In 1995, bell hooks described visual representation as “a crucial locus of struggle for any exploited and oppressed people asserting subjectivity and decolonization of the mind.” This course charts a history of such assertions in an American context, focusing on the period from the Jacksonian era to the end of World War II. It addresses a range of artistic objects, including films, paintings, performance, photographs, and sculptures, some motivated by political commitment and others registering the contested social conditions of their day. By developing skills of close looking and broad reading, we will explore the complexity of individual works as well as asking how artists and activists have responded to social and cultural problems from racism to economic imperialism. What critiques have artists proffered? What counter-narratives have they produced? Course themes include slavery and liberation, fights for rights, labor activism, visual testimony, violence and nonviolence, community, collaboration, and creative resistance. Significant attention will be given to works produced by African- American, Asian-American, and Native-American artists.
High School Students
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