Panorama view of exhibition in Jedlitschka Gallery, Zurich.

Panorama view of exhibition in Jedlitschka Gallery, Zurich.

27 March 2017

Dr Great Art New Podcast, Episode 10: "Why Art History?"



The newest podcast episode (Nr. 10)! Dr Great Art: "Why Art History!" What are the lessons art history can teach us? The lessons of art history are that they are lessons. That is a tautology, but an illuminating one worth elaborating upon. It is necessary to know history as personal empowerment for artists: to test the present with the often surprising facts of the past, to note how and why "official" history has often changed; second, to discover one's own personal, vital ancestry; and finally, in order to criticize and change art history.
http://drgreatart.libsyn.com/episode-10-why-art-history

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Here is the script (NOT a transcript as I change elements when recording).

Dr Great Art Podcast Ten
"Why Art History?"


Hi this is Mark Staff Brandl, with the tenth "Dr (Great) Art" brief podcast. I hope you enjoy it and come back for each and every one.

Today we have a short Artecdote. Why Art history? What good is it?

Why Art History? What are the lessons art history can teach us? In short, Historia est vitae magistra. (History is the tutor of life.)

The lessons of art history are that they are lessons. That is a tautology, but an illuminating one worth elaborating upon. The phrase "learning from (art) history" is often mouthed, yet mostly no longer believed, and is even actively gainsaid by artworld pundits. It is necessary to know history as personal empowerment for artists: first, to test the present with the often surprising facts of the past, to note how and why "official" history has often changed, in order to put temporary claims of omniscience into perspective; second, to discover one's own personal, vital ancestry; and finally, in order to criticize and change art history.

Now and then, curators have suggested to me that the old chestnut of hope for artists, being discovered in the future although unknown or underappreciated now, is no longer possible. They also say that those now in positions of power know best and indeed know everything, right now; there is a consensus of what is important and that agreement is accurate and everlasting. Of course, such people do not express this thought as candidly as I have here; rather, they indirectly portend that all information is known and under their control, pronouncing such statements as, "Well, discoveries of unknown artists can't happen anymore, because of mass media (or the school system, or the pervasiveness of information, or whatever). All truly remarkable art would come to my attention."

Philosopher Arthur Danto called this stance "Glimcher’s Theorem." It is named after a gallerist who claimed that "there are no unrecognized artists; that all deserving work receives attention; that the market always gets it right," as critic Raphael Rubenstein explains this smug notion. Such a conviction conveniently excuses lack of knowledge of anything not already pre-chewed by one’s colleagues – a vicious circle of self-justification attempting to pass as reasoning. Looking back even a few short years at art magazines, catalogues of award winners and the like, one finds vast arrays of the disappeared. As Rubenstein goes on to say in the same article, "no victory is forever; critical reputations fluctuate.... We can therefore be certain that some – if not most – of the artists who are today enshrined ... will be consigned to deep storage and market oblivion...."

Artists in particular should learn art history. Such knowledge does not give rise to fear, to a burden of the past, as is frequently fretted by artists, but rather the opposite. One has more of a burden of the past when one knows nothing of history. A vaguely threatening cloud hangs over your thoughts and your work. When you know it you can respect it by wrestling with it.

Artists develop their own, perhaps idiosyncratic, inheritance by knowingly, actively re-writing the timeline. Creators are able to discover their preferred precursors, find their own artistic fathers (and fortunately, ever increasingly, mothers). The friendship and conversation with the dead that Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset saw in history allows creators to find as much sustenance in, say, Goya as in their contemporaries. Yet such conversance also imparts opportunities for antithetical, critical historical and cultural awareness.

Furthermore, knowledge of art history empowers artists in that it reveals lies currently foisted upon them as the mendacity that they are.

Some proof of the surprises of history? Consider the case of Carlo Maratta (1625-1713). He respected Raphael, perhaps too much, lacking any passion of his own. His great achievement was to be a friend of Giovanni Bellori, "a writer ten years older than himself, and the dictator of art theory of his age." Bellori wrote about artists who he claimed were the most important of his day. Some he named are indeed still treasured. However, he left out Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini and was thoroughly scandalized by Caravaggio, attempting to discredit him in every way possible, including the use of a purposefully insulting portrait etching of Caravaggio in his book. Bellori began a life of Maratta, left incomplete at his death, wherein he suggested that art had reached its highest summit in Carlo Maratta. Maratta was indeed highly popular among cognoscenti of his time. In my eyes, and those of most viewers today, he was a pedantic producer of dreary, orthodox art emphasizing then-"correct" notions. Ring any bells?

Another historical example is Johannes Vermeer, known as Jan Vermeer. He was a barely successful provincial painter in his lifetime, but, shortly after his death, was ignored for two hundred years. In the mid-nineteenth century, art critic Thoré Bürger published an essay attributing paintings to him and bringing Vermeer back onto the art historical stage. Since that time the painter’s reputation has grown, and he is now acknowledged as one of the world’s greatest painters.

So prominence and rank ain’t necessarily so. History is written by future scholars; those currently in power cannot force any reading upon unborn generations. We do not and cannot know their value judgments. We have no choice but to leave these future art scholars as much as possible and let them research and decide for themselves. They will of course be entangled in their own power-plays and mêlées with spurious taste-czars and so on, yet these factions will not be ours, nor even, most likely, derived in any way from our own cliques and coteries. Why should they be?

Thus, while it is true that no time period is truly objective, the disappearance of direct immediate gain, local political advantage and simple antipathy creates a situation of fresh appraisal and even of purposeful questioning of "compulsory" opinions. This amounts to a calculus of desire approximating circumstances resembling a more objective state. Seeing how this function has worked in the past and imagining it at work in the future is an important imaginative implement. Lessons as illustrations, examples, and tools – as possibilities for making analogies. As many thinkers, including Albert Einstein, have pointed out, the ability to make analogies and associative play are the keys to creativity.

Consequently, the lessons of history are neither retrograde nor conservative nor threatening. Indeed, the contraries of all of these are true. The lessons are touchstones and litmus tests for contemporary life and art – ways to glimpse around the blinders others attempt to enforce upon us in the present.

Artists: Learn art history. Contest it. Build your own. And thereby refuse the state of "given" to any perceived present. Every "is" contains many a "was" and many a "could be" or even "ought to be." History offers illustrations for use as tools to work on the present and build the future.

That was "Why Art History?"

Thanks for listening. That was "Dr (Great) Art" podcast number 10. 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 auf Deutsch.

I take 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."

You can find or contact me at
www.drgreatart.com/

book me at www.mirjamhadorn.com

or Facebook, Twitter, Instagram




08 March 2017

Dr Great Art Episode 9: "Mannerism is Now!"





The newest podcast episode (Nr. 9)! Dr Great Art: "Mannerism is Now!" A short Artecdote about how our time, Postmodernism, resembles and indeed IS a form of Mannerism.
http://drgreatart.libsyn.com/episode-9-mannerism-is-now

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Here is the script (NOT a transcript as I change elements when recording).



Dr Great Art Podcast Nine
"Mannerism is Now!"

Hi this 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 Artecdote about how our time, Postmodernism, resembles and indeed IS a form of Mannerism.
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 over-refinement.

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 and creativity.

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 notions.

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.

That was "Mannerism is Now."

Thanks for 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 auf Deutsch.
I take 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."
You can find or contact me at
www.drgreatart.com/
book me at www.mirjamhadorn.com
or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram