I went to the Whitney this week, but I wasn’t able to attend the offered courses. instead, I went to their online archive to look through the types of courses they are and have offered in the past. The Whitney currently offers 3 courses, Decade in Focus: Painting in the 1980s, How to Look, and Crash Courses. I really liked the Whitney’s approach to their offered curriculums. It seemed to me that the Whitney Museum was focused on the idea of contextualizing art and artists within art movements throughout history.
The idea to (re)frame artists within certain movements and ideas of the climate of the artist’s time really resonated with me. It brought up this idea of conversation as a way for learning that I had discussed in my previous assignments. Contextualization functions within this idea of conversation. Conversation is not just the physical act of holding conversation. Conversation is also the exchange of ideas between thinkers and umbrella-ing concepts that influenced them within the political, social, and scientific climates of their period.
Above: A screenshot of the courses provided at the Whitney Museum currently.
In my second assignment, I imagined my ideal curriculum for high school would have been a course load which was shared and exchanged with classmates through non-competitive labs and symposiums. For that assignment, I believed that a holistic understand of learned material was necessary for exploration and the development of new ideas. Science is not without Art and Art is not without Science. Many of the greatest scientists were poets and vice versa. For me, I think that is also true for understanding art. So much art is pluralistic and references a multitude of ideas in a single instance. All to often, we hear art discredited by those who claim to be capable of the replicating the same technique, but rarely do people understand the novelty behind the idea embedded within the work.
My course would be structured around artist retrospectives or art movements. It would not only teach students how to look at art visually by understanding visual language that the artist uses, but it would also examine the artist or art movement in reference to other ideas of the time. For artists we would examine orbits of influence: mentors, inspirations, those they influenced, poets, musicians, science, politics, as well as the type of canonized art forms that were accepted at the time. For art movements, we would examine paradigm shifts within canonized ideas, how certain artists functioned as catalysts for those paradigm shifts, and how those ideas influenced other areas of political, social, and intellectual thought.
Courses would be a series of ongoing weekly tours focusing on a different artist or movements. Tour guides/ instructors with visit current art on display or current exhibits happening at the Whitney. The tour guides would bring a catalog of work reference with them as research material for the students. The catalog could be physical documents, other artwork, biographies, or a slide show with relevant content.
Above: Edouard Manet, Olympia, 1865. The stoic, matter-of-fact gaze into the onlooking viewers eyes caused outrage within the art community of the time. It was a pivotal moment in subject matter within art history. Who influenced Manet? What conversations did he engage?