Professor of Architectural and Art History
Koehler teaches courses in modern and contemporary art, architecture, photography, and design, with an emphasis on connections between the built environment, visual culture, and critical theory. She received her B.A. in English Literature and M.S. in Library Science from the University of Illinois in Urbana, her Masters in Art History from the University of Massachusetts, and her M.F.A. and Ph.D. in Art and Archaeology from Princeton University. In addition to her edited volume The Built Surface: Architecture and the Pictorial Arts, she has published widely on dialogues between architecture and pictures, with a specialization on the Bauhaus, including recent catalogue essays for the Prada Foundation in Milan and the Gallery of New South Wales. Other recent publications include an essay on the Bauhaus and Gestalt in Joseph Albers: Intersecting Colors at the Mead Art Museum, Amherst College, and in 2008 served as guest curator and sole author of Bauhaus Modern, an exhibition at the Smith College Museum of Art. Recipient of recent grants from the NEH, Mellon, and Kress Foundations, she is currently writing an essay on the double portrait, and completing an intellectual history of the architect Walter Gropius from the 1930s to 1960s.
This course will focus on a small, select number of photographs studied in significant depth. Making use of critical theories of reading and looking, we will examine photographs that are both canonical and non-canonical, from the earliest daguerreotypes in the 19th century to avant-garde experimentation in the 20th century to the expanding global image ecologies of the present. We will study the social, intellectual, and art histories of photography, interrogating concepts of visual representation and issues of technology, identity, and power, and employing the theoretical lenses of writers such as Benjamin, Kracauer, Malek Alloula, and Ariella Azoulay. Students will be required to assemble their own archive of photographs and texts, to develop skills in the digital humanities, and to compose close readings based on visual, theoretical and historical analyses.
This course is a focused examination of architectural theories and philosophies, ranging from the canonical writings of Vitruvius and Alberti to the ideas of contemporary architects like Koolhaas, Libeskind, and Eisenman, with an emphasis on modern and contemporary architects, historians, and critical theory (Le Corbusier, Venturi, Tschumi, Benjamin, Heidigger, Bachelard, Solas-Morales, Guattari, etc.) We will spend considerable time on the interaction of cities, buildings and landscapes with other forms of written and visual expression. Students will be responsible for serious weekly readings of treatises and essays, as well as the visual analysis of plans, pictures and structures. Each student will develop a research project that reflects an awareness of diverse methodologies and places their own interests into context. Intended for third or fourth year students.
This seminar is based on a close, comparative reading of the critical theorist Walter Benjamin, the artist Paul Klee and the filmmaker Wim Wenders. Linking history, tragedy, desire and hope to the figures of the angel, the ghost, the puppet, the trapeze artist, and the automaton, these three authors open up an examination of materiality, abstraction, representation, the seen and the unseen, the purposeful, the ephemeral, the accidental, the heartbreaking and the playful. Their comparative treatments of cities, arcades, towers and streets will also be used to explore both the sensations of place and the operations of memory in images, texts, artifacts, and in architecture. Students will create a series of artworks, creative texts, critical reviews and analytical essays.
Students in this course will study original works of Expressionist art in the Five College Museums. We will visit a number of exhibitions as well as permanent collections, covering the art of a variety of times and places, and study the historical context, critical reception, textual analysis, and curatorial issues of the art on display. Central to our deliberations in 2016 will be the exhibition of the expressionist printmaker Kathe Kollwitz at the Smith College Museum of Art. Our investigations will range from early twentieth century prints of E. L. Kirchner, to the Dadaist works of Otto Dix and George Grosz, to Neo-Expressionist artists like Anselm Kiefer. We will also examine works labeled "New Objectivist," including photographs by August Sander and works by the painter Max Beckmann. This is a speaking and writing intensive art history course; students will be responsible for a number of progressively more complicated exhibition reviews and scholarly papers, as well as presentations in the classroom and the museums. We travel regularly to Five College Museums during class time and study original works of art on display and in museum study rooms.
This course is an examination of utopian plans in modern architecture and art, including the works of Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, William Morris, Bruno Taut, Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, El Lissitzky, Kandinsky, and others. This class will consider the expression of utopia in architectural plans in relationship with other art forms (painting, sculpture, the decorative arts, etc.) We explore role of history in utopian schemes--how different projections about life in the future are also harsh criticisms of the present, which often rely upon real or imagined views of social organizations in times past. We also examine the relationship of the individual to the community, and consider how spatial constructions--real and imagined--can affect this relationship. The course includes an examination of literary utopias, including books by Sir Thomas More, Edward Bellamy, and William Morris. Different philosophical approaches to utopian design will be studied, as in the theories of Henri St. Simon, Petr Kropotkin, and Ernst Bloch. This class will also critically examine the relationship between theory and practice, by looking at the successes and failures of actual attempts at utopian communities-the Shakers, Brook Farm, Darmstadt Artists' Colony, Timothy Leary's Millbrook, Disney's Celebration Florida, Arcosanti, etc. The course will conclude with a discussion of contemporary sensations of dystopia and chaos, and consider whether utopian design is applicable to the 21st century.
Investigating works of literature, art, architecture, sound, performance and film, alongside selected texts in philosophy and critical theory, this class will probe the enduring question: "What is Art?" We will debate concepts such as authenticity, appropriation, imitation, forgery, and dissidence. Is art the product of the gifted intellect, instinct and talent, or of practice and tradition? Or, does the creative process require radical thinking and an avant-garde? Is art intentional, or can it be found in the everyday or even the natural world? We will look at artworks as diverse as the earliest cave markings, agit-prop posters, abstract paintings, ritual objects, Renaissance drawings, portrait photography, illustrated books, and graffiti art. We will study artists and writers as varied as Ana Mendietta, Shakespeare, Coetzee, Joyce, Zola, Warhol, Herzog, Kandinsky, Eisenstein, Picasso, Arbus, Banksy, and Ai Wei Wei. We will consider readings on the meaning of art by Plato, Sontag, Nietzsche, Adorno, Sartre, Tolstoy and others. This is a intensive course; we will use the modes of inquiry explored in the class to help frame your Division II in any area or interdisciplinary mix, as you develop a project of your own based on Hampshire's collections of art, books, music, photography, and film. The course requires dedication: some assignments are experimental in nature; the reading is broad; there are film screenings on campus and at Amherst Cinema; there are museum visits in the Five Colleges and a field trip to New York.