Fall 2018


Art Now: What's Happening in Contemporary Art (55+)

Contemporary art notoriously challenges traditional boundaries and defies easy definition. What is it really about, and how does it tackle “meaning”? How central is technique? Does it matter whether a work is aesthetically pleasing? Have artists disconnected from their audiences? Diverse and eclectic, today’s art scene is not distinguished by a uniform principle, ideology or ism. Instead, it is a dynamic dialogue within several large frameworks: personal and cultural identity, politics, environmental issues, mass and popular culture, social activism, and gender, race and sexuality.

Through slides as well as musical and literary examples, we’ll examine a wide range of contemporary art media—painting and drawing, sculpture and installation, photography and photo-based art, print media, video and film, and performance and street art—and the work of several influential artists.

Note: Back by popular demand, from fall 2014.

Please note that enrollment in this course is reserved for adults 55+.

This course is available at the following time(s) and location(s):

Campus Session(s) Instructor(s) Cost Seats available  
Vancouver 6 Lisa MacLean $115.00 0 Join Waitlist

What will I learn?

Week 1: Painting and Drawing

We consider the ideas of postmodernity and contemporaneity, and look at painting and drawing as contemporary expressions. How and why do artists continue to use these traditional forms in the face of challenges from the technological media?

Week 2: Sculpture and Installation

Contemporary sculpture often involves non-traditional materials, processes and sites. Installation art expands on sculptural ideas and can take theatrical forms, appearing in public spaces, site-specific locations and non-art sites. Among the artists we consider are Ai Wei Wei, Rachel Whiteread, Janet Cardiff and George Bures-Miller and Shary Boyle.

Week 3: Photography and Photo-based Art

One of the most influential contemporary art forms is photography, particularly in Vancouver. We examine some of the most influential practitioners, including the Vancouver School, looking at the work of Gregory Crewdson, Diana Thorneycroft, Davida Kidd and Cindy Sherman.

Week 4: Print Media

The 20th and 21st centuries have seen an explosion of print media. We explore this wide variety, including neo-expressionist printmaking, installations, collaborations, zines and street art.

Week 5: Video, Film and Performance

Technological advances have opened up the world of video and film-making to artists in an unprecedented way. Contemporary artists also combine video/film with performance and installation. We look at the work of visual artists who work in time-based media, as well as musicians creating with unconventional materials.

Week 6: Land, Eco and Environmental Art

One of the major concerns of our time is the environment and humans’ vexed relationship with the natural world. We look at different contemporary manifestations of this concern, including the large-scale land art works of Robert Smithson and the environmental art of Richard Long, Andy Goldsworthy and Vancouver’s Nicole Dextras.

How will I learn?

  • Lectures
  • Discussion (may vary from class to class)
  • Papers (applicable only to certificate students)

How will I be evaluated?

For certificate students only:

Your instructor will evaluate you based on an essay, which you will complete at the end of the course. You will receive a grade of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.”

Textbooks and learning materials

Reading material (if applicable) will be available in class. Some course materials may be available online.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

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