Course proposal…?

September 29, 2007 at 11:07 am (art, culture, drawing, painting, teaching, Uncategorized)

I’ve been thinking for some time of proposing a new art history course to Tom, and I woke up this morning all ready to go and write it up. And then I hit a wall. If you have thoughts or suggestions, please let me know.

My thought was to do a class that is basically “15 Weeks/15 Artists,” where we’d be spending a full class period (three hours) discussing one particular artist, their influence, where the work came from, etc. The idea would be to basically say, “Don’t leave art school without knowing about these people!” and give students a pretty serious introduction into some of the most influential artists from recent history. The important words to focus on here are some of, as there is no way that such a class could ever make everyone happy, all the time.

I think – and I could be wrong here (this is one of the things that I could use your help on, SVA-ers) that the way that our school does art history classes, the survey classes stop after WWII. (Right? Or am I wrong?) Meaning that there is this huge need to talk about art post-war and then up until contemporary, but the assumption is that pre-WWII, we have our bases covered. (Ok, I mention all of this because it seems so horribly wrong to propose a course of the most influential 20th century artists and leave out Picasso, Duchamp, Kandinsky, Malevich, etc., but my assumption would be that they would have been covered somewhat in earlier classes that the students had already taken and the point of my course would be to cover stuff that’s going completely undiscussed elsewhere.)

The challenge in putting together this list is a lot more daunting than I originally thought. Basically, not only do these have to be incredibly influential artists that the students at SVA would connect with, but they have to have left behind enough of a legacy that I can talk about them for three hours. (The ghosts of Rudolf Schwartzkogler and Francesca Woodman obviously haunt the halls of SVA and it would be great to talk about them… but for three hours? I mean, it’s possible. Honestly, I could talk about what I ate for breakfast for three hours. But it might get a little thin. The ideal model here is someone like Smithson who left behind not only a fair amount of images I can put up and we can talk about, but also writings by the artist and about the artist – tons and tons and tons of them.)

The first six names were super-easy:
Andy Warhol
Jackson Pollock
Joseph Beuys
Robert Smithson
Donald Judd
Cindy Sherman

Ok, I don’t see how you do a class like this and not talk about those six people.

The next five names I came up with were a little… weirder:
George Maciunas
Mary Kelly
Richard Tuttle
Vito Acconci
Bernd and Hilla Becher

The Bechers seem pretty concretely like they would make the cut, no problem. The inclusion of Vito Acconci seems to knock off someone like Bruce Nauman from the list, which I’m not sure I’m ok with. I think Richard Tuttle is sort of the dark horse here; his work is not well-understood or even well-known among the young artists of SVA and yet it clearly pervades the work that they’re doing, so I think he has to be on the list. Mary Kelly and George Maciunas might keep me up at night. Actually, maybe just Mary Kelly. Does she somehow knock the inclusion of other feminist/conceptual artists off the list? I dunno.

Remember here that the criteria is:
1. Post-war
2. Influential on contemporary art
3. Not already talked to death about at SVA (so, for instance, no Matthew Barney since everyone seems to be pretty familar with him; Nauman may also be in this category)
4. Relevant to the students at SVA (meaning: that we can see the influence of the artist reflected in the work of our students even if they aren’t totally aware of it)
5. Not already represented on the list in some way.
6. I can talk about them for three hours without everyone going to sleep. (I think this, sadly, may knock Agnes Martin/Robert Ryman off the list. I’m just trying to be very honest about undergraduate attention span and thinking about how horribly their work looks in reproduction.)

Susan Rothenberg???
Philip Guston???
Joseph Kosuth???
Jeff Koons??????
Richard Serra???
Michelangelo Pistoletto???
David Wojnarowicz???? (I KNOW!!! Don’t give me shit for this one. One of the things I notice about the students at SVA is that they don’t get – in a deep and serious way – the affect of the AIDS epidemic on the art world, which makes sense given their age. So more and more, I think DW needs to be on the list to at least represent that.)

I’m hitting a brick wall. Ideas? And yes, I’ve noticed that the whole list is white and almost entirely male. I would like to change that. Suggestions? Anything?

I just realized I forgot Rauschenberg. Ok, he’s on the list. I think.

(Later in the day…)
Maya Deren?? (Sort of random, but nice to have a film person there?)
Ed and Nancy Kienholz ???(swap out Pistoletto and put in the Kienholzes? Maybe??)
Gerhard Richter???



  1. martin said,

    salvador dali – painting, film, video, installation, theatre, high/low, perfomance, celebrity… he did it all. warhol from dali, m. barney from dali, koons… so many.

    see him on “what’s my line” on youtube, his world’s fair funhous installation.

    eva hesse
    ray johnson

  2. Andrew Thornton said,

    One of the ones that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is Agnes Martin. She may not exactly be a direct influence on the work of current SVA students, but I think she would a be good influence.

    Lee Bontecou is another good influence and one not talked to death about. It’s funny how similar many student’s work looks like her’s, yet they know nothing about her. Also, she pretty much left the artworld on principle. Only returning on her own terms and backing the ideas in her art.

    Ross Bleckner is another good one. His work deals with the AIDS epidemic as well and is a commercial success and an abstract painter. A gay one at that for some diversity. Or if you want to go with gay and dealing with AIDS, Felix Gonzalez-Torres?

    How about Clemente? Again a BIG influence but not talked about as much.

    I personally think that I went during the age of Guston. Everyone wanted to do paintings like Guston.

    Elizabeth Murray would be another good one. As well as say, Lucas Samaras.

    You could even do Joseph Cornell. But it would be nice if people talked about other collage artists. I think they even had a show up in Chelsea where everyone did work inspired by him. What about Jess then? No one hardly knows about him, yet his work influenced many at the time within his circle.

    Oh, what about Anna Mendieta… she was doing Cindy Sherman stuff before Cindy Sherman. Mendieta’s work also is great because it taps into a lot of ancient work as well.

    Kiki Smith is hot business right now. Take a look on Etsy and find about 200 artists knocking off her drawings and etchings.

    What about Richard Pousette Dart?

  3. amywilson said,

    remember… postwar… which means most of their career has to be after the war… and then i heard from prof taube that actually the required survey class goes up to 1960, so that really knocks things around again. dali was on the original list, but then i think he’s covered in the survey. but point well taken.

    ok, adding:
    eva hesse
    clemente – good call, thank you.

    ray johnson… maybe. awesome idea. gotta think about this. i should really talk about him more in general. ok, he’s more of a yes than a no…
    agnes martin – love her, but i just think her work looks like shit when projected. so hmmmm.
    bontecou – point taken, not sure; will think about this… ditto RPD…
    cornell – point taken, but the the time period again, and plus i feel like most people know him (at least more than, say, maciunas or ray johnson)
    murray or samaras…. don’t know if i could do that for three hours and still love myself in the morning. maybe.
    i feel like kiki smith and ana medieta are already talked about in school a lot, but i could be wrong (and you would know better than i)

    oh, i’m subbing in the fourth year again today… yay! so i can test all these theories at least a bit.

    may move up johnson and bontecou to the “real” list later tonight… hmmmmmmm… actually, what about richard prince? (this list is going to torture me, i can tell.)

  4. Andrew Thornton said,

    Maybe Ellsworth Kelly?

    I think Eva Hesse is a good one. If not just because of the way she died and caused a panic amongst most schools as far as material safety is concerned. IT’s crazy what most people teach (or don’t teach) as far as safety in the classroom is concerned.

    I am surprised that SVA hasn’t spent the money on one room in the entire fine arts building that has a hood in it and fans and organic vapor masks. They won’t allow students to spray things outside the building or on the roof, so it basically means… if you want your drawing to last, take your drawing to the bathroom and spray the fixative there. They also don’t mention that if done properly, skim milk in a spritzer works just as well for charcoal drawings.

    Oh, yes… the survey class they’re talking about is Ideas in Art. It’s a junior level class and is supposed to focus on Post Modernism. I felt as though there were a lot of holes in it.

    Good luck! I think that what you’re doing is important. Another goodie might be Remedios Varo. She’s a little bit early, but never talked about. Takashi Murakami is another that would be a strong influence. What about John Baldessari. Or Hans Haacke?

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