Joseph C. Forte

The Esther Raushenbush Chair

BA, Brooklyn College. MA, MPhil, PhD, Columbia University. Special interest in art and architecture of the Italian Renaissance and the 17th century, the history of architecture, and art and architectural theory. Author of articles on Italian 16th-century drawings, French painting of the 17th century, and American 19th-century architecture. SLC, 1978–

Undergraduate Courses 2018-2019

Art History

“A Talent for Every Noble Thing”: Art, Architecture in Italy, 1300-1600

Open , Seminar—Year

This course involves an in-depth survey of the major monuments of Italian art and architecture from 1300 to 1600. Equal emphasis will be given to the histories and societies of major city-states such as Pisa, Siena, Florence, Venice, and Rome; the canon of art works by artists such as Giotto, Donatello, Brunelleschi, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo; readings of major critics and historians of Italian art; and the broader intellectual trends, social realities, and movements that provide a context for our understanding of the artists’ and, to a lesser extent, the critics’ creations. Thus, unified Italian church designs will be juxtaposed with gender-segregated social practice, theories of genius with concepts of handicraft, pagan ideals with Christian rituals, creative expression with religious orthodoxy, and popes with monks, dukes, financiers, and “humanist” intellectuals. The first semester will focus on a close reading of texts surrounding the first polemical “humanist” pamphlets about art in early modern history—Alberti’s On Painting and On Architecture—and will include works by Erwin Panofsky, Ernst Gombrich, and Michael Baxandall. The second semester will engage the development of the “High” Renaissance and the intellectual and aesthetic debates surrounding Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael as philosophers, naturalists, geniuses, models, and marginalized outcasts. Class papers will deal with developing a vocabulary for compositional analysis, critical issues in Italian intellectual and social history (particularly, gender studies), and varied interpretive strategies applied to works of visual art and culture. Conference projects may involve selected topics in religion, history, and philosophy of the Italian Renaissance and art and architecture in Europe and the “New World” from 1300 to the present.

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Architectures of the Future, 1780 to the Present

Open , Seminar—Year

Through PowerPoint presentations, readings, and discussion, the course gives a challenging, inclusive, and nuanced understanding of buildings and monuments; visionaries and builders; users and functions; and thoughts, practices, and theories of architecture from the Enlightenment to today—all claiming in one way or another to rethink the past, realize the present, and, most importantly, create the future. We will learn to read architecture and read with architects; to contextualize form and its urban, sociopolitical, and epistemological implications; and to see how architecture gives form to context, sense to experience, image to philosophy. Over 200 years, notions of ideal beauty, type, and function mutated to progress in form and function and contemporary iterations in theories of the unformed, the sustainable, the mysterious objective, the abject, and the playful. We will analyze major movements (neoclassical, arts and crafts, technological sublime, art nouveau, Bauhaus, postmodernism, deconstruction, new pragmatism, figural, digital, sustainable) and figures (William Morris, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Peter Eisenman, Rem Koolhaas, Sam Mockbee, Zaha Hadid, Jean Gang). Readings will be drawn from history, philosophy, literature (realist, sci-fi, and visionary), Diderot, Edmund Burke, William Blake, William Morris, Buckminster Fuller, Heidegger, Foucault Benjamin, and others. Projects, papers, an architectural notebook dedicated to class notes, readings, drawings, musings, etc., and a conference project will be required in the history, theory, philosophy, and sociopolitical context, including women as users, patrons, and makers of art and architecture. Well-formulated design projects are a possibility. This course shares connections with visual arts, film, and a broad range of subjects in the humanities and social sciences.

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Previous Courses

A Paradox for Painters: European Art of the 16th and 17th Centuries

Open , Seminar—Fall

In Annibale Carracci’s painting of St. Margaret—an Early Christian martyr—an altar is inscribed, “Sursum Corda” (Lift Up Your Hearts). An exploration of the multiple meanings of this admonition, epigram, and emblem form the basis of this course. How is 17th-century art to achieve this lifting up? Lifting up from what and to what? Are all the arts and all the subjects of the visual arts supposed to serve this same purpose? Does this admonition pertain to aesthetic, social, and historical issues, as well as the theological and political? What about the linguistic implications: Can an exalted language exist side-by-side with a dynamic, naturalistic vernacular? The course will cover the art of 16th-century Italy as it frames the questions that painters, sculptors, and architects throughout Europe mediated in the following era, commonly called the Age of the Baroque. Included will be studies of major artists such as Caravaggio, Bernini, Rubens, and Rembrandt, among others.

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More or Less: Architectural Theory From Modern to Contemporary

Open , Seminar—Fall

Readings in this course will focus on major statements made by architects, critics, and philosophers dealing with the built landscape from 1900 to the present. Authors include Adolf Loos, Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, Martin Heidegger, Jane Jacobs, Peter Eisenman, Rem Koolhaas, and Bruce Sterling; readings will range from Ornament and Crime (1909) to Junkspace (2000) and beyond. Emphasis will be on close reading of texts, historical context for ideas, and buildings that are prescribed, described, or proscribed by theory in practice. The first assignment will deal with the generation of critical theory in a manifesto; the second will be about pragmatic design practice; the last, green design. Class will be broken into firms that will develop a response to a particular architectural program and project: the sustainable design of a retrofitted cultural center and residential/commercial area at Sarah Lawrence College.

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A Talent for Every Noble Thing: Art and Architecture in Italy, 1300 to 1600 

Open , Lecture—Year

This course is an in-depth survey of the major monuments of Italian art and architecture from 1300 to 1600. Equal emphasis will be given to the canon of artworks by artists such as Giotto, Donatello, Brunelleschi, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo; to readings of major critics and historians of Italian art; and to the broader intellectual trends, social realities, and movements that provide a context for our understanding of the artist’s and, to a lesser extent, the critics’ creations. Thus, unified Italian churches will be juxtaposed with gender-segregated social practice, theories of genius with concepts of handicraft, and pagan ideals with Christian rituals. The first semester will focus on a close reading of texts surrounding the first polemical pamphlets about art in early modern history, Alberti’s On Painting and On Architecture, and will include works by Erwin Panofsky, Ernst Gombrich, and Michael Baxandall. The second semester will engage the intellectual and aesthetic debates surrounding Michelangelo as genius, model, and outcast. Class papers will deal with developing a vocabulary for compositional analysis, critical issues in Italian intellectual and social history, and varied interpretive strategies applied to works of visual art and culture.

Faculty

First-Year Studies: Beauty, Bridges, Boxes, and Blobs: "Modern" Architecture From 1750 to the Present

Open , FYS—Year

This course aims to give—through slides, readings, and discussion—a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of modern architectural thought, practice, and theory. With their origins in the Enlightenment, notions of ideal beauty, type, form, and scientific function alter to their contemporary iteration in theories of the unformed, the sustainable, the mysterious objective, and the playful. We will analyze major movements (Neo-Classical, Arts and Crafts, Technological Sublime, Art Nouveau, Bauhaus, Postmodernism, Deconstruction, and New Pragmatism) and major figures (William Morris, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Peter Eisenman, Rem Koolhaas, and Zaha Hadid). We will learn to read architecture and read with architects; to contextualize form and its urban, sociopolitical, and epistemological implications; and to see how architecture gives form to context, sense to experience, and image to philosophy. Projects, papers, an architectural notebook dedicated to class notes, readings, drawings, musings, and a conference project will all be required.

Faculty

The Paradox of Painting: Theory and Practice in European Art and Architecture of the 16th and 17th Centuries

Open , Seminar—Year

Annibale Carracci’s painting (1597-99) of St. Margaret, an Early Christian martyr, shows the saint pointing upward while looking outward and leaning on an altar inscribed, “Sursum Corda” (Lift Up Your Hearts). An exploration of the multiple meanings and paradoxes of this image, admonition, epigram, and emblem form an introduction to the basic questions and challenges of this course. How is art in general—and painting in particular—to achieve this lifting up? Who or what should be lifted: the artists, the patron, the viewer, the material, the world? Lifting up from what and to what or to whom? Lifting the heart, the head, the mind, the body? Are all of the arts and all of the subjects of the visual arts supposed to serve this same purpose? Does this admonition pertain to aesthetic, social, and historical issues, as well as to the theological and political? What about the linguistic implications: Can an exalted “classical” language exist side-by-side with a dynamic, naturalistic vernacular? The course will cover the art of the High Renaissance and Mannerism in 16th-century Italy and frames the questions that painters, sculptors, and architects throughout Europe mediated in the following era, commonly called the Age of the Baroque. Included in the first semester will be studies of major artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Titian and art styles such as Mannerism; in the second semester, Caravaggio, Bernini, Rubens, Rembrandt, and Poussin and the style of Classicism, among others. Creative projects may be submitted for conference work by qualified students.

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Problems by Design: Process, Program, and Production in Architecture, 1945 to the Present

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Year

An intense inspection of attitudes in the immediate postwar period will be juxtaposed with post-9/11 issues. Readings will be analyzed and involve works in philosophy, theory, criticism, politics, and social analysis that deal with the aesthetic, formal, infrastructural and sociopolitical questions raised by the notion of ON?/OFF? The Grid: Sustainable SLC 2100. Buildings will feature major architects and movements in the postwar period (Le Corbusier, Brutalism, Venturi, Postmodernism, Eisenman Critical Modernism, Koolhaas, and Pragmatism), responses to powerful external events, small-scale interventions that change the design strategies such as blobs, dots and folds, fractal form, fractured landscapes, datatowns and metacities, ascetic aesthetic/minimalist consumption, megastructures, themed urbanism, transformational design grammars, and economic models for sustainable growth/development/design. Class will be divided into “firms”; group work is emphasized. Assignments involve analytical and critical papers, class PowerPoint presentations, and organized and directed discussions on both readings and buildings in chronological (time, place), typological (type of document, rhetoric of presentation), ideological (internal coherence), and philosophical (external critique) terms. Design projects will focus on ON?/OFF? THE GRID: SLC 2100 for exhibition in April 2016. This course complements courses on urbanism, visual arts, environmental science and studies, literary theory, physics, and, of course, art and architectural criticism and history.

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