Texas A&M University - Commerce


Contemporary art is constantly evolving, but one thing remains consistent: exhibitions are pivotal in introducing new trends to the world. In this class we will explore exhibitions and the processes that have shaped the perception of contemporary art in a global world.  Additionally, we will examine thematic subjects, allowing for a more studied discussion of certain moments in art history. Seeking to be as broad as possible, this course will incorporate artists from all different parts of the word. We will discuss these artists thematically, as their work can correspond to different moments in contemporary art. Additionally, all types of medium will be discussed, such as sculpture, painting, photography, poetry, film, new media, etc. As a graduate level course, the structure of the class is dependent upon student preparation and participation.



The graduate student will be expected to respond to materials with more insight, sophistication, and breadth, demonstrating appropriate understanding for their level, on top of completing additional assignments. Students will be expected to show thorough research skills and critical thinking practices, beyond the undergraduate level. They should be leaders in the class, helping guide the discussions.



-       discuss and explain significant trends in contemporary art

-       ability to evaluate exhibitions based on design, plan, prepared text, included artwork, and thematic contributions

-       continue to learn to analyze the relationships among content, context, and style in Western and Nonwestern Art

-       develop the skills to determine what is appropriate for museum wall labels and exhibitions essays, while enhancing critical thinking skills and writing ability

-       practice research skills appropriate for a graduate level class

-       take advantage of opportunities to explore art in the metro area



Students’ ability to meet the course objectives and learning outcomes will be evaluated through written assignments, class participation and discussion, and research projects.



There is one required textbook, all other readings will be provided.

Jens Hoffman, ed., Show Time: The 50 Most Influential Exhibitions (ISBN: 1938922336)




Each person is expected to come to class prepared, which means having done the reading and ready to engage in the class.  The class is NOT a lecture, rather, students are required to lead and participate in the conversation and ask questions.  As this course is a graduate level course, you are expected to do the reading in advance, and come with questions and ideas about the articles that you have read for the class.  A major part of the participation requirement is ATTENDANCE, which is mandatory.


Seeing Art:

There will be one ongoing project throughout the semester, that requires students to work independently and seek out opportunities in the area to see different exhibitions and artwork.


Research Projects:

Throughout the course, there will be three assignments that engage the material through research.  More information about these projects will be handed out separately.


Grade Breakdown:

Participation: 15%

Controversial Exhibition Presentation: 20%

Contemporary Art in a Global Realm Presentation: 25%

Seeing Art: 10%                                          

Curating an Exhibition Project: 30%



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.


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 in college 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.



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 addressed incorrectly.   After the email is received, we will then set up an appointment to discuss the concern. 





Global Issues in Contemporary Art - Class Schedule

*subject to change*


8/27 – Introduction


9/3 – History of Exhibitions

-       Bruce Altshuler, “Introduction” in Salon to Biennial - Exhibitions that Made Art History: Volume I: 1863-1959. London and New York: Phaidon, 2008, 9-19.

-       Bruce Altshuler, “Introduction” in Biennials and Beyond - Exhibitions that Made Art History: Volume 2: 1962-2002. London and New York: Phaidon, 2008, 11-24.


9/10 – Curating

-       Beatrice von Bismarck, “Curatorial Criticality: On the Role of Freelance Curators in the Field of Contemporary Art,” oncurating.org, no. 9(2011):62-69.

-       Mari Carmen Ramírez, “Brokering Identities: Art Curators and the Politics of Cultural Representation” in Thinking About Exhibitions, edited by Reesa Greenberg, Bruce W. Ferguson and Sandy Nairne. London and New York: Routledge, 1996, 15-26.

-       Jens Hoffman, “Talking about Exhibitions,” in Show Time: The 50 Most Influential Exhibitions of Contemporary Art. London and New York: Distributed Art Publishers, 2014, 240-249.


9/17 – Project Discussions

-       Come prepared with at least TWO ideas of themes for your exhibition project.

-       Bring laptop/tablet (can rent from library if needed), as we will do some research.


9/24 – NO CLASS


10/1 - Controversial Exhibition Presentations – DAY ONE

-       If not presenting read the following from Show Time:

o   Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection

o   The 1993 Whitney Biennial

o   Mike Kelley: The Uncanny

o   New Site-Specific Art in Charleston


10/8 - Controversial Exhibition Presentations – DAY TWO

-       If not presenting read the following from Show Time:

o   documenta X, documenta 11, dOCUMENTA (13)

o   Magiciens de la Terre

o   Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement

o   Mining the Museum: An Installation by Fred Wilson


10/15 – NO CLASS



-  Leila Ahmed, “The Discourse of the Veil” and Ahdaf Soueif, “The Language of the Veil,” from Veil: Veiling, Representation, and Contemporary Art edited by David A. Bailey and Gilane Tawadros. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003, 42-55 and 110-120.

- Cherise Smith, “Nikki S. Lee’s Projects and the Repackaging of the Politics of Identity,” from Enacting Others: Politics of Idenitty in Eleanor Antin, Nikki S. Lee, Adrian Piper, and Anna Deavere Smith. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011, 189-232.

- Howard N. Fox, “Theater of the Inauthentic,” Phantom Sightings: Art after the Chicano Movement. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2008, 74-98.



- Karin Higa, “The Search for Roots, or Finding a Precursor,” in Asian American Modern Art: Shifting Currents 1900-1970, edited by Daniel Cornell. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2008, 15-22.

- Mary Jane Jacob, “Places with a Past” (1991) in Situation, edited by Claire Doherty. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009, 197-202.

- Selections from “Artistic Trends in Early 1990s” in Contemporary Chinese Art: Primary Documents, edited by Wu Hung and Peggy Wang. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 155-178.



- Marshall McLuhan, “The Medium is the Message” from Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. New York: Signet, 1964, 23-35, 63-7.

 - Louise Mazanti, “Super Objects: Craft as an Aesthetic Position,” in Extra/Ordinary: Craft and Contemporary Art, edited by Maria Elena Buszek. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2011: 59-82.

- Nato Thompson, “Monstrous Empathy” and Christoph Cox, “Of Humans, Animals and Monsters,” in Becoming Animal: Contemporary Art in the Animal Kingdom, edited by Nato Thompson. Cambridge: MIT Press, 8-17.

- “Debates over Using Animals and the Human Body in Making Art,” Contemporary Chinese Art: Primary Documents, 270-286.



- Selections from interviews with Bruce Nauman, Sarah Lucas, Richard Prince, Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Raymond Pettibon, from Jennifer Higgie, ed. The Artist’s Joke. Cambridge, MIT Press, 2007.

- Bakhtin - “Carnival and the Carivalesque” selection from Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader, edited by John Storey, 4th edition, London and New York: Routledge, 2009, 250-259.

- Dominic Molon and Michael Rooks, “Comedy is Not Pretty” from their exhibition, Situation Comedy: Humor in Recent Art. New York: Independent Curators International, 2005.





- Alexander Nagel and Christopher Wood, “The Plural Temporality of the Work of Art,” Elena Filipovic, “This is Tomorrow (and Other Modernist Myths), Paul Chan, “A Time Apart,” Daniel Birnbaum, “Paul Chan’s The 7 Lights,” Antony Gormley, and Michael Newman, “Still Being: A Conversation about Time in Art,” and Rosalind Krauss, “Clock Time” in Time, edited by Amelia Groom. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2013.

- Christine Ross, “Temporal Investigations in Contemporary Art, Social Sciences, and the Humanities: A Comparative View” in The Past is the Present; It’s the Future Too: The Temporal Turn in Contemporary Art. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2012, 18-53.

- Linda Johnson Dougherty, “Making Time” and Lydia Matthews, “Against Linear Time: Icons Old, New, and Evolving” in 0 to 60: The Experience of Time through Contemporary Art. Raleigh: North Carolina Museum of Art, 2013, 14-25 & 26-35.





12/3 – meet with partner, discuss presentation/project (budget for an hour) – can be scheduled for another time besides class time if needed


12/10 - “Gallery Talks”