Reading and Writing about Visual Experience: American Moderns/American Orients: Asian American Art and Design Before 1970
Tuesday, Thursday: 9:30-11:00am
How did artists and communities of Asian descent claim forms of self-representation — and wield strategies of creative adaptation — in the twentieth-century United States? This course begins with the rebuilding of San Francisco’s Chinatown after the 1906 earthquake, and ends before the Asian American movement of the 1970s. We will examine how individuals and groups (predominately of East Asian heritage) contributed to American art and commercial culture through and against their marginalization. Throughout the period, legislation and stereotypes sought to define people of Asian descent living in the United States as inherently foreign, while Euro-American art and design capitalized on an “oriental” exotic. We will track how modern painters and sculptors explored and contested notions of both American identity and Asian diaspora. We will look at how architects, film stars, and graphic designers navigated the commodification of Asian culture. Finally, we will turn to the artists working at the forefront of the American studio craft movement, while critically assessing the impact of Asian technique and aesthetics on modern ceramics and woodworking.
This course fulfills the second half of the Reading and Composition (R&C) requirement. We will engage closely with texts and works of art, developing strategies to be effective readers, writers and researchers at the college level. In the first half of the course, we will be guided by recent scholarship and museum catalogues in the field of Asian American art history. Students will study texts closely for how they use sources, build an argument, and enter into an academic conversation. Frequent short writing assignments will draw on visual analysis skills practiced in class, and respond to primary sources and methodological texts. In the second half of the course, we will produce a longer (10-12 page) research paper, crafting a historical argument based on the analysis of several works of art.