Notions of blankness, the "endgame," and the "last picture" are often invoked in relation to the monochrome, a sine qua non of a particular approach to modern art. The monochrome's apparent blankness and emptiness excites an extreme scope of responses ranging from exultation to contempt, derision, and even outrage. Yet while some artists indeed believed the monochrome to be painting's putative end-point, others affirmed the monochrome as a rich source through which painting could be perpetually renewed. What was thus the "last" painting simply opened onto endless new beginnings according to artists as diverse as Yves Klein, Piero Manzoni, Robert Ryman, Park Seobo, Yayoi Kusama, and Sherrie Levine. Throughout the long 20th century, the challenge raised by the monochrome and its limit-conditions has catalyzed a myriad of responses that vividly invokes the productive recursivity that underpins what and how we understand modern and contemporary art. Although much commentary on the monochrome turns on its alleged endgame function, this course examines the monochrome from a variety angles and cultural contexts, including case studies from Europe, Latin America, and East Asia, especially during periods of intense political repression when the question of what a purportedly blank canvas had to say assumed new urgency. Open to qualified undergraduates and graduate students. Prior coursework in art history or studio art is recommended, although not strictly necessary. All readings are in English. There will be an optional fieldtrip to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis to see the Yves Klein retrospective. This will involve a student co-pay not reflected in the general cost of the course.
Estimated cost of materials: less than $50.