Course: AAS 245 / ART 245
Instructor: Okeke-Agulu
F 2019

Description of Course Goals and Curriculum

This surveys history of African American art during the long 20th-century, from the individual striving of late 19th century to the unprecedented efflorescence of art and culture in 1920s Harlem; from the retrenchment in black artistic production during the era of Great Depression, to the rise of racially conscious art inspired by the Civil Rights Movement; from the black feminist art in the 1970s, to the age of American multiculturalism in the 1980s and 1990s; and finally to the turn of the present century when ambitious "postblack" artists challenge received notions of black art and racial subjectivity.

Learning From Classroom Instruction

AAS245 is mainly taught in lecture style where a PowerPoint is presented that prefaces main ideas of the assigned readings for that day. However, since it is a relatively small lecture consisting of 20-25 students, there are often interactive components that would require precept-like discussion participation of theoretical texts of art analysis. One should likely take notes on a computer because the lecture hall lights are typically dimmed to highlight the artwork’s details and contrast, making it somewhat difficult to see notebook paper. A helpful tip for note-taking is to organize objects by the themes presented on the first lecture slide, then individual sections for each artist covered and their respective artwork. Doing so will ease preparation for the midterm and final exams which have the same format of image identification, image essays/artwork analysis, and general essays which are a response to previously encountered homework texts. Outside of lecture there will be occasional BlackBoard discussion posts which are an opportunity to ask probing questions, explore theory, and connect history to the present art world. This class is just as much art history as it is intellectual theory from around the African Diaspora.

Learning For and From Assignments

The most important parts of art are what can physically be seen in the work and the context of its production. Since the class grade weighs heavily on exams, the best advice when approaching these are to think of these two components separately and in conjunction with one another. The best advice on structuring studying is to first create a Quizlet or Google Slides where the artwork is on one side and its information is on the other because image identification is mainly memorization. However, this work should be coupled with individual practice of art analysis where the work is shown without information like the artist, year, or title. When ready to begin analysis, break the work down into form and style which will help gauge the context and artist influence. From here, art analysis will help with both the image-based essay components of exams and with the image identification. This analysis can even help with the essay-based questions and can be used as examples of theory being visualized through art. One of the hardest parts about the exams is that each section is timed where image identification is 1 minute per artwork, image-based essays are 15-30 minutes each depending on the exam, and essay-based questions are 25-50 minutes each. Although exams are the main parts, there is a Term Paper with the topic of your choice. The professor only meets to confirm the topic you choose so scheduling an appointment with the Writing Center is great at any stage of the writing process of organizational drafting to edits. This paper is a chance to delve into a topic that has interested you related to anything covered in the class so have fun!

External Resources

The Writing Center is an excellent way to prepare for the Term Paper submission because you can be supported in any stage of the writing process. The University Art Museum website also has descriptions of influential artworks discussed in class that can be used as subjects for the Term Paper or general help with exams. Use these descriptions as a starting point and reach out to classmates to analyze artworks or quiz each other to prepare for the image identification and image-based essay sections of the exams.  Having more eyes on an artwork maximizes the chance to develop a more nuanced understanding of the piece at hand.

What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course Selection

For the purposes of course selection, students should note that this class grade is mainly based on exams. These entail a mix of memorization and critical thinking when approaching various artworks. The paper is a time to explore a topic of interest related to class material and builds off of art analysis skills tested in both exams with image-based essays. This class is great for anyone who has never taken an Art History class before or would like to learn more about African-American art just as much as those who like African-American intellectual theory. It is not particularly difficult if you stay on top of the readings and are comfortable memorizing key information for exams.
Introduction to 20th-Century African American Art

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