Department of Art & Art History

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Visual Arts Complex
Visual Arts Complex

Course Descriptions

Recent and Upcoming Special Topics Graduate Courses Offered

ARTH 6939  Conquest and Colonialism in Latin American Art
Fall 2017
Dr. James Córdova

The Spanish Conquest of the Americas popularly implies notions of an abrupt and violent end to native societies and cultural practices. However, military conquest affected a remarkably small percentage of Amerindians and had variable significance for different groups. Changes did take place over time due to disease and acts of cultural and economic exchange, negotiation, and conflict between Europeans, natives, and the various racially-mixed groups of Spanish America. Furthermore, the nature of colonialism impacted European and native graphic traditions and informed the development of new or altered visual traditions. This seminar focuses on how colonial visual culture was informed by, and participated in, the colonial experience in Spanish America. Throughout the course we will examine relevant issues including the nature of conquest, colonialism, hybridity, literacy, the book, pictorial systems, and the pre-Hispanic past. Our focus will be on Mexico and the Andes as these were the primary centers of long-term cultural contact and artistic production.


ARTH 6939  Artist’s Ways of Knowing
Spring 2016
Dr. Claire Farago

This seminar takes its cue from these ongoing attempts to forge a new materialism in order to ask how the knowledge that artists possess comes into play when they work with materials. Through critical reading of key texts by Deleuze, Pierre Bourdieu, Bruno Latour, Tim Ingold, Bennett, and others who write about the agency of materials and the nature of improvisation (“thinking on your feet”), the work of this seminar begins by questioning the separation conventionally upheld between theory and practice. At the intersection of thinking about art and the actual processes of making art is a considerable body of evidence. What can contemporary debates learn from the history of artistic practice? And why is this past important to know now? The unfolding of creativity in time is grounded in deeper historical processes, and the relationship between now and what is retrospectively constituted as history is not a given. Taking this critical approach to history as an open-ended creative process in itself, the second part of the semester focuses on the formative era for the emergence of modern ideas about art, c. 1400-1700, when the value of artisanal labor changed greatly and the categories distinguishing “theory” and “practice” were first employed.


ARTH 6939  Representation and Gender in the Americas
Spring 2016
Dr. James Córdova

This course delves into issues of gender and power in ancient and colonial Latin American visual and cultural production. Because our focus pertains to indigenous and colonial societies in Latin America, issues of race and class are integral to our understanding of representation and gender. Touching on the themes of divinity/goddess, model women, deviants, and violence (among other themes), we will especially focus on women’s social roles and the nature and function of their images in pre-Hispanic and colonial times. As well, we will consider how their images informed, and were informed by, Western and non-Western discourses and counter discourses of power and gender. Course readings and discussions will draw from a variety of art-historical, ethnohistorical, literary, and anthropological sources. This interdisciplinary range will challenge and encourage students to think outside a single disciplinary canon and situate their thinking within an intellectually diverse framework that takes into consideration their own assumptions and biases.   

ARTH 6939  Visual, Material, and Artistic Culture of the Plains and Plateau regions, 1800-1900
Spring 2016
Dr. Annette de Stetcher

With Chief Curator Nancy Blomberg, we will visit the Denver Art Museum’s collection storage area and each student will choose an artwork from the Plains and Plateau regions as a focus of research. We will explore the production and circulation of artworks by Native American nations of the Plains and Plateau, their important role in producing communities and their evaluation as art objects within Western systems of exchange. Students will: learn about collection handling and museum practices; carry out a close study of materials, techniques, and design; and work with primary sources and key texts. Guest speakers, contemporary Indigenous artists and story tellers, will enrich the course content. An online exhibition, co-curated by the students, offering experience in exhibition design and planning, will be the culmination of the semester’s work.


ARTH 6939  Cubism and Its Offshoots
Fall 2015
Dr. Albert Alhadeff

In 1989 curator of the Museum of Modern Art, William Rubin, organized a gathering of 27 scholars in conjunction with the historic exhibition “Picasso and Braque: Pioneering Cubism,” significant because many of the works exhibited were juxtaposed for the first time. While considering this unique view of the Picasso/Braque relationship and the evolution of Cubism, this class produced an attempt to analyze and closely read the art history/criticism underlying our understanding of the “collage” of professional/intellectual interplay that defined this period. Through reading of biographies of the artists involved, as well as papers presented at the conference and the accompanying published discussion that followed, this class afforded an immediacy of insight into theories and themes, concerns and conflicts of those present and this groundbreaking period in European Modernism.


ARTH 5949  Visiting Scholars: Art, Religions, Materialities
Spring 2014
Dr. Claire Farago

This year’s seminar offers a wide variety of cultural and cross-cultural perspectives on topics currently of great interest to art historians, anthropologists, historians, religious studies scholars, critical theorists, and many others. Through engagement with the scholars who come to CU to present their work in the seminar and give a paper about their current research, the seminar participants will explore ways that art and religion/cosmology intersect in the material realm in contemporary and historical fields of study. The subject is of current interest because it raises fundamental issues about the ways in which material objects and the practices involving them signify. Ultimately, meaning is always determined at the point of reception: in today’s world, the materiality of made artifacts, that is, “works of art” in the broadest sense, is often contested. In this context, this seminar will consider some of the most compelling writing and thinking produced by art historians, relevant in and beyond academia.

ARTH 6929  Theories for Art History
Fall 2014
Dr. James Córdova

We live in a visually driven world whose global trajectory emphasizes the roles of the image in visual communication between diverse groups of people. Because different cultures at different times have varied in their understanding and practice of visual communication and production, theories of the visual, and self and other are fundamental to our own understanding and increased participation in a global-oriented and visually-based world. In the Western canon, current understanding of these ideas span back centuries, in some cases, and provide a foundation for contemporary understanding and practices. This course will survey the theoretical landscape pertaining to notions and uses of the visual. It is specifically designed to equip students with a historiographical knowledge of the various ideas and practices that inform our own understandings of visual production and communication, as well as a basis to critique those understandings and expand on them.


ARTH 6939  The Monstrous and the Grotesque
Spring 2013
Dr. Kirk Ambrose

Through a series of readings and discussions, this seminar considers the monstrous and grotesque from a variety of perspectives, including anthropological, archeological, curatorial, (art) historical, literary, philosophical, and sociological. Although many of the readings stem from medieval studies—I am a medievalist after all—this course is conceived largely in thematic terms.  The aim is for each student to develop a nuanced, interdisciplinary perspective on the course subject matter through the course readings and through individual research projects.


ARTH 6939/COMPL 6040
Dr. Claire Farago

This seminar will consider how certain intersections of memory and place test theories of representation. Historically, questions about the artistic representation of God – can God be circumscribed in an image? – drove Judeo/Christian/Islamic theories of representation. In the twenty-first century, violent disagreements over religious theories of representation occasionally take center stage, but usually, cases of man’s inhumanity to man provide the most compelling tests of the adequacy of representation. Course readings will concentrate on concrete examples of projects that are designed to memorialize, redress, or otherwise acknowledge human injustice practiced on a colossal scale in a specific place because such cases raise fundamental questions about representation in general. They inevitably deal with the inadequacy of representation. In such situations, where representation necessarily fails or falls short, what claims to ‘truth’ can art make? This course also juxtaposes and interrogates disciplinary boundaries maintained within and beyond academia through the classification of art/artifacts. The divide between ‘making’ art and ‘looking at’ art is also a practice ultimately of European origin. By focusing on the ethics of intellectual work, students will develop individual research projects in keeping with broader course goals of defining post-disciplinary forms of professional practice that would be difficult (if not pointless) to categorize as either visual art or literary production because they are both


ARTH 5949  Visiting Scholars: Creative Intersections in Art, Science, and Technology
Fall 2009
Dr. Claire Farago

Each year Art History sponsors the Visiting Scholars Program, which brings distinguished historians of art and visual/material culture studies to the University of Colorado at Boulder. This year’s theme explores the ways in which art was understood in Early Modern Europe, specifically how artistic endeavours intersected with scientific pursuits and new technologies that earned painting and sculpture a designation among the “productive sciences,” heir to the medieval mechanical arts, at the same time that the status of these activities rose as theoretically grounded pursuits. Focusing on the research and insights of distinguished scholars who are currently reshaping the field and redefining its research agendas, this seminar explores ways in which knowledge was more holistically conceived before modern distinctions between art, science and religion emerged in 18th century Europe. 

ARTH 6939  Re-Imagining the “Renaissance” In-Between Worlds
Dr. Claire Farago

The Renaissance is generally described as a cultural movement beginning in the fourteenth century that profoundly changed intellectual life In Europe. In recent years new programs for the study of Renaissance visual culture have developed. This seminar will focus on research in new areas where questions of Modernity have once more become urgent and interesting considerations for the visual arts. Areas include: emerging global trading networks, print culture/visual media, interactions between science, art, and technology, art and the sacred, and the concept of the Renaissance itself.

ARTH 6939  The Artist as Intellectual: Leonardo da Vinci and the Treatise on Painting
Dr. Claire Farago

Where did the idea of the artists as writer originate and where did the modern idea of the artist as an intellectual come from? The work of this seminar will focus on the construction of modern identity by examining the historical idea of the artist as an intellectual and exemplary subject of the modern nation-state. This seminar will address contemporary iterations of this historical idea. It will juxtapose 20th century and contemporary writers such as Foucault, Derrida, de Beauvoir, Agamben, and others who write about the role of media and art in the construction of modern subject in society, with the longer history of the idea of the artists as a great thinker who leaves an intellectual legacy. The artist as intellectual is an idea that took shape during the early modern era in Europe. Leonardo da Vinci will provide a case study for investigating the historical idea of the artist as writer and art theorist.