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ARTHIST 3JA3 HistOfArt:1970ToPresent

Academic Year: Winter 2017

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: E

Instructor: Prof. Kristin Patterson


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 434

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23719

Office Hours: Tuesdays 1:30-3:00 pm, TSH 434

Course Objectives:

  • Students will gain exposure to a wide range of contemporary art practices
  • Students will gain an understanding of major themes, artists and issues in contemporary art 
  • Introduction and discussion of contemporary art theory and criticism
  • Students will gain an appreciation of the intersections between art and the social, political and cultural events and changes of the last forty years
  • Students will continue to develop observation and critical assessment skills
  • Students will refine research and writing skills through course assignments​

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Students will be responsible for reading articles, watching interviews/videos and visiting websites provided on Avenue to Learn under weekly headings.

Method of Assessment:

Midterm Test, Feb. 14, 30%

Research Paper (8-10 pages, 2,000-2,500 words), due March 19th, 30%

Final Exam, date TBA, as scheduled by Registrar’s Office, 40%

**Detailed Guidelines of all course assignments will be posted on Avenue to Learn>Content>Assignments.

Students in this course will have received 10% of their grade in this course by March 10, 2017.

Details of Course Evaluation

Midterm Test, February 14th, in class, 30%

The mid-term exam will be written during the first part of class on February 14th. It will include all material from the beginning of the course up to and including the class before the midterm.  We will continue on with lecture material after the exam is over. It will be divided into two parts; you will have 30 minutes for each section.

Part I:  Artwork Comparison: You will be asked to write an essay based on a comparison of two works. A list of proposed comparisons will be given to you one week before the exam. The images will be projected side by side and you will be expected to identify the artist, title and date for each work. Your essay should compare and/or contrast media, themes, reception, political, social and/or historical implications. You should support your observations with material from lectures and assigned readings. (30 points).

Part II:  Definition of Terms: You will be asked to write a short essay definition of five terms from a list given on the exam. The terms will be taken from the lists provided for each class. Your definition must include a relevant artwork covered in class which illustrates this term. You must provide the artist’s name, title of work and date. Your definition must include both material covered in class and the assigned readings. (30 points).  

Research Paper, due March 19th, 11:30 pm, via Avenue, 30%

Students will write a 8-10 page paper focused on one artwork taken from a list provided during the first week of classes. Students will sign up for their topic in class on or before Feb. 1. If you would like to propose a work not on the list it must be confirmed with the instructor in writing before February 1st.  

Your paper is to be a focused analysis of one work, it may be compared to other works by the same artist or include comparison to other artists’ work but you should address the aesthetic and theoretical issues of this one work in detail.  As this is a research paper, students are expected to consult a minimum of three scholarly articles and the paper must include footnotes, a bibliography and list of illustrations. Further guidelines will be posted on Avenue to Learn. Papers are due March 19th. Late papers will be deducted 5% per day.  Papers will NOT be accepted after March 24th.

As it is the responsibility of the instructor to track and report plagiarism, we will be utilizing This is an anti-plagiarism tool that screens all assignments against a database of the internet, e-journals, e-books, and a range of other scanned material including other assignments for this course. This ensures that all assignments are graded on a level playing field and means the papers can be read for ideas and content rather than policed for plagiarism.  Papers are automatically submitted to through the Avenue Assignment tool.

*Please note if you have a principled objection to turnitincom, you must come and speak to me by Jan. 24th so that alternate arrangements can be made. Students who object to using will instead submit research notes, drafts and photocopies of all sources along with their papers rather than uploading to the website.

Final Exam, TBA, 40%

The final exam will be cumulative although it will emphasize material covered since the mid- term. The final exam format will be discussed in the last class and details posted on Avenue to Learn.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Late Policy and Penalties:

All written assignments are to be submitted via Avenue to Learn by 11:30 pm on the due date specified above. Late assignments will be penalized 5% per day for up to 5 days. Assignments more than 5 days late will not be accepted.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Introduction: Conceptual Art to Postmodernism

Art and Identity I:  Black Art

Art and Identity II:  Feminist Art

Performance Art

Body Art

Land, Environment, and Public Art 

Video Art 

Painting and Photography

Art, Activism, and Censorship

Art and Identity III:  Sexuality 

Art and Identity IV:  Ethnicity

Institutional Critique and Installation Art

New Media Art

Other Course Information:

Note to Students:

We will be viewing and discussing controversial material. Many of the works focus on politics of difference and raise issues around racial and gender identities, oppression and resistance. Some works may express viewpoints with which you do not agree. Some contemporary works are made expressly with the intent of provoking new ways of seeing or thinking about art or the world around us. I urge each student to express their views in a respectful manner in class and if for any reason you find the material difficult to deal with please come and see me.