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  • Otis Fine Arts hosts a Visiting Artist lecture series featuring John Houck, a Los Angeles-based artist. Read more about him here.
    Contact: Soo Kim, skim@otis.edu
  • Jesse Benson (b. 1978) is an artist based in Los Angeles. Benson's complex practice is driven by the perversion of roles and representation that characterize his generational moment. In obsessively "skillful" objects like the Bureau Paintings, Catalog Page Paintings, Future Sculptures, and Repaintings, Benson constantly questions the authenticity of the document, the function of style, and the value of both art and artist. Benson is equally committed to a curatorial/organizational practice that openly overlaps and inspires his object production.

  • The Architecture/Landscape/Interiors Department at OTIS College of Art and Design is pleased to announce a lecture by Nick SeierupPrincipal | Design Director of Perkins+Will, Los Angeles, on Thursday, December 3, 2015.


  • Marisa Silver is the author most recently of the New York Times bestselling novel Mary Coin. Her other books include the novels No Direction Home and The God of War (a finalist for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize), as well as two story collections, Babe in Paradise and Alone with You. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker and been included in many anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories and The O. Henry Prize Stories. Silver lives in Los Angeles.

  • Jesse Lerner is a filmmaker based in Los Angeles.  His short films Natives (1991, with Scott Sterling), T.S.H. (2004) and Magnavoz (2006) and the feature-length experimental documentaries Frontierland/Fronterilandia (1995, with Rubén Ortiz-Torres), Ruins (1999) The American Egypt (2001), Atomic Sublime (2010) and The Absent Stone (2013, with Sandra Rozental) have won numerous prizes at film festivals in the United States, Latin America and Japan.

  • Otis faculty member Dana Berman Duff will present a program of short 16mm and digital films in her "Catalogue" series.

  • Performing the Grid is an exhibition that brings together an intergenerational group of artists and cultural producers that utilize the grid as a performative strategy to examine, challenge and position philosophical, political, social, domestic, corporeal, and mythical perspectives. Rosalind Kraus famously wrote that the grid “functions to declare the modernity of modern art” in her 1979 essay, Grids.


Photo Documentary Culture

Review How to Do Research

Refresh your information literacy skills here: Information Literacy Tutorials.

Free Web vs. the Invisible or Deep Web

Although there is a great deal of good free information available on the free web, there is often better quality and more reliable information available through databases. Much of that information was first published in books and magazines, then sold and agregated into online databases. That information is not ususally free, no more than the original printed sources were free. Publishers often earn a great deal of money by selling the previously published content to information vendors who, in turn, resells the content to libraries who make it available for their patrons.

Note: Be especially cautious of Wikipedia. Read more here about why.

The following Steps will guide you in finding images and historical information for your project of analyzing an image from popular culture and its context.

Step 1: Find an Image

Pick from one on the following Library books:  

Life: 100 Events that Shook Our World   TR820 O546 2005
Century: One Hundred Years of Human Progress, Regression, Suffering and Hope    REF D26 C46
Life: Our Century in Pictures    REF CB425 L44
Photos That Changed the World   TR820 P567 2000

Step 2: Find Background Information

One very easy way to start is search in online encyclopedias or dictionaries. For instance, Britannica Online has basic information on a huge range of topics. Click on the Library Databases button.

There are books which you can browse which will be extremely helpful to you in learning about the cultural, social, and historical context of a particular time or period. 

20th Century Day by Day: 100 years of News
REF D422 C53
Headlines and front pages of newspapers from 1900 through 1999. This should be your first stop to find out what else was going on for your time period.
This Fabulous Century - 7 volumes
REF E161 T55
One volume per decade beginning with 1900-1950. Overview of the popular culture of the period. Mostly images.
Ads That Put America on Wheels
HF6161 A9 D74
Early 1900s through 1960s. Shows through actual ads how automobiles were marketed.
Advertising and the Motorcar
HF6161 A8 F74
Early 1900s through 1960s. Shows through actual ads how automobiles were marketed. An essay is included.
American Century: Art & Culture 1900-1950
N6512 H335
Based on a Whitney exhibition, this is an in-depth overview of art of the period.
American Decades - 4 volumes
REF E169.12 A419
One volume per decade beginning with 1950s. Organized with chapters on world events, education, politics, lifestyles, media, the arts, etc.
Fashions of a Decade - 8 volumes
REF GT596 C837
Just fashion. We have the '20s through the '90s.

Hulton Getty Picture Collection - 6 volumes
D426 Y367 1998

One volume per decade. All pictures with captions. We have the '20s through the '70s.

Websites of Interest

Ad Access Images and database information for over 7,000 advertisements printed in U.S. and Canadian newspapers and magazines between 1911 and 1955. 
AdFlip Archive of classic ads from 1940 to the present.
American Cultural History: The Twentieth Century The purpose of these pages is to present a series of web guides on the decades of the twentieth century. The pages are prepared by the Reference Librarians. Period pictures used.
American Memory Thematic access to images, sound recordings, web sites, and other documents on American cultural history. Provided by the Library of Congress.
Year by Year 1900-2001

This site describes historic events of the twentieth century by year and by decade. 

Step 3: Find an Article About Your Topic

Once you've browsed and become more familiar with the cultural context of your photo, you should be able to create a list of generalized subjects that you can search for in the Library's databases. You should be able to find one or two in-depth articles in ProQuest, eLibrary, and Wilson Omni. Remember: Each databases is much smaller than the entire web. If you put in a very specific term and get no hits, you will need to broaden your search. See also: How to Clarify Your Topic.

Step 4: The Bibliography

There's an excellent guide to Citing Sources and Citing Images online. The Art History Faculty use the MLA style.

The librarians and the library staff are available. Ask for reference/research assistance at any time. It's our job. You're not bothering us.