Critical Perspectives in Art

Instructor: Allison Moore

This graduate seminar is an introduction to methods of analysis of artworks and artists’ processes, with a focus on contemporary practice. Contemporary art is bound up with its discourses, perhaps now more than ever before, as art’s very definition is constantly under negotiation and artists rely on a complex network of writers, thinkers, curators and publicists to understand and explain their work. The discourses of contemporary art have been shaped over the past 50 years by feminism, Marxism, psychoanalysis, queer theory, postmodern theories, structuralism, poststructuralism, theories of race, postcolonial theories, and phenomenology. Despite the prevalence of theory, the artist’s biography and the cultural and social context of works also remain highly relevant methods of analysis, and indeed are found in art criticism in newspapers, in numerous art magazines, and on popular blogs. We will examine the history of the contemporary interest in theory as well as the writings of the critical theorists themselves, and see how theory has been applied to works of art. The student will gain knowledge of the different lenses through which an artwork or practice may be understood, and will understand the application of critical theories to art.