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Series Info

Episodes: 13

Length: 30 min.

Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12, Adult Learning, Professional Development

The Arts

Web Resources

Art Through Time: A Global View

Take a trip across the world and back through the ages to experience the art of many cultures and historical periods. Thirteen themes encompass hundreds of paintings, drawings, sculptures, photos, and works in non-traditional media in this vibrant approach to the study and appreciation of art. International artists, scholars and curators from major museums and specialized collections guide the viewer through the millennia of human thought and expression while contemporary artists and their work bring the forms into the present day. An extensive Web site includes sortable images of more than 250 works, as well as online text helping viewers to explore the works and topics in greater depth. The series, text, and Web resources can be used to supplement art history courses, or for individual learning and enrichment.

Episode Guide

1. Converging Cultures — Throughout history, economic needs, material desires, and political ambitions have brought people from different cultures and communities into contact. Whether clashes or cooperative endeavors, these convergences have brought about the exchange of knowledge and Ideas. In the visual arts, they have led to creative juxtapositions, hybrid styles, and the reinterpretation of traditional signs and symbols. Artists featured include Takashi Murakami, Miguel Luciano and Guillermo Gomez-Peña.

2. Dreams and Visions — Through art, we can perceive more than what we see with our eyes. From Aboriginal artists painting unseen forces to Surrealists exploring the recesses of the unconscious mind, individuals have found ways to give form to unknowable mysteries, personal fantasies, and inner visions. Artist Sandy Skoglund talks about the life of the imagination.

3. History and Memory — People have documented history, and also have shaped it through art. Art commemorates achievements and failures, recording and creating communal and personal memories. At times painters and sculptors have appropriated artistic forms of the past to make statements in the present. Multimedia artist Shimon Attie shares work that concerns questions of memory, place, and identity.

4. Ceremony and Society — Many of the objects and images displayed in museums were never intended to be viewed as static artworks. Different meanings emerge when these works are considered in their original contexts. Masks, costumes, vessels, and other objects were created and used to conduct ceremonies and rituals around the world. Three Traditional Bearers of the tuwaduq Nation create a site for a soul recovery ceremony in the Seattle Art Museum.

5. Cosmology and Belief — In all cultures, people strive to understand their reason for being and their place in the universe. Although art cannot offer definitive answers to life’s biggest questions, it often serves as a means through which to explore them. Art can be an instrument not only for expressing spiritual beliefs, but also for visualizing myths, organizing the cosmos, inspiring faith, and communing with the divine. Russian artist Vitaly Komar is featured.

6. Death — Death is a universal experience. Throughout history, art has served to help people understand death, prepare for it, and cope with it. From the funerary arts of ancient Egypt to Mexican Day of the Dead festivities in modern times, art shapes and reflects attitudes toward death, as well as approaches to living. Italian-born artist Angelo Filomeno’s works explore the intermingling of death and fantasy.

7. Domestic Life — From tables and tapestries to bowls and baskets, art has always figured prominently in domestic life. Within living spaces, objects of aesthetic value have fulfilled practical functions, indulged individual fancies, and expressed shared values. Art turns houses into homes and enriches the activities of everyday life. Textile artist Faith Ringgold explores the line between high art and craft by combining painting, quilted fabric, and storytelling.

8. Writing — Since the dawn of civilization the relationship between written words and pictures has been manipulated to communicate ideas. It has also inspuired coutless artists, whose works demonstrate how text and image can enhance, supplement, complicate, or even undermine each other’s meanings. Calligrapher, printmaker and Macarthur “genius award” recipient, Xu Bing is featured.

9. Portraits — Across cultures and throughout time, portraiture has played an important role in the way people have understood themselves and their relationships to others. Portraits serve a range of functions, from declaring power and status to making larger statements about society. Painter Kehinde Wiley paints portraits of African American men in the poses inspired by classic works of the old masters.

10. The Natural World From the earliest times, people have found sustenance, solace, challenge, and mystery in the natural world. In representations of animals, landscapes, and earthworks, art has been a means through which humans have negotiated their relationship to nature as well as to each other. We view drawings of the natural world mirrored by a metaphysical concept of the same image in the work of Kay Walkingstick.

11. The Urban Experience For thousands of years cities have been hubs of activity, centers of industry, and places from which new aesthetic trends originate, evolve, and spread. The creative visions of planners, painters, architects, and sculptors have shaped the development of cities around the world. In turn, the urban experience has inspired the creation of art work depicting aspects of city life. With the New York City waterfalls, artist Olafur Eliasson offers his urban audience a new kind of experience with nature.

12. Conflict and Resistance Throughout history, groups and individuals have sought not only to maintain control over their own lives, but also to assert their power over the lives of others. Visual art has played an important role in documenting such conflict and resistance. It also has served as a means for expressing personal views on politics, war, social inequities, and the human condition. Moroccan-born photographer Lalla Essaydi addresses the complex reality of Arab female identity from the perspective of personal experience.

13. The Body — From painting to sculpture, body art to performance art, the body has figured prominently in the creative expression of nearly all cultures from the beginning of civilization. Through art, the body becomes a site for defining individual identity, constructing sex and gender ideals, negotiating power, and experimenting with the nature of representation itself. Multimedia performance artist Shigeyuki Kihara makes powerful statements about the depiction of Samoan people, shared memory, societal roles, and sexuality.

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