Robert Rauschenberg

This assignment asks you to write an 8-page paper in which you will develop an argument about how critical approaches to understanding the work of a single artist have changed over time. In this assignment, you are expected to investigate some of the earliest core writings on an artist of your choosing and trace shifts in critical approach discernible in the bibliography across the decades since your paper must feature a clearly articulated argument in the form of a thesis statement that will appear at the end of the first paragraph (or introduction) of the paper.

Primary critical questions to consider in forming your argument:

What characterizes early art critical/art historical approaches to the artist’s work? What kinds of meaning did writers interpret from this art?
How did receptions to the artist’s work change over time, particularly—and this is key—as art historians /art critics mobilized methods such as critical race studies, feminism, queer studies, trans studies, disability studies in their writings?
How do later approaches build on the ideas established in earlier approaches? How do later approaches depart from early approaches?
What effects have historical and political events had on the writing of art history and criticism?

Additional critical questions that should be answered in your paper in support of your argument:

Can you find an intellectual through-line among early responses to the artist’s work?
What subject matter is addressed in these early texts?
Do you detect certain limits on what kinds of ideas appear in early texts (what seems “off limits” or unthinkable at the time)?
How do these texts characterize the cultural or social significance of the artist’s work (if they do)?

Can you find an intellectual through-line among later responses to the artist’s work?
What specific methodologies (e.g. feminism, queer studies, critical race theory, trans studies, disability studies) inform the later writings you are studying?
What subject matter is addressed in these texts, and how does that differ from the earlier texts?
What social or political commitments are evident in these texts?
Do these commitments differ from those of earlier texts, and, if so, how?
How do later approaches to the artist’s work reveal the limits of earlier approaches?

Why did these shifts in approach occur?
How might you understand these shifts relative to modern/contemporary history?

Which approach(es) do you find more effective or more interesting? Why?

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