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Panorama view of exhibition in Jedlitschka Gallery, Zurich.
Here is the script (NOT a transcript as I change elements when recording).
Art Podcast Nine
is Mark Staff Brandl, with the ninth "Dr (Great) Art" brief podcast.
I hope you enjoy it and come back for each and every one.
Today we have a short Artecdoteabout how our time, Postmodernism, resembles and indeed IS a form of
Yes, we are in a manneristic, academicist, transitional
cultural period. I could also have called this "Academicism is Now."
We all hope to come of age in a time such as the High
Renaissance, the peak of Modernism or the like, but unfortunately it cannot
always be so. For every Renaissance there is a Mannerism, for every Baroque a
Rococo, for every Classicism/Romanticism an Academicism. We have, and are, Postmodern.
Furthermore, no matter what some people assert , there is no
"reverse" on this dashboard. Anything that appears to return is
reborn dramatically changed. There may be a Neo-, or Retro-, or
Pseudo-Modernism, although I hope not. There will certainly be a
Post-Postmodernism, under another name. But there will be no return to
Modernism, or pre-Modernism.
Postmodernism thus far has been an ever-duller period
of transition. The shadows of High and Late Modernism hang over us, much as those
of the Renaissance did over the Mannerists. In place of Donatello, Leonardo,
Raphael, etc., — and most of all Michelangelo, we have the School of
Paris, the Action Painters, Pop, the Conceptualists, Minimalists, etc., — and
most of all Duchamp. Postmodernism began excitingly with PoMo
architecture and Feminist art, and all the way through P&D, New Imagism,
Neo-Everything, Neo-Expressionism and more it was at least stimulating. Then it
stuck and stalled at Neo-Conceptualism and its related "Bad
Painting"-type entities of Feeble Art and Crapstraction.
The postmodern artworld is dominated by distended
copyists of Duchamp. Mannerists endlessly "sampled" and combined
aspects of Michelangelo's work. As summed up so well by famed art historian Walter
Friedlaender, Mannerist art's traits tended to be stretched proportions,
capriciously patterned rhythm, broken symmetry, willful dissonance, unreal and
unresolved space, overly fashionable (although not intellectual) theorizing,
coldly calculated style, exaggeration of borrowed forms — in short, confused
This list can be easily converted by anyone knowledgeable of
contemporary art into a description of the various Neo-Styles of Postmodernism.
Exaggerated spectacle, capricious "shoddy-chic" structure, unresolved
technological borrowings, overly fashionable poststructuralist theorization,
and so on. Where Mannerism had great artists such as Rosso Fiorentino,
it also included Alessandro Allori ”who flooded all Tuscany with his
insipid pictures,” as stated by Friedlaender. Substitute the postmodern junk
installation, commodity critique, anti-painting or spectacle artist of your
choice in that phrase.
However weak, though, historical Mannerism was not merely a
bewildered conjunction between the Renaissance and the Baroque. It was a
necessary and meaningful passage, allowing the development of that less bizarre
and more natural successor to the Renaissance: the Baroque. Some things simply
must be worked through.
In this vein, we have required Postmodernism in art and
culture at large. Nevertheless, we have dragged out the learning phase far too
long, for various commercial and sophistically careerist reasons. Heck, almost
ALL artists coming directly out of universities, art academies and Hochschulen
do extremely similar, academicist work best described as "Late-Minimalist
Neo-Conceptualism." As boring as its name is.
This observation is often discussed behind the scenes by
curators, critics and artists. However, too few people seem to want to do so
openly, as it throws all our values, chosen "greats" and the current
hierarchy of speculator-art galleries and curators into question. I know of
several writers on art whose articles on this phenomenon have been rejected or
edited into meaninglessness by important publications, myself included. Due to
fear? Of what? The art academy? Our own positions? The powerful elite? Our
hopes for (or for joining) the "canon"? Brownnosing to avoid thought
Mannerism transmuted into the Baroque by achieving an
aggressive purposeFULness, a vigorousness that was the reverse of the
Renaissance in technique (painterly as opposed to linear), yet similar
temperamentally. Artists made Mannerist dissonance more practical, more
individual, seemingly natural, less abstruse, more corporeal, more playful.
They were able to accept influence without being driven into pastiche. The way
was shown by Cigoli, Cerano, the Carracci and most importantly Michelangelo
Merisi da Caravaggio. These artists believed they were returning to a more
classical form, when in fact they were integrating and uniting Mannerist traits
into a new whole. Caravaggio gave density back to hue, brought forthright
vision back through reference to everyday life, and replaced clutter with
dynamic effect. His tools importantly included naturalistic reference and
chiaroscuro — that amazing effect of simple light and dark which allowed him to
plastically retain distortion by transforming it into theatrical space, as I
discussed in podcast episode 6. The realistic portrayal of a pre-framed,
mediated yet real event, the stage. His simple breakthrough was astounding in
its implications, empowering such later masters as Rembrandt, Artemisia
Gentileschi and Rubens.
This could serve as both an astute parallel to our period
and a promising roadmap of where to go. I believe the path is being cleared now
by many artists — often those "underexposed", yet also by
"hits" for instance Social Practice artists such as Tim Rollins and
K.O.S., Raoul Deal, Santiago Sierra, Meszmer/Müller, Pau Delgado and others
really integrating social activism in a form of art that could save it from its
mannerist jokes under the Spectacle artists. Also I see this in the so-called
"Green" or "Eco-" Artists like Aviva Rahmani, Mario Castro,
and the wonderful Gaëlle Villedary. In painting, artists such as David Reed, but also those I call
"Mongrel" Artists including Christa Donner, Andrei Molotiu, Tom
Sanford and others, a group in which I place my own art.
There is a necessity now to rethink — and openly discuss —
the invention of fresh artistic techniques, to re-examine the "problems of
the artist" with critical eyes and minds: composition, context,
presentation, subject matter, content, surface, facture — in short every
element of artistic creation. Most of these have now settled into memorized,
unexamined, endlessly repeated techniques — academicism in the pejorative
sense; the creation of imposing, pastiche-"machines" of received
Analysis and any resultant practical, theoretical and
tropaic discoveries could lead to a much needed anti-Postmodernism which
incorporates the discoveries of this period into a healthier whole. This will
establish the next phase, a parallel of the change to the Baroque, yet
decidedly not a neo-Baroque (which would be merely another postmodern Neo-ism).
I will attempt to discuss aspects of these artistic
inventions in future podcasts. Please join me. I think such scrutiny is vital,
and it is necessary.
"Mannerism is Now."
listening. That was "Dr (Great) Art" podcast number 9. If you wish to
hear more cool, exciting and hopefully inspiring stuff about art history and
art, come back for more. Also I, Dr Mark Staff Brandl, artist and art
historian, am available for live custom Performance-Lectures. In English und
viewers inside visual art and art history. Entertainingly, yet educationally
and aesthetically, I analyze, underline, and discuss the reasons why a work of
art is remarkable, or I go through entire eras, or indeed through the entirety
of art history, or look at your desired theme through the lens of art history.
The lectures often take place with painted background screens and even in my
painting-installations. My next one is on the image of Social work in Art
History, "Kunstgeschichte in Schnelldurchlauf, Sozialarbeit in der Kunst."