MSB brainstorming

29 October 2013

The Collapsible Kunsthalle in the Musée d'art Neuchatel

From June 2006 originally.


The Collapsible Kunsthalle
from June 25th to September 17th 2006
will be presenting Pas tout seul!
Two solo installations by artists Steve Litsios and Mark Staff Brandl

For this occasion the Kunsthalle has a "temporary extension" in the form of the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de Neuchâtel, Switzerland (Museum of Art and History Neuchatel), where the group exhibition Pas tout seulcan also be seen.

Musée d'art et d'histoire
Esplanade Léopold-Robert 1
CH-2001 Neuchâtel

Tél. ++41 (0)32 717.79.20

The Collapsible Kunsthalle (tm) (homepage is a functioning contemporary, non-collecting museum of art operating since 2003. What makes it unique, however, is that this Kunsthalle is indeed collapsible, folding together and fitting into a common, leather attaché case. It is not a model, as it is not a study for anything larger, just a very tiny Kunsthalle. --- The scale works out to 1:15. That’s about half-Barbie/G.I. Joe-size, or normal small super-hero action figure-size.

A variety of international artists have been in exhibitions in the Collapsible Kunsthalle, ranging from the famous to new discoveries, from London, LA, NYC, Switzerland, Germany, Egypt and elsewhere --- all with works custom-made for the space, whether video, painting, sculpture, artist book or installation. These artists have included Mark Francis, Hildegard Spielhofer, Dave Muller, Basim Magdy, Marianne Rinderknecht, Clare Goodwin, Peter Noser, Jeff Hoke, Maddy Rosenberg, Stefan Rohner, Nicky Hirst, Alex Meszmer, The Unknown Art Vigilante and a recreation-cum-forgery of a Marcel Duchamp work.

Steve Litsios was born in 1959 near Boston and lived in Washington DC until his family moved to Geneva Switzerland in 1967.

He studied art at the San Francisco Art Institute in the late 70's and is active internationally as an artist since 1983. He now lives in the small city of La Chaux-de-Fonds in the Swiss Jura mountains. The artist was at first identifiable by colorful abstract relief oil paintings, in the early 90's he also worked at wood, stone and bronze sculptures as well as with acrylics. In 1998, the monumental "Slice of Air" was his first site specific work. A choice of recent installations and works can be viewed at his website.

Mark Staff Brandl is a Sharkforum contributor. You can look his bio up on the site here .


Thus two bi-cultural artists, both US American and Swiss, one from the French-speaking part of Switzerland, the other from the German-speaking part, have combined forces in the latest Collapsible Kunsthalle exhibition. The photos here were taken during the hanging of the show and are not final. More, better and final photos will be seen in an up-coming blog.
Here is a short film showing teh Collapsible Kunsthalle leaving the museum: Link.

28 October 2013

Two New Art Terms A New Artistic Development: Gallery Comics and A New Compositional Form: Iconosequentiality.

From May 8, 2006 originally. Updated 2015.

Mark Staff Brandl, detail of My Metaphor(m), 2009.

Artist and theorist C Hill has recently created a new term to give a clear identity to a new artistic phenomenon. The appellation is gallery comic. The second expression, iconosequentiality, is my own creation for a compositional form concomitant with gallery comics.


Hill, a French-American artist living in California (here), explains “gallery comics” as artworks using the formal structures of comics to create pieces that are intended to be viewed in the context of a gallery or museum or Kunsthalle or other (fine) art space --- whether hanging on a wall (a la painting), sitting on the floor (a la sculpture) or as an installation (a la – well, you get it). A gallery comic is not necessarily, or at least not exclusively, meant to be read left to right, top to bottom.

This idea of “gallery comics” is open to variety of applications, from Hill's own clearly comic-derived, fairly narrative yet iconic works; Andrei Molotiu (here) or Mathieu Baillif's (aka Ibn al Rabin here) abstract comics; or my own painting-installation works. Hill asserts that this new format is not restrictive, but rather inclusive, therefore non-reductive and non neo, creating the perhaps first truly post-modern (with hyphen, as in after-Modern and after-Postmodern) media concept. Thus, for Hill, a gallery comic (or art-space comic, or Kunsthalle Comic, Museum comic, et al.) is a challenging new form of art lying between book-based sequential comics and the spacial / wall situation of fine art. That is, a sequential, or quasi-sequential work which both can be read like a book and comfortably viewed as a gallery/museum work. I have used the term, yet also prefer the variation 'exhibition comics.'

Andrei Molotiu

The talented critic of comic art, Derek A. Badman, (here) writes:
"As comics become both more acceptable in the fine art world and more mainstream in general, the idea of seeing comics hanging on a wall in a museum or gallery becomes ever less unusual. ... Hung on a wall these works of art become defamiliarized and slightly uncomfortable, placed out of reach. We can look but we can’t hold and read. We can still view them in the traditional reading manner, left to right, up to down, but in a distinctly different way than one approaches a painting or print on a wall. (They hover somewhere between the page and the wall.)"

Moliotiu points out, however that "the 'original' art pages of comics offer wonderful opportunities for different and unique forms of appreciation on their own." Exhibitions and the collecting of comic art, both very recent events, have brought about a new interaction by viewers with such original comic pages, allowing us to discover how one can appreciate not only the intended art values, but also additional discoveries such as the beautiful variety of thick and thin, tapering, brush ink work common to older cartoonists, the thickness of the ink on the board, the "palimpsest of marks that do not show up on the printed page: touches of pro-white and of [non-reproducing] blue pencil, ghostly pentimenti of erased penciling, marginal notations," fingerprints and so on. As Moliotiu further states, "these marks reveal the inescapable presence of the artwork and the comics-creating process itself." They are what Molotiu calls the "antilogocentric dimension."

This, together with new desires for fine art critical of anaemic and attenuated art consuetudes, as well as the arrival of several generations of artists who grew up, cherish and wish to merge vernacular and fine art approaches, has led to a new variety of art, which Hill now seeks to name. (Whether this is a genre, a medium or a technique I will discuss in another, following article/blog. Furthermore, I will examine the term gallery comics itself --- the pros and cons of other possible monikers, such as installational comics, object comics, sequential fine art, and others.)

Mark Staff Brandl, Panels, Covers, Viewers Painting Installation

Now we come to our second newly-minted word, my own iconosequentiality. This is my neologism, for the unique combination of forms of phenomenological perception in comics — and my art. While I have previously mentioned this idea elsewhere, I would like to publicly re-introduce it here and link it to gallery comics.


In comics as we know them, viewers frequently perceive both the entire page as an iconic unit, similar to a traditional painting, and simultaneously follow the flow of narrative or images from panel to panel, left to right, up to down. A page is often thus concurrently whole/part and openly linear (even multi-linear with the possibility one has to glance "backwards" and "forwards" if desired, while reading). Readers of Sharkforum who also read contemporary comics should be able to conceive of this well --- the beautiful Building Stories by Chris Ware (here) are prime examples of iconosequentiality (but not "gallery comics" until they --- soon --- pop up in an MCA show curated by Lynne Warren).

Such a work is therefore ontologically as well as phenomenologically both iconic and sequential. Aesthetic attention becomes a wonderfully anti-purist conceptual blend of, or perhaps flickering between, a rich variety of forms of reading and viewing, most of which are under the control of the perceiver. The ultimate hyper-text/hyper-image united with the joys of an image's patient always-there, self-reliant presence

This is not a reiteration, by the way, of Werner Hofmann's iconosase, in French, which would be iconostasis in English. This notion, as applied by Andrei Molotiu to comics, describes the phenomenon where pages of sequential storytelling occasionally "freeze" into tableaus of panels that make a rather unified whole. This occurrence is indubitably the source of inspiration for what I am proposing, yet is almost the mirror image of what I seek to describe. In iconostasis there is a natural progression which has been slowed down, even stopped, often almost by accident, for aesthetic appreciation. Iconosequential work is the conscious, active, creative use of the marriage of iconicity and sequentiality as an a visual stratagem, a "speeding up" if you will. These ideas in practice of course overlap, however the clearest simple examples I can describe would be wonderfully composed pages of panels in Steve Ditko's Spider-Man, iconostasis, as compared to Frank King's famous Sunday strips of the children playing at a house building site, iconosequentiality. Those delightfully choreographed pages of struggle drawn by Jack Kirby seems to fall exactly in-between.

Frank King, Gasoline Alley, 1934, (April, 22nd)

Noticing and using such a new compositional form is important, if not for personal utilization then at least for debate. In addition to a blanket ignorance of the complexities of vernacular and popular art forms, one of the detriments in the artworld of the recent past has been the slow-but-steady erosion of knowledge about and interest in painting. Such blindspots have resulted in an attendant attrition of awareness of some startling accomplishments in method and thought in those disciplines, especially painting. There are many other elements which need to be newly considered, such as the integration of a "media" awareness, as displayed in David Reed's filmic-brushstrokes (here), however I will discuss only one in this blog: composition.
David Reed, #611, 2010-2011
24 x 120 inches
Oil and alkyd on polyester
oil and alkyd on linen
Composition IS important. The agonistic struggle to achieve new types, even if they are at first seemingly rather small alterations. The history of changes in composition shows this --- transformation is crucial, not due to any supposed development of "significant form" or due to a blinkered view of some march of history, but for personal metaphoric use.

From the conceptual hierarchies of early art, to the overlapping levels of Medieval art, from the Golden Rectangle and Triangle of the Renaissance, to Mannerist routines, from the Baroque spiral-into-space, to Rococo curlicues, from Neo-Classical and Romantic asymmetry, to the shocking yet "relational" composition of early abstraction, from the all-over of Pollock, to unitary Pop and Minimalist form, from Neo-Platonic yet temporal Conceptual art systems, to the environmental envelopment of installation, to now — the tackling of the practical and philosophical problems of composition in art (especially painting) has been an impatient, vital, combative struggle.

Let me emphasize, anti-Formalistically, that this endeavor to forge new compositional tools is significant not in order to simply form novel conventions, but to move on to distinctive organizational structures, new tropes useful for the embodiment of arisen desires.

And now more than ever, we need methods reaching beyond the affected Duchampianesque maniere of Postmodernism so far; one for our new critical anti- purism. Iconosequentiality can be the central compositional trope we need. The new "working space" for which Frank Stella has called.

How and Why, concretely? Such a factor determines the specific modes of attention which visual art now needs — especially the reading/viewing amalgamation true of gallery comics as well —and which make such works potentially far more radically liberating in form than many traditional or even most so-called new media.

Iconosequentiality has the inherent predisposition to be tropaically democratic. It is also a step beyond Pollock's revolutionary "overall" composition, while embracing that discovery, as well as its child, installation, and not retreating to relational balancing games or Neo-Conceptual "readymade" knock-offs, both of which stipulate hierarchical metaphors I find repulsive.

Gallery comics and iconoseqentiality offer fresh arenas for individual development.

C Hill’s Stars, Crosses & Stripes is one such “gallery comic.” It is an object and a comic which Badman accurately describes as "visually and emotionally powerful through the combination of its iconic starkness, repetition, and text/image interaction. It spans the comics and fine arts world, coming out as an interesting experimental comic and a work of fine art that is both understandable by anyone and aesthetically pleasing." Badman's review of the work and a link to an image are here.

An informative interview with Hill about gallery comics is here.

His Stars, Crosses & Stripes is here.


Mark, I really love how the painted pages and the paintings work together in your installation and your idea for gallery comics. It leads me to think that it would be cool to do that elsewhere, using proofing marks. Take a room and mark up on the walls to add space, remove space, make larger or smaller, delete and so on to the objects in the space and on the walls. This concept could be applied to public spaces as well in the form of graffiti. The instructions left behind not only gives a commentary on how everything looks, but instructions (or opinion) on how to improve it. I don’t know -- kind of a tangent, but your work makes me think and not just take it in. I guess that’s what makes great art.

Hi Bill,

Actually a bunch of us come to the gallery comics idea independently --- me through uniting painting with installtion and my own influences, others other ways. However, the credit for "nailing it down," for really inventing the term,m solidifying the concept and promoting it goes to Christian Hill. Hill's own conception is more of an art-object-comic, but he has sought out, invited me to the CAA conference and promotes us all. There is even a new blog just starting about the idea at

While your idea of using the evices of print technology in an installational sense is not, pers se, a gallery comic, not using the defining characteristics of comics), it is a wonderful idea! Go ahead and do one! I believe it could be a very delightful, humorous, slightly Twilight Zone, but also very critical approach. You could add editors/proofreaders marks and art editors directions too! ("The delete sign next to a window, etc.)

As a working artist for comics, I hope our artform, even as it is, gets attention by the fine art world. However, I also think your expansion of it, Mark, is a thrilling idea. (I have seen your work live.) Keep it up. Sorry about the anonymous thing here, but I'm feeling shy in the face of all the artists here......

Nu Popscape, Brandl with Bringolf

From May 30, 2006 originally.


As you may have read in the press release:

"The Project Space Exex Gallery in St. Gallen, Switzerland exhibited artworks by Brandl and Bringolf from May 4th until May 28th, 2006.

Based on the perception that communication and exchange energize, the Project Space Exex in St.Gallen has instituted a series titled "Twogether,“ wherein pairs of artists will be working in cooperation. The first show featured Mark Staff Brandl, from Chicago and now living in eastern Switzerland, and Maya Bringolf, from Schaffhausen and living in Basel. In their exhibition, the artists allow visitors to meander through a landscape peppered with quotations and allusions.

Mark Staff Brandl was born in 1955 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, Columbia Pac. University, and is currently working on a Ph.D. at the University of Zurich.

Brandl is active internationally as an artist since 1980, has won various awards, had many publications and had numerous exhibitions. His shows include galleries and museums in the US, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Egypt, the Caribbean; specific cities include London, Basel, 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.

Maya Bringolf was born 1969 in Schaffhausen, Switzerland. She studied art at the University of Applied Sciences in Zurich and the Art Academy in Munich, Germany. She has lived in Basel since 2004. Since receiving her degree in 2001, Bringolf has frequently exhibited in Germany and Switzerland. She spent two six-month, visiting artist residencies in Helsinki, Finland and in Berlin.

The artworks in this show came into being through dialogue and the process of getting acquainted with one another's working methods; pieces were created which are both independent and yet function in the context of a collaborative exhibition. Brandl and Bringolf have seized on and reacted to each other's ideas and suggestions, resulting in acquisitions and integrations in form and content within their individual works. For example, a creepy, glistening octopus-like net by Bringolf turns into a comic character in Brandl's wordless, painterly adventure story. Likewise, Bringolf creates a portrait in silicon of Brandl's swirling, perforated, effervescent comic-hero "Whorl Earl." The artists' motifs mingle and blend. A three-dimensional, pop, spooky fable emerges, through which viewers can move and in which their imaginations are required to assemble the web of allusions."
As this blog has begun in the third-person, I'll keep it up to a certain extent for clarity's sack, referring to Maya by her last name, Bringolf, and to me by my family name as well, strange as that may be.

Here is the entrance panel, a hand-painted sign, by Brandl, with the title of our show.

This is a view from the entrance panel toward the first painting and sculpture visible in the space as one enters.

This is a shot of the Covers Bunch painting by Brandl, serving as a kind of annotation to the show.

This is a shot of a large portion of the exhibition, showing three "webs" by Bringolf and two painting-installations by Brandl.

A view coming in closer to the rear grouping.

This is a very nice image showing the interaction of our two approaches. Brandl, grouping to the left, Bringolf sculpture hanging right foreground.

This is a shot singling out the image of my character "Whorl Earl" who has seemingly fallen asleep after reading all those comics scattered on the floor, Dreaming of Reason, and of spiders who may have spun the webs.

The Whorl Earl painting panel.

The "comic covers" panel, in which for the first time the "Covers" have no actual text, but still utilize the formal structure of comics and techniques of sign painting.

A detail of the text-less Covers Bunch, showing, lower right, a version of Whorl Earl based on one of the silicon paintings Bringolf did of him which were in the show.
Furthermore, upper left is a largely yellow Cover, created as an homage to three friends. Something like a comic co-starring Batman, Superman and Wildcat. The three vertical divisions each contain a comic-like-character of and in the style of three artists who are colleagues and friends. Left is a spy-like three-quarters profile based on Gary Scoles, a comic artist from Peoria, Illinois. Right is a loopy figure based on Hanspeter Hofmann, a painter from Basel, Switzerland and center — ta da — is a mutant shark based on our own Wesley Kimler. Thanks to all three for inspiration in various ways. Watch out Dave, you're next!

Here's a excellent photo from the back of the space toward the front, showing four of Bringolf's hanging web-entities and a tiny section of a silicon wall work in pink to the right.

This is that pink wall work, a portrait of Whorl Earl (my Tornado figure) by Bringolf, which I then re-cited in the textless Covers Bunch work above.

In the rear corner was my main work, a painting-installation, or perhaps installation comic, transforming the corner of the room itself into an open comic magazine. Well, at least metaphorically. One of what I term my "Panels" works. This is an image of me approaching the piece, (an example of sticking the artist in for scale).

The piece features a dialogue in word-balloons which double as the panel drawings themselves. Whorl Earl banters, maybe flirts as one reviewer claimed, with a character based on Bringolf's webs. The dialogue is calculated to be "read" in a large number of ways. I first conceived of the web-woman as cartoon-ghost-like, but she slowly evolved into a more elegant figure, which Bringolf dubbed the "Netznixe." This is a wonderful term translating something like "Net-Naiad" or "Web-Mermaid." The black and white drawing's final panel shows the two flying off and "saying" the entire color image to the right (note the two word balloon "tails" subsuming the whole right-hand side into one large word balloon). We're not in Europe anymore, Toto. Therein, the two fly into a Chicago-like cityscape, blast an explosion and then swoop across one another's paths, assuming a position suggesting a loop back to the beginning. Iconosequentiality and seeing/reading with a passionate tip of the hat to Frank King, Birchler/Hubbard, C Hill, Mathieu Baillif and Gene Colan. Whorl Earl now has a comrade in arms, Netznixe.


A closer image of the same.

Detail of the left "page."

Detail of the right "page."

To divert a bit from the egotism of the above, "Brandl" finds this photograph of a detail of the central web sculpture by Bringolf important. It reveals the marvelous "drawing in space" central to her work, as well as the attraction and repulsion of the almost fetishistic, pop-ish but also creepy associations of the glistening material. bringolf_nupopscape_detail.jpg

And here we are, the two artists. Maya Bringolf , left, Mark Staff Brandl, right.

Two exceptional reviews of the exhibition are on line, both by one of the finest Swiss art critics and art historians, Ursula Badrutt Schoch.

The Kunst-Bulletin (in German and English), the most important Swiss art publication, has a review here.
The St. Galler Tagblatt (only in German until I have time to translate it), a major newspaper, has a review here.

The photographs of our exhibition are by Stefan Rohner. (But (c) 2006 by Brandl and Bringolf.) He is not only the best, and most in-demand, photographer of our region for documentary work, working for almost all the artists, museums and galleries, but is a remarkable artist in his own right. The best word for his powerfully allusive photographic objects and videos is wry. Rohner’s art discloses a quiet, positive wit at work. Check out his website too, here.

Coming soon: An interview with the two directors of the Project Space exex, Matthias Kuhn and Marianne Rinderknecht.

Images and names such as Whorl Earl and Netznixe all (c) and TM 2006 Mark Staff Brandl. All rights reserved. So keep yer mitts off unless you want to publish, exhibit or market them and make us both rich.


As Usual Mark, your work continues to amaze and excite me! In applying your use of arbitrary colors and bold applications, you crystalize all that Fine Arts is and Comics can be!!

You are a master at setting one's heart on fire!

Enjoy your well deserved success!

Warmest Regards,


I have to tell everybody that the above message, and others I have received from Gene Colan, thrill me immensely. In case you don't know who he is, let me expound. Colan is one of the most famous and BEST comic artists of all time. He began as a mere youngster in comic books when they were first created and has continued until today, always improving although he was always amazing. At 80 he is better than ever!

He is famous for many genres and characters, perhaps mostly Daredevil, Dracula, Batman, Dr. Strange, Blade (who he co-created), and other moody-types.

Colan was the first comics artist to be so renowned for the beauty of his original un-inked pencils that experiments were made until (with computers and improved printing) it became possible to reproduce his pencils directly. He produces, in effect, "painting with pencil" as the title of one book about him is titled. Colan also invented many unique artistic devices and sequential techniques.

He is a hero of mine (yes, I am consciously using that "H" word, even without current cultural approval). Check out Tom Field's wonderful book on Colan which was just published, titled Secrets in the Shadows, and check out his website at .

All you curators --- Check out my proposal for a wall work created by Colan, with my technical assistance, at my CAA speech.

Thanks for checking out the blog and the comment Gene!

27 October 2013

Art Space Talk: Mark Staff Brandl with Brian Sherwin

This is an interview Brian Sherwin did with me back in 2008.

Art Space Talk: Mark Staff Brandl

Mark Staff Brandl was born in 1955 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, Columbia Pac. University, and is currently working on a Ph.D. at the University of Zurich. As a critic, he is a frequent contributor to London’s The Art Book and is a Corresponding Editor for New York’s Art in America. He is also the curator of The Collapsible Kunsthalle

As an artist, his works 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 International Museum of Cartoon Art, the Art Museum Olten and others.

 Panels, Covers and Viewers, Painting Installation (Panels wall view)

Brian Sherwin: Mark, you studied at the University of Illinois and Illinois State University. Can you discuss your years in Illinois? I understand that your career in fine art began in Chicago....
Mark Staff Brandl: ...And Col Pacific and I got a "Latinum" Latin Diploma from ISME and a Diploma in German at the Translators’ school and am now doing a PhD dissertation at the University of Zurich in Art History and Cognitive Metaphor Theory. I like to learn stuff!

I was born in Peoria, Illinois, raised mostly in and around Pekin near there, although I spent the longest time anywhere in the US in Chicago. I loved most of the places in their own way. I occasionally miss Chicago, although not its art scene — more its Mexican neighborhoods and African-American influence and good food and music and just plain tough, cool, amazing denizens.

Panels, Covers and Viewers, Painting Installation (Covers wall view)

BS: Mark, can you discuss your academic background? You have also studied at Columbia Pacific University and the University of Zurich. Have you had any influential instructors?

MSB: Besides the various universities and the like (there are more than I have named), I also learned a lot about sign-painting and display from my father Earl Brandl and I learned a lot from my mentor, the renowned comic artist (from the 40s till now), Gene Colan.

In the university my most incredible teacher was C. W. Briggs, who was a truly amazing man and teacher. He could see into your artistic soul and tell you "what you were trying to do" even when it was more radical than you expected and than he enjoyed. He was a great painter too and deserves a fabulous monograph (take note art historians out there).

I am always open to "the technique of friendship and dialogue" (as Ortega y Gasset called history) with other artists —frequently dead ones who are somehow more alive than many of my contemporaries. Goya, Tintoretto, Titian, R.B. Kitaj, Eldzier Cortor, Jackson Pollock, Marc Swayze, Gene as always, my Dad — those are some people I’m discussing with in my head currently.

Dripped Double Portrait (3 Chords and 4 Colors)

BS: Mark, I understand that you have lived in Switzerland since the late 80s. Why did you make that choice? How has that experience influenced you?

MSB: As I said, I was born near Chicago; I lived in this city the longest I have ever lived in one spot. My career as an artist began there. I worked at the Field Museum building dioramas, had my ups and downs, had many shows, many reviews, sold well enough, won some awards, was listed as best installation of the year (or something like that) in The New Art Examiner once for a Raw Space piece. And so on.

I left in the 80s, when it appeared that there was nothing more for me in 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, Cornelia Kunz (pronounced "Koo-ents" as English speakers may be wondering!). I met her in the kitchen of my Chicago studio, strangely enough, due to a Maxtavern connection (a well-known artists’ bar). 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 20 years. Whenever I live for extended periods in the US, I never seem to make it out of NYC. Recently I have, though, become re-involved with the Chicago artworld due to Wesley Kimler, called "The Shark." I have dual citizenship now and feel both the US and Switzerland are my "Heimat." I feel very American when I am at home in Europe, and feel very European when I am at home in the US. I enjoy somehow always being a part of something while somehow standing outside it as well. I spend a lot of time in other countries too and would like to live in many of them.
BS: Mark, can you discuss your art? Perhaps you can describe the direction of your work? Tell us about the thoughts behind your work...

MSB: I currently work in two directions — well, a third has just popped up, in point of fact. These are the Panels, Covers, and now "Dripped" works.

Panels are wall installation pieces wherein large oil and acrylic paintings on canvas are surrounded by additional painting directly on the wall. The wall and its elements are created as a huge, readable, sequential "page" of a comic. Usually built in a corner and resembling an open book. My Panels installation in Kunstraum Kreuzlingen was about 35 ft long by 14 feet high.

The Covers works can be quite large, but are generally very small (often exactly comic magazine size). The works are paintings in gouache, ink, and acrylic, oil, paint on paper, canvas. The Covers works are recognizably based on the structure of comic book covers, with title, bold lettering, price, date, numbering, image and so on. Nevertheless, I do not simply appropriate an image, as did many Pop artists. Rather, I engage this form as an inherited yet incomplete grammar, coaxing it to proclaim celebrations and complaints, desires and critical thoughts.

The Panels works are involved with my compositional creation, Iconosequentiality. I created the term and seek to apply it to installation and painting. Iconosequentiality is my neologism for the unique combination of forms of phenomenological perception in comics — and my art. Viewers frequently perceive both the entire page as an iconic unit, similar to a traditional painting, and simultaneously follow the flow of narrative or images from panel to panel, left to right, up to down.

It is therefore ontologically as well as phenomenologically both iconic and sequential. Aesthetic attention flickers between forms of reading and viewing, most of which are under the control of the perceiver. The ultimate hyper-text/hyper-image united with the joys of an image's patient always-there, self-reliant presence.

Iconsequentiality has the inherent predisposition to be tropaically democratic. It is also a step beyond Pollock's revolutionary "overall" composition, while embracing that discovery, as well as its child, installation, and not retreating to relational balancing games or Duchampian knock-offs .Iconosequentiality offers an arena for individual development.

The "Dripped" works unite the two forms above with a third element. They have three "levels" of potential viewing: close-up they look like a dripped Pollock work (hence my slangy nickname for the series), middle distance you see all the sign-painterly outlining, shadowing, feathering, etc. that I got from my father. Farther away, you see that they are genuinely representational works in a sketchy, painterly-drawing fashion much like Gene Colan. So, depending where you stand, they either unite or contrarily collide my three influences. 

Nu Pop Scape Covers Bunch

BS: So do you have a specific philosophy that you adhere to as far as your art is concerned?

MSB: Oh, I have a vast and intricate philosophy that would probably bore your socks off! I am highly interested in contemporary philosophy, especially aesthetics, the philosophy of art, and metaphor theory.

Furthermore, there is a definite socio-political aspect to my approach. Although I am highly, perhaps over-educated, according to a few gallerists, I am bringing the blue-collar technical achievements into the museum/Kunsthalle world. Like superhero comics, I feel attracted to technical ability and violence. I have sublimated this into my creations. But I always feel good when I get Colan and my Father's hard-won techniques, merged with philosophy, smuggled into the "upper" realms — near a video-on-the-floor, purposefully bad painting or junk installation gesture or the like.

Chiefly, my work is something of a "mongrel" or "creole" combination of installation, painting and comics. The word creolization is not employed exclusively to describe Creole culture. A broad anthropological term, it now describes any coming together of diverse cultural traits or elements to form new traits or elements –- thus a complex process of cultural borrowing and lending in an area with many different influences and bears directly on comics and fine art.

I am against purism in all forms. I find it morally and politically questionable. It is a trope of fascism and racism. Philosopher David Carrier sees comics as an inherently impure entity; I would amplify this, claiming that comics offer a positively anti-purist emancipation from narrow formalist reductivism. This is a trait to applaud and emulate in the fine arts. Objections to comics are usually objections to the form’s impurity. Like them, I am trying to make art that is radically technically non-exclusive, even expansive. The in-betweenness of my art has important social, psychological, even ethical implications — as well as historical-philosophical ones. The future of art might not be posthistorical, but rather polyhistorical. A Braided rope instead of a timeline. Let’s hope.

BS: What about other influences? Are you influenced by any other specific artist or art movements? Where do you find inspiration?

MSB: I’ve named most of them, but there are more. Of course I probably couldn’t exist artistically without the precursor, Pop Art. Nonetheless, it is important to be aware that I developed from comics into fine art, not the reverse, as was true of most of the pioneers of Pop Art (esp. Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol).

Indeed, many fine artists today grew up with comics as their first art source, thus referring to them without cynicism. I am not slumming, no matter how much higher education I have had. This is my culture —, an inherited vocabulary, even if it is perhaps habitually insufficient as James Brown has said; an inheritance and "scene of instruction" from which I am attempting to forge something meaningful.

By the way, I went BACK TO painting — away from my earlier purely-conceptual work, by way of comics. I was a traitor, just as certain pundits came into Chicago and forced Neo-Conceptualism. Baaaaad career timing! I realized that such work was the new academy.

BS: Mark, you are in a unique position in that you are an artist as well as a professional art critic-- having worked as a Contributing Editor for Art in America. You are also a frequent contributor for London's The Art Book. Has your work as an art critic given you insight into your personal art? Can you discuss some of your experiences working with these publications?

MSB: I suppose primarily, I am a coincidence of contraries – a damn intellectual who’s also a comic-loving biker, a philosophical artisan. I must be trying to reach out to people. As I just proved so longwindedly, I like the highs and lows of culture and hate the middle.

I wish artists did not have to do everything themselves, ourselves, … at least everything that is not "Consensus Correct" (CC — my phrase, please steal and use it!) I became a critic to prove visual artists are as capable, if not better, than most critics. The same with theory. Likely curation too — although I haven’t done much.

I enjoy writing about art because I enjoy drawing attention to art and artists who I think deserve it. I don’t feel that many critics do that nowadays. Certainly curators don’t. They only memorize who is in the Very Important Shows by Very Important Curators, usually of the jet-setting variety... and then show exactly the same artists they do whenever as often as possible, so that they get to hang out with all the Big Consensus Curators and Gallerists at closed VIP dinners and super private pre-openings and so on,… never "discovering" any artists as that will simply help the artists, not the curator.

They do all this to eventually win a prize as a curator from other Consensus Curators, thus getting them a better job in a better city, climbing the ladder one step at a time, maybe even a shot at Documenta, etc. ... Thus, catalogues have taken over from art mags, and art mags have become simple reportage. Real criticism will probably only return on the internet. Maybe.
While I love the readable, elegant style of Art in America, I find most (other) art magazines superfluous. For example, everybody looks at Artforum, but seldom does anyone in truth read it. It’s too boringly Consensus Correct for that. I most enjoy my work at, where Wesley and I and other "Sharkpack" members are strongly, sometimes viciously, critiquing the artworld. I also enjoy doing podcasts for Bad at Sports ( I will be editing and contributing to a series of theoretical essays by artists in the pages of the new art magazine Proximity, where we will be trying to address this dearth of genuine artistic thought and analysis, with essays by practicing artists! No kidding! Look for it.

I like Alter Ego and The Jack Kirby Collector, as well as art historical publications like the Art Bulletin. Oh yeah, and the Journal of Aesthetics. Try out some real philosophy, not memorized, pre-chewed obedience.

The Art Stand / der Kunst Kiosk, A Covers Painting Installation, Mogelsberg, Switzerland

BS: Mark, what is your opinion about art fairs? There has been some debate in certain circles about the validity of art fairs in regards to the negative impact they may have on the viewing public. Some feel that the fact that it can take days to view all of the art at some of the fairs may harm the appreciation that the general public has for art in general. There is also concern that galleries may have to eventually depend on art fairs-- and their acceptance by art fairs --in order to remain successful-- in other words, some feel that the popularity of the fairs has caused a shift in power that some curators are worried about. My experiences at the art fairs-- as a member of the press --has always been positive... and I normally hear more positive remarks than negative remarks concerning these issues. What are your thoughts on these issues?

MSB: I have some difficulty with fairs, but not a lot, frankly. I know they have nothing to do with artists (who are usually unwanted at VIP affairs there, e.g.); they are about commercial sales between collectors and high powered galleries. Curators always complain about them, but what the heck, of course they do — fairs are the only part of the contemporary artworld that Consensus Curators do not control. Why can’t there be various parts of the artworld for various members. And remember, collectors and gallerists are putting THEIR money where THEIR mouth is, not tax or foundation money where someone else has told them is cool.

I would like it even more if ARTISTS actually had some corners of the art world, (we only make the stuff, right), but that has seldom if ever been true throughout history. Take fairs with a grain of salt, have some fun, then take a serious shower with disinfectant for your soul when you go home and forget them.

BS: Do you have any concerns about the artworld in general?
MSB: MANY concerns. Mostly they revolve around sycophancy. "I've seen most creative minds of my generation destroyed by obsequiousness." One and all seem to want to rewrite the beginning section of Alan Ginsberg's wonderful first line of his poem "Howl." The original: "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, ...." Yet I could not resist, for in art, culture and politics, as well as elsewhere, I find my version to be true.
Recriminations run rampant in the artworld. What's wrong with curators? What's wrong with critics? What's wrong with galleries? I would like to add "What is wrong with us?" By that I mean primarily artists, but perhaps beyond that, all of us in all the mentioned categories.

Tessa Laird wrote of researching the artworld, that she "felt like [she] had stumbled into an anthill, where thousands of industrious (anty) intellectuals were going about their business of empire-building and ankle-biting." When exactly did we turn from manifesto screaming, naive-yet-hopeful creators-with-attitudes into fawning, trendy Sophists? The artworld is collapsing into academic mannerism owing to tiny, curatorial-fiefdoms. Too many fine artists are technically incompetent, faddish slaves of curatorial fashion trends. 

Everybody Loves Hirschhorn

BS: Speaking as both an artist and critic... do you have any advice for artists who are just starting out? In your opinion, what are some of the pitfalls that young artists need to be aware of?

MSB: Read my rant above. Follow your own individual dreams and visions. God has given you something to do as an artist. Only you can listen to the voice and find out what it is. Learn about all the ins and outs of the "art business" but don’t take them to be engraved in stone. Just know your enemy. Be smart. Be smarter than those who would control us, work harder, and be of higher quality. Stop kissing ass, and stop viewing kissing-ass as simply "correct career management." Change whatever you can get your hands on. There are no rules. Rules are for mannerist academic sycophants and are used to control you, the artist.

Find ways to build scenes based upon artistic imperatives, support other artists. We are encouraged to compete with one another, yet most other "artworldians" stick together in their individual fields. Make high quality work. Get technically competent. If you don’t know something, or how to do something (like draw), go learn it instead of explaining it away in silly artist statements. Push yourself, intellectually, technically, creatively, morally. Yes, this is an ethical activity, but not in the ways it is usually preached. Attack racism, sexism, ageism (both directions), classism. If you have no enemies, you have never spoken clearly enough. Stop kissing ass.

BS: What about the Internet? Do you view the Internet as a tool that artists can utilize for exposure? It seems that the net is becoming very important for artists today-- even the galleries are catching up-- and I'm certain that will continue. Oddly enough, there are artists online who are more popular traffic-wise and with the general public than many of the artists that have been championed by mainstream galleries. As you know, art collectors are getting younger and are more tech savvy. Due to this... Do you think at some point online exposure will make an impact concerning how successful an artist is in the artworld? In other words, do you think that artists who can show high traffic-- and interest for their work online-- might gain the interest of galleries in the future? Could that become something that galleries will consider? What is your view?

MSB: The gallery is unfortunately probably fading away to be replaced by far more nefarious entities. The internet is not one of them. Collectors love the personal contact of physical presence — parties, gallerists, other collectors, aperos, but also really touching a painting, for example. For music, internet will be wonderful. It has begun to replace the radio, it will accomplish that, and then replace the record label. However, visual art (other than perhaps photos) don’t do well on it. It is not a conveyer of primary information for most artforms (especially paintings and installations).

Nevertheless, the internet will be a form where revolutionary things may happen for visual art at the secondary level. Probably through networking. It is already replacing the closed-shop of the art magazine. Sharkforum has more readers (not hits, actual readers, —hits are of course huge too) than almost all art magazines. Internet e-zines, group blogs, are the wave to follow, I think, as they indeed replace paper-based art magazines as the makers and guiders of taste, as the conveyers of discoveries, as genuinely critical venues. Yes, most blogs are masturbatory now, and their sheer number is numbing, but that is real democracy and we will slowly learn to sort out the best. Let’s hope they remain enablers for artists.

BS: Back to your art... your art is included in the collections at the Museum of Modern Art (NY), the Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago), The Whitney Museum of American Art and several other collections in the United States and throughout the world. Where can our readers view some of your most recent work in person? Will you be involved with any upcoming exhibits?
MSB: Whew. I seem to be all over the place right now, when I should be concentrating on my big dissertation (which will also exist and be created on-line and end as a book but also a painting-installation). I have been working with my buddy here, Daniel F. Ammann, a novelist and theorist, doing some more complex Covers works.

I am teaching Art History and Painting, at the Art Academy in the Principality of Liechtenstein. I just finished learning Latin, that took a lot of time. I’m podcasting with Lamis el Farra on Bad at, as I said. Writing for Art in America, where, also, a Cover drawing should be appearing soon on the Pen & Ink page as a sort of visual critique of the artworld. I am writing a lot especially on Sharkforum. Also, with my wife Cornelia and our dog and two cats, getting over the death a few weeks ago of our sweet old Golden retriever, Buddie and great old tomcat Toby.

The Proximity things should be quite exciting. If you are an artist out there with a hankering to write a Smithson-like, or any other style, theoretical essay on art — but as an artist, it need not be academically-styled — contact me through my website:

As for art, I will have a large Panels installation (titled Carried Away) in October, November and December in Krannert Art Museum, in Champaign, Illinois, in a show curated by Damian Duffy and John Jennings. I will have a show in the summer in Werk2 Galerie in Zurich. In one year, I’ll have a large show in Peoria, at the Contemporary Art Center of Peoria, organized by William Butler. I’ll be having a show in October in a gallery in Chicago. I have a piece in a show in the Art Museum of Thurgau, at the moment. A hot shot journal just published C Hill, Andrei Molotiu’s and my CAA Art Historian Conference speeches about Gallery Comics — you can get mine on my website for free.

You can listen to an interview with me here:

If you’d like semi-regular email updates of about my activities (usually drawn in sequential comic style and featuring images of the latest paintings and so on), contact me through my site.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art or anything else that is on your mind?

MSB: I’ve said enough, if not too much, already at this point! Thanks for the interest and questions, Brian! Good luck with your own work and stay in touch.

You can learn more about Mark Staff Brandl by visiting his website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

The 12 Most Important Tropes (Metaphor)

The newest article on Metaphor and Art: In order to keep some of our vocabulary clear here on Metaphor and Art, I am presenting a short glossary of important terms, the 12 most important forms of metaphoric, tropaic, forms of analogy.

This is not just fun to know (although I find that alone intriguing), but rather an enjoyable way to think about art. What would visual equivalents of each be? Are you already using one of these intuitively in your own art? What would it be like if you changed that to one of the other tropes? What, e.g., would my image be if I changed it to a litote? And so on.

History Repeating

An excellent cartoon by Tom Toro, alias "Torb." It has a lot to say to the artworld as well.

22 October 2013

Post Kowtow: Massive Change in Direction of Artworld

Originally published April 1, 2006

Shark News Service, New York
Similar to the totally unexpected collapse of Communism in the years around 1989, a complete rearrangement of the power structure in the world of fine art was announced today.

The rapid and unexpected collapse of the Communist systems of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe continues to mystify scholars and citizens alike. A parallel phenomenon seems to have occurred today. All curators in a massive guilt-ridden attack of moral conscience have simultaneously renounced all claims to leading, directing or educating the artworld. They have decided to return to what they do best, if agonizingly --- fundraising, aperitifs and putting up with difficult artists.

To prove the point, the next directors of Documenta, the Venice Biennale, the Whitney Biennial and all other large "top o' the pops" art exhibitions will be presided over by practicing artists, with curators as assistants. Additionally, the curators have enforced self-disciplinary measures in collaboration with art critics. In the future, speeches at art openings will be less than 15 minutes, only one speaker will be allowed and the content will not consist of telling viewers why the work is so important even though they don't like it. Reviews and catalogue essays will never have more than one reference to Derrida, Lacan or Nietzsche per paragraph. Furthermore, all curators and critics have promised to take creative writing classes under well-known authors and editors in order to learn how to actually compose essays. This will include meetings in a newly founded group "Clichés Anonymous," following a 12-step plan for the abstention from delusions of dictatorial control. A special sub-group has been founded for curators in the German-speaking world, focusing on a detox program helping them withdraw from the abuse of Large Romantic Abstractions in writing.

Collectors have voluntarily joined in, saying that their actions till now had actually been "ironically intended" anyway. From now on, instead of hiring curators to tell them what to buy for investment sake, they have decided to actually read books and visit exhibitions on their own, deciding what they like, and buying that! The auction houses have proclaimed that in a spirit of detente, they will cease attempting to replace galleries. Finally, with the pressure removed, all gallery dealers have announced that they will begin to make discoveries of new artists themselves, not waiting for curator, that they will even seek out mid-career artists, not only juvenescent ones. They also plan to form long-lasting relationships with artists.

The artists we have contacted are completely astounded and confused. Most living artists have never considered the possibility of actually having control over their world and have no plans for "Post Kowtow" as it has been dubbed. It appears many curatorial favorites have already committed suicide. Various artists have openly admitted to considering giving up brown-nosing on the one hand and whining on the other.

Oppositely, however, in other news, the world of stand-up comedy has decided to take over where the previous artworld left off. From now on, comedians will not appear on TV, other than as assistants. Instead, agents and managers will take their place. In place of comedy routines, these "comedy facilitators" will discuss the ways in which they arrange for comedians to appear. Or did so, previous to the change, that is. According to one former 10-percenter and now star, this will "result in a far more critical, deconstructive and analytic comedy-world." He went on to quote Foucault, Derrida and Nietzsche.

I'm assuming this sea-change also covers all museum wall plaque discursive, limiting curatorial comments to title, artist's name; which entails strangely enough, that the art being shown actually having the capacity to speak for itself.......oops! there goes 3/4 of what is being touted these days!

I even heard that one "curatorial favorite" shot herself in the hair on the back of her head, another hung himself with colored noodles and a third did himself in with a poisoned mix of ketchup, mayonnaise and dogfood. Terrible.

I went to an exhibition once.....

It was so refreshing to spend more time looking at physical objects rather than reading interprative panels. The critics hated it, the art pudits hated it, most of the 'juvenescent artist hated it, but hey guess what the public, thats right the uneducated masses loved it.

April 2006, Obit: Charles Boetschi, painter

I wrote this in 2006 shortly after Charles's untimely death.

Charles Boetschi, Color Unit 24.1, 1998, acrylic on canvas, 200 x 200 cm

Charles Boetschi, 48, painter, died of a heart attack on April 4 in Thurgovia, Switzerland.

Boetschi was -- is --- one of the best artists I have ever encountered. Certainly the best working within, with and against the geometric tradition. I switched from the past tense to the present there, for when discussing artists as artists that is the correct tense in the English language and I agree. They may be gone as people, but their work lives on.

Charles Walter Boetschi, 24 April 1958 - 4 April 2006

Boetschi's acrylic paintings combine rigorous, gridded geometric compositions formed of rectangular "color units," as the artist referred to them, with remarkably eccentric and purposefully associative choices of hue, creating a decidedly postmodern and personal extension of Minimalism. He had an exotic life history, being born in Calcutta of an ex-patriot Swiss father and English mother, raised in Hong Kong and Japan, and studying art in New York City and Basel. A speaker of English, German, Swissgerman and Japanese, Boetschi began his art career by winning the illustrious Eidgenössisches Kunststipendium, the top Swiss Federal Art Award. He exhibited widely and internationally, showing regularly at Brigitte Weiss Gallery in Zurich among others. He is survived by his wife Karin Boetschi.

I had reviewed Charles in Art in America, and written about his art elsewhere too. A few of his most recent works can be seen here.

Charles was a good friend of mine. He was healthy, happy, happily married, successful, and truly an upbeat person who believed in art. When it was first suggested to me by my printer, the famous master stone lithographer Urban Stoob, that I go see Boetschi's work, long before I met him, I resisted. I disdain most geo art, finding it over-polite, ornamental yet hypocritical about the fact, boring, petit bourgeois. And Neo-Geo is usually even worse, oh-so-snotty-college-boy with the "correct" references. Illustration of the curatorially correct. I was dragged kicking and screaming to Boetschi's show and my mouth dropped. I loved the paintings! Following that, I got to know the artist as a person and found him wonderful therein as well.

Boetschi's paintings are both idiosyncratic and revelatory. They are idiosyncratic in that they ignore the pressures of current art world fads, but also in their very compositional reasoning. Each work is a subtle and sophisticated combination of tropes critically utilized in a unique way - one which points viewers toward possible personal revelations of vision.

Boetschi displays unadulterated and courageous antithetical awareness. His paintings make clear reference to the minimalism of Donald Judd and earlier geometric abstraction. Nonetheless, he denies and inverts several of their key premises. In his paintings he acknowledges geometric art's tradition, but also shows that he has taken postmodern doubt to heart. Boetschi extends the metaphors of this style, sometimes by "backing-up", sometimes by leaping forward. He paints, a method Judd abandoned to go into a three-dimensional form between painting and sculpture, which he termed the "specific object." Yet, Boetschi's surfaces are immaculately smooth. The only evidence of the object being hand-painted are the infinitesimally raised edges due to paint thickness where fields of color meet. The choices of hue are unique and playful, not pedantically balanced as in art concret. The materials are traditional, unlike Judd's work. The artist forswears both the utopian aspirations of hard-edged purist painting and the Dada-fathered theatricality of presence in Minimalism. Therein, he is able to regain something important with early geometric painters such as Piet Mondrian, yet scorned by Postmodernists - striving after integrity.

Yes, Charles was not afraid of the "i" word --- integrity; and not of the "s" word, sincerity, either. I, you and art are the richer for it. In the face of such a short life, in the face of death, I praise God for what Charles did.

You little career lap dog quasi-artists out there --- if you dropped dead this moment do you think anyone would care that your illustrations of pedantic artworld trivia even exist? Change now. Think for yourself. Do what YOU believe in. As Charles Boetschi did.