MSB brainstorming

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.

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."
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