UCB Libraries

ARTH 4929: Formalisms & Minimalisms

  • Intro
  • Books
  • Articles
  • Images
  • Web Resources
  • Evaluate & Cite Sources


Modern and contemporary art present particular research problems. Contemporary artists and their work can be difficult to research simply because it takes time for a large body of scholarship (books, articles, etc.) to develop around a given topic. In addition, certain media and groups of artists are marginalized or under-represented in traditional research resources like books and journal articles.As always, if you need additional help, feel free to contact your Art & Architecture Librarian via email or phone.


Finding Basic Information in Reference Sources

Reference sources such as dictionaries and encyclopedias are a valuable tool for learning more about the work or the artist(s) you have chosen. These sources can provide basic information to place your topic in a larger historical, theoretical, or formal context.


Oxford Art Online

Provides access to the Grove Dictionary of Art, the most important reference work for art history. Individual entries are written by scholars in the field and typically include a bibliography of relevant resources.


The Art & Architecture Reference Collection contains a number of specialized dictionaries and encylopedias. Please feel free to browse the collection to see what is available. Examples of the kinds of works you will find include:


A Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes

ART REF NX456 .K67 2001


A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art

ART REF N6490 .C5317 2009


A Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Art

Electronic Resource - click above for access


What are you looking for?

Choosing appropriate search terms is an important first step in the research process. Take a few moments to brainstorm a list of keywords that describe your topic. For contemporary artists, this list could include the artist's name or particular groups and movements the artist belongs to. Also pay close attention to art dealers, galleries, or exhibitions mentioned in a resource as these may provide additional clues to locating information on an artist.


For example, if you were interested in the work of Gerhard Richter, some of your keywords could include:


Artist's Name: Gerhard Richter
Prominent Works: Man Shot Dead (1), 1988

Dealer or Gallery Representation: Marian Goodman Gallery
Media: Painting

Stylistic, Theoretical, or Conceptual Terms: objectivity, postmodernism, abstraction


When searching for books, articles, and other material, the artist's name will likely be the most useful search term. However, taking time to think about other aspects (media, conceptual or theoretical concepts, etc.) can be helpful for organizing potential ideas for your paper or project.




Chinook is the catalog for materials owned by the CU Libraries. You can do a title search for a specific book, or a keyword search if you are looking for books on a particular topic. You can also use MyChinook to manage your library account (including renewals, holds, recalls, saved searches, etc.)

Chinook Catalog

When searching Chinook, you can connect your keywords using terms like AND, OR, NOT. You can also used parentheses, quotation marks, and asterisks.




AND: Gerhard Richter AND photography
(must find both terms)

Phrases: “Gerhard Richter” (must find phrase in that order)

OR: theory OR philosophy (must find one of the terms)

Synonyms: (theory OR philosophy) AND painting

NOT: performance NOT theater (must find first term and not second term)

Wildcards: minimal* will find minimalism, minimalisms, minimalist, etc.


If you search Chinook and find that the CU Libraries do not have the item you are looking for (or if the item you are looking for is checked out), you can search Prospector, which is a combined library catalog of 23 libraries in Colorado and Wyoming. CU students, staff and faculty can request materials through Prospector, and the items will generally be delivered to Norlin within a few business days.



WorldCat is an online catalog for over 9,000 libraries in the US and world wide, and it allows you to do a more thorough search than Chinook because you are not limited to only the items we already own. Instead, you are effectively searching the catalogs of most major libraries world wide.


For any books you find in WorldCat, you will be able to see if CU-Boulder owns that item. If you find something in WorldCat that we do not own, you should:

  1. Search Prospector to see if the book is available. If it is, request it via Prospector. The book will typically arrive in a few days, and you'll receive an email when it is ready for pick up.
  2. If the book isn't available via Prospector, you can request it via Interlibrary Loan (ILL). Please be aware that items ordered via ILL can take up to several weeks to arrive. Obviously, if your assignment is due very soon, this will not be an option.


Interlibrary Loan
If the item you are looking for is not in Chinook or Prospector, you can request it through Interlibrary Loan (ILL). Generally, an ILL request will take longer to be delivered than material requested through Prospector.



Accessing Resources from Off Campus
In order to use the databases listed below (and any other licensed resources provided by the library), you MUST download, install, and run VPN software. For more information about VPN, please see the library's page on Off Campus Access.


Choosing a Database

You will not find articles in Chinook. In order to find individual articles on your topic, you will need to use a database. The library provides access to hundreds of databases, and many of them focus on a particular discipline such art or art history.


The Find Articles & More page provides access to all of these resources and arranges them by topic. To see databases for art, click on the plus sign next to "Art & Art History."


Relevant Databases for Your Assignment

Art Bibliographies Modern
ABM covers journal articles, books, essays, exhibition catalogs, PhD dissertations, and exhibition reviews on all forms of modern and contemporary art.


Art Full Text
An excellent general resource for art, art history, and related topics.  Covers a range of media in all periods, with publications going back to 1929.



Full text archive of important journals in a number of disciplines. Includes journals such October, the Art Bulletin, Grey Room, Woman's Art Journal, and more.


LexisNexis Academic

Contains the full text of national, international, and regional news, newswires, transcripts, magazine articles, legal and business information, public opinion polls, and other sources.  Very useful for finding exhibition reviews.



Nearly one million images of visual and material culture, covering all geographic areas and historical periods. ARTstor has some coverage of contemporary art. VPN required for off-campus access.


Maintained by the Department of Art & Art History Visual Resources Collection.  Provides access to a growing collection of high-quality digital images. VPN required for off-campus access.


Search for images from the Associated Press. Useful for finding images from newspapers, magazines, wires, etc. VPN required for off-campus access.


Use the advanced search options to find larger, higher quality images.


Another very useful source for images of contemporary art. Note that user-contributed photos vary in quality.



And finally... the Internet!

The Internet is often the best place to find information on contemporary art. Look for a website maintained by the artist or a gallery for biographies and bibliographies. Remember to place the name of the artist in quotations to ensure the best results.


If you have found a personal website for an artist that contains contact information, you may consider sending him/her an email of 3-4 carefully constructed questions. This may or may not provide fantastic leads for continuing research.


Artnet provides information about artists, galleries, auctions, and the art market. Want to know who represents a particular contemporary artist? Artnet is often the best source for that information. Short biographies, selected bibliographies, and images of recently sold works are often included.


Wikipedia can also be useful source of information, including a bibliography for many articles. Remember, though Wikipedia can be a useful place to start, you should seek out other resources (books, articles, etc.) for your paper or project.




Scholarly vs. Popular Sources





Original research presented with evidence, critical arguments, and other material.

Discussion includes personal opinions, and typically focuses on material for entertainment or leisure.


Author's credentials are given, usually a scholar with subject expertise.

Author may or may not be named; often a professional writer; may or may not have subject expertise.


Editorial board is listed on cover or near the Table of Contents. Some publications may also note that articles are refereed by peer reviewers.

No editors listed and no referee process described.


Scholars, researchers, students.

General public; the interested non-specialist.


May use specialized terminology.

Vocabulary in general usage; understandable to most readers.

References (Endnotes, Footnotes, etc)

Required. All quotes and facts can be verified. A bibliography is also usually included.

Rare. Little, if any, information about sources.


Contribute to your understanding of the text; could include diagrams, charts, or other technical material.

Often merely provide pleasing visual content rather than support for assertions in the text.

Example Publication

Art in America

American Artist


Citation Styles & Management

For information about citing print and electronic sources in a range of styles, see “How to Cite a Source.”


Using MLA Style? See the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. Using Chicago Style?  See the Chicago Style Quick Guide or the full version of the Chicago Manual of Style.


Writing a longer paper and need to keep track of citations? RefWorks is a web-based citation management tool that allows you to save citations and retrieve them later using "Find it at CU" buttons. Citations from most databases can be easily exported directly to RefWorks.


Need More Help?

Wondering if you're citing something correctly? Or maybe you need help with structuring your paper? Take advantage of the CU Writing Center. Making an appointment with a consultant at the Writing Center allows you to receive one-on-one help with your writing.


Want to speak with a librarian right now? You can contact us in person, via the phone, or even over IM. Use the Ask Us page to chat with a librarian even if you're away from campus.