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  • Otis Fine Arts hosts a Visiting Artist lecture series featuring Matthew Brandt, a Los Angeles-based artist. Read more about him here.
  • Otis Fine Arts hosts a Visiting Artist lecture series featuring Kerry Tribe, an artist working primarily in film, video, and installation. Read more about her here.
  • You are invited to a Movies that Matter Special Screening of the powerful new film shaping the debate about rape on college campuses, The Hunting Ground, on Tuesday, September 15 at 7:15 PM in the Otis Forum.  The Hunting Ground is a startling exposé of sexual assaults on U.S. colleges, institutional cover-ups and the brutal social toll on the victims and their families from the Academy Award-nominated filmmaking team of Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering.
  • Otis Books is pleased to publish Tim Erickson’s debut collection of poetry, Egopolis, a textual journey through destruction, resistance, city, and the Ego, from ancient times to the present day. Erickson’s work has appeared in the Chicago Review, Western Humanities Review, and the Salt Anthology of New Writing. He lives in Salt Lake City.

  • The Architecture/Landscape/Interiors Department at OTIS College of Art and Design is pleased to announce a lecture by 

  • Otis Fine Arts hosts a Visiting Artist lecture series featuring Hassan Khan, an artist who lives and works in Cairo, Egypt. Read more about him here.

  • Otis Graduate Writing students will read from their works-in-progress.


Art History Elective

Art History Elective

*This course may be taken in either fall or spring semester.


Course offerings vary each semester. Students may choose from the following offerings:


Fashion Culture: Fashion in Social Space

This course critically examines the way in which fashion is an embodied activity that is embedded with social relations. Emphasis is on the formation of identity through fashion’s articulation of the body, gender, and sexuality.


Art on the Global Stage

This course will engage contemporary art practices in relation to social phenomenon of globalization. Globalization as a concept is hotly contested and eludes definition. Clearly it engenders a sense of ever expanding communications, a market that reaches and impacts indigenous localities and cultures and challenges difference through the dissemination of transnational uniformity. But how does art operate within Globalization? What are the artistic and cultural responses and challenges to this new phenomenon? These issues will be explored through issues though discussions, screenings, collaborative projects and student presentation.

Asian Film: New Chinese Cinema

This course looks at emerging Chinese films and filmmakers beginning with the pre-1980s and continuing through “the fifth generation.” Students investigate the ways in which these filmmakers tried to break the mold of the past, both in style and content, in order to convey the truth of modern Chinese life.


L.A.: Birth of an Art Capital, 1945–1980

Andy Warhol had his first show in L.A. Marcel Duchamp had his first retrospective in Pasadena. Before the Beats, these outsider artists lived and worked in Laurel Canyon. The Cheetah Club in Venice featured famous beat poets, and experimental rockers like Janice Joplin before anyone knew them. Early feminism has its roots here, and L.A.’s “Finish Fetish” artists were among the first to link sustainable materials and product design to fine art. While the art world celebrated the New York School, L.A. was the creative center it remains today. Come learn about your city and its art roots in the pivotal years between 1945 and1975.

L.A. Feminism: The Woman’s Building and Beyond

This class explores the burgeoning Los Angeles feminist art movement in the post-World War II era. In particular, students will address the artists and works of the Women’s Building and there will be a particular focus on Doin’ It in Public: Feminism and Art at the Woman’s Building.


Baroque and the Rococo World

This course investigates the social, religious, and cultural changes that arose from 1600 to1750 in Europe, and how the art and architecture that developed during that period both molded and reflected the changes in social class, gender, worldview, and lifestyle.

California Dreaming

Far from being a West Coast outpost of New York, the art scenes in California had a significant impact upon the shaping of contemporary art. This course emphasizes contemporary art making including film, ceramics, installation, performance, and fine art.

African Art History

This course will examine some of the major art forms of Africa, including architecture, textiles, masquerade, and sculpture. The class will focus on the artist, the creative process, and the dynamic that occurs between the creative process and the requirements of the piece’s function. The class will also look at how the function and creative processes change when the piece moves into an American environment.

Afro-Caribbean Art

This course examines the art and culture of Puerto Rico. Students identify issues of race, identity, and cultural projection as reflected in the arts along with themes of continuity, change, and foundation myth that inform the way in which the country defines its position in Latin America, and more recently, North America.

Design in Flux

This course addresses both the impact and the impetus of change and sustainability in art and design in connection with chaos theory and fields of research that probe complexity, transition from chaos to order and the instability and unpredictability of phenomena. Chaos theory has challenged the traditional view of order and disorder, suggesting not only a new understanding of complexity and organization in the natural domain but in culture as well. Students will exercise this paradigmatic change in science that has affected cultural production and in terms of designing in flux.

History of American Film I: 1900–1950

This course surveys the art and business of American film in the first half of the twentieth century. The approaches include film and sociology, film genres, and the great American directors.

History of American Film 2: 1950–Present

This course surveys the art and business of American films in the second half of the twentieth century. The approach includes film and sociology, film genres, and the great American directors.

Art and Art Criticism

This course provides a historical overview of the relationship between art making, art viewing, and art writing within the appropriate social and economic contexts. Theory is paired with art, showing how certain aspects of a work of art are highlighted from particular theories.

Madonna, Whore and More

Women have been mythologized since biblical times by men and women in text and image with representations of women in Western tradition falling into two major categories: the virtuous woman or the woman of vice. This categorization aims for control of women’s sexuality with laws and language organizing the rules of access to partners as wives, mistresses, and prostitutes. Strongly based in its semiotic approach, this class will analyze some of these myths from the masculinist and feminist points of departure.

Film and Film Theory

Using an international scope, film as art form is studied within a historical context as a manifestation of material culture. Using postmodern theories, this course studies film as an artistic expression that evolved into a mass media with an unprecedented impact on society. The student learns not only the history of film but also how to “go to the movies” with a more critical attitude.

Film Genres

This course examines three film genres that engage concerns about science and the environment, law and lawlessness, and representations of truth and identity. Sci-Fi will be devoted to science fiction and this genre’s focus on ecological and environmental issues, technology, political dissent, and social divisions. The crime segment will analyze depiction of race, gender, and class as well as economics, social order, and postwar strife. The final section will look at biopics about artists, musicians, writers, and the sometimes controversial portrayal of creativity and the artistic process in relation to modern and postmodern notions of truth and identity.

Chinese Cinema: China and Taiwan

This course explores the exciting rise of Chinese cinema as an art form and as exploration of culture and recent history in China and Taiwan. Key directors to be studied include Zhang Yimou (To Live, Hero), Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine, Together), Hou Hsiao-Hsien (A City of Sadness), and Ang Lee (Eat Drink Man Woman).

Horror Film

This course examines the horror film genre within a range of cultural, theoretical, and historical contexts. To be considered are the ways the genre celebrates and defiles the body; represents violence, fear, and paranoia; defines gender, class, race, and sexuality; and provides a range of meanings and pleasures for its audience.

Art in the Field of Cultural Production

An examination of the life of any artist can reveal significant networks of social, political, and economic relationships that, in turn, shape the artist’s career in the art world and, ultimately, our understanding of the art. This course fills the gap between traditional art history and biographic narrative, replacing the artist within the “field of cultural production.”

Production Cultures (Blended Course)

The industrial politics and divisions of labor, including above and below the line workers, are often explicitly addressed in film and television narratives such as "Entourage" and "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip", and also point to shifts in labor practices in Los Angeles. This course will provide critic analysis about these practices and analyze not only how the Hollywood industry represents itself but also how these practices represent larger global trends in media concentration and conglomeration. Moreover, students will trace the history of these practices and examine production cultures in India and Nigeria.

Representations of War

This class explores concepts related to war embedded in visual artifacts from early culture to the twentieth century. Particular attention will be directed to the shifts in dominant media from sculptural manifestation to the modern media of film, video, and the Internet.

Mary in Folklore and Belief

Like no other figure, the Virgin Mary can be ascertained as the most influential female in Western culture. Celebrated in songs, poetry, plastic, and graphic arts, and politics, her influence pervades every aspect of our culture. This course will study the ways in which folk art and folk belief adds yet another layer of meaning to the idea of Mary. To be studied are folk narratives and folk representations of Mary in the visual arts as well as folk traditions.

Signs, Rituals, and Politics

This course examines the semiotics of ritual and the politics of ritual through an interdisciplinary approach combining visual and cultural analysis. Issues will range from how ritual behavior is embedded in visual communication to its impact on political discourse. Students explore semiotics of ritual and politics, ritual behavior in religion and institutions, and mass-media representation through rite and signification. The first section focuses on key semiotic and cultural analyses which will later be applied to assigned field projects.

Action/Reaction: The Art of Hong Kong Films

For decades, Hong Kong cinema dominated the Asian market. Eventually, its energy and innovation attracted international attention. As the territory faced transition from British rule back to Chinese rule at the end of the ’90s, its cinema reflected the nervous energy of impending change, as well as an attempt to grasp something lasting during the maelstrom. Through the films of directors such as John Woo, Tsui Hark, and Wong Karwai, this course looks at those competing energies.

Yellow Face: Perceptions of Asians

In the first half of the twentieth century, many Americans understood Asia and Asians from literature and feature films such as Broken Blossoms, The Good Earth, Charlie Chan and Fu Manchu movies. Many of these stories were based on passing knowledge gleaned from spotty accounts and Chinatown, and colored by a need to create the Exotic Other. Some films demonized Asians; others made them into heroes. This course explores both the construction/imposition of racial identity, some of the real results in terms of widespread prejudices and restrictive legislation, and the creation of iconic images and what are now considered stereotypes.

Photo-Documentary Culture

This is a thematically organized course designed to acquaint students with the role photography has played in the production of culture. The emphasis will be on how photographs have been mobilized to construct and critique particular images of groups of people, to sell products, and to reinforce social conceptions of class, race, and sexual difference.

Postcolonial Theory

This course will look at contemporary art that responds to the aftermaths of colonial rule or those peoples who have fallen under the rule of colonizers, such as African and Middle Eastern peoples. In addition, students will explore how artists reckon with issues of national and cultural identity, gender, and race and ethnicity after Imperial rule has left, and looks at art by people with a history of displacement and from countries ravaged by war and disaster. The focus will be on conceptual, photographic, video, and body art.

Shamanism, Art, and Sacred Spaces

This course explores the role of art in creating aesthetic idioms to construct sacred spaces that reflect the culture and beliefs of diverse societies.

Text and Image

This course explores the conjunction of the written and the visual across various media (painting, print, film, photography), in various disciplines (advertising, fine arts, literature, photojournalism). From Futurist “freeword” poetry to the 1955 Family of Man exhibit, students will consider how words and images combine to create meaning and pose the question: What constitutes a text?


Tidal Shift: Surfing Pacific Standard Time (Blended course)

This course takes a historical and current look at L.A.’s art world through “Pacific Standard Time: Art In L.A. 1945−1980,” a collaborative project involving more than 60 cultural institutions throughout Southern California. Using PST as a starting point, this course will investigate the rise of the L.A. art scene—visiting exhibits and performances, reading creative and critical literature, and hearing from artists, curators, and other participants in the collaboration.

The Classical World

This course will investigate the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome, looking not only at the art they produced but also at how they identified themselves as distinguishable from other cultures in their world. Through looking at the art and artifacts they produced, the course will examine the religious, economic, and social bases for these differences and explore the relations Greece and Rome had with other groups, whether in terms of trade, warfare, or diplomacy as well as see how the actions of both have impacted our world today.

The Art of the Film - This course will introduce students to film as an art form. How are films designed to affect an audience response? What forms and techniques are used in narratives, experimental film, and documentaries? In answering these questions, this course will introduce the four aspects of film style and explain their conventional (and sometimes nonconventional) use in narrative and other cinema. This course will address the diversity and creativity themes by focusing on how films have used the elements of the medium across a wide range of films from different nations and time periods.

Sex and the Cinema

Beginning with the earliest days of the medium, in films like Edison’s The Kiss (1896) and What Happened in the Tunnel (1903), the cinema has sought to titillate and provoke. In this course, we will consider the ways in which both Hollywood and the “Other Hollywood” (the adult video industry) have depicted and engaged with sex—as subject matter, spectacle, subtext, and marketing tool—and we will compare this to the role of sexuality in the American avant-garde.