Tag Archives: CalArts

Hey Jill Soloway who you going to get to play me on your Womanhouse series?

It took a while for the full implications of a small item I read in Robin Pogrebin’s “Inside Art” column in the Times earlier this month to sink in, “Judy Chicago Does TV.”  The first sentence–“An artist isn’t typically rediscovered at 77”–fit into a category of historicization of women artists that I have commented on frequently, as recently as in a blog post here a few days ago. The article continued, “But that seems to be what’s happening to Judy Chicago of “The Dinner Party” fame, who is now going to be represented by Salon 94.” That Judy Chicago, whose work “The Dinner Party” occupies the most square footage of museum real estate devoted to a woman artist that I know of, at least in the United States, and who has been in the public eye and in feminist history for nearly 50 years, is one of these older women artists who are being “rediscovered” struck me as odd, but, OK, I had noticed recently that she has been showing in Europe, and so perhaps “rediscovery” translates here to that fact that a certain layer of the European art marketeriat is paying attention to her for perhaps the first time.

However the core of my dismay centered on the next paragraph, “Jill Soloway, creator of the acclaimed television series “Transparent,” is also making an Amazon series based on Womanhouse, the 1972 feminist art space that Ms. Chicago organized with Miriam Schapiro.”

Some younger women artists I know posted this news on Facebook saying how “AMAZING” it is. I appreciate their enthusiasm for this signal artwork of early seventies American feminist art, for Jill Soloway as someone focusing on pressing gender and trans issues in her popular series Transparent, and in general for anything feminist to get attention in popular culture.

But, I beg to differ: I was a participant of the project Womanhouse and I find the prospect of a dramatization of it something between violation and farce.

This blog post is to try to examine my own reaction and, though I speak for myself, I write with knowledge of the reaction of a number of the other women who worked on Womanhouse, some of whom I quote below, which boils down to WTF.

First the inference of the article is that Judy Chicago is the principal advisor of this project, and therefore that it is her version of Womanhouse and her views and memories of the other participants that will dominate the narrative. That is disturbing. Why? There is no question that Chicago was the co-director with Miriam Schapiro of the CalArts Feminist Art Program and Womanhouse from 1971-1972. Chicago had created/taught/directed the first Feminist Art Program the year before at Fresno State. I highly recommend the section of Gail Levin’s biography Becoming Judy Chicago: A Biography of the Artist that covers that year of Chicago’s most radical pedagogical experiment, it is inspiring and provocative, and having worked with her and Schapiro in the CalArts program I can vouch for the fact that although our program was pretty radical, the Fresno program was ten times more so. Thus the importance of that Judy Chicago is absolutely paramount. Nevertheless, the idea for Womanhouse came from art historian Paula Harper, and was driven as much by Miriam Schapiro’s ideas, goals, dreams, aesthetic views, and ability to proselitize and fundraise for the project as by Judy’s vision for it. Also, and of course paramount to my own sense of violation, Womanhouse was a collaborative project with 20 young women students from the Program and three or four other unaffiliated women artists from the LA community working on installations, paintings, and performances, emerging from consciousness raising sessions and discussions. In a short, difficult, and intense period of time everyone involved worked to bring the project Womanhouse to fruition for public viewing in the month of February 1972.

The students who participated in the CalArts Feminist Art Program and Womanhouse included some of the women who had worked with Chicago in Fresno, the rest were women who had self-selected to join the CalArts FAP in the fall of 1971. This was a major decision for a number of reasons. First, the program was exclusionary–only women students. The program was given a very large shared studio space with a locked door–that women held significant real estate within the school was so important institutionally. The fact that the program was exclusionary meant that one’s fellow students were only women, which not all young women would find attractive socially. It also at first meant that one was somewhat cut off from the rest of the student body and faculty. Second, it was a major decision because it was not just a class, it was a program, an experimental educational program within an experimental art school, so it represented a major commitment of time, energy, political identification, and personal allegiance as well as a challenge to established views far greater than any of the other ways of challenging art that were operative at the school at that time. Being in the program was a radical statement, it was a public declaration of identification with a political movement, Women’s Liberation or feminism, which at that particular moment was gaining importance across the country but which still was an identification with social risk.

Thus the women who chose to be in the program were unusual, every one of us, even the ones who were shy and quiet  or the ones barely sane enough to function. And we were doing all this while mostly very young. Who were we, why had we chosen to do this, how did we handle the pressure?  Which ones of us went on to lives in the arts? And which ones contributed further to writing the history of Womanhouse? Does Jill Soloway know anything about this? I am told that she does a lot of research for her projects but not one of the original participants or, in the case of Schapiro, the executor of her estate, has been consulted or indeed heard a word about this project until the notice in the Times. And if Judy Chicago is her only source she won’t learn much of who we were and are and what we know,  because Chicago of course was understandably focused on herself and her own significant struggles in the situation. One of the Womanhouse participants’ said that she thought they would only need two actresses, “Judy and ‘the girl’,” another’s fantasy is that in the series “Judy is a character and everyone else is portrayed out of focus.”

On Chicago’s website, her bio page does not mention either the CalArts Feminist Art Program or Womanhouse and her gallery of images tucks pictures of her much referenced and reproduced piece at Womanhouse, “Menstruation Bathroom,” into the bottom page section “Installations and Performances,” so it takes some work to find it. Further, since that time, Judy Chicago has not been an active participant in the many challenging directions that feminist art and theory has taken in the following decades: in fact she–her ideas and her work–was a major subject of, even a cause of, but not an active agent in the very divisive battles over essentialism that dominated feminist art discourse in the 1980s and more subtly ever since.

The little squib in the Times was vague about whether this Womanhouse based series is already in production or just in development. But, again, not a single woman associated with Womanhouse–and, with the exception of Schapiro, all of us are living–has been approached for our recollections and views and our engagements with that shared history or, for that matter, for what we might feel about this dramatization, how each one of us might balance pride in our participation in an important historical work with a sense of possessiveness or privacy about our experiences of it.

Second, it is very common in such dramatizations of real events and docudramas about famous people to focus on only a few characters that represent specific people. Thus, for example, if this Womanhouse series is an actual dramatization of the actual project Womanhouse, Soloway couldn’t get away with creating a composite character to stand in for Miriam Schapiro because she is a well documented historical figure, although some people in the know feel that Judy has done her best to erase Schapiro from the history. The struggles between the two women were visible at the time including in video documentation of the time. But it is their collaboration that creates that particular event in history. However, once past Mimi, it is likely that many of the rest of us would be lumped into generic composite characters. You know, the kind who hang around the great artist’s studio wearing period appropriate clothing and have one line, like “Pablo, that’s really a masterpiece.” In Gail Levin’s biography of Chicago, I believe I am referred to as “a strange girl from New York.”

Well, as it happens, I don’t see myself as a composite character: for example although probably I fit the bill more than I would like, I don’t think I’m the generic Jewish girl from New York. Since I hope Jill Soloway will see this text eventually, I’d just like to say that I happen to think that I’m a pretty unique and complex figure. Also, of the students who was in the CalArts Feminist Art Program and who worked on Womanhouse, I’m one of the ones who has become, with Faith Wilding, a historian of that time period. But the point is that each one of us was a specific and unique person–our choosing to be in the Feminist Art Program alone being evidence enough of that. That was one of the most important gifts of being part of that program and project, getting to know a number of exceptional and unique people with very different backgrounds from my own, but each with a perhaps atypical relation to her own history for having chosen to participate in a revolutionary program. If one is able to see Lynne Littman‘s 1972 KCET document  Womanhouse is Not a Home in particular as well as the better known and distributed film by Johanna Demetrakas, Womanhouse, you get to hear many of the young student participants speak about their intentions and desires for their installations but not every woman is interviewed and anyway even that doesn’t give you the full information about each person’s background and what drew them to the FAP. Looking back I’m not sure any of us knew all about why each of us had joined up for though we learned a lot about each other since close friendships were formed and self-revelation in consciousness raising sessions was encouraged in the search for feminist subject matter; nevertheless there were also centrifugal forces that spun us apart, in the tumult of a small group and of a revolutionary moment.

That this was a revolutionary project and moment is embodied in the reaction of yet another of the Womanhouse participants: “it makes me think about how there is nothing that cannot be capitalized, commodified, and HBO-ized.”

Third, most people who find that something they lived through is the subject of a dramatization must feel quite bemused or perturbed by the strangeness of that experience, and by the knowledge that not even  the greatest director can possibly recreate the truth of a particular moment in time. If, as a viewer, you yourself have not actually lived through the moment, you can enjoy it no matter how removed from historical veracity. Who hasn’t watched all kinds of preposterous actors play the Kennedys? Maybe even Jackie Kennedy secretly watched some of them. If you know anything about the time period of a dramatization of a historical moment, there is a sort of kick of watching both the characterizations and reconstructions as well as catching the inaccuracies, the compressions of narratives, and, yes the composite characters: Ed Harris’ Pollock, Selma Hayek’s Frida, and Margarethe von Trotta’s Hannah Arendt are very creditable examples of the genre, but there are always those moments that seem inauthentic, if you know anything about the subject, especially if the character is a composite type and not the depiction of a real person, however reductive and distorted.

Fourth, so really, if it turns out that I will be or have already been written in as myself, the character Mira Schor, age 21, who can play me? I realize that I am not much up on young women actresses at this point. Over twenty years ago I had a pretty good idea: in an envelope (currently lost) that I painted, in which I cast myself and the artists associated with a gallery I was represented by, I cast Judy Davis as myself, not that I look like Judy Davis but her characterization of George Sand in James Lapine’s 1991 film Impromptu (pure fiction at least if you look at the photograph of tubercular Frederick Chopin and compare to gorgeous young Hugh Grant, or photographs of plump plain swarthy middle-aged George Sand and compare her to slim Waspy Judy Davis but it was the Bette Davis impulse in Davis’s characterization that I responded to, the drive of intelligence and independence I associated myself with). But now, I can’t imagine. I sat with a young friend who ran through current actresses including everyone from the stars of Broad City to Emma Stone and, her first choice to play me, Kristen Stewart! Frankly I don’t see any of it. The best I can do is think of my admiration for some of the great comedians of our time–Tina Fey, Samantha Bee, Kristen Schaal, Jessica Williams. Yeah, make a composite of them, and I’ll accept that person + a little Semitic New York strangeness. This will have practically nothing to do with me, but at least I will enjoy the character.

Fifth, and most important, probably I am misunderstanding the whole thing: most likely this is a series that will be based on Womanhouse, allowing for total fiction based on whatever research Soloway does and thereby handily preventing law suits. So perhaps some Semitic-looking actress portraying a scowling Jewish girl from New York or a sexy smart ass Jewish girl from New York or whatever works best for the ensemble of the plot line may float through. Perhaps imagination can create a character more cinematically interesting than my own complex self. And a Miriam Schapiro-like oppositional figure to the transformational radical pedagogue Judy Chicago-based heroine may perhaps be inserted to provide some necessary conflict. I can’t help thinking of all the survivor series, the “reality” shows that identify likeable and villainous characters for the gullible audience and that are so carefully edited and scripted to highlight the most conflict in order to maintain ratings.

The young women artists whose enthusiasm for feminism, which is so welcome, makes them look forward to this series as “AMAZING” will accept this fictionalization as reality because what other options would they have.

And why not applaud the whole thing because so few artworks by women artists are the subject of a television series or film? And, further, as an artist, I should trust in Soloway’s artistic vision and her narrative skill in re-imagining a very significant moment in the history of feminism and the American Women’s Liberation Movement–though, heads up, it really wasn’t much like that “Wimmin’s” festival in Transparent‘s Series 2 episode “Idlewild” although perhaps from the outside we were indeed just the younger versions of the women sitting around the campfire critiquing patriarchy. The casting and acting in Transparent are exemplary so why doubt that she would do a more than creditable job in representing Womanhouse?

Certainly I should recall, as a cautionary note to self, my understanding, shared by many others, that Miriam Schapiro’s desire for control of the narrative when working with potential biographers and documentarians (followed, sadly, by her later struggles with dementia) cost her in terms of historicization–for instance, Schapiro does not appear in Demetrakas’ film Womanhouse–allowing Chicago the historical field and the ground to be the one to influence this planned series on Womanhouse.

And it’s always important to remember the rule so succinctly articulated by John Ford at the end of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, when a reporter is given the choice between revealing the truth of an important part of the history of the West or sticking with the story as long told, “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” However, in that film, the whole story is a flashback, so we, the audience, know the legendary outcome before we learn the truth, and there is a kind of logic to the story, each of the two main protagonists “who shot Liberty Valance” is in a way a hero, so then a related ending occurs to me, of another Ford movie about the West, his 1948 Fort Apache: here the audience has experienced the story of the massacre caused by an arrogant and racist commanding officer diegetically–read Custer’s Last Stand seen from the critical point of view of US soldiers more experienced with and more respectful of their Native American enemy–so when at the end a reporter refers to the martinet as a hero, as depicted in a totally inaccurate famous painting of the event as reimagined by the winning side of history, the hero dutifully but ironically chooses not to correct the “legend,” but the unfairness is stinging.

But you never know, perhaps I will in the end find myself grinning at the contact glow of secondary fame of being in any way associated with a television series by an Emmy Award winning producer-director. Maybe the dramatization will eventually replace my own fading memories of what actually happened and what it was actually like and what I thought of it at the time. And given the simulacral aspects of contemporary life, where entertainment trumps all, that aphasic self will be a totally representative, contemporary, composite character.

***

 

I originally had planned to put a bibliography and filmography on Womanhouse here at the end of this text, but why be a goody goody? Thus I have not included any such references or pictures despite being sorely tempted to do so, except for a picture of the original catalogue.

The+original+catalog+cover+designed+by+Sheila+DeBretville+for+'Womanhouse'+(1972)

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmail

Stephan von Huene, Feminist Teacher

I wrote this appreciation of Stephan von Huene, the American sculptor later based in Germany, upon the publication of a beautiful catalogue of “Tune the World,” his retrospective exhibition at the Hamburg Kunsthalle, 2002-2003. Living in New York City I could have only the diminished pleasure of reading the catalogue, Stephan von Huene, Resounding Sculptures, rather than the full pleasure of experiencing works whose synaesthetic performances remain fresh and vivid in my memory. However the catalogue with its accompanying CD does a great service in bringing to mind a wonderful and complex artist, human being, and for me, a teacher and mentor of inestimable importance.

Perhaps some of my reflections on his role as my teacher at a particular historical moment may be of some value in deepening the contextualization of his work while giving some personal impressions of the man. He was my mentor at CalArts after I left the Feminist Art Program. There are some people in one’s life who are absolutely irreplaceable, Steph was one of them. He remained a supportive friend and benevolent influence for me until his untimely death from cancer September 5, 2000. At that time, I had hoped to find a publisher for a draft of this text but was not able to do so. Here it is part of a group of posts exploring the theme of “Teaching Contradiction.” In this case the “contradiction” is that Stephan was the most nurturing teacher I had in graduate school and thus as much a Feminist teacher as any other.

I met Stephan von Huene when I came to study painting as an MFA student at CalArts in 1971.If one can set the artistic or more precisely the art academic scene of that moment, the dominant aesthetic philosophy of American art schools and art departments of universities was that of Greenbergian formalism. Painting had to be large, abstract, oil or acrylic on canvas. Period. No figuration, no narrative, no overt personal or political content. Sculpture was not particularly considered, but perhaps it is enough to say that it was often taught in dark and greasy garage-like environments by large, heavily bearded men wielding heavy power tools and acetylene torches (in Canada they called them “tuskers”). Of course, in the wider art world there were movements that contradicted these aesthetic imperatives: pop art provided an enjoyable outlet for younger artists interested in popular culture, there were the Hairy Who artists such as Ed Paschke, based in Chicago, who were practitioners of a kind of cartoon-like, colorful surrealism. Beyond that were the possibilities for time-based performance art and for non-art suggested by Nam June Paik, Charlotte Moorman, by John Cage, Fluxus and other underground art movements. But typically these had not penetrated the art academy.

Finally, any desires that might be specific to a feminist investigation of art and culture were only on the verge of being named. Just as CalArts welcomed the Fluxus movement in the person of Alison Knowles, Emmett Williams, and also artists such as Allan Kaprow and John Baldessari, so it was the first school in North America, indeed anywhere as far as I know, to welcome the new movement of feminism as part of its educational program. This was one of the reasons I chose the school.

The CalArts Feminist Art Program, run by Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro, was an exciting and intense experimental aesthetic and political educational program embedded within this already experimental art school. The women who chose to work within it were provided a unique political education and were given the opportunity to be artistic pioneers, as art subject matter, materials, history and theory were reevaluated and re-written. However, because this was a radical experiment that included a critique of gendered systems of power, the atmosphere in the program could become quite charged, as the professors dealt with questions of authority within a political movement dedicated to the critique of authority.

Given the situation I have just described, it may seem strange that I chose Stephan von Huene as my official “mentor” for my second year of study. The retrospective of his works provides a focus for an understanding of why in fact he was such an appropriate “feminist teacher.”

His contribution to my development was first and foremost to treat me with the greatest courtesy as a person and to appreciate the specificity of my work: at the time, I painted small gouaches representing personal narratives in a style related to artists whose work I only came to hear of through the research activities of the feminist program, such as Florine Stettheimer and Frida Kahlo. From a Greenbergian point of view these were “illustrative,” a pejorative description. If the goal of teaching through nurturing rather than through abuse was a primary rhetoric of the feminist art program, I found Stephan to be the most nurturing of the teachers I encountered at CalArts. He respected the criteria by which I wished the work to be judged. Since my principal interest at the time was to tell the story of my development as a young sexual being and at the same time to challenge the limitations set by the dominant formalist aesthetic, a formalist critique of the work seemed irrelevant, although even at CalArts it was the prevailing method, at least when it came to painting. So here was Stephan embracing the delicate role of art therapist at the same time as he prodded me into accepting change, chance and accident as formal and methodological principles, always with gentleness and humor.

He also shared his own searches and discoveries, from his work and life, his readings, and even from the psychotherapy he told me he had been in or perhaps was undergoing at that time. Again this was an unusual teaching method, revealing what might be interpreted as weakness while retaining the authority of knowledge and wisdom.

The few times he intervened in a more traditional, formalist, or simply practical manner were few but therefore memorable: for example, he once told me that he could tell the size of a person’s studio just from looking at the work – this seemed like a magic trick, but it is one that has served me well as a teacher. When the ceiling of my studio was damaged by a major leak, damaging delicate gouache on paper paintings I had lain on the floor, he said with his characteristic humorous exuberance, “This is great, you should put all your work in the shower!”

The  most important studio visit came a year after I had graduated. Stephan visited my studio in New York. He made it clear that he was not pleased with the work I’d done since I left school. He felt that I’d lost my direction, what he had felt was special to my work. I don’t remember exactly what he said, though I can still see him in the room. In fact what happened is that I instantly translated his sparely voiced critique into an interpretation of what I should do next to get back to the core he seemed as committed to as I was (or, rather, in that moment, to which he was more committed than I seemed to him to be). The resolve formed in that moment of translation and erasure of the actual comments set me back on the path that I have followed since. I could only even half hear his criticism because he had been supportive of my work and my criteria of judgement.

Most astonishingly, in relation to my being a painter, he once told me that he hated “pigmentation.” This is so revealing when one thinks of works he did in the mid-70s such as the Glass Pipes, where he seemed to desire a total dematerialization of art — “the sculptural direction toward nothing,” he writes. I felt that this work represented a life and death struggle for freedom from embodiment, and yet took the form of the sound of a scream, one of the most elementally embodied, reflexive human reactions of shock, fear, and existential horror. As a painter, I found his disgust with pigmentation funny but also bracing and it never interfered with his attitude as a teacher.

Stephan did not believe in showing students his own artworks. Or rather, he believed one shouldn’t try to influence students into imitation of the teacher’s work by immediately impressing the students with his style. Could there be any better example of his unwillingness to abuse professorial power than to deny himself that aspect of stylistic influence that appeals to so many who teach? And perhaps something else was at play, a kind of privacy, diffidence, and maybe the sense that his work was unusual and inimitable.

Stephan von Huene, Totem Tone III, 1969-70, wood and mixed media with sound

But finally I did get to see a few of his works, at the end of my first year at school. My memory is a little shaky but I know that I saw one of the Totem Tones at CalArts (see reference & sound link near the end of this post) – a strange, beautiful, uncompromising object emanating weird, funny but also forbidding sounds, yet welcoming through the warmth of the beautifully crafted wooden materials. Beauty and strangeness, science with archaic mechanisms emitting modern atonal sounds, the work seemed perfectly matched to the person, whose aristocratic demeanor commanded a particular respect – and it amazes me now to realize that he was then only 39 years old.

Stephan von Huene, Rosebud Annunciator, 1967-69, wood, leather, computer and mixed media

Around the same time, I believe that I also saw Tap Dancer and Rosebud Annunciator at his home.

Stephan von Huene, Tap Dancer

These works then and now also suggest why he was such a perfect teacher, though a man, for a feminist female young artist in the context of the then prevalent LA “fetish finish” art movement. The relation to Surrealism perceptible in his work was resonant for many women artists including myself  interested in narrativity and representation of sexuality. The work’s use of dark wood and his variant of fine crafting seemed to have more to do with the California Arts and Crafts movement of the early twentieth century than with the prevalent surfer culture. William Wilson does a good job in his catalogue essay of describing the art world of Los Angeles in the late 60s and the anomalous position of von Huene within that context. His work had some connections with that of Ed Keinholz, as has been noted. But socially he didn’t play the macho game; in fact stories from that scene would cause him to flinch as if recoiling in pain and distaste. He was marked by his early childhood experience of cultural otherness, as the child of German immigrants, and that gave him a sensitivity to similar experiences in others.

In his work, his developing interest in technology somehow had a different feel to it than that evidenced in contemporary work dealing with technology. He didn’t aspire toward the glorification of plastic. There was an increasing formal reductivism to his work in the 1970s, but he exercised an older type of craftsmanship, in much the way that Walter Benjamin noted that new technologies, when first realized in utilitarian objects, retained archaic traces, so that, for example, the first automobiles retained the outward form of the fanciest, hand-crafted horse-driven carriages, before the full impact of mass production streamlined form to function. The early works had a strange quality of surplus and quaintness of materials in order to create rather primitive sounds. And in later works such as The Semiconductor of Chemnitz there are again traces of the archaic: the face of the figure echoes the faces of mannequins in Atget photographs, just as its mechanisms seem caught somewhere between an 18th century automaton and a robot created at MIT.

Many of his works used metonymic representation of gendered body fragments in ways that reflected surrealist roots. Surrealism had been the demonized other of modernism, in the terms of the New York school: this is a recurrent theme as one can see in the writings of Clement Greenberg and Barnett Newman, among others. As feminist art sought visual form for the depiction of female sexual desire, the surrealist movement provided important models. The surrealist movement has continued to exercise an important influence on feminist art and theory because, although the surrealist artists themselves may have been unregenerate in their views about femininity: placing irrationality and madness in the feminine, at least they prized those states of being. Thus their work and that of the theorists surrounding their group, such as Bataille and Lacan, opened the door for later feminist investigation.

Von Huene’s works shared some of the characteristics of a reflection of gender identity as something learned, as a system of signs: as in many later works such as Tischtänzer, gender identity is telegraphed through a reduction of the body to a headless dancing pair of pants or tights, a system of culturally marked codes. The feminist art historian Carol Duncan had written an influential analysis of much representation of the female nude in vanguard modernist painting, “Virility and Domination in Early Twentieth-Century Vanguard Painting,” focusing on the violence done to the subjectivity of the female models, often most blatantly signaled by formal, compositional decapitation. Von Huene returned in many works to the bottom half, the sexed half, but of both men and women, and always with a focus on the signs of gender such as clothing or scale. Also appropriate to a feminist interpretation is the frequent awkwardness of the fragmented body part: the legs and boots of Tap Dancer teeter between a military appearance and the suggestion of a medical condition, transposition of right and left feet, or two left feet perhaps. Certainly his depictions or intimations of women are never exploitative, never deliberately sexually disturbing in the manner of an artist like Hans Bellmer for example.

Fragmentation, figuration, gender, craft, lack, these were all areas of interest that had strong connections to the interests of much feminist art investigation at the time and feminist psychoanalytic theory of later years.

Finally von Huene’s unusual relationship to dominant or dominating systems of power are important components for What’s Wrong with Art and Blaue Büche in which he uses formal elegance to contain his distaste for abuses of power in the art world. From percussion as pure declarative sound, in Drum, for example, he moves in Blaue Büche and Der Mann von Jüterborg to speech as a percussive instrument of power. In Drum the mechanical devices that drive the drumsticks prefigure the robots that run the world in The Matrix, while in Der Mann von Jüterborg the slow pace of an invisible man moves like a marionette, following in a disturbing yet powerful slow motion the drum beat of human speech. These works develop a sophisticated critique of systems in which the spirit of creativity and of phenomenological investigation is frustrated and perverted by market values. In these works he continues to be a valuable teacher as well as a unique artist.

Stephan Von Huene and his piece Text Tone, 1083

Stephan von Huene was born in Los Angeles in 1932 of German-born parents. He studied at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA), and then received his BFA from Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles in 1959. He received a Master of Arts degree from UCLA in 1965.

In the 1960s, Von Huene exhibited wood and leather sculptures at the Pasadena Art Museum. His early work was noted for its Pop and surrealist sensibility and for his highly refined craft. He taught at Chouinard Art Institute in LA, and California State University, LA. Between 1971 to 1976 he was a teacher and Dean at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), along with Alan Kaprow and Paul Brach. He also taught at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 1974 and received a National Endowment for the Arts grant that year. In 1975 he completed Drum, a commission with James Tenney, for the Exploratorium Museum in San Franscisco.

In 1976-77 Von Huene received a DADD grant to work in Berlin. He later moved to Germany where he was based in Hamburg and taught at the Art Academy in Karlsruhe (Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung Karlsruhe), as well as at the Fachhochschule fur Gestaltung, Hamburg, Germany. His work was included in Documenta 8.

Von Huene’s acoustic sculptural work Text Tones is one of the major works in the contemporary collection of the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Berlin’s Museum for Contemporary Art.

Totem Tone V, (1969-1970), a von Huene sound sculpture is in the collection of the Hirschhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. and was discussed by artist Evan Holloway in a podcast accompanying the 2006-2007 exhibition The Uncertainty of Objects and Ideas: Recent Sculpture, curated by Anne Ellegood. You can hear it play toward the end of the podcast, about 20 minutes in.

Stephan von Huene, Totem Tone V, 1969-70

Selected Bibliography

Stephan von Huene, The Song of the Line, The Drawing 1950-1999, by Marvin Altner, Petra Oelschlager, Petra Kipphoff, Stephan von Huene, Hatje Cantz Publishers, 2010

Stephan von Huene 1962-2000: Catalogue Raisonée, by H. Bredekamp, Petra Kipphoff, J. La Barbara, F. Michel, Petra Oelschlagel, Martin Warnke, Christoph Brockaus, Olaf Breuning, Stephan von Huene, Hatje Cantz Publishers, 2003.

Stephan von Huene: Klangkorper/Resounding Sculptures, by Stephan von Huene, Martin Wanke, and Christoph Brockhaus. Hatje Cantz Publishers, 2003

For more information:

Stephan von Huene Wikipedia article (German)

Stephan von Huene, official website

Stephan von Huene at the Berlin Museum for Contemporary Art

“Tune the World: Sound Sculptures, Pictures, Drawings,” at the Haus der Kunst, Munich, review

Stephan von Huene –Border Crosser, Border Mover, ZKM-Media Museum, 2005

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmail