Thursday, September 1, 2005



Instructor: Alfredo Triff, Ph.D.
Email: (Given in class)
Phone: 305. 237.7554
Text: Miami Arts Explosion: The New Times Column, by Alfredo Triff + my handouts. Suggested Readings: Elizabeth Adams Hurwits’ Design: A Search for Essentials; Maurice Saumarez’ Basic design: The Dynamics of Visual Forms; George Nelson’s Problems of Design; Hazel Conway’s Design History: A Student’s Handbook; Odd Brochmann’s Good or Bad Design and James F. O’Brien’s Design by Accident. Avant-Garde and After:Rethinking Art Now by Brandon Taylor. Art Today by Edward Lucie-Smith. Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative, by Edward R. Tufte. Space, Site Intervention: Situating Installation Art, edited by Erika Suderburg. Also, see my selected bibliography at the end of my handouts and syllabus.


Art106 is a foundational course, exploring and building theoretical and practical understanding of issues in art appreciation, criticism, theory and the sociology of art. The purpose of the course is to learn relevant aspects of art theory while making art. Two other goals of the course are a collective exhibit and a personal essay-piece, which evaluates your own work.

The issues of art-making are many, different and complex. Art is a human activity and has different purposes. We can see it as a cultural expression, as a social activity; an economic by-product, a political tool, etc. The nature of today’s art-world is so complex that one cannot properly grasp everything exclusively from the point of view of the maker.

We’ll look at the art market (i.e. dealers, auctions houses), media (public opinion, critics and historians) academia (educational institutions, curricula) and the public in general, to which this art is shown and presumably directed. As a rule, the more one takes into account our cultural and socio-economic predicaments, the less one's art making seems a neutral, exclusively personal activity. This has an important practical consequence.

The job of theory is to explore the significance of our own ideas about art making. Don’t think of theory as something abstract, dry, cold or separated from practice. Theory expresses how we figure out “why” we do what we do. Thinking and talking about art is part of the activity of doing something with art.

Art106 is supposed to be a fun course: Frequently, we will visit shows --in museums and galleries. As part of the course every Monday, beginning in October, we will host important artists, critics, curators and critics throughout the semester.


1. Grades A, B and C stand for outstanding, good and average respectively. D is below average.

2. Graded assignments and tests count for 70% of the final grade. Class participation and extracurricular activities count for the remaining 30%.

3. Every time we meet, I will assign quizzes or reports to cover the content of the handouts and other issues assigned in class. Quizzes count for the final grade.

4. Attendance is expected. Two non-excused absences are permitted. Each absence thereafter will lower the participation grade at my discretion. Missing tests must be justified by a doctor=s note or the equivalent. Please, feel free to contact me if you have a serious problem with or in the class.

5. Courtesy, class demeanor and respect are important.

6. Reports are commonly a short: a two-page essay on assigned exhibits. Some papers may be more elaborated. Papers must be WP and stapled. No binds or covers, please. We’ll talk about specifics as tasks approach.

(Tentative) Schedule of Classes

September 1: Introduction. Presentations. What is Art? Discussion of standards of criticism to be applied in-class. Art projects (in-class).

September 8: (Handouts) Symbols and meaning in Art. Discussion of basic aesthetic principles. The aesthetic recipient, the aesthetic object and aesthetic experience. The role of the imagination. Emotion, response and enjoyment. Book assignment.
Visit: Jordan Massengale. A very skillful painter, Massengale mixes an odd figuration with aspects of human violence, inside these tense rawand powerful interiors.

September 15: Different approaches to design as defended by different theorists, artists or schools. 1- Formal approach [Arthur Wesley, Walter Crane, Cubism, Maurice de Sausmarez, Minimalism], 2- Naturalistic [Cezanne, Nabis, Rudolf Arheim’s psychological approach], etc. Book assignment.
Visit: Bert Rodriguez. This is cerebral art, but it's oddly sarcastic. Rodriguez can be self-deprecating at times, but artjokes always make us think.

September 22: Approaches to design (continuation) 3- expressionistic [Der Blaue Reiter, Erich Mendelssohn], 4- functional approach [BAUHAUS], 5- “spiritual” approach [Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky], 6- chaos theory applied to design [James F. O’Brien]. Book assignment.
Visit: Maritza Molina. An intense Miami performer, Molina's art (mostly videos and photos, unless you see her "live" events) draw from female stereotypes of pressumed fragility and domesticity and turn them on their heads with surprising results.

September 29: Elements in Design: Discussion an analysis of different elements such as: 1- Line, 2- space, 3- mass, 4- color, 5- texture. Project HW for following week.
Visit: TBA

October 6: Elements in Design, continuation) 6- Time and movement, 7- tension, unity and variety; 8- accent and contrast; 9- scale, 10- composite 3-D. Kinds of imagery: 1- devotional, 2- historic, 3- narrative. Some subject matter and genres: 1- landscape, 2- portraiture, 3- still life, 4- abstraction, etc. Critic of last week’s project. HW Project for following week.
Visit: Westen Charles. A member of the experimental arthouse Locust Projects, Charles makes videos and artobjects that are offbeat, puzzling, but culturally relevant. Lots of readymade turned into revealing manmade.

October 13: Critic of last week’s project. Discussion of Projects for the Upcoming Show.
Visit: Carlos de Villasante. Villasante's art is colorful and iconoclastic through and through; his imagery borrows from graffitti, Aztec symbols, Mexican wrestling and skateboarding. He's also an art teacher, with plenty of experience.

October 20: (Handouts) Different views of what constitutes art. 1- Art as Expression; 2- art as form; 3- art as a pragmatic ideal; 4- hedonistic approach to art. 5- Art as a means to truth or knowledge; 6- art as a means of moral improvement; 7- art for art’s sake. 8- Marxist aesthetics: exploitation and hegemony.
Visit: Brook Dorsch. A veteran gallerist, Dorsch runs one of Miami's best venues --while keeping a busy day job. From humble origins on a little appartment on a second floor above an old pharmacy to a huge warehouse in Wynwood, Dorsch keeps transforming his space to become a hub for contemporarty art, new music and performance. He has tons of stories to share.

October 27: Artistic Cultures: 1- folk-art; 2- artisan culture; 3- clerical culture; 4- artisan culture; 5- ecstatic culture; 6- courtly and gentlemanly cultures; 7- vagabond culture; 8- genius culture; 9- professional culture; 10- applied arts culture; 11- mass-art culture; 12- avant-garde culture; 13- totalitarian culture. Economic Evaluations in the Arts.
Preparation for the show (presentation, etc)
Visit: TBA

November 3: Discussion of show strategy. Invitation-design, logistics, etc.

Visit: COOPER. Though not a performer in the strict sense, there's something extra about Cooper's persona that permeates his art; strong, cryptic, angst-ridden. A very unique artist, one of Miami's best.

November 10: Creative Topics (TBA)

November 17:

Visit: Naomi Fisher.

November 24: TBA

December 1: ART BASEL 2005

December 8: Final Papers?

Bibliography for my handouts

For Design
Paul Klee, Paths of the Study of Nature. Yearbook of the Staatliche Bauhaus Neimar 1919-1923. Translation by Sibyl Moholy-Nagy. John Dewey, Art as Experience, (Minton Balch & Co.: New York, 1934). Walter Gropius, The New Architecture of the Bauhaus (New York: New York Museum of Modern Art, Faber & Faber, 1936). Harold Van Doren, Industrial Design (New York: McGraw Hill Book Co., Inc., 1940). Wassily Kandinsky, On the Spiritual in Art (New York: Solomon Guggenheim Foundation, 1946) J.C. Feldster, Design Fundamentals (New York: Pitman Publishing Corporation, 1950). Lewis Mumford, Art and Techniques (New York: Columbia University Press, 1952). Rudolph Arheim, Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1954). Italo de Francesco, Art Education, Its Means and Ends (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, Inc, 1958). See also: Frederick Malins, Understanding Paintings: The Elements of Composition (1981); Johannes Itten, Design and Form: The Basic Course at the Bauhaus, rev. ed. (1975; originally published in German, 1963). Works on color include Josef Albers, The Interaction of Color (1963, reissued with rev. plate section, 1975); Johannes Itten, The Art of Color (1961, reissued 1973; originally published in German, 1961); Faber Birren, Creative Color (1961), and (ed.), A Grammar of Color: A Basic Treatise on the Color System by Albert H. Munsell (1969); Robert L. Herbert, Neo-Impressionism (1968); William Innes Homer, Seurat and the Science of Painting (1964, reprinted 1978); and Barbara Rose, "The Primacy of Color," Art International, 8:22-26 (1964). The influence of photography on painting is examined in Aaron Scharf, Art and Photography (1968, reissued 1974); and Karen Tsujimoto, Images of America: Precisionist Painting and Modern Photography (1982).

For Aesthetics
Two of the most useful anthologies of contemporary aesthetics are Eliseo Vivas and Murray Krieger (eds.), The Problems of Aesthetics (1953); and Joseph Margolis (ed.), Philosophy Looks at the Arts, 3rd ed. (1987). Others are John Hospers, Introductory Readings in Aesthetics (1969); and Harold Osborne (ed.), Aesthetics (1972), which contains a particularly useful bibliography. More recent collections include Richard Shusterman (ed.), Analytic Aesthetics (1989); and Philip Alperson (ed.), The Philosophy of the Visual Arts (1992). Monroe C. Beardsley, Aesthetics: Problems in the Philosophy of Criticism, 2nd ed. (1981), provides a broad, scholarly overview of the subject; while Richard Wollheim, Art and Its Objects, 2nd ed. (1980, reissued 1992), is more narrow. A comprehensive survey is also attempted in David E. Cooper (ed.), A Companion to Aesthetics (1992). For the definition of aesthetics, the above texts are relevant, as are Roger Scruton, The Aesthetics of Architecture (1979); Paul Ziff, "The Task of Defining a Work of Art," The Philosophical Review, 62:58-78 (1953); George Dickie, Aesthetics: An Introduction (1971); Jerrold Levinson, Music, Art, and Metaphysics (1990); and Nicholas Wolterstorff, Works and Worlds of Art (1980).The first approach to the subject as addressed in the article is exemplified in John Casey, The Language of Criticism (1966); the second in Roger Scruton, Art and Imagination (1974, reissued 1982); and the third in Wollheim's book (above). The classical study of the aesthetic recipient remains that of Immanuel Kant, Kritik der Urteilskraft (1790); to which one may add Bernard Bosanquet, Three Lectures on Aesthetic (1915, reissued 1968). The aesthetic object is dealt with in considerable detail by Roman Ingarden, The Literary Work of Art (1973; originally published in German, 1931); and Mikel Dufrenne, The Phenomenology of Aesthetic Experience (1973; originally published in French, 1953). The differences between the various art forms are explored in John Dewey, Art As Experience (1934, reissued 1980); and Susanne K. Langer, Feeling and Form (1953, reissued 1973). In addition to the works already cited, the following are particularly important discussions of paradoxes: Ludwig Wittgenstein, Lectures & Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief, ed. by Cyril Barrett (1966).


anita said...

what do you prefer we call you?

Josh said...

tonight we discussed what is and isn't art. this is a discussion that i have witnessed in every art history course that i have taken. each time, i have never heard anyone make a conclusive answer as to what constitutes art. i truly feel it's a debate that people conduct to attempt to achieve some sort of exclusiveness. it seems that artists like to downplay some "practice" as not being art in order to boost their own "practice." this is of course my own developed opinion, and it's not something that i've been told. this is what i've gathered from my past "what is art" discussions. i feel that almost everything in the world is a form of art. i realize that a lot of people don't agree with me, and that's perfectly fine. but if you'll indulge me for just a moment...
lisa made a comment in class that baseball is a sport and not art in her opinion (those last three words are very important). if you look at the game in it's entirety, you see trained professionals performing on a stage to an audience. is there a statement being made from these players? to some...yes. for me, i see the game of professional baseball as a statement to others that dreams can come true. as a young boy, i, along with many of my peers, dreamed of playing baseball as a career. i dreamed of the crowd cheering for dramatic plays and victories in which i would be involved. the technical skill of being a competitive baseball player is something that is practiced endless hours and honed constantly. pro players will always strive to be better and better. they, like artists, adapt to their situation, to reach an ultimate goal. for a ball player, it might be a pitching stance that gives them better balance which in turn makes for more controlled pitches. in relation, an artist, may use a filbert brush instead of a squared brush to give him or her a softer brush stroke. in most cases, both artist and baseball player participate in a career that they find enjoyable, they both would like to make money with this skill, and they usually have an audience to share their skill with.
depending on what your definition of art is (which is widely varied), you could view many different things as art. for me, most things in this world are art because my personal definition of art is very broad.
as far as triff's comment: "if everything was art, nothing would be art," i either don't agree with that or i don't fully understand the meaning behind that. right now, i would say that i disagree because i feel that if something is designed, fabricated, altered, tampered with, or inadvertently changed regardless of purpose is could be at the least, loosely defined as art. this is where i'd probably throw in a webster's definition of "art" but i don't think that a dictionary is the best answer for such a broad term.
i would be interested in seeing what others feel about this comment.

art106 said...

Good points Josh. You're right in a way, since art is defined for what it does as "practice," so its meaning is constantly evolving. Now, not everything can be art, because if it was, then there would be nothing to distinguish it from.