Inventing the Future: Early Contemporary 1945-1980

The details
Art History and Theory
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 08 October 2020
Friday 18 December 2020
11 May 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA V351 Curating,
BA V352 Curating (Including Year Abroad),
BA V353 Curating (including Placement Year),
BA V359 Curating (Including Foundation Year),
BA V35B Curating (Including Foundation Year and Year Abroad)

Module description

This module offers a critical survey of art from 1945 to 1980, with a particular emphasis on art's intersection with politics. While we will focus largely on art from Europe and the United States, we will place this work in dialogue with artistic developments in Latin America and Japan.
Our point of departure will be the role of modern art in a divided Germany immediately after World War II, when the ideological divisions of the Cold War were swiftly taking hold.
The module then moves on to address several key developments between the onset of the Cold War in the late 1940s and the various forms of civil unrest that occurred in the late 1960s. Some of developments under consideration include: the politicization of abstraction, especially by the U.S. government and American critics; the different manifestations of Pop art on both sides of the Atlantic; the Situationist International and its involvement in radical social politics; and the shifting relationship between homosexuality and contemporary art from the so-called lavender scare (the persecution of gays under McCarthyism) through the Stonewall Riots of 1969.
The module concludes by exploring (post)minimalism and conceptualism, including some ways in which bodies and gender politics shaped the production and reception of these strands of postwar art during the 1960s and 1970s.

Module aims

The aim of this module is to expose students to the widest possible range of modern and contemporary art practice after 1945, and to give them the opportunity to consider this work in a number of different contexts, including those of national origin, of media, of politics and of institution. Moreover, this module sets out to make clear the intricate connections between artistic practice, art history, theory and criticism, and the wider culture in which art is produced. Art has power.

Module learning outcomes

At the end of this module students will have knowledge and understanding of:

1. aspects of modern and contemporary art and architecture from 1945 to the present;

2. key political, social and cultural histories of the period;

3. in greater depth, a number of artists, architects, exhibitions and events in the period, including their reception and social impacts;

4. the role of different media, national contexts or ideological standpoints in forming the practices of contemporary artists;

5. the role of art historians, art critics and aesthetic philosophers in shaping the reception and even production of art and architecture.

Module information

Lectures will focus variously on movements (minimalism, neo-dada, pop), themes (feminism, politics), media and methods (sculpture, performance, new media), particular national or regional contexts (USA, Europe, Latin America), or broader philosophical debates (such as modernism and postmodernism). The course is intentionally broad in both its scope and its approach, intended to provide students with an overview of the issues at stake in art and culture during the post-war period and the powerful and lasting impacts art and art history has had on culture, politics, and ideology.

The module will make trips to relevant exhibitions museums and galleries in London and beyond.

Learning and teaching methods

There will be a two-hour combined lecture and seminar each week. There will be a 2 hour exam in January before the start of term. All teaching events will be accessible to students on and off campus either face-to-face or remotely through online teaching. Week 8 is Reading Week.


  • Jones, Amelia. (2006) A companion to contemporary art since 1945, Malden, MA: Blackwell.
  • Foster, Hal; Krauss, Rosalind E.; Bois, Yve-Alain; Buchloh, B. H. D.; Joselit, David. (2016) Art since 1900: modernism, antimodernism, postmodernism, London: Thames and Hudson.
  • 'Citizen Brus Examines His Body: Actionism and Activism in Vienna, 1968',
  • Wark, Jayne. (2001) 'Conceptual Art and Feminism: Martha Rosler, Adrian Piper, Eleanor Antin, and Martha Wilson', in Woman's Art Journal. vol. 22 (1) , pp.44-
  • Kuspit, Donald B. (1976) 'Pop Art: A Reactionary Realism', in Art Journal. vol. 36 (1) , pp.31-
  • Banham, Reyner. (2011) 'This Is Tomorrow', in October: The MIT Press. vol. 136, pp.32-34
  • Trommler, Frank. (December 1989) 'Germany's Past as an Artefact', in The Journal of Modern History. vol. 61 (4) , pp.724-735
  • Barry, J.; Flitterman, S. (1980-06-01) 'Textual Strategies: The Politics of Art Making', in Screen. vol. 21 (2) , pp.35-48
  • Johanna Drucker. (1993) 'Collaboration without Object(s) in the Early Happenings', in Art Journal: Taylor & Francis. vol. 52 (4) , pp.51-58
  • Siegelbaum, S. (2012-03-01) 'The Riddle of May '68: Collectivity and Protest in the Salon de la Jeune Peinture', in Oxford Art Journal. vol. 35 (1) , pp.53-73
  • Harrison, Charles; Wood, Paul. (2003) Art in theory, 1900-2000: an anthology of changing ideas, Malden, MA: Blackwell.
  • Lewis, Norman; Acton, David. (2015) Procession: the art of Norman Lewis, [Berkeley]: University of California Press.
  • Potts, Alex. (2012-04) 'Realism, Brutalism, Pop', in Art History. vol. 35 (2) , pp.288-313
  • Ball, Edward. (1987) 'The Great Sideshow of the Situationist International', in Yale French Studies. (73) , pp.21-
  • D'Alessandro, Stephanie. (2002) 'History by Degrees: The Place of the Past in Contemporary German Art', in Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies. vol. 28 (1) , pp.66-
  • 'Another Brick in the Wall',
  • de Duve, Thierry; Krauss, Rosalind. (1989) 'Yves Klein, or The Dead Dealer', in October. vol. 49, pp.72-
  • ''The New Brutalism",
  • ''The New Brutalism",
  • Morris, Robert. (1995) 'Notes on Sculpture', in Minimal art: a critical anthology, Berkeley: University of California Press., pp.222-235
  • Bown, Matthew Cullerne. (c1991) Art under Stalin, Oxford: Phaidon.
  • Kunimoto, Namiko. (2013-02) 'Shiraga Kazuo: The Hero and Concrete Violence', in Art History. vol. 36 (1) , pp.154-179
  • Saunders, Francis Stonor. (1999) 'Yanqui Doodles (Chapter 16)', in Who paid the piper?: the CIA and the cultural Cold War, London: Granta Books., pp.252-278
  • Danto, Arthur C. (c1987) 'Approaching the End of Art', in The state of the art, New York: Prentice Hall Press., pp.202-220
  • JULES LUBBOCK. (2002) 'The Counter-Modernist Sublime: the Campus of the University of Essex', in Twentieth Century Architecture., pp.106-118

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   2500 word essay     40% 
Coursework   Quizzes TOTAL     30% 
Coursework   AUTUMN 24hr take home exam     30% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Michael Tymkiw, email:
Dr Michael Tymkiw



External examiner

Prof Richard Simon Clay
Newcastle University
Professor of Digital Cultures
Available via Moodle
Of 18 hours, 2 (11.1%) hours available to students:
16 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information
Art History and Theory

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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