Course Catalog

01:988:258 Gender, Race, and Contemporary Art

Course Description

In examining the broad intersections of gender and race in contemporary American art, this course will primarily engage the question of how black and white racial politics are reflected in and complicated by gender and contemporary art in the United States. Race has significantly shaped the artistic production of contemporary African American artists, particularly in relation to experiences of class, sexuality, and culture. At the same time, those who write about race and its impact on visual culture often center their critiques on African American artists. This course will highlight the ways these artists have engaged in individual studio practices and collaborative creative endeavors in their artistic production, as well as how they have built coalitions centering on politics, representation, and art. 

In addition to a focus on contemporary African American visual artists and the work they produce, we will also learn about the theoretical frameworks that both art critics and historians have developed for examining the relationship of race and gender with art. This dialogue is a paradigm for considering issues of gender, sexuality, and class that circulate within the art of ‘othered’ racial groups in the United States, including African Americans, as well as Latino/as, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and mixed race artists. We will also use our time together to think critically about racism, gender, and art in other cultures, both historic and in the present.

Course Objectives

We will consider many compelling questions throughout our time together as we analyze the relationship of art to race and gender. Keep some of these key questions in mind as we depart:

  • What are the racial dynamics that have most impacted the history of art and visual culture?
  • When do representations and visualizations of race function positively for people in a particular racial category? When do they fail the people in that category?
  • When does art perpetuate the domination of one race? When is art racist?
  • How does ethnic self-definition differ from racial identity and does it converge with race? 
  • How and when have images functioned to help deconstruct race?   
  • How do colonialism and post-colonialism figure into the discussion of race and its visual representation? 
  • How does the race of an artist affect their work?
  • Where has colorblindness figured into art? 
  • Does sexual identification precede racial identification? 
  • How do gender and sex intersect with these questions?
  • How does perversion fit into a dialogue about race and color?