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To earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Visual and Critical Studies at SVA, students must complete 120 credits as follows: 

  • 60 credits in studio art courses
  • 60 credits in visual and critical studies, art history, humanities and sciences courses 
First-Year Requirements

AHD-1030 Visuality and Modern Art I
AHD-1035 Visuality and Modern Art II
FID-1130 Drawing I
FID-1135 Drawing II
VHD-1010 Reading, Thinking, Writing I
VHD-1015 Reading, Thinking, Writing II
PHD-1007 Lens Arts
PHD-1080 Introduction to Digital Imaging
VCD-1030 The Nature, History and Practice of the Image I
VCD-1035 The Nature, History and Practice of the Image II

Second-Year Requirements

Requirement A
One semester each of:
AHD-2010 Art of the Premodernist World
FID-2310    Looking Into Music
FID-2376    Printmaking: Etching and Woodcut
VSD-2010   Life Drawing
VSD-2120   Sculpture 

Requirement B
Choose one course from the following:
VHD-2060 Visuality in Poetry
  or VHD-2070  Visual Poetics 

Choose one course from the following:
VSD-2102  The Artist’s Journal I
  or VSD-2103     The Artist’s Journal II
  or FID-2228   Sensational Painting and ... 

Choose one course from the following:
VCD-2236  Theories of Vision and Color
  or VCD-2237   The History and Practices of Perspective

Note: Students may take more than the minimum required courses from Requirement B to fulfill second-year elective choices in Requirement C.

Requirement C
In addition to requirements A and B, students must take 3 elective credits in studio and 6 elective credits in art history or humanities.

 

Third-Year Requirements

Requirement A
One semester each of:

VCD-3020  Theories of Imitation
VCD-3040  Aesthetic Theory
VSD-3010  Junior Seminar 

Requirement B
Choose one course from the following:
VCD-3051  Art in Theory: 1648-1900
  or VCD-3052   Art in Theory: 1900-1990
  or AHD-3037  Irony and Beauty

Choose one course from the following:
VSD-3066  Make Your Own Art World: Independent Exhibitions, Projects and Spaces
  or VSD-3402   Advanced Projects in Mixed Media
  or VSD-3807   Fiber Arts

Choose one course from the following:
VCD-3081  Media Studies and Criticism
  or HSD-4026   Art, Science and the Spiritual
  or VHD-3112  Art and Politics

Choose one course from the following:
VSD-3121  Digital Video
  or VSD-3827   Art Writing

Requirement C
In addition to requirements A and B, students must take 9 elective credits in studio and 3 elective credits in art history or humanities.

 

 

Fourth-Year Requirements

The recommended course load is 15 to 16 credits per semester.

All students should see their advisor about individual credit needs for graduation. 

Fourth-year visual and critical studies majors are required to take:

Requirement A
One semester each of:

AHD-4140 Senior Seminar
VHD-4010 Essay Workshop
VSD-4010  Thesis Studio I
VSD-4015  Thesis Studio II
VSD-4050  Thesis Workshop

Requirement B
In addition to requirement A, students must take 9 elective credits in studio and 6 elective credits in art history or humanities.

 

Visual and Critical Studies General Course Listing

AHD-2010
Art of the Premodernist World
One semester: 3 art history credits
The history of art serves as a visual record of the history of ideas. This course will trace the changing nature of representation in painting, sculpture and architecture from the Paleolithic to the early 19th century. Focus will be placed on the rise of civilizations in the Greco-Roman world as well as their roots in non-Western cultures such as those in Asia and Africa. Discussion, slide presentations and museum visits are a part of the course. Topics include art and ritual, idealism and beauty, iconoclasm and theories of God. 

VSD-2010
Life Drawing
One semester: no credit
With a focus on the live model, this course will address the figure in space using a variety of techniques. From short to long poses, students will gain a comprehensive understanding of the human form while examining various concepts relevant to the history of drawing: line and gesture, positive and negative space, composition and the picture plane, tone, form and proportion, and perspective, among others. The class will discuss contemporary forms of life drawing and its relevance to the art market. 

DSD-2020
Basic Graphic Design I
One semester: 3 studio credits
This course is an introduction to the various aspects of graphic communication and will cover concepts, typography, layout and general graphic techniques. 

VHD-2060
Visuality in Poetry
One semester: 3 humanities and sciences credits
How are words made into images? What is the science of figurative language? What are opportunities for music, image and language to complement as opposed to contrast with one another? This course will address these fundamental questions by engaging with poetic works drawn from diverse periods. In this effort to understand poetry’s relationship with the visual world, we will read closely and critically. We will study the mechanics of poetry and work on writing, listen to writers and attend readings to arrive at a practical understanding of writing and prepare for tackling the larger questions of ekphrasis in poetry. 

VHD-2070
Visual Poetics
One semester: 3 humanities and sciences credits
This course will investigate how the visual world intersects with the abstraction of language in canonical texts by poets. We will read Donne, Blake, Wordsworth, Whitman, Dickinson, Hopkins, Yeats, Stevens, Pound, Eliot, Auden and Ashbery, among others, and trace how poetry has struggled to capture through language what “seeing feels like.” We will explore artistic devices for making the invisible visible, the abstract concrete, the mute vocal and the small magnificent. Studying theories of mimesis, modes of representation and aesthetic frameworks will complement the reading and writing of poems. 

DSD-2090
Computers in the Studio I
One semester: no credit
This introduction to design on the Macintosh desktop publishing system will begin with the basics of the Macintosh operating system, and continue with software packages (including Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, and Bridge) as tools for visual creation. A minimum of three hours of lab time is required. 

VSD-2102 / VSD-2103
The Artist’s Journal I and II
One semester: 3 studio credits

The goal of this course is to create a visual journal through paintings and works on paper that record the artist’s interests and concerns. Experimentation with various materials and techniques, as well as investigating ideas of personal iconography, symbolism and narrative will be emphasized. Using painting, drawing, basic printmaking and collage, students will be helped in developing weekly journal pieces and a collaborative publication for the semester. Students will be required to keep a sketchbook, review exhibitions and take their own photos for reference and documentation. The spring semester will focus on using pre-determined systems and instructions to create works, and explore the journal approach to art-making in other cultures. Students will be required to keep a sketchbook, review exhibitions and take their own photos for reference and documentation. 

VSD-2120
Sculpture
One semester: 3 studio credits
Serving as an introduction to sculptural materials, ideas and techniques, the primary goal of this course is to broaden the ways in which students understand sculpture and interpret the three-dimensional world. With this focus in mind, the emphasis will be on the physical shaping of ideas. A range of materials will be introduced, including clay, paper, wood and plaster. By utilizing basic skills and materials, students can begin the process of creating meaning from material. 

VHD-2132
Gender Trouble
One semester: 3 humanities and sciences credits
Radical creative inquiry and the “aesthetics of resistance” that occur when the gendered body speaks in the visual will be investigated in this course. Presentations of work by key contemporary and historical figures will help students situate their creative production in relationship to contemporary discourses around race, class, gender, religion and sexuality in art. How do we make sense of feminist art of the past and present—its contradictions, slogans and symbols? What content is lost in translation during art’s shift from private practice to public locus? Students will complete weekly reading assignments by a range of critical theorists, including Hélène Cixous, Julia Kristeva, Elizabeth Grosz, Tricia Rose, bell hooks, Lucia Chiavola Birnbaum, Sharon Kinsella and Susan Sontag, as well as bring in work in any media for weekly critique. 

FID-2228
Sensational Painting and ...
One semester: 3 studio credits
What do we do when we look? What happens as we build pictures? What makes an image memorable? We will consider the context for these concerns from Cézanne to psychedelic art to current exhibitions. Learn to focus your intentions while fine-tuning your intuition. Work from observation, imagination or printed sources with an emphasis on the distinctly physiological experience of painting. 

VCD-2236
Theories of Vision and Color
One semester: 3 art history credits
In this course, students will be asked to consider theories of vision and color through a variety of lenses: critical, cultural, scientific, (art) historical, philosophical, experiential and literary, to name a few. Such consideration will be facilitated by a corresponding diversity of methods, encompassing reading, discussion, screening, observation, experimentation and site visits. We will attempt to arrive at an understanding of both vision and color as multivalent and ever-evolving phenomena. Throughout, students will be encouraged to consider the role of vision and color in both historical and contemporary art practices and in relation to their own artistic development. 

VCD-2237
The History and Practices of Perspective
One semester: 3 art history credits
This course challenges students to understand and to analyze the phenomenon of perspective as a cultural invention. Central topics will include infinite space and illusion, the fixed eye and the gaze, and the relationship between vision and power. The history of perspective will be encountered as it relates to scientific, religious, and philosophical movements by way of readings and visual presentations. Texts by Leon Batista Alberti, Erwin Panofsky, Jacques Lacan, Norman Bryson and Martin Jay, among others, will be discussed. 

VSD-2256
Painting as Sorcery
One semester: 3 studio credits
Painting is magic. In this course, students will discover an alchemical approach to painting by actively combining traditional techniques with alternative methods of building an image (photo, digital, 3D construction) and breathing new life into their work. Through combinations of controlled experiments and critical thinking, students will examine how perceptions of images can be altered through material manipulation. 

VSD-2302
Obsessive Painting
One semester: 3 studio credits
Is making art just a socially acceptable way of channeling obsessive behavior? Look at Agnes Martin’s grid paintings; Morandi’s bottles; Henry Darger’s 15,145 pages of manually typed, hand-painted manuscript; Paul Noble’s fantasy worlds; Vija Celmins’s waves and rocks, and James Hampton’s thrones. It appears that each artist had no “off” switch. This course will address the artist’s never-ending pursuit of ideas, subjects, motifs or materials. Class time will be dedicated to painting and both group and individual critiques. 

FID-2310
Looking into Music
One semester: 3 studio credits
Many artists approach their own work by way of ideas and properties that are primarily associated with another form of expression. Music, abstract and non-material by nature, has often served as a means of exploring the visual arts. This studio course will consider the interrelationship of the visual arts and music by first examining historic examples through lectures and individual research, then applying some of those principles to student projects and presentations. Beginning with the ancient belief in universal connectedness (such as the Harmony of the Spheres), topics will include: structural comparisons of visual and aural creativity; the nature of abstraction; phenomenological similarities and paradoxes of visual and aural perception; sociological and political activism; artistic and legal implications of appropriation in art and music; the interdependency of visual and sound elements in multi-disciplinary art forms such as theater, film, animation, music video and web-based art. 

FID-2376
Printmaking: Etching and Woodcut
One semester: 3 studio credits
This course offers a thorough introduction to different image-making possibilities available in two major areas of printmaking. Etching will be explored through the introduction of line etching, soft ground, aquatint and photoetching. The second half of the semester will focus on monoprint, linoleum and woodcut. Starting from a direct application of color in monoprint, students will then explore the use of color separations and overlays to create color linoleum and woodcut prints. 

VSD-2434
Capturing Life with the Camera Obscura
One semester: 3 studio credits
This course will encompass the history and process of the camera obscura along with its practical use. The camera obscura has enlightened science and art for more than 2,500 years, and it is speculated that Canaletto, Caravaggio, Vermeer, and others incorporated its use. The course will delve into the pragmatic application of the camera obscura through investigation and experimentation with a variety of mirrors, lenses and obscura devices. Each student will build a camera obscura to capture images. Along with analog processes, we will scan and enhance our captures in Adobe Photoshop and, ultimately, develop a portfolio of images. Through our exploration, students will develop a deeper understanding of the physiology of sight and how the camera employs light to inform. 

VSD-3010
Junior Seminar
One semester: no credit
This seminar will focus on developing studio work in preparation for thesis projects. Emphasis will be placed on coherently conceptualizing each student’s independent project, as well as how to contextualize the work through documentation and building a portfolio. 

VCD-3020
Theories of Imitation
One semester: 3 art history credits
A historical and philosophical examination of various ways in which theories of imitation have considered visual and textual imitations is the focus of this course. Readings will include: Plato, The Republic (excerpts); Denis Diderot, The Paradox of Acting; J. J. Winckelmann, Reflections on the Imitation of Greek Works; Erich Auerbach, “Figura”; David Summers, The Judgment of Sense (excerpt); Oscar Wilde, “Decay of Lying”; Harold Bloom, “Necessity of Misreading”; Rene Girard, To Double Business Bound (excerpt); Paul Ricoeur, “Mimesis and Representation”; Jacques Derrida, “Economimesis.” 

AHD-3137
Irony and Beauty
One semester: 3 art history credits
Irony is a puzzling concept, far deeper than the dictionary definition: “Irony is the act of using words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning.” If this were the case, all sarcasm would be irony and the truly ironic act would be nothing more than a cheap theatric. Thankfully, real irony is hard to come by. It is rooted in something more than cleverness, just as beauty is more than simply being pretty. The idea of beauty is, at its core, a moment of transcendence, an experience of something greater than the tangible world has to offer. When done well, irony is a concentrated disaffection with what has been presented as truth; it is a mode of rebellion. Can beauty and irony co-exist or are they mutually exclusive? Is there any irony in the paintings of Barnett Newman or is it all deadly serious? Has irony become too easy? And has beauty ceased to answer any real questions? These are the issues we will address as we try to reconcile these seeming opposites. 

VCD-3040
Aesthetic Theory
One semester: 3 art history credits
Lacking in the long history of aesthetics and the philosophy of art is the case study approach of applying a theory directly to an artwork to see how effective it is. Does it define what art is or is not? Does it help us decide the sensory value of an artwork? Are there judgments of taste and sensory discriminations? Is there an aesthetic pleasure, a feeling of the ‘sublime,’ or is it all in the eye of the beholder? Is beauty a property of things or something we attribute to them? Ultimately, can theories of art provide a framework for critically responding to our art, our culture and nature? We intend to answer these questions by lining up some of the greatest theoreticians of the Western canon: Kant, Hegel, Croce, Adorno, Danto, Derrida, Goodman, Greenberg and Arnheim, with some of the most provocative art of our times. 

VCD-3051
Art in Theory: 1648-1900
One semester: 3 art history credits
This course will focus on what became the central ideas that informed the European tradition of art theory and criticism. The goal is to acquaint students with the writings and ideas of these times, which were considered to be the foundation of what constitutes art and the art experience. 

VCD-3052
Art in Theory: 1900-1990
One semester: 3 art history credits
Important articles, manifestoes, and artists’ statements of the 20th century will be examined in this course. Lectures will connect the artwork produced during that time to these texts and offer a comprehensive understanding of both images and ideas. 

VSD-3066
Make Your Own Art World: Independent Exhibitions, Projects and Spaces
One semester: 3 studio credits
How do you envision your role as an artist in the world of contemporary art? The commercial gallery system presents one possibility, but what are the other options for participating in the current conversation around art? Independent and artist-run spaces offer an alternative to the traditional, market-driven, private gallery system. In this course, we will trace the history of alternative spaces in New York and also look at contemporary artist-run and independent galleries. In addition to readings, screenings and discussion, we will visit and meet the directors of exhibition spaces such as Artist’s Space, Art in General, Canada, Momenta, Participant, Rex Regina, and Soloway. Students will collaborate to curate and produce an exhibition at Soloway Gallery. 

VCD-3081
Critical Media Studies
One semester: 3 art history credits
Mediation has become an acknowledged and celebrated condition during a time when the visualized nature of a globalized world reconfigures our spheres of communication, values and evaluations in ways that require us to reconsider our relations to art-making. This course looks at the history of modern media as a change in tools and technology and at the media cultures they generate, with a decided stress on contemporary and emerging situations. The goal is to characterize and critically examine accepted and developing theories used to understand the real and hypothetical changes in local and global functions of media cultures. Students will participate in assigned exercises and develop and produce independent projects that combine research with textual and visual resources. A global perspective and some experience in Internet practices, web design and social media is a plus, but not required. 

VSD-3083
Watercolor Workshop
One semester: 3 studio credits
Never used watercolor before? Or know the fundamentals and want to become better? Learn the nuts and bolts of making a watercolor drawing from beginning to end. This course will take you step-by-step through the process and show you how to draw what’s in your head to make it a reality. Understanding how watercolors work can be a great way to improve your painting and drawing skills in a variety of media, including acrylics and oils. This course will give you the techniques you need to go and make the paintings and drawings you want to create. 

VHD-3112
Art and Politics
One semester: 3 humanities and sciences credits
This course will explore the relationship of art and politics historically. The objective is to gain a greater understanding of the societal forces that influence art’s development. The convergence of art and politics will be analyzed in the context
of ideas such as autonomy, individualism, representation, power and reality. 

VSD-3121
Digital Video
One semester: 3 studio credits
Designed as a general introduction to video production and theory, in this course students will examine moving-image cultures from a production point of view. We will begin with hands-on experience with cameras, lighting, sound and editing. Theory will then be introduced through concepts in video-making (narratives, structures, rhythms, etc.) and discussions related to topics such as the divide or hybrid of documentary and fiction, found footage, cinematic time, subjectivity/objectivity and essay films. Finally, students will collaborate on a project that encompasses the process of digital video, from concept and scriptwriting to production and editing. Prior video experience is not required. 

VSD-3261
Transitional Painting
One semester: 3 studio credits
How and why do paintings move us? As painters, toward what do we want to move our viewers? This course will use these questions and their related concepts in psychoanalytic theory to discuss studio practice and contemporary painting more broadly. In-class assignments and group crits will be at the core of this course. In addition, short readings will tie together discussions about what “works” in paintings to concerns about an individual’s experience of an aesthetic object and, finally, to questions of social justice. In the process, we will address key challenges to the medium like its historical insularity and ability to address contemporary politics. The goal is to explore the possibilities for painting today and thus clarify our aspirations as practitioners. 

VSD-3402
Advanced Projects in Mixed Media
One semester: 3 studio credits
Advanced Projects in Mixed Media is a studio course with an emphasis on materiality and experimentation. Materials are suggested for assignments but ultimately can take any form—photography, painting, drawing, sculpture, etc. The course embraces the wide-reaching methods of contemporary art, which also includes the potential use of performance and video as well as considerations of context and technology. Students are expected to achieve a greater understanding of themselves as artists and begin to construct their own artistic voice. The course is divided into three sections: The Four Elements, The Five Senses and The Four Temperaments—with focuses on physical matter, experience/interpretation and emotion. Weekly projects will be discussed in a group critique; reading assignments, screenings and field trips are included.

VSD-3807
Fiber Arts
One semester: 3 studio credits
This course will introduce students to the basics of working within several classic American fiber arts traditions, including spinning, weaving, dyeing, appliqué, quilt-making, embroidery, and basic fabric design. While traditional ways of working and basic techniques will be demonstrated and stressed in the first half of the semester, students will use their skills to create individualized artistic projects during the second half of the course. In the end, this course is a hybrid of new and old techniques, combining craft and fine art. 

FID-3849
Silkscreen: Build Your Own Business
One semester: 3 studio credits
Turn your art into your career! This course will cover the process of silkscreening, from creating hand-drawn and digital separations to learning how to print on a variety of materials, including paper, textile, metal and plastic. We will also explore how to utilize the silkscreen process to create your own line of products such as t-shirts, tote bags and greeting cards. Additionally, we will discuss building brand, pricing work, establishing a customer base and mastering social media for your company. How to create an online marketplace, how to package and ship the product and dealing with inventory will be addressed. 

VSD-3827
Art Writing
One semester: 3 studio credits
The written word has always had a close relationship to the visual arts, starting with Plato and The Puranas of ancient India and continuing right up to the era of Artforum and online magazines like Hyperallergic. In this course, we will examine and work with many different kinds of art writing. Readings will range from artists’ writings, art criticism, interviews and manifestoes to essays about art and society and writings generated by galleries and museums. A series of short writing assignments will explore various subgenres of art writing and allow students to sharpen their writing skills and refine their authorial voice. The final project will allow students to write in depth about an art-related topic of their choice. Texts include pieces by a wide range of artists, writers and critics, including Max Beckmann, George Orwell, Oscar Wilde, Dave Hickey, Mira Schor, Ken Johnson, Nancy Princenthal, Salvador Dali and Mina Loy. 

VHD-4010
Essay Workshop
One semester: 3 humanities and sciences credits
The essay is a literary form perfect for grappling with complex ideas in a direct and personal manner. Less rigid than the scholarly treatise, its openness allows a writer tremendous flexibility in considering a chosen topic from numerous angles. In this course, we will examine the uses and particular strengths of the essay by reading and discussing a wide range of examples, as well as writing short essays in a variety of styles. Our reading will range from the invention of the modern essay in the 16th century by Montaigne to opinion pieces in current magazines. Writing assignments will explore uses of the essay for diverse purposes, including satire, humor, advocacy, art criticism and the investigation of contemporary issues. The goal throughout will be to help students identify different means of writing available to them as they begin to conceive of and develop the written component of their thesis projects. 

VSD-4010 / VHD-4015
Thesis Studio I and II
Two semesters: 3 studio credits per semester

Consisting of weekly critiques by faculty and visiting artists, this course will provide the anchor by which the final thesis project is undertaken. 

HSD-4026-R
Art, Science and the Spiritual
One semester: 3 humanities and sciences credits
What is our place in the universe? How do we perceive the world? Students will learn how modern science has profoundly transformed modern art. The theories of Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein forever changed how artists understand reality. The rise of science also entailed the decline of organized religion, causing traditional spiritual questions to be reformulated in secular terms. At the same time, the theories proposed by psychologists—the new doctors of the soul—revolutionized modern society’s understanding of the human psyche. Artists responded to the challenges posed by science and psychology by creating new metaphors for the human condition during the first secular, scientific age in human history. We will explore the interplay between art, science and the spiritual by evaluating major scientific and religious trends of the 20th century in relation to the representative artistic movements and works of the time. 

VSD-4050
Thesis Workshop
One semester: 3 studio credits
Intended to hone the skills necessary for the undertaking of the thesis project, this course will examine the material and intellectual contexts in which the thesis is pursued. 

AHD-4140-A
Senior Seminar
One semester: 3 art history credits


Unlike the historical avant-garde that situated itself outside of mass culture, today’s emerging avant-garde art seems to anticipate ways of working from within and in relation to mass culture. Art is steadily moving out from the “white cube” to participate in a global continuum that’s hosted by satellite TV and cable, the Internet, all forms of wireless communication and international biennials. The fractious history of art and mass culture has grown exponentially within the past two decades in direct proportion to the invention of new imaging technologies and the development of global economies. This course proposes to examine the scant, but rich, history of relations between art and mass culture, and to chart the rise of media-related art. We will immerse ourselves in screenings of contemporary video/multimedia work of the past two decades and seek out as many pertinent exhibitions as we can throughout the semester. We will also read interviews with artists and curators, as well as texts on media theory, globalism and the like. 

Independent Study
One semester: 3 studio credits
Junior or senior students who wish to pursue a special project not covered by the parameters of their department’s curriculum are eligible to apply for an independent study course. Students must have earned a grade point average above 3.00 at SVA, and must submit their study goals as a detailed proposal for approval by the department chair. 

Internship
One semester: 3 studio credits
Students can gain valuable experience and broaden their professional network through an internship with a sponsor/employer. Internships for credit are available to juniors and seniors who have earned a cumulative grade point average of 3.25 or better. To receive credit, students must get approval in advance from their department chair, academic advisor and the internship manager. Students must work a minimum of 150 hours (10 hours per week), participate in a weekly online discussion board with other SVA interns, complete self-evaluations and a final project. Elective studio credit is awarded for the successful completion of an internship. 

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