Point of View: A Brave New Art Scene

Mark Staff Brandl New Pop Covers
Courtesy of Mark Staff Brandl

What makes ArtStyle unique from other sites concerning Chicago art operating in cyberspace? Art or Idiocy is clearly Erik Wenzel's personal, rather pro-SAIC blog, with some enjoyable perceptions; Iconoduel is very infrequent, yet marvelously well-written and well thought out; Bad at Sports (BAS) specializes in podcast interviews, with great comments raised by the interviews; and Sharkforum is the voice of artist-based independence and critique.

While I'm already active on several sites, including Sharkforum, BAS, and Swiss Art Sharkforum, as well as print publications such as Art in America, I agreed to contribute to ArtStyle for several reasons. First, Amy Rudberg, the creator of the blog, writes and edits very well. Secondly, she is obviously extremely serious about the quality she wishes to foster on this site. And thirdly, she intends to include art history in the blog — and she has some stimulating ideas there. In particular, she intends this site to become a blog + magazine + encyclopedia, thus a blog-zine-pedia.

I think it will take a few months before this blog develops its own distinctive identity. At that stage, it will be apparent which of my thoughts belong here rather than elsewhere. I will remain, of course, primarily the EuroShark for Sharkforum and the Central European Bureau of BAS, as well as artist, theorist, and doctoral candidate (and non-sleeper).

As this is my first post, let me reiterate what I have said in pieces elsewhere about why and how I got (re)involved with the Chicago art scene — after approximately 20 years of avoidance.

    I was born near Chicago and lived in the city the longest I have ever lived in any one spot. My career as an artist began there. I worked on the Field Museum building dioramas, had many shows, many reviews, sold well enough, won some awards, was listed as best installation of the year in The New Art Examiner once for a Raw Space piece, and so on.

    I am an artist, art critic, 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.

    Although I found Chicago’s music, literature, and comic-art world wonderful and believed Chicago was a wonderful place to live — those amazing neighborhoods, the food, the various ethnic groups — I left in the 1980s, when it appeared that there was nothing more for me in Chicago’s visual art world.

    In one of my recurring, sporadic life changes, I had abandoned my earlier Late Conceptual Art phase and began pursuing the “painting-installation-popular art” mongrelization that I still engage in. 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. I was contemplating moving to New York when I met my future wife (in the kitchen of my Chicago studio). She is Swiss, and after an unexpected further year in Chicago, and another year in Tortola in the Caribbean, we headed off to Europe. I have now lived in one place or another in Europe for 20 years.

    I always thought Chicago had great art, especially now. But I didn't miss its art world — not the old one I knew. Nonetheless, somehow or other, Chicago has never let me go. (Although I speak mainly German, I still speak with a Chicago accent when I do speak English.) I also had contact with Paul Klein in Chicago. When he began his on-line discussions at The Art Letter and his plan for a Chicago art museum, I was intrigued. While participating on his site, my interest in Chicago’s art travails returned, and fascinating discussions ensued with Chicago artists, including Tony Fitzpatrick and Wesley Kimler (we knew each other when I lived in Chicago, but became more “intellectually” acquainted by way of often heated discussions over at Paul Klein’s site.) Wesley’s were always the most thought-provoking, even fierce — tough, but inspiring.

    Wesley asked me to be the “foreign correspondent” for his blog/site Sharkforum: Opinion With Teeth. This interested me, so I began writing for Sharkforum about art, the art world, and related subjects from the perspective of an outsider, yet one acquainted with Chicago.

    We “Sharks” have become ever more intertwined in our “prophetic” critical activities attempting to call a mannerist, academic art world to its senses, especially in our attempts to inspire creators themselves to abandon the obsequiousness in the art world so ingrained since the late 1980s. This led, among other things, to my participation in The Artist Project, part of Artropolis, and Sharkstock in 2007 and related events. I was inspired.

You Chicagoans have the beginnings of a great, truly international, art scene — one to rival L.A., Berlin and London — perhaps the best Chicago art scene yet. I wish to help and be involved again as both an insider and an outsider, a position I have held and enjoyed, despite all of its frustrations, as both an American and now a Swiss, living with many languages and cultures.

I think Amy wishes to foster and advance this brave new art scene, too, and I hope to join her. Let's go.

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2 Comments so far

  1. The Shark @ May 31st, 2007, 12:51:43 pm

    Mark -nice piece accurate, to the point. My one disagreement would be including Erik W. in your assessment … Tony and I both cannot stand him -look in your never ending quest to be the all-inclusive good guy, you make the mistake of welcoming the bad guys-Erik W. is precisely what we are railing against -so, do not support him! Otherwise, excellent piece.

  2. Mark Staff Brandl @ May 31st, 2007, 2:56:17 pm

    Thanks Shark. I’m not trying to be all-inclusive or a good guy, but I am acknowledging what exists —
    And, oh, I certainly did not welcome him into anything, but ArtIdiocy is an example of another blog from which this ArtStyle one will have to differentiate itself in order to have its own profile, and I think I described his “slant” pretty well. I could have mentioned his silly consensus-supporting attacks on Tony or Klein, etc., but that is not the point of this particular blog post. Perhaps I’ll do that later in a critique of all the various on-line “presences” coming from or dealing with Chicago.

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