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Baker's lectures are very engaging. He is extremely passionate about art, and it comes out through the way he talks. I enjoyed going to lectures. I found him intimidating though, so I never went to his office hours. The class is quite challenging. There is a lot of required reading for each week, so you definitely have to keep up. Discussion is super helpful (attendance is mandatory anyways). My TA was great at explaining the material in detail (Baker only goes over the main points). Midterm and final were a bit tough-- you have to memorize around 70 works of art for each exam (title, artist, year), and there are some essays as well. I recommend this class only if you are interested in learning about art (don't take it just because you need a GE), because there is definitely a lot of work involved, and it would be painful to work so hard for a subject that you don't care for. I personally like art, but I think I will wait a while before taking another art history class because this one was just so challenging, especially since I am a science major.
Worst class I've taken so far. There is an insane amount of reading per week involved for this class and it doesn't help that the reading uses very strange language that doesn't make sense. And in discussion your participation grade is based on how much the TA thinks you know the readings...
In lecture, Prof. Baker spouts out random analysis about paintings that makes no logical sense whatsoever. He once showed this Picasso painting and said that some figure in the painting was a medical student without anything to back it up. Totally random. It is also very unclear what he wants for the 2 ridiculously long papers (4 pgs and 6 pgs).
I do not recommend this course unless you want to endure one hell of a quarter. Don't be deceived by the grades up there--this class is very difficult. There are a ton of paintings to memorize for the midterm/final and you need to memorize a bunch of facts for a lot of paintings to be able to answer the slide comparison and essay questions which were very stressful.
Professor Baker has been my favorite professor so far at UCLA. His lectures are so interesting and entertaining. Going into this class, I had absolutely no appreciation for art and I really look at it differently now. He may intimidate you at first, but the grading is VERY fair. I never read the textbook and it not hurt me whatsoever. You must do the readings online though, especially for discussion. This was an awesome GE and I am really glad I took it because I learned a lot.
Ignore what is written above: I am writing this for Art history 27, a seminar on Picasso. This was a wonderful seminar, if you ever have a chance to take a seminar with Professor Baker. I would agree that Baker is a bit arrogant sometimes, but there are other days when he is the complete opposite. I find that most professors are moody like this, though. Office hours with Baker is a wonderful opportunity to talk about anything under the sun, but he doesn't like to answer tooo many questions. He is a wonderful professor to get your curiosity sparked! There is a great deal of dense reading, however, which was somewhat frustrating because he did not always address every reading in depth, and we wrote very little on them (with the exception of the final research paper.)
I had Baker for Modern Art Winter 2010. Covers impressionism through to picasso. As everyone else has said, he's suuuuuuper passionate. And yeah, when he lectures it can be hard to understand what he's saying because its whatever he thinks in his head so you're kind of like...huh? But listening to him lecture is a good way to learn how to describe art. Baker is a formalist and analyzes paintings by looking at color, composition, line, etc. He also gives some bios on the artists which is really interesting. This class was a lot of reading and you def have to do it. Not just for discussion section but also because you have to draw from like 3 articles for essays on the tests. There was a paper each quarter, the first comparing 2 impressionist paintings of your choice (museum visit required unless you're retarded and look it up online) and the second on 2 sculptures in the sculpture garden. Get a good ta, I had Lauren Bergman. She was good at leading discussion, prob a little bit harder of a grader than others. There are better tas. I forget her name but one with a nose piercing and straight bangs was at the midterm review and she is EXCELLENT at explaining things in a simple way and was also an easy grader I heard from a friend who had her. There were less slides to know than Ancient Art, I think around 60 each half of the quarter? Not bad. The tests were ok, not impossible but not easy. I never thought I liked modern art but I'm really glad I took the class, I learned a lot and appreciate it a lot more and it sparked my interest in contemporary art. I think it'd be one of the harder art history classes to take just cuz Modern Art has more difficult concepts to understand. But I'd say take it if you have any interest at all.
This was the first GE I took at UCLA and please please PLEASE I recommend everyone reading this right now to take it with Professor Baker. I'm writing this two years after taking the class and I can say that he is one of my most favorite professors I have taken a class with. In every single lecture, you witness is utmost passion for the subject and his passion for the paintings. When he gets extremely passionate about something his voice gets all gravelly and he wacks the screen that displays the painting with this stick he lectures with haha. It was truly inspiring to witness and it was a very great experience learning from a very passionate professor.
And if the above paragraph doesn't convince you to take the class, this description of my favorite lecture by him might = He was lecturing about Gustav Klimt's Beethoven Frieze and while he passionately spoke about it, he played one of Beethoven's compositions. He hooked up the audio to the sound system of the classroom so it was basically like surround sound and it gave the most IMPRESSIVE effect. At the end of the lecture, we gave him a standing ovation. BOOM. BEST PROFESSOR EVER.
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