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Birth of the Modern

Reesarch guide supporting AHCS 121: Birth of the Modern

About the Course

This course investigates the mechanisms of taste, value, and exclusion that have dictated art and design in the West from roughly 1850 to the present. Students will explore the ways colonialism, capitalism, structural racism, sexism, the construction of genius and celebrity, and technological acceleration have shaped the world in which we live -- and how art and design have been imbricated in these practices.

Course Learning Objectives

  • Contextualize and explain how shifting dynamics of power shaped and contributed to art and design in the West from roughly 1850 to 1960.  
  • Through reading responses, experiential learning, and a signature learning assignment, analyze the limitations and challenges these dynamics of power presented in their day, and continue to pose to art and design.
  • Locate and articulate how artistic legacies from the onset of modernity manifest in many art and design worlds today.  
  • Develop cultural awareness in a global context.
  • Develop confidence in critical thinking skills through research, writing, and in-class participation.
  • Understand and evidence how the ideas, materials, and ways of making from the modern era can be used in creative practices today.


From Wikipedia:

Modernism is a philosophical movement that, along with cultural trends and changes, arose from wide-scale and far-reaching transformations in Western society during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Among the factors that shaped modernism were the development of modern industrial societies and the rapid growth of cities, followed then by reactions of horror to WWI.

Modernity, a topic in the humanities and social sciences, is both a historical period (the modern era), as well as the ensemble of particular socio-cultural norms, attitudes and practices that arose in the wake of the Renaissance—in the "Age of Reason" of 17th-century thought and the 18th-century "Enlightenment". Some commentators consider the era of modernity to have ended by 1930, with World War II in 1945, or the 1980s or 1990s; the following era is called postmodernity.

Modernism and Its Legacy in Art History

These web sites provide a good introduction to and overview of Modernism:

Otis College of Art and Design | 9045 Lincoln Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90045 | Otis Dashboard

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