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Art Now

ARTH 294.401
MW 10:00 am

Unlike Impressionism, Cubism and Minimalism, Contemporary Art refers neither to a specific historical period, nor a recognizable aesthetic. We cannot say with any certainty when it began or whether it will ever end, because it is tied to the most unstable of temporal categories: the "now." Contemporary Art is also culturally and geographically heterogeneous, and it encompasses every kind of aesthetic activity, provided it can be linked to the present or the recent past. Its histories are consequently both multiple, and highly unstable, and it is only from the perspective of a particular "here" and "now" that we can recount any of them. One of the most striking features of today's art world is the conspicuous place occupied in it by the photographic image. Large-scale color photographs and time-based installations and projections are everywhere. Looking back, we can see that much of the art making of the past 60 years has also been defined by this medium, regardless of the form it takes.  Photographic images have inspired countless paintings, appeared in combines and installations, morphed into sculptures, drawings and performances, and served both as the object and the vehicle of institutional critique. They are also an increasingly important exhibition site: where most of us go to see earthworks, happenings and body-art.This course will be a three-part exploration of our photographic present. In the first part, we will look at the role played by the photographic image in the post-World War II “return to the world.” In the second part, we will examine the suspicion under which this image falls in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and the derealization to which it is subjected. In the third part, we will focus on artists who adopt a very different relationship to photography: who see it as a “trace,” instead of a representation, and use it to mourn what is gone, remember what has been forgotten or repressed, and reorient themselves to others and the world.

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