Art 101

The Studio Assistant Family Tree: A Genealogy of Artists & Their Proteges


The Studio Assistant Family Tree: A Genealogy of Artists & Their Proteges
An artist's assistant hard at work

While popular cliché is that young artists are often baristas, bartenders, or waiters, if not trust-fund babies, a lot of them do actually manage to find employment within the art world, and the luckiest art-school grads find jobs as assistants in the studios of more established artists. These apprenticeships—in which the up-and-comer lays down the ground of an art star's abstractions, buffs the chrome of multimillion-dollar sculptures, does finger-cramping filigree work, or... fetches coffee—can often yield key introductions to curators and future collectors, providing a step up for one's career. Most intriguingly, though, they also generate something else: a shadow family tree of the art world, where artistic influence can be seen transferring from one generation to the next.

One can't help but wonder: would Jacob Kassay's monochromatic paintings be different if his former boss, Christopher Wool, hadn't worked in his early days for the modernist sculptor Tony Smith? How much of Vito Acconci's weirdo experimentalism is left over in BrockEnright's boundary-breaking work—as filtered through Robert Longo? Did Jeff Koons wax nostalgic to a young Tony Matelli about the good old days working in Ed Paschke's studio?

It's the art world's equivalent of the butterfly effect, and once we started mapping out the a genealogy we found a few surprises along the way (did you know that Philip Glass worked for Richard Serra?).  Below, in roughly chronological order (and in a list that is by no means exhaustive) is what we found. 


Antonin Mercié (1845 – 1916), grandfather of traditional French sculpture
     Constantin Brancusi (1876 – 1957), theorist of the plinth, sender of bird into space
          Isamu Noguchi (1904 – 1988), hugely influential Modernist sculptor and landscape architect
               Nizette Brennan, stone-carving abstractionist

Diego Rivera (1886 – 1957), mural-maker par excellence, titan of Mexican art
     Louise Nevelson (1899 – 1988), heroine of Ab-Ex found-object sculptures
          Lon Michels, Pop revivalist painter

Amadee Ozenfant (1886 – 1966), cubist painter, writer, and teacher
      Roy Lichtenstein (1923 – 1997), Pop master of the Ben-Day dot
      Sari Dienes (1898 – 1992), late Ab-Ex multimedia artist
          Jasper Johns (b. 1930), intellectual hero of hermetic yet revelatory artistic invention
          |     |
          |     John Duff (b. 1943), Neo-Minimalist sculptor
          |     Gary Stephan (b. 1942), painter of muted geometric abstractions
          |          |
          |          Inka Essenhigh (b. 1969), cartoon-inflected dreamscape painter
          |          Will Mentor (b. 1958), Vermont-based painter
          Robert Rauschenberg (1925 – 2008), Neo-Dada father of the combine
               Brice Marden (b. 1938), lyrical Minimalist painter
               |     |
               |     Chris Caccamise (b. 1975), word-art sculptor
               |     Sam Reveles (b. 1958), maximal abstract painter
               Matt Magee (b. 1961), painter of Minimalist gemoetries
               Hisachika Takahashi (b. 1940), Op-oriented conceptualist
               Dorothea Rockburne (b. 1932), mathematical abstractionist
                    Carroll Dunham (b. 1949), cubo-expressionist painter of trees & butts (dad of Lena) 
                         Barnaby Furnas (b. 1973), bloody-minded painter of beautiful wars

• Jack Tworkov (1900 – 1982), underappreciated Abstract Expressionist
     Jennifer Bartlett (b. 1941), masher-up of abstract and figurative painting
          Tony Feher (b. 1956), poet of the found object and lover of blue
          Robert Gober (b. 1954), unsettling America surrealist hero
          |      |
          |      Banks Violette (b. 1973), Black Metal enthusiast and noirish sculptor
          |      Bonnie Collura (b. 1970), quasi-figurative biomorphicist
          |      Daphne Fitzpatrick (b. 1964), Dadist combiner of found objects
          |      Siobahn Lidell (b. 1965), DIY-inspired multimedia artist
          Allan McCollum (b. 1944), playful yet world-conquering conceptualist
               Andrea Fraser (b. 1965), feminist champion of hilarious institutional critique
               Helen Molesworth, ICA Boston curator  
               Katy Schimert (b. 1963), poetic sculptor
               Kenneth Goldsmith (b. 1961), poet and founder of UbuWeb
               Lisa Corrine Davis, topographically-inspired abstract painter
               Moyra Davey (b. 1958), photographer, filmmaker, and writer
               Charles Long (b. 1958), sculptor of formal and metaphysical forces
                    Lawrence Seward (b. 1966), mixed-media conceptual sculptor


Tony Smith (1912 – 1980), sculptor who bridged AbEx and minimalism (dad of Kiki
     Mel Kendrick (b. 1949), formalist process-based sculptor
     Chris Wilmarth (1943 – 1987), sculptor of steel, bronze, and etched glass
     Joel Shapiro (b. 1941), minimalist sculptor who flirts with figuration 
          Christopher Wool (b. 1955), Neo-AbExer with a taste for graffiti and repetition
               Alex Hubbard (b. 1975), rising master of painterly materials and abstract coloration
               Josh Smith (b. 1976), Factory-like painter of great expressive volume
                    Jacob Kassay (b. 1984), mirrored-painting-wunderkind-turned-sackcloth artist

• Andy Warhol (1928 – 1987), Pop maestro and appropriationist world-changer
     David Robbins (b. 1957), artist and "Concrete Comedy" theorist
     David LaChapelle (b. 1963), lush photographer of celebrity decadence
     Ronnie Cutrone (1948 – 2013), Factory personality and East Village cult figure
     George Condo (b. 1957), Neo-Picassian painter of the grotesque
          Mark Dagley (b. 1957), Op abstractionist

• Richard Serra (b. 1939), grand master of process art and the post-industrial sublime
     Grégoire Müller (b. 1947), painter of current-event appropriations
     Philip Glass (b. 1937), "Einstein on the Beach" composer
          Lawrence Chandler (b. 1951), composer, musician, and sound artist

• Sol LeWitt (1928 – 2007), father of conceptual art, multitasking artistic outsourcer
     Adrian Piper (b. 1948), performance art innovator
     Mark Williams (b. 1950), monochromatic minimalist painter


• Ed Paschke (1939 – 2004), neon-lit Chicago Pop artist
     Jeff Koons (b. 1955), world-famous sculptor of elevated banality and gleaming toys
          Prema Murthy (b. 1969), Net-conscious media artist
          Sarah Morris (b. 1967), brainy geometric abstractionist and appropriationist
          Jennifer Rubell (b. 1970), food artist extraordinaire 
          Tony Matelli (b. 1971), hyperrealistic sculptor of flora and aggressive fauna

 • Edward Kienholz (1927 – 1994), Ferus gallery co-founder, iconic Los Angeles artist
     Jack Goldstein (1945 – 2003), Pictures Generation star and looper of films
          Ashley Bickerton (b. 1959), Neo-Geo artist of lurid island pop
               Mark Dion (b. 1961), naturalist conceptualist and arch-cataloguer

• Vito Acconci (b. 1940), seminal father of transgressive '70s performance art
     Kathryn Bigelow (b. 1951), artist-turned-"Hurt Locker" director
     Ken Feingold (b. 1952), conceptualist sculptor of heads
     Robert Longo (b. 1953), wizard of charcoal and graphite, disturber of "Men in Cities"
     |     |
     |     Mark Innerst (b. 1957), engineering-slanted landscape painter
     |     Brock Enright (b. 1976), postmodern pop-culture investigator
     David Salle (b. 1952), brainy Neo-Expressionist descendent of Picabia
          Annette Lemieux, lecturer of visual and environmental studies at Harvard
          Michele Zalopany, pastel Postmodernist

• Dan Graham (b. 1942), sculptor of reflective/transparent psychological architecture
     R.H. Quaytman (b. 1961), literary-minded process painter of high intellectual wattage
          Cameron Rowland (b. 1988), conceptual found-object sculptor

• Julian Schnabel (b. 1951), Neo-Expressionist godhead and Hollywood filmmaker
     Bill Saylor, sketchy maximalist and Harmony Korine collaborator
     Greg Bogin (b. 1965), post-Net minimalist

• Martin Kippenberger (1953 – 1997), protean Puck of postwar German art 
     Merlin Carpenter (b. 1967), critic of contemporary paradigms
     Jutta Koether (b. 1958), political "networked" painter
     Mark Handforth (b. 1969), surrealistic sculptor of the distended everyday
     Johannes Wohnseifer (b. 1967), graphic artist inspired by German history
     Michael Krebber (b. 1954), chopper of surfboards, abstracter of paintings

• Mike Kelley (1952 – 2012), legend of underground L.A. art
     Nathan Danilowicz (b. 1980), Op-esque site specificist
     Dave Muller (b. 1964), conceptual graphic artist
     Jennifer Bornstein (b. 1970), intalgio printer and Gorey-esque documentarian of the quotidian

Kurt Kauper (b. 1966), wry realist painter
     Justin Lieberman (b. 1977), mixed-media provacateur
          Jacques Louis Vidal (b. 1982), interdisciplinary experimentalist
• Matthew Barney (b. 1967), athletic, challenging performance artist & rhapsodic filmmaker
     Corin Hewitt (b. 1971), conceptual process-based sculptor
     Chloe Piene (b. 1972), drafter of skeletal figuration 


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