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ART H 309 A: Topics in Art History

20th Century American Art and Criticism

Meeting Time: 
MWF 10:00am - 11:20am
ART 317
Kolya Rice
Kolya Rice

Syllabus Description:

AH 309C: 20th Century American Art and Criticism

AH 309C 20th C American Art and Criticism F 19.docx

ArtH 309 Grading Scale.pdf

Instructor: Kolya Rice

Art Bldg 302

Office hours: M/W 9-10 and by appointment

Life Magazine article on Jackson Pollock (1949)

This course is designed to introduce participants to key movements, themes and strategies utilized by western Modern artists from around 1900 to 1990. Unlike traditional surveys, the course will focus on the ways these artistic practices have been framed by art writing, both in terms of criticism as well as artists' own writings. Although the course offers an overview of the period covered, unlike traditional survey classes, at points this class will be more narrowly focused through topical investigations of specific artists or themes. While image-based lectures anchor the course, discussion is integral to the success of the course.



  1. TEXT: H.H. Arnason and Marla F. Prather, History of Modern Art: Painting,

Sculpture, Architecture, Photography, 7th ed. (New Jersey: Prentice Hall: 2013).

  1. Reading Packet (Purchase at RAM Copy Center, 4144 University Ave)

Course Requirements:
1. Active participation in all meetings. Please note, active participation assumes that you thoroughly read and think about course materials in advance of class meetings, that you meaningfully contribute to discussions, and that you complete any informal exercises assigned.
2. Midterm Exam
3. 2 Art Review Essays
4. Final Exam
Note: make-up exams will not be given without legitimate documentation of severe illness, family emergencies, etc. Extensions for written work will be granted only under similar conditions. Late papers will not be accepted. All course requirements must be completed for credit to be awarded.

Midterm Exam (35%)
Final Exam (35%)
2 Art Review Essays (20%)
Participation (10%)

Key dates to remember:

10/21          Review #1 due in class

10/25          Midterm take-home component handed out

10/28          Midterm Exam in class component

11/8             Midterm take-home due in class

12/6             Review #2 due in class

12/9            Final Exam 8:30-10:20



 VeriCite anti-plagairism software:

NoticeThe University has a license agreement with VeriCite, an educational tool that helps prevent or identify plagiarism from Internet resources and work submitted by previous students of this course. I will use the service in this class; all assignments and quizzes you submit will be checked by VeriCite. The VeriCite Report will indicate the amount of original text in your work and whether all material that you quoted, paraphrased, summarized, or used from another source is appropriately referenced. All instances of intentional plagiarism will result in zero credit on the assignment, and a report of indicating academic dishonesty to the School of Art and the University of Washington. For further information, visit:


Projected Course Outline and Reading Assignments

(Please have these assignments read by the date listed below.)


 W 9/25 Introduction to the Course


F 9/27 Cultural Backdrop: The Rise of Abstraction in Europe

Text: Chapters 5-6


  • Kerr Houston, “Introduction” An Introduction to Art Criticism (NY: Pearson), 2013, pp. 1-22.
  • Kandinsky, “The Effect of Color,” from Theories of Modern Art (1968): 152-55.

           Optional: Kandinsky, “The Problem of Form,” from Theories of Modern Art                           (1968): 155-70.


M 9/30 The Rise of Abstraction in Europe and Formalist Art Criticism

Text: Chapter 7 & 11 and pp. 257-58 (focus on Picasso, Braque and later Matisse).


  • Picasso, “Picasso Speaks” (1923) in Art in Theory 1900-2000 (2003): 215-217.
  • Bell, “The Aesthetic Hypothesis,” from Modern Art and Modernism: A Critical Anthology (1982): 67-74.


W 10/2 Formalist Art Criticism

  • Kerr Houston, “A History of Art Criticism,” excerpt from An Introduction to Art Criticism (NY: Pearson), 2013, pp. 39-55
  • Roger Fry, “The French Post-Impressionists,” from Modern Art and Modernism, Francis Frascina and Charles Harrison, eds (New York: Harper and Row), 1982, pp. 89-91 (Essay first published in 1912)
  • Clive Bell, "The Aesthetic Hypothesis," (1914) from Modern Art and Modernism, pp. 67-78
  • Clive Bell, “The Debt to Cezanne,” (1914) from Modern Art and Modernism, pp. 75-78


F 10/4- Early 20thC American painting

M 10/7 Text:   Chapter 15


  • Robert Henri, excerpt from The Art Spirit (Philadelphia and New York: J. B. Lippincott), 1960, pp. 116-17, 188-89
  • Kenyon Cox, Chapter one, Artist and Public (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd.), 1914, pp.1-43
  • Davis, “On Abstract Art,” from Abstract Painting in America (1935): 122-23.



W 10/9 Marxist Criticism: Meyer Schapiro


  • Meyer Schapiro, "The Social Bases of Art," (1935) from Matthew Baigell and Julia Williams, eds., Artists Against War and Fascism: Papers of the First American Artists Congress (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press), 1986, pp.103-113
  • Meyer Schapiro, “The Nature of Abstract Art,” originally published in Marxist Quarterly, 1937


F 10/11-          Regionalism, Social Realism and Populism/Nationalism as Critical Agendas

M 10/14          Text: Chapter 15


  • Thomas Craven, "Modernism," Men of Art (New York: Simon and Schuster), l933, pp. 491-513
  • Thomas Hart Benton, excerpt from An Artist in America (1951), pp. 314-319
  • OPTIONAL: Diego Rivera, "The Revolutionary Spirit in Modern Art," from David Shapiro, Social Realism: Art as Weapon (New York: Frederick Ungar), l973, pp. 54-75 (This essay originally appeared in Modern Quarterly, vol. 6, no. 3, Autumn l932)
  • OPTIONAL: Ben Shahn, “The Artist and the Politician” (1953) reprinted in Art in Theory 1900-2000 (2003): 674-677


W 10/16          Abstract Expressionism: Artists

                        Text:   Chapter 16                     

F 10/18            Abstract Expressionism: Critics: Harold Rosenberg and “Action Painting”

  • Kerr Houston, “A History of Art Criticism,” excerpt from An Introduction to Art Criticism (NY: Pearson), 2013, pp. 55-63
  • Harold Rosenberg, "The American Action Painters," Art News, Dec. l952, pp. 22-23, 48-50
  • Harold Rosenberg, "Action Painting: Crisis and Distortion," The Anxious Object (New York: Horizon Press), l964, pp. 39-47


M 10/21-         Clement Greenberg: The Apex of Formalist Criticism

W 10/23     Clement Greenberg, "How Art Writing Earns a Bad Name," Encounter (Dec., l962), pp. 67-71

  • Clement Greenberg, "Modernist Painting" from Gregory Battcock, ed., The New Art (New York, E.P. Dutton), l966, p.101-110
  • Clement Greenberg, "Post-Painterly Abstraction,” Art International, Summer, l964, pp. 63-64 (This magazine article reproduces Greenberg's catalogue essay for the "Post-Painterly Abstraction" exhibition mounted by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in l964)
  • Clement Greenberg, "Complaints of an Art Critic," Artforum, Oct., l972, pp. 38-39
  • Clement Greenberg, "The Necessity of Formalism," The Lugano Review, Oct., l972, pp. 105-106
  • OPTIONAL: Clement Greenberg, “Avant-Garde and Kitsch,” (1939) reprinted in Clement Greenberg: The Collected Essays, vol. I (1986): 5-22

**Art Review 1 Due on Canvas 10/21


F 10/25            Catch-up and review for Midterm Exam. Each student must bring 3 written questions to class. Midterm Take-Home Essay handed out in class.


M 10/28          Midterm Exam in class


W 10/30-         Reactions to Abstract Expressionism

F 11/1  Text: Chapters 19 (pp. 486-504) and 20 (focus on Post-Painterly Abstraction).


  • Kerr Houston, “A History of Art Criticism,” excerpt from An Introduction to Art Criticism (NY: Pearson), 2013, pp. 63-69.
  • Sandler, “The Duchamp-Cage Aesthetic,” The New York School (1978): 163-173.
  • Duchamp, “The Creative Act,” in Battcock ed., The New Art (1966): 23-26.
  • OPTIONAL: Michael Fried, “Art and Objecthood” (Artforum, June 1967):


M 11/4-           Early Performance Art

W 11/6 Text: Chapter 18 and 19


  • Barbara Haskell. “Happenings,” Blam! The Explosion of Pop, Minimalism and Performance 1958-64 (NY: The Whitney Museum 1984): 31-48.


F 11/8  Pop Art

                        Text: Chapter 19


  • Lawrence Alloway, “The Arts and the Mass Media,” (1958) from Art in Theory 1900-2000 (MA: Blackwell), 2003, pp. 715-717

**Midterm take-home due on Canvas


M 11/11          Veterans Day: No Class


W 11/13-         Feminist Art Practices in the United States part 1

F 11/15            Text: Skim chapter 22


  • Broude and Garrard, “Introduction: Feminist Art in the Twentieth Century,” The

 Power of Feminist Art (1994): 10-29.

  • Lucy Lippard, “Sexual Politics, Art Style,” (1971) from Artists, Critics, Context: Readings in and around American Art since 1945 (NJ: Prentice Hall), 2002, pp. 339-343
  • Lucy Lippard, “The Women Artists’ Movement—What Next?” (1975) reprinted in An Introduction to Art Criticism (2013): 290-292.


M 11/18          Feminist Art Practices in the United States part 2


  • Kate Linker, excerpts from Love for Sale (NY: Abrams 1990): 12-18, 27-31, 59-64.


W 11/20-         Sculpture in an Expanded Field: Light Art and Earthworks

F 11/22            Text: Chapter 23


Patricia Failing. “James Turrell’s New Light on the Universe, Art News (April 1985): 71-78.

 M 11/25          Guest Lecture: TBA  

W 11/27-         Extended Thanksgiving Break: No Class

F 11/29            

M 12/2-           Art and the Politics of Identity

W 12/4 Text: Chapters 26-27


  • Lisa Corrin, “Mining the Museum: Artists Look at Museums, Museums Look at Themselves, Mining the Museum (1994): 1-22.
  • Richard Shiff. “The Necessity of Jimmy Durham’s Jokes,” Art Journal (Fall 1992): 18-27.
  • James Luna. “I’ve Always Wanted To Be an American Indian,” Art Journal (Fall 1992): 44-50.


F 12/6         Catch-up and review for Final Exam. Each student must bring 3 written questions to class.


  • James Elkins, excerpt from What Happened to Art Criticism? (2003) excerpt reprinted in An Introduction to Art Criticism (2013): 302-309.

**Art Review 2 Due on Canvas


M 12/9 Final Exam in class 8:30-10:20

Catalog Description: 
Topics vary.
GE Requirements: 
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Last updated: 
August 2, 2019 - 9:20pm