contemporary Art

Mark Crinson, “Postcolonial Theory and Contemporary Art” in Amelia Jones, ed. Companion to Contemporary Art

Browse Saloni Mathur, India by Design, 2007 on reserve at Art Library





Week 12

Tues. Apr. 22  Art & Technology: Video, Film, Media, Internet, Information Society:  Lynn Hershman Neeson, Critical Art Ensemble,Bill Viola, Laurie Anderson, others to be announced

Audio/Video: Laurie Anderson, “Oh Superman”; Matthew Barney, selections; other view works –  links/location TBD;’

1973, 1998 in Foster                                                                                                                             Henry Sayre, “1990-2005” chapter in Amelia Jones                                                                             Art + Science Now,  Stephen Wilson on reserve at Art Library                                                            Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media e-reserve

Thurs. Apr. 24  21st Century: Social Practice, Civic Engagement, Intervention

Rikrit Tiravanija, YesMen, Atlas Group, Michael Rakowitz, Fritz Haeg, Mel Chin, Hasan Elahi, Ai Weiwei

Thompson, Nato, and Gregory Sholette, eds. “Foreword to the Second Printing.” In The Interventionists: Users’ Manual for the Creative Disruption of Everyday Life. 2nd ed. MASS MoCA, and MIT Press, 2006. ISBN: 9780262201506.

Liena Vayzman, “Farm Fresh Art: Food, Art, Politics, and the Blossoming of Social Practice” in Art Practical e-reserve

Online: Hasan Elahi, The Orwell Project and other links to be provided
Week 12

Tues. Apr. 29  Global Contemporary Art: Africa & Asia

Odili Donald Odita, “Third Color – Third Space”

Additional readings to be announced.

Thurs. May 1  Biennials, the Global Art Industry, and Art in 2014

The Global Contemporary and the Rise of New Art Worlds on reserve at Art Library

Other Readings to be announced.


Week 13

Tues. May 6  (last day of class) STUDENT PRESENTATIONS


Final Exam:THURSDAY MAY 15 at 7:00PM time per Wesleyan official exam schedule