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Understanding Contemporary Art: From Pop to Pluralism

All-Day Program

Saturday, October 24, 2015 - 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.
Code: 1M2804

Avant-garde American art of the 1960s was dominated by two contradictory impulses. On one side, a group of young artists returned to representational art, but with a cool and decidedly modern twist known as pop. At the same time, the so-called minimalists created a new kind of abstraction, paring down their works to just a few perfect colors and forms.

Then, beginning in the 1970s, artists explored a new variety of materials, techniques, and styles. That experimentation gave rise to the term pluralism that encompassed forms from conceptual art to environmental and performance art, which still resonate today.

In this richly illustrated seminar, art historian Nancy G. Heller looks at the roots and later influences of radical American art from the last five decades.

9:30 to 10:45 a.m.  Soup Cans and Comic Strips: The Revolution of Pop Art

The paintings and sculptures of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, and Marisol.

11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.  Minimalism: Why a 5-Year-Old Couldn’t Do

Subtleties inherent in the paintings of Ellsworth Kelly and the sculpture of Richard Serra. 

12:15 to 1:30 p.m.  Lunch (participants provide their own)

1:30 to 2:45 p.m.  Pluralism: The Extremes

Photo-realist paintings by Chuck Close and Audrey Flack and several approaches to conceptual art.

3 to 4:15 p.m. Taking Art Out of the Gallery

Christo’s environmental projects, Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party, and the beaded installations of Liza Lou.

Heller is a professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1 credit

Smithsonian Connections

View the online version of the American Art Museum’s exhibition Multiplicity, which features 83 works from the museum’s permanent collection by contemporary artists including John Baldessari, John Cage, Vija Celmins, Chuck Close, R. Luke DuBois, Sol LeWitt, Brice Marden, Julie Mehretu, Martin Puryear, Susan Rothenberg, Kiki Smith, and Kara Walker.


S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)