Karen Koehler, professor of architectural and art history at Hampshire College, as well as a visiting faculty member in the Five Colleges, is also coordinator of the Five College Architectural Studies Project, and chair of the Faculty Seminar in Architectural History, Theory and Practice.
She teaches courses in modern and contemporary architecture, painting, sculpture, photography and design, with a special emphasis on connections between the built environment, art, critical theory, and socio-political history. Karen received her B.A. in English Literature and M.S. in Library Science from the University of Ilinois in Urbana, her M.A. in Art History from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, and an M.F.A. and Ph.D. in Art and Archaeology from Princeton University.
Her research addresses the interaction of architecture and other forms of artistic expression from a diversity of times and places, as in her edited volume The Built Surface: Architecture and the Pictorial Arts (London: Ashgate, 2001). She has also published widely in Europe and in the U.S. on Bauhaus art and architecture, and is currently guest curator of "The Bauhaus: Modes and Modernities," an exhibition of prints, photographs, posters, and architectural drawings, opening in the Fall of 2008 at the Smith College Museum of Art.
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.
This seminar examines the art, architecture and design produced in Europe and the U.S. after World War II and the Holocaust, investigating artistic expressions of rubble and rupture in the context of a traumatized humanity and a ruined landscape. Attempts at rewriting the history of modernism, defining a new urban consciousness, and literally rebuilding the world will be among the themes explored in the work of artists groups such as COBRA, the Abstract Expressionists, Black Mountain College, and the Situationists; architectural organizations such as Archizoom, Archigram, and CIAM, design movements associated with the Ulm School, journals such as Domus and the theoretical writings of public intellectuals such as Adorno, Sartre, Arendt and Debord. Students are responsible for a series of presentations and papers.
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, Lebeskind, 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 course can serve as a vehicle by which to develop a thesis or Division III in any area of art, design, architectural studies, art history, philosophy, or critical theory, or to begin to explore connections between history, theory and design in anticipation of any independent written or studio project.
How does a city become a memory through a painting? Picasso's mural painting of Guernica is among the most celebrated works of twentieth century art, and also one of the most politically loaded, thematically poignant, and stylistically complex. This course will cover the position of this work within Picasso's career, its legacy, and its historically specific meaning. We will study the painting in terms of Expressionism, Cubism, and Surrealism, and look in detail at the Paris exhibition buildings in which the picture was displayed. The course will unpack the meanings of Guernica and other works of art, architecture, literature and film in relationship to the Spanish Civil War and the emergence of fascism in Europe. We will conclude with a discussion of the embedded memories of Guernica, its influence on post-war art and culture, and examine images of war in contemporary visual culture.
This course will be a selective examination of the history of photography in Europe and the U.S., from the earliest daguerreotypes in the 19th century to the digital works of the present. We will consider the evolution of photography in relationship to other art forms, including architecture, literature, painting, collage, video, performance, printmaking, and film. We will treat the photograph as an art historical document, and above all, interrogate the works as aesthetically resonant reflections of specific historical moments. This will be a rigorous critical examination of both canonical and non-canonical photographs, and we will work to link the "decisive moment" of the image to those social, political, cultural and intellectual moments in the past that informed their creation and reception. Students will be responsible for a series of papers, regular trips to Five College Museums, and a final student symposium on the state of photography in the 21st century, including global perspectives.
This course is an examination of the emergence, development, and dissolution of European modernist art, architecture and design. The course begins with the innovations and collisions of early twentieth century art, in response to the growth of modern urbanism, industrialist production, colonialist politics, and psychological experimentation, and ends with the cooptation of modernist radicalism in the wake of World War II. Distinctions between the terms modernist, modernity, threshold modernism, and the avant-garde will be explored as we unpack the complex equations between art, politics and social change in the first half of the twentieth century. Covering selected movements and groups (such as Expressionism, Cubism, Futurism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Bauhaus, De Stijl, Constructivism, and New Objectivity) this course will consider themes such as mechanical reproduction, nihilism, nationalism, consumerism, and primitivism as they are disclosed in the making and reception of modern art. Students will be responsible for presentations, essays, a research paper and museum visits.
Professor of Architectural and Art History
Mail Code CS
Adele Simmons Hall 209
893 West Street
Amherst, MA 01002