Art of the "American Century" (1893-1968)
The 20th-century United States was the emblem of all things modern, but how would Americans make a modern art and design the future? This lecture/discussion class surveys art and the visual and material environment from the emergence of the United States as a world power in the 1890s to the questioning of the "American Way of Life" by Pop and activist artists during the era of the Civil Rights and Black Arts movements and the Vietnam War. Themes of art, resistance, and utopian vision thread through the course. In the classroom and through original hands-on-research, we will examine the work of such celebrated figures as Frank Lloyd Wright, Jacob Lawrence, Georgia O'Keeffe, Isamu Noguchi, Edward Hopper, Walker Evans, Andy Warhol, and Diego Rivera, but also the culture of consumerism and emergent racial and ethnic identities–in media from painting to furniture to photography to graphic design and propaganda posterss–in which they worked. This class includes work with original art in the University of Michigan Museum of Art and a free, mandatory field trip to the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Course requirements: Attendance and participation 15%, 6 or 7 short reading responses posted in an online forum 20%, visual analysis paper 15%, midterm quiz 15%, final exam 15%, online group research project that builds a website based on your research into a historical exhibition 20%.
Intended audience: undergraduates at any level seeking a general introduction to 20th century art and culture; students who have studied modern music, dance, architecture or history but would like to learn the American context. No prior background in art history or American studies required, though it is welcome.
Format: Lectures with some opportunity for questions and class discussion.
Textbooks: Patricia Hills, Modern Art in the U. S. A. (required) plus online readings and an additional textbook to be announced. Recommended for beginners who would like background reading: Paul Boyer, American History: A Very Short Introduction; Anne D'Alleva, Look! The Fundamentals of Art History (any edition). Copies of all of these books will be available on reserve in the Fine Arts Library.
Estimated cost of materials: $100 or more, but less than $150.
HISTART Concentration Distributions: Europe and the United States, Modern.
Key words: American art; art and politics; modern art; design history
This course meets the humanities requirement.