Thomas Martinez Pilnik

ART 1020: Criticism & Interpretation


Professor: Thomas Martinez Pilnik

Office: By Appointment
Office Hours: By Appointment
Contact Info: or (434) 270-4520
Response Time: Within 24 Business Hours

“The Function of art is to do more than tell it like it is – it’s to imagine what is possible” – Bell Hooks

The quote is important to Dene. This there there. He hadn’t read Gertrude Stein beyond the quote. But for Native people in this country, all over the Americas, it’s been developed over, buried ancestral land, glass and concrete and wire and steel, unreturnable covered memory. There is no there there Tommy Orange

Communication Philosophy: My door is open and I am here to support your journey not only into design & aesthetic theory but also throughout college. Please get in touch when you need to, support each other often, and together we will cultivate a supportive classroom environment

Student Feedback: Each semester, I incorporate student feedback into my course and deeply value your input throughout the semester, during mid-term evaluations, and at the end of the semester.

Note: This syllabus is meant to serve as an outline and guide for the course. Please note that the instructor may modify it at any time with reasonable notice to students. The instructor may also modify the Schedule at any time to accommodate the needs of the class. Should you have any questions or concerns about the syllabus, it is your responsibility to contact the instructor for clarification

Course Description

An introduction to various current critical approaches to the producers, contexts, audiences, and histories of contemporary visual culture.

This course is designed to introduce you to thinking about, interrogating, and working within the contemporary contexts and narrative of art and visual culture. We will also attempt to subvert white & western norms of art history by exploring contemporary social culture through a theoretical lens.


Learning Outcomes

By the end of the semester, you should be able to:

1.       Feel comfortable reading and discussing some of the major theories surrounding visual culture

2.      Consider contemporary artists and their work against the ideas and theories that we discuss

3.      Form an opinion about where your own work fits within the narrative of contemporary art

4.     Research and write about contemporary culture more confidently

5.      Confidently apply critical techniques and theory to unpack contemporary visual culture

Recommended Preparation & Proficiencies

There are no pre-requisites, but I suggest you come to this class with the following:

·      An eager attitude towards the Avant Garde, the weird, the unknown, and the new

·      Willingness to work collaboratively towards a collective goal, this is not a solo endeavor

·      Excitement to share about your favorite artists, designers, creatives, etc.

·      No assumptions about your peers, yourself, and anything else. No assumptions.

·      Readiness to experiment with ideas, concepts, and stories, amongst other things

·      Understanding of your creative inspirations and processes, and willingness to abandon them

Course Notes and Teaching Strategies

This class is offered for a Letter Grade Only

Any presentation slides and additional resources will be posted on HuskyCT

Announcements will be posted on HuskyCT and emailed concurrently

Any readings and other materials will be posted on HuskyCT

This class will be discussion and collaboration based and participation is core to that. I will attempt to employ multiple pedagogical strategies throughout the semester to ensure all students feel included and able to contribute. We all learn differently, and I will account for that.

Reading and research is central to art, so – when asked - please make sure to arrive prepared and with a couple of key talking points, questions, or platforms to initiate critical discussion.

Course Materials



Additional items, course reading, and media will be made available within HuskyCT and/or in the schedule section below