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BA History of Art / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:
Autonomous Objects: Sculpture Since 1900

Unit code AHCP22511
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Art History and Cultural Practices
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course considers the political, social and theoretical contexts of some of the major developments in modern and contemporary sculpture. Through close study of movements including Surrealism, Pop Art, Minimalism and Land Art, as well as key concepts such as site specificity, process, and spectacle, students will be introduced to a range of practices and contexts. The course will take advantage of the excellent collections of sculpture available locally in the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle, with a field trip to the Henry Moore Institute, Hepworth Wakefield, and Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The course will examine questions of production, display and spectatorship, with reference to specific case studies and themes, and will consider the political and social implications of these.


The course aims to introduce students to a diverse range of sculptural practices extending from the beginning of the 20th century through to the contemporary period, thinking specifically about their political, social and theoretical contexts. The course will encourage students to think critically about the key concepts and developments in sculpture, and to situate these within their historical and theoretical context. The course will engage with the major debates and key theoretical texts surrounding modern and contemporary sculpture.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be able to:


Sessions may include:

  • After Rodin: ‘Homeless’ Sculpture
  • Dada and Constructivism: Sculpture and Revolution
  • Surrealism: Objects and Exhibitions
  • The New Movement: Truth to Materials
  • Happenings and Pop: From Objects to Environments
  • Minimalism: Sculpture and the Body
  • Land Art: Site and Process
  • New British Sculpture: The Return of the Figure
  • YBAs: Sex, Drugs, Rock’n’Roll
  • Spectacular Sculpture: Scale and Immersion
  • Installation Art (1): Narrative and Dream
  • Installation Art (2): Sculpture and Architecture

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching: 3hr classes will include overview lecture from tutor on key themes and movements, individual student presentations on specific case studies, and discussion of core weekly reading material.

The course will also include a local field trip to the three galleries that form the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle.

Learning: Students will complete guided reading and suggestions for further reading. They will be required to plan, research and present an individual piece of research, and to research and write their individual essays.

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students will be able to:

• identify a range of sculptural practices from the 1900s to the present

• critically analyse sculptural works and to place them in historical and theoretical context

• account for a range of literature including artists’ writings, historical criticism, and current scholarship

• account for key debates surrounding sculpture and its social and political implications.

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

• perform visual and textual analysis

• distinguish critically between primary and secondary sources and to situate them in relation to one another

• To relate artistic developments of the period to broader patterns of historical and cultural change

Practical skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

• To undertake independent research using a range of resources: galleries, journals, books, the internet

• To be able to form a structured, sustained and persuasive argument

• To develop a confident and mature writing style

• To present material to the group in a compelling manner

• To work collaboratively with peers and participate fully in class discussions

• To seek and accept feedback from other students and the course tutor, and to use this feedback to reflect on and improve one’s performance

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course students will be able to:

• To work alone or collaboratively

• To meet deadlines and take responsibility for one’s own work

• To express ideas clearly in written and spoken form

• To use IT resources for research and communication.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Information Retrieval: the ability independently to gather, sift, synthesise and organise material from various sources (including library, electronic and online resources), and to critically evaluate its significance Computer Literacy: the ability to use word processing, database, spreadsheet and presentation software and the use of the Internet Willingness to update knowledge and understand the need for Life Long Learning.
Oral communication
Self-confidence: the ability to maintain independence of thought and be self-reliant Independence: the capacity for self-discipline, motivation and diligence Presentation: the capacity to make oral presentations, using appropriate media for a target audience
Time management: the ability to schedule tasks in order of importance Stress Tolerance: the ability to use personal resources effectively to meet challenges.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 50%
Written assignment (inc essay) 30%
Oral assessment/presentation 20%

Feedback methods

  • Oral feedback on group presentation
  • Written feedback on essay
  • Additional one-to-one feedback (during consultation hour or by making an appointment)

Recommended reading

  • Bishop, Claire, Installation Art, London, 2005.
  • Causey, Andrew, Sculpture since 1945, Oxford, 1998
  • Curtis, Penelope, Sculpture 1900-1945, Oxford, 1999
  • Krauss, Rosalind, Passages in Modern Sculpture, Cambridge, Mass., 1976.
  • Kwon, Miwon, One Place After Another: Site Specific Art and Locational Identity, Cambridge, Mass.,  2002
  • Meyer, James (ed.). Minimalism. London,  2000
  • Potts, Alex, The Sculptural Imagination, New York, 2000
  • Sandford, Mariellen R. ed. Happenings and Other Acts, London and New York, 1995

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Fieldwork 12
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 153

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Clare O'Dowd Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Semester 2

Seminar: Monday 2pm to 5pm

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