Screen: Medium, Representation, and Global History

The screen is a versatile object with multivalent functions and meanings. At once a piece of furniture and an artistic medium, a screen structures a space, interacts with people, and provides a material surface for decoration or painting. It is also a motif often depicted in pictorial images, charged with compositional and representational significance. This seminar surveys the long traditions of screens in East Asia, their spread and transformations in New Spain and Europe in the early modern period, and the continuous evolvement of the screen medium in modern art. We will examine single-panel screens and multi-panel folding screens made of various materials, ranging from paper, lacquer, and wood, to glass and textiles. Topics include early Chinese screens from archaeological contexts; the migration of the screens from China to Korea and Japan and their new developments; the subjects and techniques of various types of East Asian screens as well as their uses and meanings in ritual ceremonies and domestic interiors; images of screens in Chinese and Japanese paintings; Japanese nanban screens depicting Portuguese and Spanish; the biombo folding screen inspired by East Asian prototypes made in the New Spain; collecting, display, and reuse of East Asian screens in Europe; and screens in the works of modernist artists such as the Nabis and Eileen Gray. Close analysis of objects and visual materials will be the foundation to develop a conceptual understating of the screen as a transcultural and multidimensional object. 3 credits. May satisfy the geocultural or chronological requirement, depending on final project.