This is a course in art orientation, which is quite different from a course in art appreciation. To illustrate: Imagine being in the middle of a remote forrest. If you knew that someone would pick you up and take you back to civilization, you could simply appreciate the foreign landscape. But now imagine that no one knows you are there and you need to orient yourself to the landscape on your own in order to get to safety. Art is a little like that. People who enjoy thinking about art love the puzzle of it all. They enjoy being disoriented - being stuck in exotic territory and finding their way out.
Many people think art is completely subjective, which is why you hear people who don’t know much about it saying things like, “Art is in the eye of the beholder.” It’s not. It operates using fairly objective - although not always predictable - modes of communication. In this class I will introduce you to some of those modes of rhetoric and communication, so that you can better orient yourself to culture in general, but especially contemporary art (because that is art of our time, art that is made for us). If you want to appreciate it too, I won’t stop you. But just remember that this class expects you to be rigorous in your analysis of HOW an artwork means something. I will cover this at greater length in my early lectures, but you might think about why it’s better to know how an artwork means than what an artwork means.
If you have a sincere interest to learn and also possess a solid work ethic this class should be a little challenging but mostly fun. There are lots of assignments - 2 or 3 each week - that are interrelated but which will test different modes of comprehension. You will listen to lectures and be quizzed on basic comprehension; you will analyze and criticize works of art, testing your ability to use language to describe visual phenomena; and you will make artworks that demonstrate your understanding of rhetorical devices used in visual communication. Ready? Let's go!