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.
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.
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.