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Unit information: Conflict and Transformation in the Visual Arts of the Hispanic World in 2018/19

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Unit name Conflict and Transformation in the Visual Arts of the Hispanic World
Unit code HISP20103
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Paul Merchant
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Hispanic, Portuguese and Latin American Studies
Faculty Faculty of Arts


The visual arts are sometimes regarded as far removed from the everyday concerns of ordinary people, as hidden away in the inaccessible spaces of galleries or private collections. This unit explores the work of artists, filmmakers and movements from across the Hispanic world who sought to make works that spoke to common concerns and responded to political and social upheaval. The period covered spans the 20thcentury, from the Mexican revolution to the Spanish civil war and unrest in Colombia.

Discussion of the works will focus on issues including race, gender and class identities, political violence, and the consequences of rapid urban expansion. Both world-famous figures like Frida Kahlo and marginalised artists like grafiteros in Chile are represented, and the media analysed range from painting to cinema and sculpture. Students will consider how the formal characteristics of artworks, and the contexts in which they are exhibited, shape their cultural and social impact.

Intended learning outcomes

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

  1. Demonstrate a broad knowledge of twentieth century Hispanic visual art, and the relationship between visual art and politics.
  2. Describe, analyse, compare and develop interpretations of different forms of visual art.
  3. Respond critically and analytically to the issues and debates in question.
  4. Show critical awareness of theoretical scholarship in the field of study and the ability to articulate a critical position in both oral and written form as appropriate to level I.
  5. Demonstrate sophisticated visual analytical skills.
  6. Demonstrate the ability to carry out independent research appropriate to this level of study.

Teaching details

1 weekly lecture

1 weekly seminar

Assessment Details

1 x 15-minute group presentation (25%), testing ILOs 1-6

1 x essay, 3000 words (75%) testing ILOs 1-6.

Reading and References

Topics/Artists studied:

Mexican muralism: Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros. Frida Kahlo as a counterpoint.

Urban expansion in Argentina: Xul Solar, Antonio Berni (painting), Horacio Coppola (photography).

Political art of the Spanish civil war: posters, collage and montage, photography.

Art after trauma in Chile and Colombia: Doris Salcedo, arpilleras and graphic novels in Chile


Alejandro Aneus, Leonard Folgarait, and Robin Adèle Greeley (eds), Mexican Muralism: A Critical History (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2012)

Oriana Baddeley and Valerie Fraser, Drawing the Line: Art and Cultural Identity in Contemporary Latin America (London: Verso, 1989)

Stephen M. Hart (ed.), ‘¡No Pasarán!’: Art, Literature and the Spanish Civil War (London: Tamesis, 1988)

Kathleen Vernon, The Spanish Civil War and the Visual Arts (Ithaca: Center for International Studies, Cornell University, 1990)

Gloria Zea and Álvaro Medina (eds), Arte y violencia en Colombia desde 1948 (Bogotá: Grupo Editorial Norma, 1999)