HL97: Twentieth-Century Art and Politics Across the Atlantic

Instructors: Nick Donofrio and Louie Valencia
Meeting time: Thursday, 2-5

This course examines three moments of transatlantic cultural exchange and mirroring from the last century: the interwar years, when a series of economic, political, and military crises racked Europe and the United States, prompting radical experiments in social organization and artistic form; the aftermath of World War II, when an unlikely array of artists and intellectuals found themselves stationed on the front lines of the Cold War and a shifting coalition of movements challenged the “Free World” to live up to its name; and the long now of neoliberalism and globalization, linked developments that have generated new challenges and opportunities for the planet and its peoples—and for art and politics. As we analyze documentary photographs and state-sponsored art exhibitions, poems and plays, movies and manifestos, graphic novels and more, we will pay close attention to the artists, activists, scholars, and government officials who produced and distributed them, and to the publics who received them. We will see works of art deployed for all sorts of political purposes, some of which had very little to do with their creators’ intentions. Throughout, we will consider how art is shaped by the politics of race, class, gender, sexuality, and national identity, and how it shapes these things in turn.