ART THEORY AND PRACTICE

Welcome to the Department of Art Theory & Practice (AT&P) at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Northwestern University. The department has both an undergraduate program, offering a baccalaureate degree, and a graduate program, offering a Masters of Fine Arts degree.

Check this site regularly for newly listed events and updated information | Click here to receive email
announcements of AT&P public events
.



undergraduate

degree requirements | courses | seminars and special topics courses | current course schedule | departmental honors | how to enroll | at&p *projects

director of undergraduate studies: Michael Rakowitz

Our department believes in the inherent unity between the practice and theory of art. Beyond the development of skills and training in techniques, the study of art involves gaining both an understanding of visual thinking and an awareness of the histories, issues and concepts that bear on the direction and role of the visual arts in our culture today.

Most of our courses are designed to serve all students regardless of their major area of study. AT&P enrolls about 40-60 undergraduate art majors, while approximately 1,000 non-majors take our classes every year. Our undergraduate courses cover both traditional approaches and newer media and alternative strategies. Painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture and photography form the core of the undergraduate curriculum, giving students the opportunity to develop a solid foundation in the field's traditions and established media. The department also looks forward to experimental approaches and future developments in visual art making. We incorporate digital technology, video and conceptual art practice into our curriculum, thus blending newer trends with established practices. Also integral to our program are seminars in art theory, as well as critique classes in which enrolled students present new work for prolonged, in-depth analysis by the class. By the senior year, each department major is encouraged to elaborate his or her own self-motivated, individual studio practice in which artworks are produced independently of classroom assignments.

how to get into an at&p class
We realize how difficult it is for students to get into our undergraduate classes, but we encourage you to try. Every quarter, although our classes start off full, students drop out and we end the quarter under-enrolled. Here's what you do: 1.sign up for the wait list on CAESAR 2. go to the first class (no matter how long the wait list) 3. if you don't get in at the first class meeting, go to the second class. If you have any questions, contact Maura Costa, department assistant.

undergraduate studios
To insure safety and security, undergraduate work areas in Roycemore are available only to students enrolled in AT&P courses. Rooms are locked when not in use; see technician for access (technician location posted at Roycemore 104).

technician 
Josh Ippel
Roycemore 104
847.491.4679

studio hours
Mon-Thurs 9am-10pm
Friday 11am-5pm
Saturday 11am-6pm
Sunday 12pm-6pm


basic | intermediate | advanced

100 Level

Art 120-0 Introduction to Painting
This course addresses various problems in painting and introduces students to modes of visual thinking. Work will be done in a two-dimensional format using oil paint on a gesso-prepared ground on a canvas support. The focus is on acquiring the basic material and technical skills necessary to articulate visual ideas in oil paint, including how to organize compositions using color and value relationships, form and shape, placement and paint application. Although most exercises deal with problems in painting, considerable work in drawing may be required to support studies in the use of color and paint. Assignments may introduce students to a variety of subject matter, such as still life, landscape and the figure in representational and abstract form. Instruction is individualized and students and faculty participate in one-on-one discussions of works in progress. Students also participate in class discussions and critiques to develop the criteria for making their own judgments about works of visual art. Evaluation is based on the degree of growth, attendance, participation and the degree of mastery of painting materials and techniques.
No prerequisites. P/N permitted.

Art 124-0 Color Theory
This course provides an introduction to color theory with emphasis on its application to the visual arts. Students will learn key terms and the basics of color physics and the physiology of visual perception. We will become familiar with theories of color relationships based on a color sphere incorporating both color and value with primary, secondary, and tertiary colors identified. The course will explore characteristics such as hue, value, and saturation; additive and subtractive color meeting; color interaction; simultaneous contrast; transparency; the relationship between form and color; and the spatial effects of colors. In addition, the distinctions between local and descriptive color versus subjective and expressive color, the psychological effect of colors, and symbolism and cultural associations will be addressed. Each project will be introduced with a lecture/presentation and examples of artwork relating to the problem investigated. Each project will be followed by a group critique of student work.
No prerequisites. P/N permitted.

Art 125-0 Introduction to Drawing
This course introduces students to the expressive use of various graphic media such as charcoal, pencil, crayon, chalk, pen and ink and/or brush and wash. Specific techniques such as form modeling, spatial illusions and principles of linear perspective may be explored. Through individual critiques and group discussions students develop an awareness of the relationship between observation, technique and expression. Evaluation is based on in-class performance, attendance, ability to absorb and use information and/or a final portfolio.
No prerequisites. P/N permitted.

Art 130-0 Introduction to Time-Based Arts
Through studio assignments, screenings, readings, lectures, discussion, and/or workshops, students will be introduced to a wide range of time-based art practices as used in the visual arts, including performance, sound and video.
No prerequisites.  P/N permitted.

Art 140-0 Introduction to Sculpture
This course is a basic introduction to sculptural concerns and issues of three-dimensional form. It includes instruction in traditional modeling techniques in clay, plaster and woodworking. The teaching method includes slide lectures, demonstrations of techniques and individual guidance on studio projects. There are occasional group critiques and discussions of exhibitions or readings. Evaluation is based on the quality of the completed studio projects, participation in group critiques and attendance.
No prerequisites. P/N permitted.

Art 150-0 Introduction to Photography
This course concentrates on extensive darkroom instruction focusing on the production of high-quality black-and-white prints. Class sessions are devoted to lecture/demonstrations and group critiques that address both technique and content. Students work during class sessions as well as independently and students should be prepared to work in the photo lab outside of scheduled class meeting times. Evaluation of student performance is based on attendance, ability to absorb and implement information and a final portfolio.
No prerequisites. P/N permitted.

back to top

200 Level

210 Digital Tools for Artists
This course introduces the use of several digital tools that can be employed within a range of artistic endeavors. The main software programs that will be addressed are Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. Through lab exercises and assignments students will become familiar with the basic interface of these programs. Instruction will present methods of utilizing digital tools to amplify, explore and expedite art practice within diverse media such as painting, photography, sculpture, performance art and digital media itself. Each program is unique and equipped with specific attributes. The class will use the vector-based program, Adobe Illustrator to create linear and text-based objects; composited and painterly techniques will be explored through the use of the bitmap program, Adobe Photoshop. As each student chooses their mode of expression for the midterm and final project, individualized instruction can include additional interfaces — such as Adobe AfterEffects for motion graphics — as suited to the specific project. Through readings and lectures students will become conversant with areas of new-media theory applicable to the course, including issues addressing digital appropriation. Evaluation will be based on content and skill development, participation in class discussions, project completion and application of course materials.
Prerequisite: One 100-level course in the department or permission of instructor.

Art 222-0 Intermediate Painting
Building on the concepts and skills learned in Basic Painting, this course is structured to help each student develop a visual language and technical skill. Brief lectures, demonstrations and discussions may be used to introduce and clarify new concepts. The instructor provides guidance through one-on-one discussion and group critiques. Evaluation is based on improvement in painting technique as well as personal growth toward independent self-expression.
Prerequisite: 120 Basic Painting or permission of instructor.

Art 225-0 Intermediate Drawing
This course is structured on the premise that students have had previous experience with the basic elements of drawing. Attention is given to the continued development of perceptual abilities and drawing skills, as well as content and creative thought. Demonstrations, explanations, periodic critiques, and daily one-on-one dialogue are part of the teaching method. Effort, growth and inventiveness are major considerations in evaluation, as well as in-class performance, participation in critiques, attendance and the quality of the final portfolio.
Prerequisite: 125 Basic Drawing or 120 Basic Painting or permission of instructor.

Art 230-0 Alternatives to the Object
Traditionally, we think of works of visual art as objects. However, since the 1960s the visual arts have been characterized by a wholesale questioning of how we understand what a work of art is on the most fundamental level. Instead of thinking of art as an object, many artists approach their practices from a variety of alternative points of view. With attention to the history, theory and practice, this studio class will explore four distinct approaches to art's creation and interpenetration: art as gersture, art as idea, art as experience, and art as life (life as art).
Prerequisites: At least one 100-level course in the department or permission of the instructor.

Art 240-0 Intermediate Sculpture
This course investigates concepts, forms, and processes in sculpture with emphasis on the development of a personal artistic direction. Students develop individualized projects through class discussions and one-on-one meetings with the instructor. Emphasis is on experimentation, communication and interpretation. Students exlpore a variety of materials and approaches appropriate to their individualized projects with technical instruction as needed.
Prerequisites: 140 Basic Sculpture or permission of the instructor.

Art 250-0 Intermediate Photography
This course builds on the concepts and skills explored in 150-0 Basic Photography, and includes advanced lab work and the photographic techniques of archival processing and studio lighting.
Prerequisites: 150 Basic Photography or permission of instructor.

Art 260-0 Video Art
This course focuses on the studio production of video art. Students shoot, edit, and present their works to the class. Critical inquiry into the use of video as a medium in the visual arts is explored through the viewing of key works and the examination of current trends in video art in galleries and museums, including the use of video in installation and its incorporation in sculptural works. Class work consists of the development of individual video works, readings, discussions, and the viewing of works by video artists. Through a series of technial workshops, students learn the basics of using a miniDV camera, sound, lighting, and editing with Final Cut Pro.
Prerequisites: One 100 level course in the department or permission of the instructor.

Art 270-0 Contemporary Art Survey
This slide-lecture survey course is designed to give both art majors and non-majors an introduction to the myriad forms and concerns of art from the 1960s to the present. We will begin in the present and work our way backwards, looking first at the impact of globalization on the conditions underlying art making, exihibiting and viewing. Emerging paradigms will be examined, such as the superceding of images by information, and of art exhibition by communication and media platforming. We will consider some of the different ways that artists handle information and new media and technology, for example how they have appropriated relatively new forms like networks and databases. The social and technological changes associated with globablization and the artistic responses to such changes will lead us to track shifts in art's relationship to audiences and culture at large, and to question the relevance today of distinctions between high and low, margin and mainstream. With these developments as our framework, we will then review and update notions of modernism and postmodernism in the visual arts, and question the status today of more traditional media like painting and sculpture, as well as re-evaluate the idea of the avant-garde and its long-held desire to merge art and life.
No prerequisites. P/N permitted only if course is not used either as a general distribution or departmental requirement.

Art 272-0 Critical Methods for Contemporary Art
This slide-lecture survey course is designed to give both art majors and non-majors an introduction to the myriad forms and concerns of art from the 1960s to the present. We will begin by examining the rise of pop and minimal art, and the challenge these movements - along with the earthworks, conceptual art, and performances that followed them - posed to the idea of modernism and the traditions of painting and sculpture. The question of postmodernism will be important to the course both thematically and chronologically. The second half of the course will focus on the issues raised by the return to representation in painting, by photography and other technologies of reproduction, by new media and genres like video art and installation, by shifts in concern regarding audience and public art, and by increased pluralism and globalism and their impact on our definitions of mainstream and avant-garde.
No prerequisites.  P/N permitted only if course is not used either as a general distribution or departmental requirement.

Art 280-0 Studio Practice
This course is designed for art majors in their junior year who have already taken multiple courses in the department and are working towards building a self-directed practice. The emphasis is on practice as the material basis of an artist's creative activity, a set of concrete working behaviors, processes and strategies that may include, but is not limited to, forms of sketching, questioning, brainstorming, self-imposed challenges, chance operations, material investigations, devising and executing of tasks, juxtaposing, copying, repeating, revising, compiling, ordering, editing and research. Throughout the quarter, students will investigate different strategies and modes of exploration and experimentation so that each student may discover what works best in the development and expansion of her or his own daily working process. We may also look at established artists for possible models of active studio practices.
Junior in the major or permission of the instructor.


back to top

300 Level

Art 310-0 Digital Art
This course explores the skills and knowledge needed to create web-based and/or computer interactive works of art. It is designed to assist artists with varying levels of familiarity with computers to create and present work expressing a personal vision entirely within the digital realm. Software explored may include Photoshop, Freehand, Flash, Dreamweaver and other tools as needed. Teaching methods include technical instruction and demonstration and group discussion of digital works of art and student work.
Prerequisites: One 100 level course in the department and 210-0 Digital Tools for Artists, or permission of the instructor.

Art 322-0 Advanced Painting
This course is designed for students who have completed both basic and intermediate level painting or the equivalent. The structure of this course emphasizes the development and coordination of each student’s individual studio practice. Focus on the figure or still-life may be used as a class concentration. Teaching methods include periodic critiques and one-on-one discussion. Evaluation is based on effort, growth, attendance and a final portfolio evaluation.
Prerequisites: 222-0 Intermediate Painting or permission of instructor. P/N permitted.

Art 340-0 Installation Art
This course explores installation art in all media. Students may incorporate a variety of media including video, photography, painting, projected light, sound and sculptural materials in works that expand the physical boundaries of art beyond the discrete object. Emphasis is on independent projects with individual and group discussions throughout the quarter. Students are introduced to techniques for making proposals, lighting, installation and documentation.
Prerequisite: 140-0 Basic Sculpture or permission of instructor.

(Fall 2013): Art 372-0 Seminar: Worlding & Research in Art Today

This seminar will explore how it is possible to think about art from the perspective of the “worldly” as opposed to the “humanistic.” The seminar is intended as the first of a series of three yearly seminars devoted to exploring crucial questions in art and theory today, with examples of artworks at the exhibition dOCUMENTA (13) in 2012 and through readings and discussions. It is an interdisciplinary seminar for students of the Department of Art Theory & Practice as well as from adjacent disciplines.

This course centers around key weekly lectures by Prof. Christov-Bakargiev, and discussions which address the following fields of inquiry surrounding the course topic and description below. Specific readings will be assigned for each week. Special guest speakers, including Chicago-based artists, will be invited to participate.

(Winter 2014) Art 372-0 Seminar: History of Audio Art
Vito Acconci, Maryanne Amacher, Laurie Anderson, Antonin Artaud, Hugo Ball, Samuel Beckett, William S. Burroughs & Brion Gysin, John Cage, Janet Cardiff & George Bures-Miller, Tony Conrad, Alvin Lucier, Marshall McLuhan, Christian Marclay, Robert Morris, Pauline Oliveros, Steve Reich, Walter Ruttmann, Pierre Schaeffer, Michael Snow, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Sun Ra, etc.

Starting with Kittler's wide-ranging investigation into the history of recording technologies (two weeks), we'll do a whirlwind tour of various aspects of audio art with an eye to parallel developments in visual art — examining the proposition that audio art (and the anti- or non-retinal) leads to a greater emphasis on various types of embodiment (phenomenology, etc.) — and end with a focus on the voice (three weeks).


Art 380-0 Studio Critique
This course is designed for advanced students who have already taken multiple courses in the department and are somewhat self-directed in their studio practice. In order to develop their own works, students will regularly present completed works or works in progress to the group for critique, advice and suggestions. This course helps students to develop their skills of interpretation and analysis, to become more articulate in their discussions of their own work and the work of others, and to learn to apply critical language effectively. Towards these ends, a great deal of class time will be spent on intensive group discussion of student work. The class may also discuss how to effectively and professionally document and install works of art and the writing of an artist’s statement. Prerequisite: Art 280, Junior or Senior Status in Major or permission of instructor.


(Spring 2014) Art 390-0 Topics: Digital Photography, On Seeing and Believing
This course will explore the history and nature of photographic imagery relating to its capacity for misrepresentation. From the work of 19th century daguerreotypists, to conceptual artists of the 1980s and current digital imaging practitioners; from optical lens distortion to post-production manipulation; from re-contextualized art photography to Internet hoaxes; and, from the sophisticated DSLRs and HDR compositing, to the iPhone hipstamatic app, “On Seeing and Believing” will investigate the age-old issue of truth and its relationship to photography. With emphasis on photography as a contemporary art practice, students will produce imagery related to discussion topics. Coursework includes shooting assignments, readings, discussions, short essays, and a final project. Pre-requisites: two AT&P courses, or permission of the instructor.

(Winter 2014) Art 390-0 Topics: Death Drive 3000
“The aim of all life is death,” Sigmund Freud’s historic words do not appear strange today. In the perpetual breaking news cycle, the apocalypse is easy to imagine. Will it be an asteroid, a zombie virus or nuclear war? Death Drive 3000 returns to the inanimate. From de Sade to Malabou to Clausewitz, this seminar studies the implications of our unbound and limitless death drive. Topics include: primary nature, partial objects, necrosodomy, dismemberment, omophagia, suicide pacts, plagues, holocausts, total war, and other symptoms of our collective end.


Art 399-0 Independent Study
Independent study is designed for advanced students who will work one-on-one with a faculty advisor to develop a specific independent studio project. Independent study students are accepted only by permission of the instructor, who must be a member of the full-time faculty, and by permission of the department chairperson. The teaching method varies somewhat with each individual faculty advisor, but generally students meet privately with their advisor on a bi-weekly basis.

back to top