History of Art + Visual Culture


  • Fall 2016


    The RISD Museum's collection of Etruscan, Italic, and ancient Roman art will be studied firsthand and in light of recent scholarship in art history, archaeology and museum studies. Using the collection as a springboard, the course will explore original contexts for museum objects; conservation and restoration; design and education components of exhibitions; and notions of historical interpretation in museum display.


    This course focuses on contemporary art in and out of Africa, with specific reference to Nigeria. Our objective is to situate Contemporary Nigerian Art within the dialectics of modernism and postmodernism beginning first with the colonial implantation of the "modernist" trend in Africa. We examine the impact on the artistic vision and direction of the major artists in Africa, while highlighting the careers of their counterparts operating outside the continent within the postmodernist currents of Paris, New York, London, Berlin, etc.


    This seminar addresses the intersection of contemporary photographic practices and critical theory. Readings by Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, Susan Sontag, Rosalind Krauss, Martha Rosler, Fred Richtin and others will provide a theoretical framework through which to examine a range of topics including: conceptual art and photography, performance art, the documentary tradition, landscape and the body, postmodern 'anti-aesthetics' and appropriation, digital and archival practices, large-scale and tableau photography as well as the institutionalization of the medium in museums, higher education, and the art market. The class is structured around group discussions and is driven by student contributions.
    Sophomore and above


    The Bronze Age saw the development of several advanced civilizations in the Mediterranean basin. Perhaps the best-known among these is the civilization of Pharaonic Egypt. This course will focus on the art and architecture of Egypt and their neighbors to the north: the Aegean civilizations known as Cycladic, Minoan, and Mycenaean. While art historical study of these cultures will be emphasized, evidence for trade and other cultural interchange between them will also be discussed. The course will cover such topics as the Pyramids of Giza, the Tomb of Tutankhamun, and the Palace of Knossos.


    This course surveys the rich tradition of art cinema in continental Europe, emphasizing the relations between narrative and visual style. Explores: the major post-WWII movements in Italy (Neorealism), France (Nouvelle vague) and Germany (New German Cinema); their precursors in German Expressionism, the Soviet Montage school and French Poetic Realism; and the diverse range of narrative art filmmakers working in Europe today. Artists include Eisenstein, Vigo, Rossellini, Fellini, Godard, Herzog, Haneke, Akerman and Denis.
    Sophomore and above


    Registration by application only. Application is restricted to concentrators in History of Art and Visual Culture. A call for applications will be sent to all HAVC concentrators.
    Permission of Instructor required. Course not available via web registration.


    Part I of a two-semester course that will survey major topics in the Histories of Photography. Emphasis will be given to the diverse cultural uses of photography from its invention to the present day. Such uses include: the illustrated press; amateur photography; studio photography; industrial, advertising, and fashion photography; political and social propaganda; educational and documentary photography; and photography as a medium of artistic expression. Much attention will be paid to how photographs construct histories, as well as being constructed by them.
    Major requirement; Photo majors
    Liberal Arts elective credit for non-majors pending seat availability.


    This is a required course to introduce students to fundamental works of art and design from diverse cultures and chronological periods. It will use basic art historical methods of formal, stylistic, and iconographical analysis in the study of these works thereby providing students with the tools necessary for critical looking and analysis essential for the education of artists and designers. Emphasis will be placed on the relation between artifacts and culture, with the assumption that the production of works of art and design is a form of cultural knowledge, as well as on the cultural conception of the role of the artist and designer, on various techniques and materials, and on the social context of the works discussed.
    Required for graduation for all undergraduates, including transfers. There are no waivers for HAVC-H101.
    Attention transfers and upperclassmen: Please register into HAVC-H101-24, -25 or -26 if you have not yet completed this first-year graduation requirement. All other H101 sections are for freshmen only.


    This course examines the history of photographic portraiture since the "invention" of the medium in the 1830s up to the present day. Particular attention is given to exploring the ways that identity is created, reinforced, or deconstructed through the limits and capacity of photography. How does photography transform the way identity is constructed through imagery in the early years of its history? How has photography shaped the formation of subjectivity in portraiture? In what ways does photography challenge or reinforce cultural and political hegemony by "representing" a person? How have digital photography and social media transformed the ways that an identity is constructed and shared by others? To answer these questions, examples of photo portraiture, from vernacular to artistic modes and spanning the globe, will be assessed. Each class will focus on theoretical debates on identity and subjectivity in relation to the given topic, with an interdisciplinary approach incorporating art history, cultural studies, critical theory, memory studies, postcolonial theory, and area studies. Student research will be presented as a final presentation and paper.


    This course will explore the architectural traditions of the Indigenous cultures of North America, Mesoamerica, and South America in historic perspective. Examinations will focus on the critical cultural and environmental circumstances which led to the development of distinctive architectural styles throughout the Americas. Approached from an anthropological/archaeological perspective, specific topics of discussion will include the following: construction methods and material choices, spatial arrangements and use areas, the relationship between physical and social community structure, and architectural manifestation of cultural belief systems. Emphasis will also be placed on manipulations of the landscape in response to social and climatic needs. Architectural culture discussed in this course will range widely in scale, dispersal and geography - from the igloo of a small Inuit hunting party to the entire Mayan city of Chichen Itza, to the terrace and irrigation systems of the Inca.


    Focusing on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this seminar explores relationships linking objects and intimate experience. We will ask: How have private spaces been defined with objects? How have objects mediated relationships among friends and family? How have objects acted as repositories of intimate memory? Among the topics we will consider are: miniature painting; hair jewelry; death masks and casts from the living body; early photography; furniture and sociability; the history of the album; the private museum.


    This course is designed to introduce students to the major historical and intellectual developments in the field of ancient Chinese art, and to the local tradition of antiquarian studies. It will provide a general overview of art of the period of the time spanning from the Neolithic to the Han dynasty, concentrating on crucial research issues on such topics as (among others): the iconography of early settled societies, the art of prehistoric jade carving, the art of the ritual bronze vessels of the Shang and Zhou dynasties, the political use of bronze and jade in the dynastic period, lacquer and silk painting in the late pre-imperial phase, and the burial customs and architecture of the early imperial period.
    Also offered as HPSS-C632; Register into the course for which credit is desired.


    Art and design students interested in learning about how art galleries work will learn from an inside view of their criteria, operations, expectations and outcomes in this seminar. Students will meet with art gallery owners in a variety of disciplines from antiquities to contemporary art and design. Visits to major galleries and auction houses in Providence, Boston and New York will provide a diverse introduction. Artists and art critics will also meet with students to discuss their perspective on the impact of galleries within the art world today. Students will research and report on the economics of taste, the art market, and methodologies of galleries and auctions. The course will help students understand the dynamics of the art world, and how to either work in art/design galleries or to be represented by them.
    Juniors, seniors and graduate students.


    This seminar will explore artworks and art-collectives which aim to share in a social activity since the 1990s. Nicolas Bourriaud's theory argued in Relational Aesthetics (1998, English translation 2002), as well as those of his critics will provide context. Additionally we will examine public-facing, artist-run projects, with roots not only in everyday life but also in the specifics of local communities as we chart art and activism in contemporary social environments. The course will conclude by investigating the artist-as-entrepreneur model, and its place within social innovation and the cultural sector.


    How does a museum preserve its art collection? How do art and science reinforce each other in this field? Does the approach to the conservation of ancient art differ from that of the conservation of contemporary art? How and why do materials composing visual art deteriorate? Which environmental factors adversely affect organic and inorganic materials first or fastest? In this course, the student will gain an understanding for the five agents of deterioration, for issues of physical and chemical stability regarding organic and inorganic materials chosen by artists over the millennia, as well as how the care and handling of art differs in some respects for a museum than for a working artist. Frequent visits through the museum exhibits, storage, and the conservation lab will demonstrate key concepts covered in the class. Ethical issues regarding the determination of the original intent of any given artist as well as ethical issues regarding forgeries and looted art will be discussed. Assignments will focus on the RISD Art Museum's collection.
    Restricted to HAVC concentrators or MA candidates in Museum Education
    Sophomore and above


    This course has two primary goals: cultivating an in-depth, hands-on knowledge of a topic in indigenous art history and developing a diverse set of writing tools for documenting lived experience. First, this course will explore the history, anthropology, and overall context of the development of traditional indigenous American textile production methods. Our examination of these textiles will involve critical readings of key texts, lectures and discussions. However, above all, we will be employing a hands-on approach to reproduce the process involved in making these textiles. Focusing on the specific example of Navajo blanket and rug weaving, together we will create our own woven tapestries, replicating traditional methods from cleaning wool straight off the sheep, to dyeing with natural dyes, to building and weaving on our own traditional-style Navajo tapestry looms.

    The second goal of this course is to explore a variety of approaches toward documenting through writing students' own experiences in the field - ranging from more creative and artistic approaches to more formal or technical descriptions. The intention is to expose students to a variety of writing methods that may come in handy in their professional careers, be they artists' statements or grant applications. To this end, students will be keeping a semester-long field journal detailing their hands-on experiences in this course, culminating in the production of a final presentation of their work.
    Junior and above


    This course explores Italian art from ca. 1350 to 1600 within a ritual framework. A ritual can be defined as a codified, solemn, event that occurs within specific temporal and spatial cadres upon occasions such as marriage, birth, death, a ruler's visit to a city ('entry'), a calamity, or a feast day. Rituals work through the display of symbolic objects [here understood as 'images'] such as statues, reliquaries, paintings, elaborate costumes, or flags for which the role of artists was primordial. The power of images resides in their ritual use: colorful paraphernalia and sacred objects flaunted in city-wide processions could ward off the plague, honor a local saint, and turn princely entries or funerals into successful events. Through their symbolic and artistic components, rituals create authority, assert identity, define social status, and maintain order in society. We will study the extant objects themselves as visual evidence for such phenomena as well as representations (in the form of paintings and prints) of ceremonies, spectacles, processions, or ritual domestic settings. We will analyze art through inter-disciplinary methodologies: material culture, anthropology, social history, and iconography. Learning about artistic conventions and traditions will guide us to evaluate to what extent works of art manipulate reality in a 're-presentation' - rather than provide a mere illustration.
    Also offered as HPSS C503. Register in the course for which credit is desired.


    This course will examine the visual culture pertinent to Sigmund Freud and his contemporaries in turn-of-the-century Vienna. We shall look at the modernist art of Austrian painters such as Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, as well as the "minor" arts of illustration, photography, scientific imaging, and film in light of Freud's psychoanalytic ideas. Classes will be devoted to topics such as avant-garde postcard design, ethnographic photography, and scientific images including x-rays and surgical films. The silent erotic "Saturn" films that were screened in Vienna from 1904-1910 will also be considered. Requirements include mid-term and final exams, two essays, and interest in the subject (no past experience needed).


    This history of architecture course, co-taught by an architectural historian and an architect, introduces key ideas, forces, and techniques that have shaped world architecture through the ages prior to the modern period. The course is based on critical categories, ranging from indigenous and vernacular architecture, to technology, culture, and representation. The lectures and discussions present systems of thought, practice and organization, emphasizing both historical and global interconnectedness, and critical architectural differences and anomalies. Each topic will be presented through case studies accompanied by relevant texts. The students will be expected to engage in the discussion groups, prepare material for these discussions, write about, and be examined on the topics.
    Major requirement; Architecture majors only
    Registration by Architecture Department, course not available via web registration.
    Liberal Arts elective credit for non-majors pending seat availability.


    Interdisciplinary by their very nature, textile traditions share a global history. Around the world textiles have found place in cultures as signifiers of social identity, from the utilitarian to the sacred, as objects of ritual meaning and as objects of great tangible wealth. The evolution of textile motifs, designs, materials and technology across Asia, Africa and the Americas will be explored utilizing the RISD Museum of Art with frequent visits to the textile and costume collections. We will examine such topics as: the function of textiles in the survival of traditional cultures, the impact of historic trade routes and ensuing colonialism, industrialization and its subsequent effect on traditional techniques of textile manufacture. Students will also have opportunities to examine various methods of textile display, analysis and storage appropriate to items of cultural heritage via case studies of specific objects in the RISD Museum.
    Textiles majors can be preregistered by the department


    This course surveys art writing across times and genres -- it treats writing as a kind of performance art. Each kind of writing about art demonstrates (or "performs") certain skills and syntaxes to a historically situated audience. Students will inquire into many and diverse rhetorics (or "performance strategies"), from key texts in academic art history to blogs and videos, critical exhibition reviews to socio-theoretical manifestos about art and culture. Students will apply writing techniques to works of art / design / architecture / visual culture that sustain their interests.


    This course provides an art historical survey and thematic exploration of 9 centuries of Yoruba Art and Aesthetics and its intercession with history (including but not limited to colonialism and postcolonial impact, interventions, and discourses), religion, philosophy, and the socio-political beliefs of one of Africa's most ancient civilizations, and a visible presence in the African Diaspora.

    Wintersession 2017


    This trip is a six credit, in depth exploration of the Tokyo and historic Kansai region to see and draw the most important Shinto, Buddhist and secular sites in Japan, and to couple that visual exploration with 9 days of papermaking in rural Tokushima on Shikoku Island. Returning to Providence, students will spend an intensive week creating a final project using the paper they have made that reflects on their experiences in Japan, as well as write 2 art history papers. Through historical site visits students will gain a in-depth understanding of the background of Japanese visual culture. Through an intensive workshop at the Awagami Paper Factory students will work side by side with the finest Japanese paper makers as they learn paper making skills and gain an understanding of the continuing vitality of traditional Japanese crafts. Accommodations will vary depending upon to availability, with the goal of experiencing a variety of traditional and contemporary hotels, ryokan, dormitories, and so on.

    All students are required to remain in good academic standing in order to participate in the WS travel course/studio. Failure to remain in good academic standing can lead to removal from the course, either before or during the course. Also in cases where WS travel courses and studios do not reach student capacity, the course may be cancelled after the last day of Wintersession travel course registration. As such, all students are advised not to purchase flights for participation in Wintersession travel courses until the course is confirmed to run, which happens within the week after the final Wintersession travel course registration period.

    This is a co-requisite course. Students must also take PRINT-4525. Students will receive 3 studio credits and 3 liberal arts credits.
    Registration begins in October at a time to be announced.
    Permission of instructor required; Open to first year students.
    Wintersesion 2017 Travel cost: $4,200.00 - airfare not included.
    ***Off-Campus Study***


    The Trojan War is one of the most influential stories in the history of Western culture. After a brief examination of the archaeological evidence for such an event, this course will focus on the art and literature inspired by the Trojan War from Ancient Greece through modern times. Readings will include selections from Homer, Virgil, Chaucer, and Shakespeare, and take into account return stories such as the Odyssey. Art with Trojan iconography will be explored from ancient vase-paintings and sculptures through Renaissance and Baroque depictions, up to a contemporary graphic novelization and a brief discussion of films on the subject. Major themes include the interaction of art and literature, and the mutability of an established narrative at the hands of subsequent creators.


    In this course, we will examine art in Rome from the end of the 16th century to the beginning of the 18th century, a dynamic period that shaped much of the fabric of the city as we know it today. While analyzing urbanism, architecture, sculpture and painting by many of the major artists of the period (Caravaggio, Bernini, Borromini, Artemisia, Pietro da Cortona), we will also discuss commemoration of the ritual and ceremonial life of the city portrayed in engravings, drawings, printed books and on film.


    In European and American art of the 19th and early 20th centuries, women were often presented in extreme ways: either as blood-thirsty creatures from Greek mythology, as Salome obsessed with the decapitation of a lover, as poison flowers and vamps; or as personifications of love and virtue, household angels, noble virgins dying out of self-sacrifice. The literature and, later, cinema supported this dichotomy that can be still traced in contemporary culture. In this course we will analyze the images of blessed and cursed women in Western art of the last two centuries.


    To fulfill evolving forms of worship a new architecture evolved between 400 and 800 AD in South Asia. The early wooden buildings are represented in relief and paintings, as well as elaborately replicated within the ancient cave monasteries across India. This course traces the Indian architectural tradition, its transformation into a symbolic vocabulary for a new structure, the Hindu temple, and the development of the temple in India from ca. 500-1500 A.D. Students will be encouraged to explore the social, historical, and symbolic frames for this architecture. While introducing students to the remarkable variety of India's temple architecture, its multiple forms and uses, class discussions will also address broader issues of how architecture can be designed to compress meaning while accommodating multiple agendas of use.


    The course will explore the approaches and contexts of Leonardo da Vinci's draftsmanship. Studying primarily some of his surviving 6000 drawings and notes, the course will locate his aesthetic and analytical processes and contexts for a broad range of projects, such as paintings, sculptures, treatise literature, machines, weapons, maps, festivals, built environments, and studies of natural philosophy. We will also examine theoretical pursuits in the liberal and technical arts by Leonardo and his contemporaries, and their assessments of visual art as a science, and studies of natural science as a systematic art. Particularly informative will be Leonardo's responses to contemporary trends, to artisanal traditions, to the antique, to members of princely courts and republics, and more generally to investigative and inventive strategies.


    How are works of art reproduced (or re-presented) in photography and film? From the first photographs of the Sistine Chapel to the "mysteries" of Picasso drawing in film, this course will investigate the photography of art and artists in terms of the production of knowledge and meaning. We shall see that even the most "objective" documentary photographs of art are critical interventions that address the avid eye of the beholder. For example, Clarence Kennedy's photographs of the works of Renaissance sculptor Desiderio da Settignano has shaped our notion of Desiderio to this day, and Constantin Brancusi deliberately reworked his sculpture in the medium of photography in his own studio, forming a seamless modernist synthesis of authorship and form. Films about art and artists have attempted to show us the mind's eye of painterly painters such as Vincent Van Gogh and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Brassaï's photographs of Matisse with his models have (for decades now) appeared as regular features on the pages of Vogue. In our RISD studios, as elsewhere in the world, photography now serves as the visual record (sometimes the only record) of installations, performance art, and postmodern sculptural interventions. We shall discuss images and writings on a daily basis. Students will craft essays on pertinent themes.


    This course explores how art articulated the many rituals that permeated the Italian society from ca. 1350 to 1550. Ephemeral art and fragile objects that were only sporadically displayed (processional ones, for example) are rarely discussed in art history. Well-orchestrated events for birth, marriage and death were held in domestic or outdoor settings; citywide processions meant to ward off the plague or to honor a local saint, and political events such as princely entries or funerals flaunted colorful paraphernalia such as precious textiles, costumes, flags, statues, and decorated tapers. These gatherings often staged the performance of music, chanting and prayers, or religious drama. The art of public ritual not only created authority and expressed devotion but it also asserted one's rank in society, and maintained social order. To understand these phenomena, we will examine inter-disciplinary methodologies in art history from material culture, anthropology, social history, and iconography. One field trip to Boston is planned.


    A key moment and place in the history of design, eighteenth-century art was innovative and rich in criticism, especially in France. Favored themes in the graphic arts and sculpture include gallantry (fetes galantes), eroticism, and domesticity. French art dealers were responsible for new designs for furniture and decorative arts; architects developed utopian projects; and seamstresses launched extravagant fashion trends. We will examine how rococo came to be the dominant artistic trend in all Europe and the kinds of controversy that it generated from the mid-century on. Rococo Rocks will provide analytical tools for understanding the visual arts within their social and critical contexts including the Enlightenment. We will navigate between genres and media, assess how works of art were then perceived, and discuss the position of women (whether mothers, wives, or artists). We will also study the ramifications of rococo?s continuing curve into twentieth-century art from Art Nouveau to Cindy Sherman and Jeff Koons.
    Visits to several departments of the RISD Museum are planned as well as to the Hay Library where we will study original eighteenth-century illustrations. Students? final projects consist in designing a rococo-inspired object in any medium (painting, sculpture, textile, print, or drawing) accompanied by an artist?s statement.


    This course will examine scientific and technical applications developed by Western artists and visual theorists from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century. Concentrating on pictorial traditions, the course will address what artists, authors and artist/engineers have referred to as scientific, technical, mechanical, and purely mental solutions to optical, proportional and quantitative visual problems. General themes will be perspective, form, color, and mechanical devices, and will include discussions on intellectual training, notebooks, treatises, and collecting. The course will examine artists such as Masaccio, Leonardo, Piero della Francesca, D|rer, Serlio, Carlo Urbino, Cigoli, Rubens, Vel`zquez, Saenredam, Vermeer, Poussin, Andrea Pozzo, Canaletto, Phillip Otto Runge,Turner, Delacroix, Monet, and Seurat.


    This course will focus on the history of self-portraiture and modes of self-identity from the vantage point of feminism, queer theory, and of post-modernist critiques of the so-called author function. We will look closely at self-portraits by artists ranging from Rembrandt van Rijn to Cindy Sherman, and from Albrecht Durer to David Wojnarowicz. Students will be asked to write about artists' self-portraits and also construct their own written and visual autobiographies. We will read memoirs by artists, as well as essays by Barthes, Foucault, and Krauss.


    The seminar will focus on the theories and practices developed at the revolutionary German art school. Drawing on original statements by Bauhaus figures, as well as a wealth of recent literature, students will consider questions raised at the Bauhaus about the unity of the arts, the role of art and design in politics and the economy, the professional status of women in the arts, and the pedagogy of art and design. Attention will be given to how understanding of the Bauhaus has changed over time, and what the Bauhaus represents today.
    Open to sophomore and above.


    This course will investigate the visual arts and culture of India over a period of 4000 years. Students will participate in a study of the various kinds of works to be considered in terms of form, function and "cognitive style" of the beholder. We shall also look behind the scenes at displays and visual documentation as signs of current thinking about what Indian art, past and present, may be. The class will visit the RISD Museum to view the current display of South Asian objects as well as meet curators engaged in studying and displaying the material and visual culture of India.


    This course will examine art in Russia and the USSR from the October Revolution in 1917 to the death of Stalin in 1953 in the context of historical events and changing ideological climate.
    After the October Revolution, art and film in Russia and later the USSR became a field of unprecedented experimentation that gave birth to many groundbreaking works by artists and filmmakers such as Kazimir Malevich, Vladimir Tatlin, Alexandr Rodchenko, Varvara Stepanowa, the Stenberg Brothers, Sergei Eisenstein, Vsevolod Pudovkin, and others. The introduction of Socialist Realism by Stalin in the 1930s terminated the Avant-Garde in the country and forced artists to become basically producers of propaganda. Despite this, a number of significant works, especially films, subverted ideological limitations.


    During this seminar we will discuss how America is seen by contemporary European artists and intellectuals. Jean Baudrillard's famous book "America" as well as films by Antonioni ("Zabriskie Point"), Makaveyev ("WR: Mysteries of the Organism") and Herzog ("Stroszek") will number among the works analyzed in the class.


    This course will examine the role played by urban mythology in 19th and 20th - century European and American art. We will study the late - 19th - century idea of the flaneur, which influenced both visual arts and literature. We will discuss the Futurists' fascination with machines and the Surrealists' concept of a city perceived as a human body. We will analyse the Impressionists' views of Parisian streets, Frans Masereel's woodcuts The City, de Giorgio Chirico's metaphysical paintings and Edward Hopper's nostalgic images of the American metropolis. We will study how the interest in urban reality has influenced the development of new art movements of the last two centuries.

    Spring 2017


    This course investigates the role of the artist on The Grand Tour, a cultural pilgrimage through France and Italy made by British aristocrats during the 18th century. Improved infrastructure for tourism and the excavation of antiquities in Rome, Pompeii and Herculaneum opened up new markets for artists and offered unique opportunities for them to capitalize on their study and training in Italy. Artists set up studios and workshops in Rome where tourists commissioned portraits, prints, sculpture and decorative objects. Eventually, study on the Grand Tour became an essential component of an artist's education and practice. Students will examine a variety of artworks produced during this pivotal era (and into the 19th and 20th centuries), both in Italy and at the RISD Museum, that represent the dynamic cross-cultural relationships between tourists and artists. The goal of this course is to connect students with a transitional period that solidified links between critical making and art-historical scholarship.
    There is a REQUIRED trip to Rome over Spring Break.
    Permission of Instructor required. Course not available via web registration.
    Estimated travel cost: $3,000.


    This course will survey the emergence of an avant-garde in the United States during and after World War II. The focus will be on the personal struggles, artistic innovation, and overarching achievement of a handful of artists including Willem De Kooning, Jackson Pollock, David Smith, Robert Motherwell and Barnett Newman, whose work catapulted American art and artists onto the world stage. Concurrently we will examine the role of public and private criticism, especially the writings of Harold Rosenberg and Clement Greenberg. Additionally we will construct a view of contemporary society and the political leanings of artists and critics of the movement, as well as the concerted effort of the American State Department to showcase Abstract Expressionist work as visible proof of American freedoms during the Cold War.
    Open to sophomore and above.


    This course explores the artistic traditions of early West African kingdoms and cultures, notably Nok, Igbo Ikwu, Ife, Owo, Esie, Tsoede, Sokoto, Benin, Akan, Djenne, Mande, Nabdam and the Bamileke. We examine images in stone, bronze, terracotta and iron, and also explore the built environment. Based on archaeological, art historical and ethnographic data, we critically analyze the style elements, iconography, purposes and significance of the objects, both as viable tools and as expressions of the history, philosophy, and religious and cultural ethos of the peoples who created them.


    This course will examine the relationship between art and science in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Through an investigation of a wide range of images, texts, and objects that speak to the overlapping and mutually forming spheres of the two disciplines, we will explore the various connections between artistic and scientific discourses and how they in turn shaped ideas surrounding popular conceptions of the body, sexuality, gender, race, socio-economic systems, and ecology. By situating art within this wider visual and material culture, we will critique notions of the "objective" or "truthful" and interrogate systems of knowledge that posit the "natural" in opposition to the "abnormal" or "perverse."


    This course is designed to acquaint students with a variety of non-Western aesthetic expressions in the Americas and the Pacific. The course will explore the indigenous contexts, both contemporary and historical, in which these art forms are or were created and function. We will look at the art and its context in selected communities of the American northwest coast such as the Inuit, Kwakiutl and Haida, the Southwest of the US, such as the Hopi and Navajo, and parts of Australia, Papua-New Guinea and some of the Pacific islands.
    Also offered as HPSS C726. Register in the course for which credit is desired


    This course explores the body as subject, object, medium, and lens. This class is intended as both a discussion of the shifting role of the human form as represented and implicated in artwork from nineteenth century to the present day, as well as an experiential interrogation of our own somatic experience as scholars, artists, and humans, in order to ask the question: what does the body have to teach us? We will address the discourses of the imaged and imagined body prior to and through European modernism as a carrier of meaning and an object to be consumed, with particular attention to the ramifications of the Cartesian mind-body distinction. From this starting point, we will track shifts and the development of alternate theories of the body from psychology, philosophy, critical theory, and neuroscience, from the nineteenth century into present day. In addition to theory and philosophy, we will address how these shifts are manifest in artwork of the twentieth century from painting, sculpture installation art, video, and augmented reality art. Students will be asked to be mindful of their own somatic (bodily) practices, including movement inside and outside class with the intention of developing a deeper understanding the body as lens for experience and production.
    Sophomore and above


    French Surrealism played an important role in the development of 20th-century European and American art. The arrival of French Surrealists to New York during the Second World War influenced American artists and exposed more than a European audience to the movement. In this course will study French surrealist painting, literature, and cinema in the context of intellectual and philosophical currents (such as psychoanalysis). We will discuss Odilon Redon, Gustave Moreau, and Giorgio de Chirico, the precursors of the movement, Andre Breton, the author of the "Surrealist Manifesto of 1924," Dora Maar and Meret Oppenheim - unfairly considered only as "muses" at the beginning of their careers. Special focus will be put on the work by Max Ernst, Man Ray, Luis Bunuel, and Leonora Carrington.


    Registration by application only. Application is restricted to concentrators in History of Art and Visual Culture. A call for applications will be sent to all HAVC concentrators.
    Permission of Instructor required. Course not available via web registration.


    Part II of a two-semester course that will survey major topics in the Histories of Photography. Emphasis will be given to the diverse cultural uses of photography from its invention to the present day. Such uses include: the illustrated press; amateur photography; studio photography; industrial; advertising, and fashion photography; political and social propaganda; educational and documentary photography; and photography as a medium of artistic expression. Much attention will be paid to how photographs construct histories, as well as being constructed by them.
    Major requirement; Photo majors
    Liberal Arts elective credit for non-majors pending seat availability.


    Students will select one course from introductory level offerings. The choice of topics is intended to give each first-year student a chance to work with a broad but culturally and chronologically bounded field of art and design, under the teaching of an expert in that field. Students will have the opportunity to become familiar with art historical texts particular to the selected topic and will develop skills of critical reading and writing about the works of art.
    Required for graduation for all undergraduates. There are no waivers for HAVC-H102 for students entering as freshmen. Students entering as transfers may petition the HAVC department head to substitute an equivalent college course that was completed prior to enrollment at RISD.
    Course scheduled to be taken by first year students in Spring semester of freshman year. Seats for other students, such as transfers and upperclass, are available, but limited.
    Freshmen registration instructions can be found on the Registrar website: www.risd.edu/registrar

    For a list of Spring 2017 course descriptions for H102 Click here

    Freshman registration instructors and course descriptions can be found on the Registrar website.


    As a stimulus to the imagination, method of investigation, or as a basic means of communication, drawing is a fundamental process of human thought. This class will examine various kinds of drawings from the history of art and visual culture moving chronologically from the medieval to the post-modern. Our studies will have a hands-on approach, meeting behind the scenes in the collections of the RISD Museum. Working from objects directly will be supplemented by readings and writing assignments as well as active classroom discussion. (This seminar is recommended for concentrators in History of Art and Visual Culture and for students especially interested in drawing.)


    The course will examine how female painters, photographers, performance artists and film directors use their bodies and elements of their biographies to build their art upon. We will read interviews with them and analyses of their work, watch documentary films, study self-portraits in painting and photography. We will try to define the special attraction and therapeutic role autobiographic art has for women. Among the artists discussed will be: Claude Cahun, Cindy Sherman, Ana Mendieta, Faith Ringgold, Marina Abramovic, Shirin Neshat, Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, Maya Deren, Frida Kahlo, Leonora Carrington, Agnes Varda, and Francesca Woodman. Students will do weekly readings; write weekly papers, as well as a final paper about a chosen artist. Active participation in class discussions is required.


    This course is an historical and critical study of the work of selected masters of animated film. A spectrum of animated film techniques, styles, national schools, etc., will be presented. The course will cover the period from the pre-Lumiere epoch to the end of the 1970's. The relationships between animated film and other visual art forms will also be studied.


    This course is designed to explore the relationship between sacred "texts" (including those that have been transmitted verbally for generations) and the images that are associated with them and/or inspired artists in their traditional contexts. We will look at the cultural context of sacred narratives in such communities as the Kwakwaka, the Hopi, the Maya and other Mexican communities, the Dogon, Australian traditional aboriginal groups, and other Pacific communities, time permitting. Topics will include sacred texts and landscape, sacred narratives and the notion of a person, sacred texts and contemporary arts, and other related topics. The course will require a final research project.
    Also offered as HPSS-C504; Register in the course for which credit is desired.


    Introduction to nineteenth-century Western art, with the emphasis on Europe. Course situates art in its social context, addressing phenomena such as political revolution, urbanization, industrialization, mass culture, and empire. Artists covered include: David, Giricault, Turner, Courbet, Manet, Frith, Eakins, Monet, Morisot, Seurat, Rodin and Gauguin. Format consists of lectures and class discussions.


    Photography became especially popular as a vernacular and political medium around the time of the Crimean War in the nineteenth century. Since then, photography has been a critical medium that represents, commemorates, propagates, opposes, and complicates war and militarism across the globe. Histories of photography in the twentieth and twenty-first century have also unfolded through colonization, genocide, war, liberation, globalization, and war on terror. Militarism has thus been crucial to the medium's history: photography does not merely re-present the militarized life-in-the-making; it is an integral part of it. This course examines the ways in which the subject of photography has emerged through not only war but also what we will call "everyday militarism." Organized thematically according to photographic subjects, this course will closely investigate selected bodies of photographic work with readings on war, atrocities, subjectivity, ethics, and iconicity. Student research will be presented as a final presentation and paper.


    This seminar focuses on the history, discourses and transformations of the black female body as contested site of sexuality, resistance, representation, agency and identity in American visual culture. Organized thematically, with examples drawn from painting, sculpture, photography, film, popular culture and mixed media installations, we examine how the deployment, manipulations and construction of the signification of the asexualized mammy complex is juxtaposed against the jezebel vixen in a shifting terrain from the antebellum era through the ?post-racial? decade of the 21st century.


    Focusing on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this seminar explores the intersection of fashion and modernity. We will consider relationships linking fashion to the modern city, industrialization, the rise of the periodical press, democracy, and discourses of gender, race, and class. Throughout we will pay particular attention to the role of vision in structuring fashionable production and consumption.


    How are we made by things that we make? How do things precede their creation and make the creator, before the brush touches the canvas, the pencil the paper, the pen the "mayline," the fingertips the keyboard, the eye the camera, the metal the mold, the glass the fire? This course will look at the emergence of specific instruments of art and design making from medieval parchment folios, to graphite pencil, to architectural parallel straightedge, to mechanical and then electronic scanners, CAD software and 3D printers. It would follow the conceit that the process of creation we set for production of things also organizes our sense of self and the world, even before we have produced those things, just by virtue of the goals we have set for them, the processes we have organized for their production, the tools we have gathered or invented to transform them. We will explore the argument that physical things are always already "epistemic" things as well: organizers of knowledge and meaning; knowledge that bubbles in the cauldron of meaning under which we are continuously trying to set the flame of experiment and process in to produce our historical, social, political, cultural and personal identities. Reading will cover a wide range of topics and disciplinary areas: from historians of science looking at production of immortal cell-lines, GMO seeds and combative viruses, to artists and designers discussing production of stone carving tools and images produced by spitting blood on rocks, to art-historians talking about breeding horses to produce that ultimate paintbrush. Only serious thinkers hopelessly invested in their making (and vice versa) invited. Class attendance and participation is mandatory along with a final presentation and research paper.
    Sophomore and Above


    What role does censorship and publicity play in promoting the avant-garde and in the formation and critique of modernism? This class will focus on the history of Art of the United States, with particular attention on a series of major scandals and controversies including Whistler's law suit against Ruskin, Duchamp's Ready-Mades, Rivera's Radio City Music Hall Mural, Cadmus's Fleet's In, the so-called Culture Wars, Koon's plagiarism trial and the protests of the Guerilla Girls. Readings will include writings by artists as well as essays by critics and historians including, Greenberg, Krauss, Rosenberg and Steinberg.