The Politics of Abstraction
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Level: Undergraduate
Division: Parsons The New School for Design
School: School of Art and Design History and Theory
Department: Art and Design History
Course Number: PLAH 3004
Course Format: Seminar
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
  • Art History, Theory & Criticism
  • Politics
Abstraction, within the context of Greenbergian High Modernism, was characterized as quintessentially apolitical--important precisely for what it could communicate about universal truths and the human condition. Revisionist accounts tell how this form of abstraction was used for political purposes, to demonstrate cultural superiority and exemplify freedom. But even abstraction itself, and the language it used to legitimize its practice and pursuits, materialized in specific social, cultural, and economic, not to mention political, conditions. This class will consider the politics of abstraction in this vein; discussing how abstraction and its discourses themselves contained and communicated different ideologies and ways of understanding the world that are laden with political significance. There will be readings from contemporary artists, critics, and philosophers' writings; as well as later analyses that substantiate these ideas. We will discuss individual artists and representative art movements from the mid 19th century through the present, including (among others) Manet, Cezanne, Kandinsky, Malevich, Cubism, Futurism, and the different iterations of Expressionism (abstract, neo, etc). We will also practices that use the language of abstraction against itself to demonstrate how the field itself is politically located, including Minimalism, feminist art, and so forth.
Course Open to: Degree Students
Course Pre/Co-requisites:
Open to: All university degree students. Pre-requisites: first-year university writing course and at least one prior history or methods course in art, media, film, or visual culture.