Painting has the unique ability to entertain and embody contradictory and conflicting viewpoints. As opposed to other cultural avenues (politics, literature, criticism, theory and philosophy, etc.) art can be situated within ambiguity, contradiction, and ambivalence. One such contradiction has been work that has simultaneously held positions within figural and abstract discourses. Whether through the early post-modern work of Willem De Kooning, Phillip Guston, Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach, or Giacometti; later work in the 80s of Jim Shaw, Jim Nutt, and Mike Kelley; 90s body art as expressed through Robert Gober and Jeanne Dunning ("The personal is political"); or within contemporary painting with the work of Dana Schutz, Albert Oehlen, Wangechi Mutu, Cecily Brown, Tala Maldani, Jose Lerma, Tomoo Gokita, and Adrian Ghenie many artists still see the body as a site of investigation, using abstraction to excavate meanings of identity, politics, and culture.
This course will use the figure to investigate political, cultural, and individual concepts. The first portion of the course will be devoted to building a foundation on traditional figure painting techniques. Students will then be asked to develop and explore various modes and languages of abstracting the figure building from this tradition. The course will provide a historical component to better integrate and understand relationships between the figure and landscape, the figure as site for cultural and political connectivity, and cultivate conceptual meaning from abstract methodologies. Students will be presented with contemporary concerns and dilemmas to figural abstraction and ways they can approach them to lend this practice contemporary currency, provide it with a rigorous criticality, and identify it as a historical and contemporary genre.
The course will generate an ambitious body of work and an archive of source materials relating to investigations of the figure. The course will culminate in a final project that will require students to build on the information they've learned from figural abstraction.
Primary source material will include Katy Siegel's The Luxury of Incommensurability talk, writings from Mike Kelley, Willem De Kooning, Kerry James Marshall, Wangechi Mutu, Elke Krystufek, and Yinka Shonibare.
Open to Undergraduate and Graduate Students