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Understanding Contemporary Art: From Pop to Pluralism

5 Session Afternoon Course

5 sessions from February 28 to March 28, 2023
Code: 1M2244
This online program is presented on Zoom.
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Materials for this program

Miss Lillian, 1977, by Andy Warhol (Smithsonian American Art Museum)

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 carefully considered colors and forms.

Then, beginning in the 1970s, artists explored an enormous range of new materials, techniques, and styles. That pluralistic experimentation encompassed forms from conceptual and super-realist art to environmental and performance art, all of which still resonate today.

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

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

February 28  Soup Cans and Comic Strips: The Revolutions of Pop Art and Minimalism

Topics include the paintings and sculptures of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, and Marisol; the eloquent subtleties inherent in the paintings of Ellsworth Kelly and Agnes Martin; and the sculpture of Richard Serra.

March 7  Introduction to Pluralism: The Extremes

Contrast the stunning photo-realist paintings by Chuck Close and Audrey Flack and parallel sculptures by Duane Hanson with the slyly challenging conceptual art of John Baldessari.

March 14  Taking Art Out of the Gallery and Museum

Heller examines the land (or Earth) art of Christo and Jeanne-Claude and traces how the graffiti paintings of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring evolved from works regarded as vandalism to art that set new auction records.

March 21  Feminist Art and the Influence of Identity Politics

Topics include Judy Chicago’s groundbreaking Dinner Party installation and art focusing on a variety of traditionally marginalized groups including Americans of African, Latinx, Asian, and Native descent, as well as LGBTQ individuals. Works by Kara Walker, Luis Jiménez, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, and Robert Mapplethorpe are discussed.

March 28  Erasing Boundaries: Redefining Art

Heller concludes the series with a survey of the extraordinary range of materials and innovative techniques myriad artists are exploring in imaginative, sometimes controversial, ways. She looks at the photography of Cindy Sherman; Jeff Koons’s contemporary approach to kitsch; performance art; artist’s books; Faith Ringgold’s painted story quilts; stained glass by Judith Schaechter; and Liza Lou’s astonishing sculptures made from colored glass beads.

5 sessions

World Art History Certificate core course: Earn 1 credit*

General Information

*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1 core course credit. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.