Von Meier Student, Artist Judy Fiskin


According to Wikipedia, Judy Fiskin (born April 1, 1945 in Chicago, is an American artist working in photography and video, and a member of the art school faculty at California Institute of the Arts. Her videos have been screened in the Documentary Fortnight series at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, and at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles; her photographs have been shown at MOCA, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, at The New Museum in New York City, and at the Pompidou Center in Paris.

And her photography career began under the watchful eye of Professor Kurt von Meier. In a November 15, 1992 article in the Los Angeles Times, Fiskin told the tale:

“Fiskin, a native of West L.A., received her bachelor's degree in art history from Pomona College and after a brief stint in medieval art at UC Berkeley finished her master's degree in 20th-Century art history at UCLA in 1969. The defining moment of her study there took place in a class taught by Kurt von Meier. Art dealer Fred Hoffman, art critic Merle Schipper and CalArts Provost Beverly O'Neill were in the same class. Von Meier's unconventional approach included taking students to the airport, where they would watch planes take off, or telling them to buy inexpensive TVs to throw off the end of the Santa Monica Pier.

"In order to get us to think about how conventional symbols were used in popular culture," Fiskin recalls, "he assigned us each a symbol--mine was the heart--and had us get cameras. This is after six or seven years of art history and all this input of looking at images. I held the camera up to my face for the first time and thought, 'This is for me!' I think all that art history was that I really wanted to be an artist and didn't know how. The minute I held up that camera, I realized I could."

Fiskin was soon photographing views of San Bernardino, military architecture, stucco and dingbats. It was a time when the aesthetics and theories of Minimalism held sway.”

Here’s a link to the full Los Angeles Times article

Kurt's Conversation with Destruction Artist Raphael Monteñez Ortiz

Raphael Montenez Ortiz, Ralph to Kurt, is a Brooklyn born artist of Puerto Rican decent whose lengthy career as an artist (he is now in his mid-eighties) includes what has been termed "destruction art." Kurt and Ralph became friends early in the 1960s, and Kurt covered Ralph's participation in the Destruction In Art Symposium held in London in 1966 in the pages of Artscanada magazine. Noted for his theatrical art pieces wherein Ralph destroyed pianos with an ax, beheaded live chickens, tore apart mattresses, and spilled buckets of blood, his work was and remains controversial and for many, uncomfortable.
          In this recording made by Kurt circa 1966, Kurt, Ralph and an unidentified woman discuss Ralph's plans for a theatrical art performance to be held in a gallery in Los Angeles, and Ralph exuberantly describes what it will include--namely chickens, mice, snakes, a piano, a harp, paper bags and buckets of blood--in his words "...a whole crazy kind of thing." Kurt suggests the work is a "menstruation ritual" and Ralph explains that his intent is to provoke people to the point where one "can't stand behind all your defenses." Note: Ralph's plans are graphically described; the discussion lasts about fifteen minutes.

Artist Fritz Scholder Returns to Sacramento: A Transcript


In 1988, Artist Fritz Scholder (1937-2005) paid a visit to Sacramento. He had attended Sacramento State University in the late 1950s, and a book about his work had just been published. Scholder gave a talk and Kurt, naturally, made sure it was recorded and later transcribed. The final transcription has Kurt's proofreading marks all over it.

It's a wonderful talk, illuminating and entertaining. And this transcript, found in Kurt's archives, is a welcome addition to the material available about this important artist.

Princeton Professor Erwin Panofsky


As one considers the question of how it is that Kurt became the man he was, the figure of Erwin Panofsky looms large. Panofsky was a Jewish/German scholar and art historian who taught at Princeton while Kurt was earning his Ph.D.; Kurt makes reference to him frequently in his writing. At U.C. Berkeley, Kurt originally pursued a degree in International Affairs, but along the way switched his major to Art History. By the time he arrived at Princeton, pursuing Art History was his intent. 
        Panofsky was instrumental in establishing and elevating the field of Art History. One suspects that his focus on iconography and visual symbolism caught Kurt's attention, and the approach Panofsky refined is clearly reflected in Kurt's methodology and approach. Panofksy is credited with codifying a three-system approach to visual analysis:
        1. Primary or natural subject matter: The most basic level of understanding, this stratum consists of perception of the work’s pure form.
        2. Secondary or conventional subject matter (iconography): This stratum goes a step further and brings to the equation cultural and iconographic knowledge.
        3. Tertiary or intrinsic meaning or content (iconology): This level takes into account personal, technical, and cultural history into the understanding of a work. Essentially, this last stratum is a synthesis; it is the art historian asking "what does it all mean?"