Joseph C. Forte

on leave spring semester

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 2017-2018

Art History

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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Previous Courses

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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“A Talent For Every Noble Thing”: Art and Architecture in Italy 1300-1600

Open , Seminar—Year

This class is an in-depth survey of the major monuments of Italian art and architecture from 1300 to 1550. Equal emphasis will be given to the canon of art works 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 and social realities and movements that provide a context for our understanding 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, 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, Michael Baxandall, and Anthony Grafton. The second semester will engage the intellectual and aesthetic debates surrounding Michelangelo as genius, model, courtier, 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. Conference projects may engage from a variety of critical and historical viewpoints, European art and architecture from 1300 to 1800, and relevant historical and literary issues from 1400 to 1700.

Faculty

History of Architecture: Beauty, Bridges, Boxes, and Blobs: “Modern” Architecture From 1450 to the Present

Open , Lecture—Spring

This course is the second half of a linked sequence. Mr. Castriota’s course—History of Architecture: From Ziggurats and Pyramids to Cathedrals and Mosques: A History of Architecture in the Near East, the Mediterranean, and Europe—is the first half.

This course aims to give, through slides and readings, a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of modern architectural practice and theory—from its origins in Renaissance notions of ideal beauty, classical authority, and scientific function to its latest iteration in Blobs—based on the theory of the abject, pop inflatable structures, and the science of topology. Along with major movements—Baroque Corporialism, Enlightenment Rationalism, The Sublime, Arts and Crafts, Technological Sublime, Art Nouveau, Bauhaus and Figures, William Morris, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, and Frank Gehry—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. Group conferences will deal with primary sources. Three papers and an architectural notebook dedicated to class notes, readings, drawings, musings, etc. will be required.

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