Modernism is Hard
While I'm sure that things will improve, thus far (I have graded the term definition section) I am rather disturbed.
I think almost everyone has been able to define Pointillism reasonably well, but after that it can be quite the train wreck. I am reminded that last time I taught Intro to Modern, students also tended to think Orientalism mean Japonisme. It is true I talk more about Japanese influence on western art, but considering that Orientalism is such a big topic in other disciplines, you would think people would have heard about it there. Oh well, I will have to stress the difference next time I teach the class.
And I'm unsure why "non-objective" art is a stumbling block for almost everyone, because I know that I specified how it is different from "abstraction" (which has some sort of subject matter out there in the world, whether it is an apple or St. George). I'm especially unsure why several people seem to think it simply hasn't got a focus, or a technique, or a meaning. Still, maybe it's just hard to get used to the idea that a work can be "about" color or form or feeling, although 2008 seems a little late to find this new and surprising since non-objective art is all over the place.
Still, while many people gave reasonable definitions for most terms, I am surprised by some of what I'm reading. A few of the more peculiar definitions proffered by my students this semester are:
AVANT-GARDE: upper crust society
FAUVISM: 'false' movement; artwork focusing on the surreal.
SUPREMATISM: focusing on avant-garde/high society
MANIFESTO: The story and philosophies of a person (or "artificially decorating on the natural image")
PRIMITIVISM: Characterized by indistinct brushstrokes
PLEIN-AIRE PAINTING: a style of painting that uses everyday subject matter
ORIENTALISM: Oath of the Horatii (or, as another person suggests, "Orientation of the picture/painting, lay out)
THE ACADEMY: Liberal art
I had been under the impression that more people understood the material better. Were these people not listening at all? Did they not read the textbook at all? (Where do some of these definitions come from, outer space?) Is it that the class begins at dinner-time? Are people malnourished during class?
I do think that Intro to Modern is intrinsically harder to get a grip on for most people. American Art is, for most of its history, about recognizable subjects. Most people quickly recognize portraits of George Washington, and a significant amount of American art up to 1910 or so deals with national themes. Modernism, on the other hand, involves a bewildering cavalcade of artists and movements, most of whom do their best to make the subject matter a bit baffling.
Ah well. I believe I will do a few other things before returning to the exams.