CLT 602/ARH 550 Interdisciplinary Seminar: "Theorizing Artists"
Wednesday 2:00-5:00 p.m. Staller Center 3218

Hugh J. Silverman and Donald Kuspit

When an artist writes about art, can one derive a theory of art from what is written? How do theorists and philosophers who write about art differ from / supplement / inform what artists say about their art and about art as such? This seminar will focus on major twentieth and twenty-first century artists writing about art and how they differ from one another as well as from contemporary philosophers-theorists who write about art?   We will compare (1) the artists' statements to (2) their own art and to (3) positions articulated by philosophers and theorists about art in general (and in some cases about these artists in particular). The differences between these various kinds of articulations / perspectives will be the principal emphasis of the seminar.

Artists will include: Kandinsky, Duchamp, Magritte, Mondrian, Huelsenbeck, Newman, Warhol, Richter, Baselitz, Bacon, and Kosuth. We will read substantial texts by these artists and examine the relations between what they say about art and their own art. Correspondingly, we will read some texts or views of Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Adorno, Dewey, Dufrenne, Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard, and Deleuze on art and artists.

NOTE: For students in the Art and Philosophy Advanced Graduate Certificate (supplementing their regular graduate programs), this course serves as the required Joint Seminar.

See http://ms.cc.sunysb.edu/~hsilverman/ArtPHIL/ArtPHIL.htm for details concerning enrollment in and completing requirements for the Art and Philosophy Advanced Graduate Certificate. The seminar also serves as an interface course for the PHI doctoral program requirement. For this requirement, it is recommended that students take the seminar as CLT 602.


Seminar requirements:

Seminar papers: two papers (about 7-9 pages in length).  The first paper should focus on an artist’s statements about art in relation to that artist’s art practice and that of other artists and events at the time. The second paper should take up the same artist now in relation to philosophical and critical theorizing either from the artist’s own time or subsequently.  The second paper should assess differences between the artist’s statements, the artist’s practice, and the critical-philosophical discourse that places the artist’s work in context – theoretical, political, and historical contexts.

All work must be submitted in duplicate.  The first paper will be due October 17th and the second paper is due November 28th. No incompletes will be given this semester. Hence papers must be submitted by the indicated deadlines.

Protocols and Video Presentations: each member of the seminar will prepare a protocol for one of the seminar sessions (depending on the number of seminar participants).  The person responsible for a particular week will write up an account of what transpired in class the previous week and will make a copy available to each of the members of the seminar prior to the beginning of class. The protocol for a particular week will be discussed at the outset of the seminar.  This will give everyone an opportunity to review what transpired in the previous session and to raise any lingering issues or topics that were not sufficiently treated when first presented.

Those not assigned a protocol will have the option to prepare a 15 minute (max) video of an artist whose statements we are examining this semester in which the artist talks about his/her art and demonstrates his/her views with demonstrations of his/her own art. Comments by critics or philosophers could also be included.  This video should be produced on a DVD, submitted in duplicate to the instructors, and shown in class.


Charles Harrison & Paul Wood, eds. ART IN THEORY – 1900-1990. Blackwell [H & W]



Specific selections for emphasis will be indicated prior to the week of discussion.


9/5 Introductions

9/12  H & W, IB, Expressionism and the Primitive

9/19  H & W, IIA, Modernity, #s 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 14 & IIB, Cubism

9/26  H & W, IIIA, Neo-Classicism and the Call to Order & IIIB, Dissent and Disorder

10/3  H & W, IIIC, Abstraction and Form & [IIID, Utility and Construction]

10/10  H & W, IVA, The Modern as Ideal & [IVB, Realism as Figuration]

10/17  H & W, IVC, Realism as Critique (Surrealism) / CAR IVC, Benjamin

First paper due

10/24  H & W, IVD, Modernism as Critique / CAR II4, Heidegger

10/31  H & W, VA, The American Avant-Garde

11/7  H & W, VB, Individualism in Europe & VC Art and Society / CAR II5, Sartre

11/14  H & W, VIA Art and Modern Life & VIB Modernist Art / CAR II7, Dufrenne, & CAR II9, Merleau-Ponty

11/21  [correction day – Fri schedule – no class]

11/28   H & W, VIIA, Objecthood and Reductivism & VIIB, Attitudes to Form

Second paper due

12/5  H & W, VIID, Critical Revisions & VIIIA The Condition of History / CAR II11 Vattimo

12/12  H & W, VIIB, The Critique of Originality / CAR, V26, Derrida, V27, De Man & CAR, V29, Lyotard,

12/19 H & W, VIIC, Figures of Difference / CAR V30 Deleuze & Guattari & CAR VI34 Irigaray