ARTHIS 42B: Arts of China
Paper assignment: Visual Analysis
Assignment: Write a three-to-four page visual analysis of a contemporary landscape
painting on display at the Los Angeles Country Museum (LACMA). In order to write
your paper, you must visit the museum and choose one of two paintings to analyze:
1. Zheng Chongbin, Turbulence, ink and acrylic on Xuan paper, 2013
Gift of Stephen O. Lesser (M.2014.99)
OR 2. Li Huasheng, 0669, set of hanging scrolls, ink on paper, 2006
On loan from Ink Studio, Beijing (L.2016.17a-d)
Both works are in the same room, in LACMA’s Hammer Building, level 2.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles,
California 90036 (323-857-6000, http://www.lacma.org/plan-your-visit)
Hours and tickets: The museum is closed on Wednesdays and open 11:00-5:00 on
weekdays, with longer hours on Fridays (11:00-8:00pm) and weekends (Saturday and
Sunday, they are open 10:00-7:00). Tickets are $20 for adults; if you bring your student
id, tickets are $16. The museum is free on Martin Luther King Day: Monday, January
21, 2019, and also on Presidents’ Day: Monday, February 18, 2019; it is also free on the
second Tuesday of every month (February 11th); and it is also free for LA county
residents at certain times. Please see the museum website above for details, and also for
information on parking.
Visual analysis: A visual analysis or formal analysis is an examination of a work of art
that explores the meaning of the work and analyzes how that meaning is conveyed in
terms of the work’s visual components including composition (how the elements of the
work are put together), style (the use of color, line, form and shape), media (what
materials are used? why is it made from these materials? How do these materials affect
the image?), the subject (here landscape), the size, how does it communicate with the
viewer? Your goal is to use visual evidence and your general knowledge of Chinese art to
explain what the work might mean. The paper should be more than a detailed description
of your object, it should say how choices in scale, composition, color, patterns, shapes,
line, brush stroke, etc., create a certain kind of image with particular meanings: use your
observations to explain to the reader what you think the work is about. Again: your paper
should be more than a description – you should be framing an argument on what the work
is about and support that argument with specific observations about the piece. Your
paper thus should have a clear thesis and every paragraph of your paper should support
that thesis from different angles, i.e. you should have an argument. Your paper should be
organized as a logical whole centered on this thesis and argument.
Begin by choosing the landscape that intrigues you the most. In this case, these are
contemporary landscapes that explore new ideas of Chinese landscape (we will start
discussing landscape about half-way through the class). How does the artist in your
chosen painting examine or refer to the idea of landscape, and the idea of tradition?
To think about these questions, expect to spend some time looking. Take careful, detailed
notes about your object and think about how and why the work inspires a particular
response from you and how this serves the work’s message (or what you think its
meaning to be). Consider how the visual aspects of the work create meaning. Think
about the choices the artist has made in terms of shapes, texture, lines, silhouette,
patterns, motifs, and how these different things relate to each other, and how all of these
make up the work’s meaning and impact. Make a sketch – a sketch is useful in gaining a
better understanding of the work, especially its composition.
For an example of a formal analysis paper, please see the pdf on the class website,
“Formal Analysis and Style” which also explains what a formal analysis is.
This paper requires no research. However, if you do use ANY SOURCE of information,
including the museum’s wall labels, be careful to note your sources in a footnote
according to Chicago Manual of Style. The knowledge you have of Chinese art from
class, lectures, and readings you do not need to cite. But if you decide to look up more
information on, for example, the artist, please cite your sources if you use it in your
paper. Your grade will suffer and you may fail the assignment if you copy a source
Presentation: Your paper should be three-to-four pages, double-spaced, 12-point font,
with one-inch margins. Make sure your paper has a title. Provide full information on
the work of art you choose, double-check your grammar and spelling. Your grade will
suffer if you do not attend to these points.
Requirements: Without the following two requirements, you will receive a 0 grade
for the paper and fail the course.
1. You must submit your paper to www.turnitin.com the day the paper is due.
2. You must provide a cell phone picture of yourself with your object or in by the
exhibition entry to prove you went to the museum. Note: you can take pictures in
the museum, BUT do not use a flash as it damages the art work – you might want to
check in with the guard before you take any pictures.
Also, if you seek help from the Writing Center, and attach proof of your visit to your
paper, this will improve your paper grade: http://www.writingcenter.uci.edu/
Grading: Your paper will be graded on the quality of your thesis, observations and
analysis, and also on how well you organize your present and argue your thesis, and how
effectively you use your observations and visual evidence to support your thesis and
argument. You will be graded on the quality of your writing, the logical flow of your
paper and the quality of your thought.
The paper is due in class on Monday, March 4th. Only hard copies will be accepted
(do not e-mail); late papers will not be accepted.
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