Spring 2015 Courses

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ARTH 1300. Introduction to the Arts of Ancient Mexico and Peru.
A chronological survey of the arts created by major cultures of ancient Mexico and Peru. Mesoamerican cultures studied include the Olmec, Teotihuacan, the Maya, and the Aztec up through the arrival of the Europeans. South American cultures such as Chavin, Naca, and Inca are examined. Painting, sculpture, and architecture are considered in the context of religion and society. Readings in translation include Mayan myth and chronicles of the conquest.
ARTH 2210. From Mao to Now: Contemporary Chinese Art.
Examines the history of contemporary Chinese art and cultural production from Mao’s Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) until today. Traces experiments in oil, ink, performance, installation, video, and photography and considers these media and formats as artistic responses to globalization, capitalist reform, urbanization, and commercialization. Tracks themes such as art and consumerism, national identity, global hierarchies, and political critique. Readings include primary sources such as artist’s statements, manifestoes, art criticism, and curatorial essays. Not open to students who have credit for Art History 320 or Asian Studies 311.
ARTH 2220. Art of the Italian Renaissance.
A survey of the painting, sculpture, and architecture of Italy in the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries, with emphasis on major masters: Giotto, Masaccio, Donatello, Brunelleschi, Alberti, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, and Michaelangelo.
ARTH 2410. Sugar, Tobacco, Rice, and Rum: Art and Identity in Atlantic World, 1620-1812.
Intercontinental trade, the exchange of ideas and technology, and the mass emigration of peoples reshaped life, art, and culture in the Americas, Europe and Africa in the long-eighteenth century. This course uses the production of commodities - sugar, tobacco, rice and rum - to trace the circulation of art and artifacts in the Atlantic World. It situates art and other forms of cultural production alongside the larger exchange of people and ideas, and focuses on the fluctuating nature of national, racial and sexual identities in the circum-Atlantic world. Explores how British, French and Spanish citizens in the colonies and Caribbean attempted, and often failed, to sustain national identity in the face of separation, revolution, or insurrection. Of special interest are people, such as pirates and activists, art, like paintings and prints, and artifacts, such ceramics and silver, which moved seamlessly across the Atlantic divide. Examines the cultural impact, adaptations and changes in Native, African and European cultures resulting from this interaction. Includes intensive hands on object study at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art.
ARTH 2440. Shoot, Snap, Instagram: A History of Photography in America.
A survey of photography made and experienced in the United States from the age of daguerreotypes until the era of digital image processing. Addresses the key photographic movements, works, practitioners, and technological and aesthetic developments while also considering the social, political, cultural, and economic contexts for individual photographs. Photographers studied include Watkins, Bourke-White, Weegee, and Weems. Readings of primary sources by photographers and critics such as Stieglitz, Sontag, Abbott, and Benjamin bolster close readings of photographs. Builds skills of discussing, writing, and seeing American photography. Incorporates study of photography collections across the Bowdoin College campus.
ARTH 2520. Modern Art.
A study of the modernist movement in visual art in Europe and the Americas, beginning with post-impressionism and examining, in succession: expressionism fauvis, cubism, futurism, constructivism, Dada, surrealism, the American affinities of these movements, and the Mexican muralists. Modernism is analyzed in terms of the problems presented by its social situation; its relation to other elements of culture; its place in the historical tradition of Western art; and its invocation of archaic, primitive, and Asian cultures.
ARTH 3160. Memory, Mourning, and the Macabre: Visualizing Death in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe.
In pre-modern Europe, people lived in the shadow of death. This was true in literal terms—mortality rates were high—but also in terms of art: the imagery of the period was saturated with images of death, dying, and the afterlife. Examines how images helped people confront profound questions about death: What happens to the “self” at death? What is the relationship between the body and the soul? What responsibilities do the living have to the dead? Addresses these issues through study of tomb sculptures, monumental paintings of the Last Judgment, manuscripts containing accounts of journeys to the afterlife, prayer beads featuring macabre imagery, and other related items.
ARTH 3190. How to Imagine East Asian Modernisms.
From China’s defeat in the Opium Wars to the opening up of Japan in 1868, the nineteenth century launched critical debates in East Asia over how to become modern. Rising up against dominant Western powers, some proposed a pan-Asian entity under the slogan “Asia is One.” Within a few decades, however, this devolved into disparate political realities for colonizers (Japan), the colonized (Korea and Taiwan), and the semi-colonized (China). This course analyzes how art was mobilized during this chaotic 150-year period to assert radically different political agendas. Questions include: why did abstraction spread across East Asia? How did artists use canvases, bodies, and photographs to register the trauma of war and the promises of utopia? Movements and styles such as the Japanese Gutai Group and Superflat will be studied.
ARTH 3840. Bad Art: An Alternative History of Modern Art.
What is the difference between good art and bad? Why do categories of value change over time? Since the last decades of the nineteenth century, a modernist aesthetic valuing formal innovation and absorptive autonomy has been a powerful force in making these distinctions. This class examines the modernist evaluation of “good” art by attending to its opposite: those visual qualities, forms, and media that modernist criticism labeled “bad art” and cast out of the canon. Topics covered may include narrative and sentimental art; early popular cinema; comic strips and graphic novels; “outsider” art; regional art; relational aesthetics; and the self-conscious creation of “bad art.”