Write an essay analyzing one artwork, or a small group of works by one artist, in the collection of the Contemporary Art Purchasing Program (CAPP) at the Stamp Student Union. The essay should be approximately five- to six-pages long (double-spaced), and the language should be thoroughly revised and highly polished. Your task is threefold: (1) offer a close, deep description of your chosen work, including particular attention to selected details of importance; (2) discuss the work’s place in the history of art since 1945, comparing its forms and purposes to those of relevant movements, artists, and criticism; and (3) offer a supported interpretation of the work’s meanings. (In support of the second of these tasks, you should quote meaningfully from one or two of our assigned readings, and you should make a detailed comparison to at least one work of art we have studied in class, attending to visual/formal details as well as content.) In addition, write a one-page catalogue entry (approximately 250 words) introducing the work, its context, and its meanings, for a general audience. This will likely be a kind of short summary of your essay. The best of these catalogue entries may be selected for publication in the online catalogue of the collection. Be sure to devote your essay to work that you find rich and complicated (not something you think has a one-liner meaning), so that you can happily and successfully write about it.
If you want some hints on writing a good catalogue entry, be sure to look at the short selection from Beverly Serrell’s Exhibit Labels: An Interpretive Approach. These few pages, posted in our course reserves on ELMS, are about a slightly different task—label writing—but they should be helpful. Be sure to use full, proper footnote citations per MLA handbook or Chicago Manual of Style. Illustrations of the works you discuss will be appreciated but are not necessary, so long as these are in the collection or in our lecture image files on ELMS. (The abstract should state the topic of your paper and what you expect to argue; a sample, from another type of assignment, is attached.) The essay and catalogue entry are due, by hardcopy submission at the start of class, on Thursday, November 18. A revised version of the catalogue entry is due, by hardcopy submission at the start of class, on Thursday, December 9.
Abstract for Essay II
Picturing Contemporary Life: Art Since 1945 (ARTH351) October 14, 2021 Mark Bradford as Abstract Historian This essay will consider Mark Bradfords’ Pickett’s Charge (2017), a major cycle of eight canvases installed at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC. Beginning with an overall description of this gigantic and complicated work, the essay will build close visual analyses of several key details, including the tree-like form in the panel called “Witness Tree” (which, I will argue, alludes to the history of lynching), and the two soldiers prominently, if indefinitely, depicted at the right side of “Two Men.” I will also devote careful attention to describing the beautifully tattered surfaces
of the panels, and to explaining the process by which they were evidently made. The essay will then contextualize Pickett’s Charge in the history of art since 1945, exploring its similarities and differences with both Abstract Expressionist painting and African American conceptual photography. To deepen this comparative analysis, I will consider Bradford’s work in light of Jackson Pollock’s Untitled (# 1A) (1948) and Robert Rosenblum’s influential essay “The Abstract Sublime” (1951). Briefly discussing also Cherise Smith’s essay “Carrie Mae Weems: Rethinking Historic Appropriations,” I will consider the ways in which Weems and Bradford deal differently the history of slavery and racism in the United States. I will by arguing that Bradford deftly involves the eye, body, and emotions of the viewer to connect painting with both nineteenth-century history and contemporary culture. The result, I will show, is a work that is at once sobering and gorgeous, evoking the complicated feelings of a proud country wrestling with a painful history of violence and oppression. Rosenblum, Robert. “The Abstract Sublime.” Reading Abstract Expressionism: Context and Critique. Ed. Ellen G. Landau. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005. 239-244. Smith, Cherise. “Carrie Mae Weems: Rethinking Historic Appropriations.” Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art 44 (2019): 38-50.
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