394.006

Special Topics
Abstraction

270 Tappan
Th 1:00 - 4:00pm
3 Credit Seminar

The course examines the emergence of abstraction as a central strategy in twentieth-century art. We will begin from core questions about how abstract art signifies; we will go on to establish that its meanings vary with and must be understood through its changing historical contexts. The course provides familiarity with a diverse set of artistic practices drawn from Europe and the Americas. Students will also develop the ability to draw fine distinctions between seemingly equivalent works: not simply to tell one black painting or grid from another (though this will indeed be an essential task), but to mobilize their sometimes narrow differences as points of entry into art-historical argument and into history. Our through-line will involve problems of authorship and invention, centered upon the key notion of non-composition. Along the way we will examine how abstraction functions across a range of media and consider its relations with decoration, bodily perception, and utopian and revolutionary politics. D. 4