10 years pricking the art voodoo doll 2005-2015

Month: November 2006

Art History……some thoughts

Cut and paste from Chicago Shark Forum where they discussing art history teaching

this my take on it…

I began with basic Italian Renaissance studies whilst at (high) school and progressed to the then recent John Berger (Ways of Seeing) and the key text for art schools in 1970’s – Gombrich.

After that we drifted through a B.A. of left-wing analysis (John A. Walker) and feminist critiques and even some eroticism (Peter Webb) but already things had begun to fracture into self-serving partitions. There was no agreed standard texts before I’d graduated and the life-room and the life-model were jettisoned along with the rest of the ‘past’ in the 1980’s.

It would be interesting to see what ‘Complementary Studies’ are now on offer but I fear that as mentioned the baby has been thrown out with the bath water.

By 1988 I was being criticised for reading Peter Fuller’s explorations of Ruskin as being a proto neo-con (even though Fuller had come out of a Left Wing press and theoretical base).

I still have the Fuller books and value them more than the feeble justifications of those who backed Saatchi and Brit Art rather in the manner of a cart careering down hill dragging its horses behind….

When the ‘looking’ agenda was mentioned I immediately thought of Adrian Stokes


Is he read much or at all in the States? I doubt he is on many undergraduate syllabi here. Indeed I doubt many of the students could actually read it or be given time to read it.

Also some of the most profound art criticism that has affected me has come from artists themselves like Mr. Conger. Graham Sutherland comes to mind but there are many more.

At what point did the patronising and sometimes unreadable babbling off curators take precedent over the artist’s comments and is it just my observation from U.K. perspective that exhibitions have become increasingly reliant on curator ‘explication’ often printed out on leaflets and gallery walls.

As a young man I drifted through the Ashmoleum in Oxford and just ‘looked’ at paintings and like William I can still see them in my mind’s eye I do not need explications to do that.

If our contemporary young painters have not looked will they ever be able to see beyond the next fashion handed down to them????

Brandl: Hi from Switzerland and the US

Hi people! Shaun was nice enough to invite me to occasionally post here, cure although I’m not a Nottingham artist. I AM an artist and trained art historian with a rather rebellious nature, and although it appears Shaun and my art are very different, we have frequently agreed, in other blog sites, about the rather sorry state of the international artworld. I’m the “foreign correspondent” for a Blog/Site SHARKFORUM: Opinion With Teeth based in the US and created by artists Wesley Kimler and David Roth. Due to the success of that site in generating active critical exchange (even to the point of viscious argument), I decided to attempt to tie into some of that energy and link it to my chief place of residence — eastern Switzerland, and created a blog site there, Swiss Art Sharkforum.

As I wrote at that site, I am an artist, art critic (Art in America, a.o.), theorist, historian and doctoral candidate with a serious predisposition for impertinence. I call it a “questioning” outlook. Others often say I simply have a bad attitude. And yet, I’m also frequently accused of possessing a persistently good mood. I think these go together well. You decide for yourself.

I left in the US in the 80s, when it appeared that there was nothing more for me in hometown of Chicago’s visual artworld. In one of my recurring, sporadic changes, I had abandoned my earlier Late Conceptual Art and began pursuing the painting-installation-popular art mongrelization that I still engage in. (Although all my “directions” have dealt with the same core content and subject matter.) As I decided to abandon the Windy City, a brand of art was beginning to be enforced — an exceedingly trendy, art magazine-derivative Neo-Conceptualism (then still linked to Neo-Geo). That, together with all the other aspects of Chicago’s recurring provincialism, and a dreadful, dissolving love relationship, made me think, “Why the hell, then, don’t you just go directly to that worshiped Mecca — i.e. NYC?” I started on my way, however, then met my future wife. She is Swiss, and after an unexpected further year in Chicago, and a later year in Tortola in the Caribbean, we headed off to Europe. I have now lived in one place or another in Europe for 17 years. Whenever I live for extended periods in the US, I never seem to make it out of NYC.

I find Europe in general and Switzerland in particular to be a fabulous place to live. The artworld itself in my chosen beautiful home in the eastern part of the country is, well, another story. One which will arise here often — and perhaps thereby change a wee bit. You know the story — whether Nottingham, Chicago, Eastern Switzerland, hell even London or NYC, it’s the same. Everything is “good enough” — we artists have hardly lived in more secure times for us financially, many of us even have a good measure of success, so my complaints are NOT sour grapes. I’m doing very well. BUT I am NOT blind and will not pretend to be so, as seems to be demanded of artists nowadays. We live in a moribund, academic, mannerist, in short kiss-ass-ly boring, artworld.

What can we do to improve the situation?

First of all, make extremely high quality art. Particularly with well-honed technical abilities. If you DO NOT now have these skills, this is no surprise as they are seldom taught in art schools any more. But GET them. That ability can not be denied nor taken away from us and will outlive many an overblown curator justification.

Second, openly criticize the situation. Step on toes. Stop kissing butt.

Third, offer and create constructive alternatives, even perhaps to the point of creating your own artworlds, venues and so on.

Fourth, encourage others who do the same. Help build critics and curators and especially other artists who pay attention to what is around them, who have independent minds, who are more than simply careerist toadies. Even support your “enemies” (too an extent) if they finally seem to see the light. Just don’t trust them behind your back.

Fifth, network in POSITIVE sense, even internationally. And that’s what we are starting now.

Here is That Typical 3rd-person bio-blurb about “the artist”:
Mark Staff Brandl, an artist of the venticento was born mid-novecento near Chicago, where he lived for many years. He has lived primarily in Switzerland since 1988. He studied art, art history, literature and literary theory at the University of Illinois, Illinois State University, Col. Pac. University, and is currently working on a Ph.D. at the University of Zurich. Brandl is active internationally as an artist since 1980. His shows include galleries and museums in the US, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Egypt, the Caribbean; specific cities include Paris, Moscow, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. As a critic, he is a frequent contributor to London’s The Art Book and is a Contributing Editor for New York’s Art in America. He is also the curator of The Collapsible Kunsthalle. Works of his have been acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Victoria and Albert Museum in London, The Whitney Museum in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the St. Gallen Art Museum, The Thurgau Museum of Fine Art, The E.T.H. Graphic Collection in Zurich, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the National Museum of Cartoon Art in New York, the Art Museum Olten and others.

Good luck and let’s get things going.