The Medium is the Message:
The Languages of Contemporary Art

with Rory O’Dea / In Person

This seminar explores the fascinating world of contemporary art through the lens of artistic media and mediums. By focusing on specific mediums, we will develop a deep and nuanced sense of the particular formal qualities and critical debates that shape them in the present. The history of modern art is marked by a striking tension between the pursuit of pure form and the radical expansion beyond recognizable aesthetic categories, and this seminar will trace the contours of this history in the twenty-first century. By learning the languages of contemporary art, we will discover the ways that a diverse range of contemporary artists from around the globe seek continuity with the traditions of the past and challenge these traditions in order to create bold new formal languages, expressive possibilities, and forms of experience.

6 In-Person Sessions


Sept 14 – Nov 30, 2021

2:00pm – 3:15pm EST


Session 1: SEPT 14

New Perspectives in Painting: Michael Armitage, Mark Bradford, Jordan Casteel, Charlene von Heyl

Session 2: SEPT 28

The Sculptural Imagination: Tara Donovan, Elmgreen & Dragset, Anish Kapoor, Simone Leigh

Session 3: OCT 12

The Photograph as Contemporary Art: Thomas Demand, Stan Douglas, Roni Horn, Wolfgang Tillmans, Carrie Mae Weems

Session 4: OCT 26

The Medium of the Body: Sophie Calle, Antony Gormley, Senga Nengundi, Marc Quinn

Session 5: NOV 9

Space & Context: Installation Art
Olafur Eliasson, Carsten Holler, Pierre Huyghe, Sarah Sze

Session 6: NOV 30

The Post-Medium Condition: Theaster Gates, Tomas Saraceno, Rirkrit Tiravinija, Anicka Yi, Andrea Zittel

Meet the moderator

Rory O’Dea

Rory is an Assistant Professor of Contemporary Art & Design and Associate Dean, at Parsons School of Design. He received his PhD in modern and contemporary art history from the Institute of Fine Arts, and his scholarship explores the connections between visual art, film, literature & popular culture. 

His current book project focuses on the American artist Robert Smithson and his enduring legacy among contemporary artists. Rory has previously taught at the Yale University School of Art’s MFA program and New York University, and has served as a researcher and curatorial assistant at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Morgan Library & Museum, and the Grey Art Gallery at New York University. (Photo: Rod Goodman) Learn more