art 120: issues and influences                              winter 2012

syllabus     schedule+homework     preparation     vocabulary list
final assignment           readings           speakers           galleries



Timea Tihanyi
Office hours: M 1:30-2:30pm or email for appointment    ART 328J

Teaching Assistant:
Amanda B. Waterman
Office hours: W and F 1:30-2:30pm   ART 341


Lectures: Monday, Wednesday, Friday 12-1:20pm Smith Hall SMI 304

Need writing help? Writing Center information here

Course description

ART120 introduces you to the reoccurring themes and practices in the visual arts. Moving beyond medium-based categories, the course surveys a diverse range of issues that motivate artists and create content in contemporary art, visual art of the present. During lectures and discussion sessions we will examine the importance and implications of the visual arts in the larger context of visual culture. We will consider how cultural, social, economical and technological changes have impacted the field of contemporary arts and how artists have responded to these changes. The emphasis of the course is on providing you with tools to engage contemporary art on discursive, critical, and intellectual levels. Weekly thematic lectures provide an overview of significant art movements, ideas, and artists related to the selected topics within the theme. The lectures create a contextual framework for the information and assignments presented. In addition, guest artists and other art professionals are invited to speak about their own work and art making process.
Assigned readings, site visits, and other research projects provide an opportunity to engage with ideas in a more focused way, as well as to create a starting point for in-class discussions. Course website:

Students Responsibilities and Requirements

This is an intense course that requires you to engage in regular activities of research, reading, writing, and visiting selected exhibition venues on a weekly basis. The workload is intensive; you should expect to spend 2 hours out of class for every hour you spend in class. In fact, the more time and energy you put into the course, the more you will get out of it. You are responsible for your own progress; the instructor and the TA are there to guide and aid your progress along the way of exploring contemporary art. Keeping your eyes, ears, and mind open for the many forms of art, even if they appear contrary to your preferences or preconceived notions, is essential. You’ll find this process of discovery engaging and intellectually rewarding. You are encouraged to participate actively, develop innovative ideas and critical thinking, and test the boundaries of art and your own understanding of what art can be; a process that will result in an extremely valuable learning experience.


Homework assignments

This is a writing credit course (W-Course).
There is a homework assignment every week. Homework assignments should be completed in a timely manner and submitted through your DROPBOX in CATALYST WEB TOOLS by Sunday at 11pm.
Remember to bookmark the DROPBOX or simply follow the link from the course website's Schedule page to it. When you are in the DROPBOX, find the assignment posting of the current week and attach your assignment as an Adobe PDF .pdf file.
No other file formats will be accepted unless otherwise specified in the assignment description.
Please make sure that you are saving your document in the correct format. If you have Microsoft Word 2007 or newer, the default file format is docx. Take care to save your file as a PDF before you upload it to Catalyst.
The system will log your file with the time and day of submission. Please be aware that unless otherwise noted the DROPBOX will not accept late submissions. Even if you are a minute late, you no longer will be able to upload your assignment.
For computing help, please see the TA or contact CATALYST. Click here for more information on how to save your document.
Note: When you are using CATALYST WEB TOOLS, you'll have a chance to set up your user profile, notifications, as well as to try a variety of additional web tools. You may access CATALYST WEB TOOLS from anywhere, any time by going through the main CATALYST site and clicking on "Web tools LOGIN" at the top of the page. This will take you to a page that lists all the UW Web tools you are currently participating in. Alternatively, you can simply follow the link from the Schedule page or bookmark the URL.
The assignment will be described in detail during the Monday lecture and will also be available on the course website in advance. The assignment may include research, site visit, and will culminate in writing. If you are asked to submit images, please embed them in the pdf file.
The homework assignment is not optional; it is the most significant demonstration of your keeping pace with what’s being discussed in class.
Homework will be assessed regularly, with written feedback from the instructor, TA, and your peers.
Make sure to save the same file on your computer in folder dedicated to this class.
Print a hard copy of each writing assignment and bring it to lecture on Monday for peer-review.


Homework grading criteria

A successful homework assignment:


Reading assignments

Required textbook:
Jean Robertson and Craig McDaniel: THEMES OF CONTEMPORARY ART 2nd Edition
Oxford University Press 2009
Available at the UW Bookstore $39.95

Electronic Reserves:
In addition to the textbook there will be a number of short readings available on electronic reserve through the library.
To access them, go to UW Libraries online and find “Course Reserves” under “Using the Libraries” in the bottom left column. Access to electronic reserves is UW restricted; it will ask you to log in using your UW netID.
A weekly list of required readings is available in the Schedule and online so that you can do them in advance to the lectures. You will need to complete these readings in order to participate in class discussions and succeed in the homework assignments.

Supplemental readings are there to provide additional examples or original texts by artists, art critics, philosophers, and art historians.

Final Writing Assignment

The Final requires you to synthesize concepts from the various topics discussed throughout the quarter.
It will be introduced during the lecture and there will be plenty of opportunities for consultation on your plans and research during the last two weeks of the quarter.
Evaluation of the projects will be based on the strength of the concept, overall content, project development, and presentation.
For detailed information, see link to "Final Assignment" on top of the page.

Finals week: Presentation of selected blogs and books: Thursday, March 15, 2012 Classroom: SMI 304
This is our last class meeting. You'll be able to pick up your book project at this time.

Site visits

As assigned, you are responsible to visit a “site” such as a museum, gallery, public art, or other venues. Sites are selected in correspondence to the week’s topics, focusing on some form of visual art currently on view. It is most important to do the site visits in order to experience art in person (as it was intended to be experienced) and to explore the various local art venues. Site visits are an excellent resource and reference to be used in the homework assignments.


An essential part of this course is the peer-review of weekly writing assignments. For detailed information, see link to "Preparation" on top of the page.


There will be vocabulary quizzes occurring in class every week on the previous week's vocabulary terms. The current vocabulary list is available on the website and each term will be discussed during the lectures and/or in the readings in detail. However, there will be no one-sentence definitions given for memorization. This means that part of your research is to explain/define the term in a meaningful and concise way, in your own words. It is a good idea to write your definition on a flashcard, compare and practice regularly with your colleagues. If you are unsure of the meaning of certain terms, please seek help during office hours.



Homework assignments + Vocabulary quizzes:                         55%
Final Project:                                    25%
Participation:                                    20% All class activities during lectures, including Q cards, critiques, and discussions; maintaining an active engagement with all aspects of the class.

There is a total of 160 points possible to earn.

Homework assignments will be evaluated by the following point system:

9-10 = Excellent understanding of concepts, clear points, supported by research findings and examples in a well-rounded presentation. Critical thinking is creatively and effectively applied.
5-8   = Demonstrates some research and a good understanding of concepts. Ideas are supported by appropriate use of examples.
1-4   = Demonstrates a minimal understanding of basic concepts and vocabulary, with minimum research or effort needed for completion.

0      =Missing /late assignment or NO demonstration of an understanding of the basic concepts.


Expectations and Policies

download syllabus (pdf)

download School of Art student information packet (pdf)