art 260: issues and influences in contemporary art                              winter 2014

syllabus     schedule     assignments     final: artbook
vocabulary          texts           guests+events  



Timea Tihanyi
Office hours: M 11:00am to noon or email for appointment    ART 328J

Lectures: Monday, Wednesday and Fridays, 9:30-10:50am in Smith Hall SMI 211 (unless otherwise noted on schedule)

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Course description

ART260 introduces you to the reoccurring themes and practices in the visual arts. Moving beyond medium-based categories, the course is organized around key themes in contemporary art, the visual art of the present. It surveys a diverse range of issues that motivate artists and create content, keeping the focus on the creative practice of the artists and the process of the art world system.
During the quarter, in lectures, class discussions, and through a wide-range of making and writing assignments we will examine the importance and implications of the visual arts in the larger context of visual culture. Within each theme, we will look at various topics, concepts, artists and artwork examples and 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 the artist as a maker and a thinker, it is not and it does not meant to be an art history lesson. The goal is to provide you with insight into the creative practice and with tools to engage contemporary art (and visual culture) on discursive, critical, and intellectual levels.
The class is participatory in nature, your active engagement is encouraged. Participating in the lectures and discussions ensures that you will have in-depth understanding and a solid contextual framework for handling new concepts and assignments. In addition to the lectures and discussions, visiting guest artists will share their insight about the making process, and facilitate hands-on experimental collaborative projects.
Weekly assigned readings, site visits, writing assignments and making projects provide an opportunity to engage with the ideas and artists presented in class in a more focused way. The final ARTbook project is a compilation of all assignments from the quarter and as such it is a valuable record of your understanding of contemporary art.
You will always find up-to-date information about all aspects of the course here on the Course website:

Students Responsibilities and Requirements

This is an intense course that requires you to engage in regular activities of research, reading, writing, making and visiting selected exhibition venues on a weekly basis. You should budget time throughout the week towards this course. The workload is intensive but extremely rewarding; it is very close to what the daily practice of a professional artist would entail: The more time and effort you invest into researching artists and artworks, experimenting with new ways of working, and refining your writing skills about art the more you will get out of it in terms of enriching your own creative and professional practice. You are responsible for your own successful completion of the course; I'm here to guide and aid your progress along the way of exploring contemporary art. Your peers in class are also a tremendously helpful resource, as the best discoveries come from sharing experiences and vigorously discussing and debating ideas. 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

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, 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 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 a writing or making project.
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 me and/or your peers.
Make sure to save the same file on your computer in folder dedicated to this class as it will be used once again in the final ARTbook assignment.


Homework grading criteria

A successful homework assignment:


Reading assignments

Required textbook:
Jean Robertson and Craig McDaniel: THEMES OF CONTEMPORARY ART 3rd Edition
Oxford University Press 2012
Available at the UW Bookstore $42.95

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” in the main menu. 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 ARTbook Assignment

The Final requires you to synthesize concepts from the various topics discussed throughout the quarter.
Assignment 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: Artbook" on top of the page.

Finals week: Presentation of selected ARTbooks: Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 8:30-10:20am Classroom: SMI 211
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. There will be recommended artist lectures at the Henry Art Gallery a few times during the quarter. These will appear on the course schedule. Information from these lectures can be used in homework assignments and in the final ARTbook project.


Once or twice in the quarter, we may do a peer-review of an assignment or a vocabulary quiz. Feed-back from your peers is a helpful and essential part of the course and requires your serious commitment. In every case, you will be provided with precise guidelines for the review process.


There will be vocabulary quizzes occurring in class every week on the previous week's vocabulary terms. The current vocabulary list is always available on the website under "vocabulary." For detailed information on how to prepare for quizzes, see link to "Assignments" on top of the page.



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

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)