Accessibility statement

Period Band C

Art in the USA 1945-1975

 Tutor: James Boaden


This module aims to give a broad grounding in the development of artistic practice in the USA during the mid Twentieth Century through a range of exhibition histories in the lectures and a focus on individual artists in the seminars. Diverse ideas developed significantly in this period (such as displaying process, making work in the museum or gallery, addressing the role of the spectator in the experience of an art work, assigning manufacture of works to people who are not the artist, the artist as mass-media celebrity) have influenced contemporary artistic practices right across the globe: this module will introduce these ideas within a critical framework.

Students will develop skills in academic writing, where they will be demanded to address a clearly demarcated historical period – bringing to bear aspects of social history on the works they are looking at, and a national context – which they will be expected to address in its regional, racial, and sexual diversity.

Students will develop skills in class discussion, both presenting clearly and listening carefully.


By the end of the module, students should have acquired:

  • a broad working knowledge of major questions that are raised by the art works produced in the USA between 1945 and 1975
  • an understanding of the benefits and problems inherent in thinking about art history as a history of exhibition and display
  • a broad knowledge of the social context in which the works studied were produced
  • a broad understanding of the debates within art criticism from the period and the development of artists’ writing in this context
  • the skill to choose an appropriate artwork in order to make a clear and concise argument in a brief essay.
  • the skill to write clearly and concisely about complex ideas
  • to articulate their own position on the topics we have discussed in the seminar and locate those opinions within the critical literature that we have read in class

Preliminary Reading

  • Bruce Altshuler, The Avant-Garde in Exhibition, Abrams, 1994
  • Bruce Altshuler, Exhibitions That Made Art History (two volumes), Phaidon, 2007, 2013
  • Gregory Battcock, Minimalism, California, 1995
  • Norma Broude and Mary Garrard, The Power of Feminist Art: The American Movement of the 1970s, History and Impact, Abrams, 1994
  • John Cage, Silence, Wesleyan, 1994
  • Thomas Crow, The Rise of the Sixties, Oxford, 1996
  • Mark Godfrey and Zoe Whitley eds, Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, Tate, 2017
  • Clement Greenberg, Art and Culture, Beacon, 1961
  • David Joselit, American Art since 1945, Thames and Hudson, 2003
  • Steven Maddoff, Pop Art: A Critical History, California, 1997
  • James Meyer, Minimalism, Yale, 2004
  • Anne Wagner, Three Artists (Three Women), California, 1996

Art in the USA

Module code HOA00058I