Art and the Crisis of Modernity

This course will develop a parallel reflection on the world in which the art of our time expresses itself, and which art, in turn, tries to shape. In the first part, we analyze different interpretations of the crisis of modernity, which aim to offer, through different historical and philosophical approaches, other meanings of the age of ‘postmodernity’. In the second part, we initially focus on some of the artistic revolutions that took place almost simultaneously in the early twentieth century, a time of enormous tension that led to radical changes of worldviews. Thereafter, the discourse develops around some of the avant-garde movements that staged an aesthetic explosion from mid-century onward, such as abstract expressionism, minimalism or post-minimalism; a choice, however, that does not imply the possibility of defining a unique direction in the artistic experience of our time. Yet, precisely the re-definition of time that emerges in the work of some of these artists can be seen as a metaphor of the art of our time. As T.W. Adorno observes in Aesthetic Theory, it is precisely through a fragmentary and ‘not closed’ form, through a ‘synthesis of the dispersed’ which renounces the idea of consonance, that art can express the reality of our time.

3 credits

Course Code: HUM 309

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.