Texas A&M University - Commerce


By exploring art from all over the world since the 1960s, this course examines the way that contemporary art reflects shifting political trends, the explosion of popular culture, the conflation of high art and kitsch, activist movements, and a total reimagining of the potential of art.  Not only will this course serve to introduce students to contemporary art and artists, but we will also explore curatorial and exhibition practices.   Students will complete a major research project for this course, developing their own thematic exhibition and writing the accompanying labels and brochures.  Additionally, students will have two exams that will require memorization and analytical discussion of artwork and artistic movements.



-       discuss and explain historically significant works of contemporary art

-       become acquainted with the characteristic features of the major styles and movements from 1960 to present

-       learn to analyze the relationships among content, context, and style

-       acquire a working knowledge of the specialized vocabulary used in art history

-       develop ability to analyze important documents, artist writings, and criticism

-       enhance visual literacy and critical thinking skills



Students’ ability to meet the course objectives and learning outcomes will be evaluated through written assignments, class participation, exams, and essay questions.



Kristine Stiles and Peter Selz, eds., Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art (September 2012) ISBN - 9780520257184


You are expected to bring the Stiles/Selz text to class everyday.



Jonathan Fineberg, Art Since 1940, 3rd Edition (July 2010) ISBN - 0131934791



Available on ecollege or will be handed out in class. You are expected to bring the assigned readings to class.


-       internet access

-       access to eCollege, course documents (including pdfs of the slides shown in class) will be uploaded here


Our campus is optimized to work in a Microsoft Windows environment. This means our courses work best if you use a Windows operating system (XP or newer) and a recent version of Microsoft Internet Explorer (8.0). Your courses also work with Macintosh OS X along with a recent version of Safari 2.0 or better. Along with Internet Explorer and Safari, eCollege also supports the Firefox browser (3.0) on both Windows and Mac operating system.



This is a web enhanced course through eCollege, the Learning Management System used by Texas A & M University-Commerce. To use the eCollege features associated with this course go to: http://www.tamuc.edu/myleo.aspx. You will need your CWID (Campus Wide I.D.) and password to log in to the course. If you do not know your CWID or have forgotten your password, contact technology services at 903-468- 6000 or helpdesk@tamuc.edu.


Technical Support: Texas A & M University-Commerce provides students technical support in the use of eCollege. The student help desk may be reached by the following means 24 hours a day, seven days a week:

 Chat support: Click on ‘Live support’ on the tool bar with the course to chat with an eCollege representative.

 Phone: 1-866-656-5511 (Toll free) to speak with eCollege technical support representative.

 E-mail: helpdesk@tamuc.com to initiate a support request with eCollege technical support representative.

 Help: Click on the ‘help’ button on the toolbar for information regarding working with eCollege.



Each assignment must be handed in on time at the beginning of class and will NOT be accepted via email.  For each class period late (and if not handed in at the start of class), the grade will be deducted one letter grade.  Assignments will NOT be accepted over ONE week late. 



All written assignments must be typed using the following guidelines: 12 pt. Times New Roman font, 1” margins, double-spaced, with page numbers. Failure to format properly will result in a lower grade.  Artwork titles MUST be italicized. Papers must be stapled.



Grade Breakdown:

15% Participation

15% Reading Responses                                    25% Exhibition Project

20% Exam #1                                               25% Exam #2


Participation: Each person is expected to come to class prepared, which means having completed the reading, brought appropriate textbook, paper, and writing utensils, and ready to engage in the class.  The class should not just be a lecture, rather, people are encouraged to speak up, contribute to the conversation and ask questions. A major part of the participation requirement is ATTENDANCE, which is mandatory.


Attendance: Each student in this course is allowed no more than three unexcused absences. Each absence after this results in the lowering of the grade by 1/3 of a letter grade. When a student accrues more than eight unexcused absences the instructor has the right to drop the student from the course or to give them a failing grade.


Unexcused absences require no explanation. For an absence to be considered excused, appropriate documentation must be presented. Excused absences are defined in The Student Guidebook and various university policies, but the policy employed in this class is confined to the following: (1) Participation in pre‐approved University activities such as athletic events, sponsored field trips, and travel for specific University‐related academic reasons; (2) Verifiable legal proceedings; (3) Documented cases of illness, injury, or emergencies. All such excuses must be shown to the instructor in original, written, documentary form within 7 days of the absence(s) together with a photocopy for the instructor’s records. (Please understand that this copy is a student’s only record of an absence.) In lieu of documentation, absences become unexcused and are counted as such.



Throughout the course, you will have two exams.  They will have the following components: slide identifications (where you must identify the artist/title/date/style of the photograph), short answer questions, compare/contrast problems, and essay questions. These exams will NOT be cumulative; they will only covering material immediately preceding the exam.


Exhibition Project:

A major part of this course is the research project where you will curate a thematic exhibition.  This is your chance to envision an ideal show – you can include paintings, sculpture, performance art pieces, video, installation art, etc.  This requires you think about how different works relate to one another, exhibition design, the research that is incorporated into creating exhibitions and the materials that the public can take with them after the show, such as brochures.  This project will also require significant research, as well as an annotated bibliography, artwork labels, and the production of a diorama.

Reading Response Papers:

Must complete short responses for four of the six articles listed below (everyone must write a response to Anna Chave’s “Minimalism and the Rhetoric of Power” AND the three articles on Basquiat on Oct 22. The other two articles are your choice). The response is due on the date the reading is to be completed.


Sept 8 - Chave, “Minimalism and the Rhetoric of Power”

Sept 17 - Krauss, “Sculpture in an Expanded Field”

Oct 6 – Piper, “The Triple Negation of Colored Women Artists”

Oct 20 - Hughes, “Jean-Michel Basquiat: Requiem for a Featherweight;” Gopnik, “Madison Avenue Primitive;” hooks, ““Altars of Sacrifice: Re-membering Basquiat”

Nov 3 - Fusco, “Passionate Irreverence: The Cultural Politics of Identity”

Nov 17 - Bishop, “Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics”

                                    *may do extra papers to replace earlier grades*


These responses are designed to show that you have a critical understanding of the reading.  They should be 2-4 pages, and composed of three parts.

1.     Make very clear the thesis and main argument of the article.

2.     Summarize the article in YOUR WORDS. Use quotes from the article only sparingly.  If you use quotes, you must make sure to put the page number from where the quote is taken. Artwork titles must be italicized.

3.     Address the author’s argument.  What were its strengths? What worked? At the same time, be critical and address the issues and the problems the article brings up.



All written assignments must be typed using the following guidelines: 12 pt. Times New Roman font, 1” margins, double-spaced, with page numbers. Artwork titles must be italicized. Failure to format properly will result in a lower grade.



I.               Introduction

a.     Identify the article being criticized

b.     Present thesis of the article discussed

c.     Preview your argument – what are the steps you will take to prove your argument (this could be something like- the author successfully supports her/his thesis with strong evidence or the author makes a good point, s/he fails to support it, etc.)

II.               Short summary of the article

a.     Does not need to be comprehensive

b.     Present only what the reader needs to know to understand your argument

III.              Your argument - likely will involve a number of sub-arguments –mini-theses you prove to prove your larger argument true. For example, if your thesis was that the author’s presumption is that photography is not art, you might prove this by:

                                               i.     Clarifying how the author is defining art

                                              ii.     Explaining how photography does not meet that definition

                                             iii.     Outlining the author’s discussion of how that affects the photography.

IV.           Conclusion

a.     Reflect on how you have proven your argument.

b.     Point out the importance of your argument.



Statement on Student Behavior:

            All students enrolled at the University shall follow the tenet of common decency and acceptable behavior conducive to a positive learning environment (See Student’s Guide Handbook, Policies and Procedures, Conduct).

            All students must show respect toward the instructor and the instructor’s syllabus, presentations, assignments, and point of view.  Students should respect each others’ differences.  If the instructor determines that a student is not being respectful towards other students or the instructor, it is the instructor’s prerogative to ask the student to leave, to refer the student to the department head, and to consider referring the student to the Dean of Students who may consider requiring the student to drop the course.  Please refer to pages 42 – 46 of the Texas A&M University-commerce Student guidebook’s Codes of Conduct for details.


Prohibited during class:

-       Cell Phones/Blackberries/MP3 Players:  Please keep these devices off while class is in session. It is disrespectful to your classmates.  No cell phones are allowed during exam sessions. If you need to check the time, consult the clock in the classroom.  Repeated use of these devices will result in being asked to leave.

-       Computers and tablets

-       Headphones of any kind

-       Sleeping

-       Sunglasses

-       Disruptive or distracting behavior: Texting, conversing with other students during class, loud eating, etc.

-       Repeated entering/exiting the classroom: Please be on time to class.  Not only is disruptive to the class environment, but you could miss important class announcements. This is a short class, so there should be no need to come in and out throughout the class period. Additionally, repeated tardiness will count with your absences, and could result in a lower grade.


Academic Dishonesty: There is no tolerance for any kind of academic dishonesty in this course. This includes, but is not limited to, plagiarism, cheating on exams, theft of instructional material or exams, representing the work of someone else as one’s own, and misrepresenting absences. Academic dishonesty is a severe transgression and may result in referral to the Dean of Students, expulsion from class and/or the University, and a failing grade.


Discussion: In this class, we will look at a wide array of artwork, some of which might include nudity, intense language, violence, etc. Each person will bring their own experiences to the art, and should feel comfortable expressing their opinions and vulnerabilities. The classroom is a safe environment, and each student should behave with integrity and treat their peers with respect.


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. If you have a disability requiring an accommodation, please contact:

Office of Student Disability Resources and Services, Texas A&M University-Commerce, Gee Library, Room 132
Phone (903) 886-5150 or (903) 886-5835, Fax (903) 468-8148


After contacting the Office of Student Disability Resources and Services, it is the student’s responsibility to notify the instructor of what accommodations are needed IN ADVANCE of when they are needed (for example, if testing accommodations are necessary, please inform the instructor with appropriate documentation at LEAST one week before the test date).



For all emails sent, please include full name, student ID, and the class that you are attending.  Do not send emails to myself and other professors at once, as each professor has different issues to address.  You are allotted three absences for this course; plan accordingly and there is no need to contact me about unexcused absences that are incorporated into this allowance.  For excused absences, you need to bring in a hard copy of appropriate documentation of your absence.



Make‐up exams will be administered only in instances of excused absences (and acceptable documentation) and may not be designed in the same format as the regularly‐scheduled exam. When an excused absence causes a student to miss an exam, it is the student’s responsibility to inform‐‐or to have someone else notify‐‐the instructor within 4 days of the exam. If permitted, these exams must be made up within two weeks of the scheduled date, at a time and place determined by the professor.


Assignments are due at the start of the class on the assigned date. Late work will only be accepted for one week after the due date, and the grade will be penalized. Concerning grade decisions, I will not discuss specific grades on ANY assignment or test the day it is returned.  If you have concerns regarding a grade, email me within one week of receiving the assignment back clearly explaining why you think the assignment was assessed incorrectly. Upon receipt of the email, we will set an appointment to address the concern. 



Contemporary Issues Schedule*

8/25 - 1950s

8/27 - Performance Beginnings

TDCA: Allan Kaprow, “Guidelines for Happenings,” 833-8; and Pierre Restany, “The Nouveaux Réalistes’ Declaration of Intention,” 352-3.


9/3 - Pop Art and 1960s Photography

TDCA: Richard Hamilton, “Popular Culture and Personal Responsibility,” 344-7 and “Propositions,” 347; Andy Warhol, “Warhol in His Own Statements,” 390-6; and James Rosenquist, “The F-111: An Interview with G.R. Swenson,” 396-8.

9/8 - Minimalism

Reading: Anna Chave, “Minimalism and the Rhetoric of Power,” Arts Magazine 64, no. 5 (January 1990): 44-63.

TDCA: Donald Judd, “Specific Objects,” 138-140.


9/10 - Sculpture Developments Beyond Minimalism

TDCA: Louise Nevelson, “Dawns and Dusks,” 603-5; Bruce Conner, “Interview with Mia Culpa,” 378-384; and Edward Kienholz, “The Beanery,” “The State Hospital,” and “The Portable War Memorial,” 609-611.

9/15 - Conceptual Art/Performance Developments

TDCA: Sol Lewitt, Paragraphs on Conceptual Art,” 987-991, and “Sentences on Conceptual Art,” 991-2; Vito Acconci, “Steps into Performance (And Out), 913-9 and “Biography of Work 1969-1981,” 919-921; Chris Burden, “Statements,” 899-903; VALIE EXPORT, “Women’s Art: A Manifesto,” 869-70; Ferreira Guillar et al., “Neo-Concrete Manifesto,” 98-100; Lygia Clark, “The Death of a Plane,” 100-101.

9/17 - The Environment of Art

Reading: Rosalind Krauss, “Sculpture in an Expanded Field” October 8 (Spring 1979): 30-44.

TDCA: Walter de Maria, “The Lightning Field: Some Facts, Notes, Data, Information, Statistics and Statements, 629-3; and Robert Smithson, “The Spiral Jetty,” 633-6; Robert Irwin, “Being and Circumstance: Notes toward a Conditional Art,” 647-8.

9/22 - Painting in the 1960s

TDCA: Ellsworth Kelly, “Notes of 1969,” 118-20; Kenneth Noland, “Color, Format, and Abstract Art: Interview by Diane Waldman,” 120-4; Bridget Riley, “Statement,” 136.

9/24 - NO CLASS

9/29 - Politically Charged Art and Architecture

TDCA: Romare Bearden, “Interview with Henri Grant,” 245-8; Nancy Spero, “Woman as Protagonist: Interview with Jeanne Siegel,” 269-72; Gordon Matta Clark, “Building Dissections: Interview with Donald Wall,” 655-658.

10/1 - Feminist Art

TDCA: Miriam Schapiro and Melissa Meyer, “Waste Not/Want Not: An Inquiry ino What Women Saved and Assembled - Femmage,” 173-6; Valerie Jaudon and Joyce Kozloff, “Art Hysterical Notions of Progress and Culture,” 176-186; and Judy Chicago, “The Dinner Party: A Symbol of Our Heritage,” 407-411.

10/6 - Activist Art

Reading: Adrian Piper, “The Triple Negation of Colored Women Artists” in Next Generation: Southern Black Aesthetic, ed. Devinis Szakacs and Vicki Kopf. Winston-Salem, NC: South-Eastern Center for Contemporary Art, 1990: 15-22.

TDCA: Faith Ringgold, “Interview with Eleanor Munro,” 411-14; and David Hammons, “Interview with Kellie Jones,” 417-19.

10/8 - Figurative Developments

TDCA: David Hockney and Larry Rivers, “Beautiful or Interesting,” 238-243; Philip Guston, “Philip Guston Talking,” 285-290; Eric Fischl, “I Don’t Think Expressionism is the Issue,” 290-1; Lucian Freud, “Some Thoughts on Painting,” 243-5; and Philip Pearlstein, “Figure Paintings Today Are Not Made in Heaven,” 250-3.

10/13- Test #1

10/15 - Pictures Generation

TDCA: Barbara Kruger, “Pictures and Words: Interview with Jeanne Siegel,” 435-7; and Sherrie Levine, “Five Comments,” 437-8.

10/20 - Late 70s and 80s NY

Readings: Robert Hughes, “Jean-Michel Basquiat: Requiem for a Featherweight,” reprinted in Nothing if Not Critical. New York: Penguin Books, 1992, 308-312; Adam Gopnik, “Madison Avenue Primitive,” New Yorker, November 9, 1992: 137-139; and bell hooks, “Altars of Sacrifice: Re-membering Basquiat,” Art in America 81, no. 6 (June 1993): 69+, bring TDCA to class

10/22 - Postmodern Art in Germany

TDCA: Joseph Beuys, “Appeal for an Alternative,” 746-754, Anselm Kiefer, “Structures are No Longer Valid,” 67-9, Gerhard Richter, “Interview with Rolf-Gunter Dienst” and Interview with Rolf Schön,” 359-363.

10/27 - 1980s and Painting

TDCA: Elizabeth Murray, “Statement,” 67; Susan Rothenberg, “When Asked If I’m an Expressionist,” 279-281; and Julian Schnabel, “Statements,” 281-283

10/29 - Questions of Class, Portraiture, and Space / PROJECT INTRO

TDCA: Wangechi Mutu, “Magnificent Monkey Ass Lies” and “My Darling Little Mother,” 320; and Andrea Zittel, “A-Z Management and Maintenance Unit,” 684.

11/3 - Identity in the 1990s and 2000s / PROJECT DISCUSSION & HANDOUT DUE

Reading: Coco Fusco, “Passionate Irreverence: The Cultural Politics of Identity” in 1993 Whitney Biennial Exhibition edited by Elisabeth Sussman et al. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1993, 74-85.

11/5 - Commercialism

TDCA: Jeff Koons, “From Full Fathom Five,” 438-442; Takashi Murakami, “The Super Flat Manifesto,” 323-4.

11/10 - Contemporary Chinese Art/ PROPOSAL DUE

TDCA: Cai Guo-Qiang, “Foolish Man and His Mountain,” 789-90; Xu Bing, “An Artist’s View,” 1048-1051; Zhang Huan, “Interview with Michele Robecchi,” 947-950; Ai Weiwei, “Making Choices,” 1069-70.

11/12 - YBAs

Reading: Steven C. Dubin, “When Elephants Fight: How Sensation Became Sensational” in Displays of Power. New York: NYU Press, 2001, 246-275.

TDCA: Damien Hirst, “On the Way to Work: Discussion w/Gordon Burn,” 447-50.

11/17 - Relational Aesthetics and Street Art

Reading: Claire Bishop, “Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics,” October 110 (Autumn 2004): 51-79.

TDCA: Rirkrit Tiravanija, “Interview with Mary Jane Jacob,” 795-797.


TDCA: William Kentridge, “Art in a State of Grace, Art in a State of Hope, Art in a State of Siege,” 311-314; Shirin Neshat, “Interview with Arthur C. Danto,” 547-50; Yinka Shonibare, “Interview with Anthony Downey,” 671-2; and Mona Hatoum, “Interview with John Tusa,” 674-8.

11/24 - Test #2


12/1 - Project Discussion, Peer Review

Reading: Ingrid Schaffner, “Wall Text,” in What Makes a Great Exhibition? edited by Paula Marincola. London: Reaktion Books, 2007.

12/3 - WORK DAY

12/10 - Project Presentation 1:15-3:15