09. The Pacific, Art & Humanities, Teaching

AP Art History: The Pacific, 700-1980 CE

AP Art History: The Pacific, 700-1980 CE
*Note: the text here has been modified by me from the 2019 AP Art History Curriculum and Exam Guide.

Purpose and audience, especially since much of the art is performance in nature, is important for art of the Pacific. Spiritual belief is tied up with social structures and leadership; it is often difficult to “separate” religious and secular life as is the academic exception in modern Western cultures.

The materials used in the arts of the Pacific are very much geographically bound, using the local landscape to create art. Certain materials hold significant beliefs to the cultures in which they are made, such as turtle shell or feathers in an ‘ahuula.

Read more: AP Art History: Pacific Art by Region

In addition to straight for identification, students should be able to explain theories and interpretations surrounding the arts of the Pacific, focusing on indigenous perspectives but being able to articulate the role Western collectors had in both destroying or altering many of these traditions and, ironically, in preserving some of the artworks in museum collections. Evidenced-based arguments are key here; students should not just regurgitate racist and often bigoted theories from 19th century European explorers.

Analysis of an art historical interpretation is not an easy task, students often struggle with this part of the AP exam. This skill is seen both in some (limited) multiple choice questions as well as FRQ 4. The key to this skill, especially in the FRQ, is grounding interpretation in the visual and/or contextual background of the artwork; every theory must be grounded in visual or historical facts.


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