Critical Issues in Contemporary Art
ART 3910 - sec 006 (CRN 15963 / M W 5:30 - 6:45pm /Arts & Humanities #330)
Ruth Dusseault / or email through this wiki (above)


24 credit hours in art. Interdisciplinary course examining changes over the past fifty years, both in art and society, and how these changes have influenced contemporary art and professional art practice. Emphasis on theoretical and critical thinking. Serves as one of the two Critical Thinking Through Writing (CTW) courses required of all Art majors.

Mission of the School

The Ernest G. Welch School of Art and Design offers a rigorous, comprehensive, and accessible graduate and undergraduate education in the visual arts to a diverse student population. From Foundation to Graduate studies, courses are designed to give each student challenging, discipline-specific training while presenting the opportunity for each to discover and nurture an individual vision and voice.

Course Description

Critical Issues in Contemporary Art is designed to introduce BA and BFA Studio Art majors to the critical issues and debates relevant to contemporary art and creative practice. It will investigate the critical theory, art history, and cultural revolutions that shaped the art of the 1990’s through today. Students will be introduced to a variety of critical methodologies such as formalism, feminism, post structuralism, and post-colonialism through lectures, selected readings, slide presentations, film screenings, field trips, visits to exhibitions and presentations by guest artists. Art in a variety of media will be examined to illustrate current critical issues affecting artists in their studio production. Students will debate and clarify issues through verbal and written analysis, interpretation, and comparison of the visual materials and readings.

Course Objectives

Students completing this course will gain an understanding of the processes and critical debates that inform contemporary art practice, and will have participated in a close study of the work of leading contemporary artists and their antecedents. This knowledge will further their ability to place their own work, and the work of others, in a contemporary art and theoretical context and to more effectively develop their own personal studio work as they pursue their BA and BFA Studio Art majors.


The Critical Thinking through Writing projects for the course will constitute most of the final grade for the course.
The writing assignments in this course will take the form of both in-class and out of class writings in response to course material. Students will not be expected to write extended formal papers in this course. You will be working alone and in groups.

Please know that you will be required to print, read and annotate articles pdfs of articles for this class.

Required Text(s)

1. Introducing Modernism: A Graphic Guide by Chris Rodriguez & Chris Garratt (paperback)
2. Introducing Postmodernism: A Graphic Guide by Richard Appiananesi & Chris Garratt (paperback)
3. Self-printed annotated readings will be given by the professor throughout the quarter, available on this course wiki.

Attendance Policy

Attendance at every class is mandatory and is taken at the beginning of each class. If you are enrolled in a class and do not attend the first and second class meetings, you will be asked to drop the class. Classes begin at stated times and lateness is unacceptable. Leaving early or arriving late (5 mins) is counted as an absence. Your final grade will be reduced by full letter grade for each and every absence after the third absence. (Example: a grade of “A” becomes a “B” with 4 absences; a grade of “A” becomes a “C” with 5 absences.) There are no “excused” absences, unless proven with dated medial documents. It would be wise to save your 3 allowable absences in anticipation of emergencies. It is your responsibility to inform me in advance of a class that you know you must miss. You will be held responsible for the material covered in the missed class and must consult your fellow students to receive all instruction and information covered in the class.

Late Assignments

Assignments are due in hardcopy, unless otherwise directed, at the beginning of class on the due date. Late assignments will receive a 5-pt deduction for every day (not class meeting) late. If you know you will miss class, you can submit your assignment through the iCollege dropbox. Do not email papers to me.




Georgia State University and the Welch School of Art have installed punch code locks to make our buildings safer for students and faculty. You should treat any lab or studio under card lock as a secure space. As such, GSU and the Welch School ask that you abide by the following guidelines to help ensure the safety and wellbeing of everyone:

1. ALWAYS have your GSU ID card with you when on campus.

2. NEVER allow anyone to use your card. If a student or member of the staff or faculty is authorized to be in the area, their cards will give them access. If anyone asks you for your card, report the incident to campus police.

3. ALWAYS report suspicious people or activity to the faculty or graduate student in charge of the studio or lab. If, for any reason, there is no faculty or graduate student supervision, report suspicious people or activity to campus police. The number is 404-413-2100.

4. NEVER try to enter a studio or lab by “piggybacking” on someone else. For example: if someone is entering the lab or studio before you, do not try to get through the door while it is open. Wait for the door to close and then punch in again to gain entry. Similarly, do not allow someone else to come through with you. It can be tempting to hold the door open for someone whose hands are full with equipment, etc. This practice, however, is NOT SECURE and can put everyone at risk. Wanting to help is good, but be smart about it. If you want to help a classmate or friend who is carrying a lot of equipment you can, 1) gain entry to the lab or studio by yourself, 2) wait on the other side of the door for the other person to enter, and 3) help the person with her/his equipment.

These procedures are a course requirement and the consequences for violating them range from penalties to your course grade to expulsion from the class. Security is everyone’s concern. GSU and the Welch School of Art and Design thank you in advance for your cooperation.

Grade Distribution

Your overall course grade will be computed according to the following breakdown:
4 Writing Assignments
In-Class Participation
1 Final Project


Grading Standards
Letter grade: A = excellent
93 –100 %
Letter grade: A- =
90 – 92 %
Letter grade: B + = very good
87 – 89 %
Letter grade: B =
83 – 86%
Letter grade: B- =
80 – 82 %
Letter grade: C +
77 – 79 %
Letter grade: C = *
70 – 76 %
Letter grade: C-
There is no grade of C-.
Letter grade: D+= *
77 – 79 %
Letter grade: D = *
63 – 66%
Letter grade: D- = *
60 – 62%
Letter grade: F = failing
0 – 59%
*Refer to the student handbooks and departmental standards for minimal acceptance for passing grade.

Grade Rubric

Criterion #1 Identification of critical issue
Critical issue not identified
Critical issue identified but with no evidence of understanding context
Critical issue identified with evidence of understanding social, cultural, political context
Critical issue clearly identified with evidence of deep understanding of social, cultural, political context
Criterion #2Thorough and insightful analysis
Analysis is incomplete with no indication of critical thinking
Analysis is simplistic or vague with little indication of critical thinking
Analysis is complete with clear use of critical thinking
Analysis is thorough and insightful with sophisticated critical thinking
Criterion #3Clear and logical organization
Organization is not clear and logical and does not help to support claims
Organization is at times clear and logical and only partially helps to support claims
Organization is clear and logical and helps to support claims
Organization is very clear and logical and helps to strongly support claims
Criterion #4Proper grammar, spelling and punctuation.
Many grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors with no evidence of proofreading.
Several distracting grammatical, spelling or punctuation errors with little evidence of proofreading.
One or two grammatical, spelling or punctuation errors that are not overall distracting.
No grammatical, spelling or punctuation errors.

Conference (s)

Each student enrolled in the course will have access to their grades to date through Brightspace. Students then have the option of scheduling a midterm conference outside of class with the professor. Do not wait until the final unit of the course to "make up" missing work. Once we move on to the next unit, I prefer you to take the loss and focus on the current unit of study.

Academic Integrity

Under all circumstances, students are expected to be honest in their dealings with faculty, administrative staff, and fellow students. In speaking with members of the college community, students must give an accurate representation of the facts at hand. In class assignments, students must submit work that fairly and accurately reflects their level of accomplishment. Any work that is not a product of the student’s own effort is considered dishonest. Students may not submit the same work for more than one class. A student may be suspended or expelled for academic dishonesty. Please refer to Georgia State University’s published policies for additional information regarding the policy on academic integrity.


Georgia State University provides program accessibility and reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities. Specifically, the university provides evaluation of individual needs, advisement, and appropriate support for academic programs for identified persons with disabilities. A student with a disability has the responsibility of contacting the Office of Disability Services for an intake interview to assess his or her needs prior to the first semester of enrollment at Georgia State University. Should any problems arise concerning his or her academic program, the student should contact the Office of Disability Services at 230 Student Center (404/413-1560) as soon as possible.

University Code of Conduct

The University has established the policies and procedures that comprise the Student Code of Conduct to both promote the university mission and protect the rights of students, faculty and staff. The official University rules and regulations are contained in the Georgia State University General Catalog and the student handbook, On Campus. The most current version of the Student
Code of Conduct may be found online at each semester. In the event of a conflict between the Student Code of Conduct and other University policies, the most current version of the Code governs.
Disruptive Students will be processed according to the policy regulating Disruptive Students set forth by the Dean of Students. Students should be dressed in a manner suitable for a university course

Classroom Dress and Conduct

There will no profanity during class time.
iPods and other listening devices are not allowed unless otherwise stated by the professor.
Cell phones must be turned off while in the classroom. No calling or texting in class at any time.
All recording devices must be approved by professor.

Syllabus Change

Syllabus may change according to the needs of the class