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Arts of Latin America

Purpose of Course  showclose

A chronological and thematic survey of the major themes and developments in the history of Latin American art, this course traces the evolution of visual culture over approximately four millennia.  Organized into three parts, the course begins with the pre-Columbian period (1800 BC to AD 1492), moves into the years of European contact and conquest (AD 1492 to 1800), and concludes with an overview of modern and contemporary art across the Americas.  You will learn to identify and describe works of art and discuss the broader historical and social contexts in which they were produced and circulated.

The first part of the course will introduce you to the major artistic achievements and archaeological record of the ancient Mesoamerican and Andean cultures: monumental architecture, urban planning, painting, sculpture, and portable arts.  The study of colonial art focuses on Mexico, Peru, and Brazil, introducing concepts of artistic hybridity and diversity, indigenous and national cultures, and transatlantic encounters and exchange.  Turning finally to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the course considers artistic production in such avant-garde city-centers as Mexico City, Buenos Aires, and São Paulo.  Throughout the course, you will consider thematic questions relating to the expression of Latin American identities, the relationships between art, religion, and politics, and the nature of “non-Western” art.

Building on the foundations of the Core Program, Arts of Latin America offers a focused survey of art that is often excluded from conventional canons of the field.  If you are familiar with Western Art History, this course will expose you to a fascinating, parallel history of art that challenges and enriches your knowledge of how art evolved globally over time.

Course Information  showclose

Welcome to ARTH 307.  Below, please find general information on this course and its requirements. 
 
Primary Resources: The study material for this course derives from a range of free online content, and includes historical overviews, academic analysis, and primary sources.  The primary resources for this course are:
Requirements for Completion: In order to successfully complete this course, you will need to work through each unit and its assigned material in the order in which they are presented. 
 
Note that you will receive an official grade only on the final exam.  A minimum score of 70% on the Final Exam is required to “pass” the course.  Your score on the Final is tabulated immediately following completion, and you will have an opportunity to retake the exam if needed.
 
Time Commitment: This course should take you approximately 85 hours to complete.  A time advisory is presented under each subunit to guide you on the amount of time that you are expected to spend going through the resources.  Please do not rush through the material to adhere to the time advisory.   You can look at the time suggested in order to plan out your week for study and make your schedule accordingly.  For example, Unit 1 should take you 26.5 hours to complete.  Review your calendar and schedule to complete subunit 1.1 on Monday night; subunit 1.2.1-1.2.2 on Tuesday night; subunit 1.2.3 on Wednesday night; etc. 

Learning Outcomes  showclose

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  • Identify major monuments and works of art from Latin America, recalling such information as the name of the artist or culture, date or period, medium, location, and title.
  • Construct a visual analysis of a single artwork or a small group of works through the identification of visual form, thematic content, and historical context.
  • Discuss major movements in Latin American art and identify their characteristics.
  • Recognize stylistic developments and trace influences between different Latin American cultures and over periods of time.
  • Explain the relationship between artworks from Latin America and the cultural, social, economics, and political contexts in which they functioned and were produced.
  • Discuss critical themes relating to the definition of Latin American art and its relationship to “Western” art history.

Course Requirements  showclose

In order to take this course, you must:

√    Have access to a computer.

√    Have a basic understanding of computers.

√    Have continuous broadband Internet access.

√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g., Adobe Reader or Flash).

√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer.

√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt)

√    Have competency in the English language.

√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

Unit Outline show close


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  • Unit 1: The Ancient Americas  

    A survey of the major arts and architecture of the pre-Columbian world, this unit introduces Mesoamerican and Andean cultures from the earliest known civilizations to the time of European contact and conquest.  The unit proceeds chronologically within each region, setting out “mother cultures,” the Olmec and the Chavín, then traces the continuation of artistic, ritual, social, and cultural practices in later civilizations.  Seeking to debunk popular myths, from the Mayan apocalypse to the Nazca lines, the unit explores the richness of the pre-Hispanic tradition through study of such topics as the colossal Olmec heads, the monumental pyramids at Teotihuacán, and Inca stonework at Machu Picchu.

    Unit 1 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 1 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 1.1 Introduction to Pre-Columbian Art  
    • Web Media: Mesa Community College’s “Peopling of the New World”

      Link: Mesa Community College’s “Peopling of the New World” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read through the slide presentation, clicking the right arrow at the bottom of the page to view the slides.  This text provides a straightforward overview of the earliest settlers of the New World, taking into account various perspectives from anthropology and linguistics.
       
      Expect to spend approximately 60 minutes on this reading.
                 
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Reading: famsi.org: John Pohl’s Mesoamerica: “Introduction” and “Chronology”

      Link: famsi.org: John Pohl’s Mesoamerica: “Introduction” and “Chronology” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Click on the links below the corresponding titles to access the reading.  John Pohl’s “Mesoamerica” provides a clear overview of Mesoamerican art and archaeology, and you may find his survey a useful reference for the first half of this unit.  Read carefully through the entire “Introduction” and “Mesoamerican Timeline,” which preview the civilizations that you will study and define key terminology (e.g., Mesoamerica, Postclassic).
                 
      Expect to spend approximately 60 minutes on this reading.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.2 The Mesoamerican World  
  • 1.2.1 The Olmec  
    • Reading: doaks.org: Karl A. Taube’s Olmec Art at Dumbarton Oaks: “Introduction: The Origin and Development of Olmec Research”

      Link: doaks.org: Karl A. Taube’s Olmec Art at Dumbarton Oaks“Introduction: The Origin and Development of Olmec Research” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Click on the link to download the book, Olmec Art at Dumbarton Oaks.  Taube’s text begins on page 1, but do note the prefatory chronology and maps (pp. xv-xviii), which may be helpful guides.  Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in Washington, D.C. houses one of the premier collections of pre-Columbian art in the world, and its Olmec holdings are among the highlights. 
       
      A scholarly text, this reading surveys the history of Olmec studies and introduces major works and archaeological sites.  Read less for the details than for the broader thematic ideas and basic explanatory information (e.g., the explanation of the axis mundi, the discussion of different carving materials, and the conventions of Olmec iconography).  Be sure to scroll down to the Plates to see the objects referred to in the text.  This is one of the longest texts assigned for this course, but it provides a clear orientation to the nature of archaeological research and many of the terms and ideas that characterize our study of Mesoamerican art in general.  Many scholars consider the Olmec a “mother culture” for Mesoamerica, and we will trace their influence through the later Teotihuacano, Mayan, and Aztec civilizations.
       
      Expect to spend approximately 2 hours on this reading.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.2.2 Teotihuacán  
    • Reading: The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: “Teotihuacán”

      Link: The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: “Teotihuacán” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read through the main text (“Teotihuacán”) and three related Primary Thematic Essays (“Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon,” “Ciudadela,” and “Mural Painting”) linked through a drop-down menu on the left-hand side of the page.  Spend time reviewing the different images cited in the text.
       
      Expect to spend approximately 45 minutes on this reading.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Web Media: unesco.org’s “Pre-Hispanic City of Teotihuacán”

      Link: unesco.org’s “Pre-Hispanic City of Teotihuacán” (YouTube)
                 
      Instructions: Watch the film, paying close attention to the scale of the architecture. 
       
      Expect to spend approximately 15 minutes watching the film, taking notes as needed.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.2.3 The Maya  
  • 1.2.3.1 Royal Courts and Ceramics  
  • 1.2.3.2 Culture  
  • 1.2.4 The Aztecs  
    • Lecture: iTunes U: Northwestern University: Elizabeth Brumfiel’s “Touring ‘The Aztec World’ with Professor Elizabeth Brumfiel”

      Link: iTunes U: Northwestern Univerity: Elizabeth Brumfiel’s “Touring ‘The Aztec World’ with Professor Elizabeth Brumfiel” (iTunes)
       
      Instructions: Click on the link above and select “View in iTunes” to watch the lecture.  Professor Brumfiel describes a number of objects included an exhibition that she organized on the Aztecs for The Field Museum. 
       
      The video runs just under 5 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Reading: famsi.org: Manuel Aguilar-Moreno’s “Aztec Art and Architecture – Text and Images”

      Link: famsi.org: Manuel Aguilar-Moreno’s “Aztec Art and Architecture – Text and Images” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Download the reading through the link on the webpage (make sure to download the version with both art and architecture).  Aguilar-Moreno gives a clear and comprehensive overview of Aztec arts.  As you read through his texts, reflect on the changes and continuities in Mesoamerican art from the Olmec through the Maya and now the Aztec civilizations. 
       
      In the first part of the text (“Aztec Art”), read the “Introduction” and the section on “The Aztec Artists and Craftsmen” for an overview of the Aztecs and their history.  Then focus your reading around the following objects: “Teocalli of the Sacred War (Temple Stone);” “The Sun Stone;” “The Stones of Tizoc and Motecuhzome I;” “Coatlicue;” “Coyolxauhqui Relief;” “Head of Coyolxauhqui;” “Xochipilli (God of Flowers);” and the section, “Feather Work.”
       
      In the second part of the text (“Aztec Architecture”), first read through the “Introduction,” “Types of Architecture,” and “Building Materials and Techniques.”  Then read “The Precinct of Tenochtitlán,” focusing on the following sections: “Introduction;” “Urbanism;” “Ceremonial Plaza;” “The Great Temple;” and “Myths Symbolized in the Great Temple.”
       
      Expect to spend approximately 90 minutes on this reading.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.3 The Andean World  
  • 1.3.1 The Chavín  
  • 1.3.2 Paracas & Nasca  
  • 1.3.3 Moche  
  • 1.3.4 The Inca  
  • Unit 2: Colonial Encounters  

    The “discovery” of the New World in the late fifteenth century by Spain and Portugal inaugurated an unprecedented period of cultural encounters stimulated by the arrival of Europeans and, later, Africans to the Americas.  This unit examines a range of artworks – textiles and decorative arts, religious and viceregal architecture, painting and sculpture – that represent the diversity and, no less, the challenges of cross-cultural engagements.  We will consider such themes as “New World,” or creole, identities, syncretism and hybridity, and colonialism and independence in artworks from Mexico, Peru, and Brazil.

    Unit 2 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 2 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 2.1 Introduction to Colonial Art  
    • Lecture: vimeo.com: Steven Volk’s “The Colonial Heritage of Independent Latin America”

      Link: vimeo.com: Steven Volk’s “The Colonial Heritage of Independent Latin America” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Click play to watch the lecture above.  Note the 5 questions that Volk poses as you watch his lecture:
       
      1. What was the basic purpose of the colonial project?  What were the Spanish (and Portuguese) after?
      2. How was wealth produced (i.e., how was labor organized to get at wealth)?
      3. How was society organized?  How did the Spanish deal with the basic division of society into natives (Indians) and Spanish/Criollos?
      4. What relationship existed between “Latin America” and the rest of the world?
      5. At the moment of independence, what political battles had been decided and what remained to be fought?
       
      Expect to spend approximately 60 minutes listening to the lecture and taking notes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above. 

  • 2.2 Discovering the New World  
  • 2.2.1 Making Sense of the Pre-Columbian  
    • Reading: Vistas: Dana Leibsohn and Barbara Mundy’s “Making Sense of the Pre-Columbian”

      Link: Vistas: Dana Leibsohn and Barbara Mundy’s “Making Sense of the Pre-Columbian” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Click on “Introduction” and “Surveying the Pre-Columbian” to read through an overview of this theme.  Then click on “Pre-Columbian Gallery” and work through each image, making sure to click on the “Discussion” link (above each image) and reading the text carefully.  This webpage is your principal resource for this unit, and you may wish to familiarize yourself with its content (e.g., the Glossary, accessible through the Resources tab at the top of the page).
       
      Expect to spend approximately 3 hours on these readings.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above. 

  • 2.2.2 Reckoning with Mestizaje  
    • Reading: Vistas: Dana Leibsohn and Barbara Mundy’s “Reckoning with Mestizaje”

      Link: Vistas: Dana Leibsohn and Barbara Mundy’s “Reckoning with Mestizaje” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Click on “Introduction” and “Surveying Mestizaje” to read through an overview of this theme.  Then click on “Mestizaje Gallery” and work through each image, making sure to click on the “Discussion” link (above each image) and reading the text carefully.
       
      Expect to spend approximately 3 hours on these readings.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above. 

    • Activity: Southern Methodist University: Peter Bakewell’s “Thinksheets: Castas”

      Link: Southern Methodist University: Peter Bakewell’s “Thinksheets: Castas” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Casta paintings provide a fascinating glimpse into the racial politics of mestizaje.  Read the linked texts by Acosta and Ulloa and click through the selection of paintings as you consider the question posed about the attitude of the Spaniards toward the racial mixture of the colonial population.
       
      Expect to spend approximately 60 minutes on this activity.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above. 

  • 2.2.3 Political Force of Images  
    • Reading: Vistas: Dana Leibsohn and Barbara Mundy’s “The Political Force of Images”

      Link: Vistas: Dana Leibsohn and Barbara Mundy’s “The Political Force of Images” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Click on “Introduction” and “Surveying Political Force” to read through an overview of this theme.  Then click on “Political Force Gallery” and work through each image, making sure to click on the “Discussion” link (above each image) and reading the text carefully.
       
      Expect to spend approximately 3 hours on these readings.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above. 

  • 2.3 New World Cultures  
  • 2.3.1 Patterns of the Everyday  
    • Reading: Vistas: Dana Leibsohn and Barbara Mundy’s “Patterns of the Everyday”

      Link: Vistas: Dana Leibsohn and Barbara Mundy’s “Patterns of the Everyday” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Click on “Introduction” and “Surveying Patterns” to read through an overview of this theme.  Then click on “Patterns Gallery” and work through each image, making sure to click on the “Discussion” link (above each image) and reading the text carefully.
       
      Expect to spend approximately 3 hours on these readings.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above. 

  • 2.3.2 The Mechanics of an Art World  
  • 2.3.3 Otherworldly Visions  
    • Reading: Vistas: Dana Leibsohn and Barbara Mundy’s “Otherworldly Visions”

      Link: Vistas: Dana Leibsohn and Barbara Mundy’s “Otherworldly Visions” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Click on “Introduction” and “Surveying the Otherworldly” to read through an overview of this theme.  Then click on “Otherworldly Gallery” and work through each image, making sure to click on the “Discussion” link (above each image) and reading the text carefully.
       
      Expect to spend approximately 3 hours on these readings.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Unit 3: The Modern Americas  

    The emergence of modernism defined modern Latin American art over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  Beginning with the early constructions of American identities by European “traveler-reporter” artists, modern Latin American art described changing cultural and historical landscapes from Mexico to the Southern Cone.  This unit introduces Latin American avant-gardes beginning with the acclaimed Mexican muralists and continuing through modernist stirrings in Brazil and Argentina.  The unit concludes with an overview of contemporary Latin American and Latino art and a reflection on broad, course-wide themes relating to the history and present-day identities of Latin American art. 

    Unit 3 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 3 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 3.1 Introduction to the Modern Era  
  • 3.2 The Nineteenth Century  
  • 3.3 Twentieth-Century Avant-Gardes  
  • 3.3.1 Mexican Muralism  
  • 3.3.2 Modern Avant-Gardes  
  • 3.4 Contemporary Latin American Art  
  • 3.4.1 Geometric Abstraction  
  • 3.4.2 Pop, Political Art and Conceptualism  
  • 3.4.3 Postmodern Trends  
  • 3.5 Latino Art  
    • Lecture: iTunes U: Smithsonian American Art Museum Lectures and Symposia’s “Latino Art in Transition”

      Link: iTunes U: Smithsonian American Art Museum Lectures and Symposia’s “Latino Art in Transition” (iTunes)
       
      Instructions: Click on the link above and select “View in iTunes” to watch the lecture.  Virginia Mecklenburg, Senior Curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, moderates a dialogue between Latino artists Pepón Osorio and Miguel Luciano.  Each artist introduces his work, and their conversation extends to their influences and sources, audience, and Latino identities.
       
      The podcast runs just over one hour.  Plan to spend approximately 90 minutes watching the lecture and taking notes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 3.6 Latin American Art Today  
  • Final Exam  
    • Final Exam: The Saylor Foundation's ARTH307 Final Exam

      Link: The Saylor Foundation's ARTH307 Final Exam

      Instructions: You must be logged into your Saylor Foundation School account in order to access this exam.  If you do not yet have an account, you will be able to create one, free of charge, after clicking the link. 

      The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

      Submit Materials


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