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 2021-2022

Art History

First-Year Studies: Problems by Design: Theory and Practice in Global Architecture, 1900 to the Present

Open, FYS—Year

This course will involve reading works in philosophy, theory, criticism, politics, and social analysis that deal with the aesthetic, formal, infrastructural, and sociopolitical questions raised by design strategies, buildings, and utopian or speculative projects. Our focus will be on methods and movements, such as: Enlightenment rationalism and race theory; houses as machines for living; idealized metastructures; corporate and colonial modernisms of the ’50s; new nationalist capitals; blobs; dots and folds; fractal form; fractured landscapes; datatowns and metacities; ascetic aesthetic/minimalist consumption; megastructures; themed or Theme Park ’80s urbanism; transformational design grammars; and economic models for sustainable growth/development/design, monuments and the unspeakable, political and social remediation. Class will begin with a review of previous material through slides discussed by students, then proceed to considerations of readings and new material in PowerPoint. Interaction with colleagues is key. Authors will include: Mabel O. Wilson, “Notes on [Jefferson’s] Virginia State Capital”; Adolf Loos, Ornament and Crime; Le Corbusier, Toward an Architecture; Frank Lloyd Wright, In the Cause of Architecture; Martin Heidegger, “Building Dwelling Thinking”; Hassan Fathy, Architecture For The Poor;  Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities; Peter Eisenman, Written Into the Void; Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi, Learning From Las Vegas; Rem Koolhaas, Delirious New York and Junkspace; along with Bruce Sterling, Anthony Vidler, Sylvia Lavin, and Ma Yansong. Buildings will include work by major architects, such as: Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Louis Kahn, Tadao Ando, Luis Barragan, Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid, Bjarke Ingels, Sam Mockbee and Rural Studio, Alejandro Aravena, Wang Shu, Ma Yansong, Elizabeth Diller, and Jean Gang. Movements discussed will include Modernism, Post-Modernism, Formalism,  Situationism, Minimalism, Counter Culture, Green Urbanism, Monuments and the Unspeakable, The Architecture of Development and of Crisis, Parametrics, and new Pragmatism. Assignments will involve analytical and critical papers, directed discussions on close reading of texts, historical context for ideas, and design projects with an imaginative flair—and, in the spring, designing a “future” or futuristic campus for Sarah Lawrence College in either Shanghai or other major cities by class “firms.” This course complements interests on urbanism, visual arts, environmental science and studies, literary theory, physics, and, of course, art and architectural criticism and history.

Faculty

Sursum Corda: Art and Architecture from Michelangelo to the Dawn of the Enlightenment, 1550-1700

Open, Lecture—Year

In Annibale Carracci’s painting of St. Margaret (1609), an Early Christian martyr, an altar is inscribed: Sursum Corda (Lift Up Your Hearts). This course explores what that meant in the 17th century—for the arts to be a vehicle of uplift and salvation, a challenge to the supremacy of nature, an analysis of history, and a site of contention, paradox, and pride for artists and architects. Using PowerPoint presentations, class discussion, and papers focusing on works in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the course will cover the art of 16th-century Italy—as that art frames the questions that painters, sculptors, and architects pursued throughout Europe in the 17th century, commonly called the Age of the Baroque. Included will be studies of major movements in religion, politics, and society (Catholic reform and the founding of the Jesuits Order, the evolution of academic art, the creation of papal Rome, the importance of private patronage); issues in aesthetics and art theory (the transformation of classical models, theories of the reception of nature, the links to poetry, and the dynamics of style); the emergence of the varying national traditions (the sweet style and Bel Composto in Italy, Calvinist naturalism and the power of light in The Netherlands, and high classicism and Bon Gout in France). Focus will also be on careers of artists like Titian and the erotics of the brush; Michelangelo and transcendent form; Caravaggio and naturalism as the death of painting; Artemisia Gentileschi, biography and exemplum; Bernini and the beautiful whole; Rubens and the multiple ways of transforming; Rembrandt and the rough style; Vermeer and the discipline and technique of light; and Poussin and the modes of expression, among others. Group conferences in the first semester will focus on the art of Michelangelo as practice and problem and theories of the Baroque; in second semester, theories and problems in 17th-century architecture.

Faculty

Previous Courses

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.

Faculty

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

Open, Seminar—Spring

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 artworks 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 course 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. We will also 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.

Faculty

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.

Faculty

Architectures of the Future: 1850 to the Present

Open, Seminar—Year

Visionaries and builders; users and functions; thoughts, practices, and theories of architecture from the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution to today...all claim in one way or another to rethink the past, realize the present, and, most importantly, create the future. Through PowerPoint presentations, readings, and discussion, this course gives a challenging, inclusive, and nuanced understanding of buildings and monuments. We will learn to read architecture in depth with architects, critics, historians, and philosophers; to analyze the concept of form and its urban, sociopolitical, and epistemological implications; and to see how architecture gives shape and meaning to its context, sense to our spatial and historical experience, and image to philosophies of human collective action. We will analyze major movements (arts and crafts, technological sublime and Brooklyn Bridge, art nouveau, Bauhaus, modernism and nachine villas, archigram and walking cities, postmodernism and DisneyWorld, deconstruction, new pragmatism, figural, digital, sustainable) and figures (William Ruskin, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Peter Eisenman, Rem Koolhaas, Sam Mockbee, Zaha Hadid, Jean Gang, and BIG—Bjarke Ingels, not "the Notorious"). Readings will be drawn from history, philosophy, literature (realist, sci-fi, and visionary), Edmund Burke, William Blake, William Morris, Buckminster Fuller, Heidegger, Foucault, Benjamin, and others. Monuments include the Eiffel Tower, the Houses of Parliament, the Einstein Tower, the World’s Fairs of 1925 and 1939, the Bauhaus building, Fallingwater, the Seagram’s building, New York monuments at Ground Zero and in Lower Manhattan, the Irish Hunger monument, among many other structures. Projects, papers, an architectural notebook dedicated to class notes, readings, drawings, musings, etc. will be required, along with a conference project 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.

Faculty

Lift Up Your Hearts: Art and Architecture of the Baroque—Europe and Its Colonies, 1550–1700

Open, Lecture—Year

In Annibale Carracci’s painting of St. Margaret (1609), an Early Christian martyr, an altar is inscribed: Sursum Corda (Lift Up Your Hearts). This course explores what that meant in the 17th century—for the arts to be a vehicle of uplift and salvation, a challenge to the supremacy of nature, an analysis of history, and a site of contention, paradox, and pride for artists and architects. Using PowerPoint presentations, class discussion, and papers focusing on works in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the course will cover the art of 16th-century Italy—as that art frames the questions that painters, sculptors, and architects pursued throughout Europe in the 17th century, commonly called the Age of the Baroque. Included will be studies of major movements in religion, politics, and society (Catholic reform and the founding of the Jesuits Order, the evolution of academic art, the creation of papal Rome, the importance of private patronage); issues in aesthetics and art theory (the transformation of classical models, theories of the reception of nature, the links to poetry, and the dynamics of style); the emergence of the varying national traditions (the sweet style and Bel Composto in Italy, Calvinist naturalism and the power of light in The Netherlands, and high classicism and Bon Gout in France). Focus will also be on careers of artists like Titian and the erotics of the brush; Michelangelo and transcendent form; Caravaggio and naturalism as the death of painting; Artemisia Gentileschi, biography and exemplum; Bernini and the beautiful whole; Rubens and the multiple ways of transforming; Rembrandt and the rough style; Vermeer and the discipline and technique of light; and Poussin and the modes of expression, among others. Group conferences in the first semester will focus on the art of Michelangelo as practice and problem and theories of the Baroque; in second semester, theories and problems in 17th-century architecture.

Faculty

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.

Faculty

Problems by Design: Theory and Practice in Architecture, 1960 to the Present.

Open, Large Lecture—Spring

This course will involve works in philosophy, theory, criticism, politics, and social analysis that deal with the aesthetic, formal, infrastructural, and sociopolitical questions raised by design strategies, buildings, and utopian or speculative projects. Our focus will be on methods and movements 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. Topics will be introduced in PowerPoint presentations. Authors will include Adolf Loos, Martin Heidegger, Jane Jacobs, Peter Eisenman, Rem Koolhaas, Bruce Sterling, and Anthony Vidler. Buildings will include work by major architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Louis Kahn, Tadao Ando, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Bjarke Ingels, Elizabeth Diller, and Jean Gang. Movements discussed will include Modernism, Post-Modernism, Formalism, Situationism, Minimalism, Counter Culture, Green Urbanism, and Parametrics. Assignments will involve analytical and critical papers, directed discussions on close reading of texts, historical context for ideas, and buildings that are prescribed, described, or proscribed by theory in practice. This course complements courses on urbanism, visual arts, environmental science and studies, literary theory, physics, and, of course, art and architectural criticism and history.

Faculty

“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.

Faculty