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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