About Wolfgang Stoerchle

The artist Wolfgang Stoerchle is inaugurating the museum’s ARRHYTHMICS section this spring. In 1970 Allan Kaprow recruited Stoerchle to teach in the Post-Studio Art program at CalArts, the California Institute of the Arts, alongside John Baldessari, Judy Chicago, David Salle and many others. Encouraged by Nam June Paik, who was also teaching at CalArts during this time, Stoerchle began experimenting with video.

For MACRO, the editor and curator Alice Dusapin reached out to his former student, the painter Eric Fischl, to ask about his memories of Wolfgang Stoerchle.

About Wolfgang Stoerchle, Eric Fischl, 8 February 2022.

Dear Alice, 

I was thinking this morning about Wolfgang telling me that when he was 17, he and his older brother landed in NYC, purchased 2 horses and set out to ride across America. I remember thinking when he told me the story how very German it was; how absurdly romantic and ironic. The idea of re-enactment and the physical discipline it required to try to connect to an America that did not exist except in the retro nostalgia of cinema and novels seems like an aspect of Wolfgang’s art and character that he was yet to understand for another decade.

When I met him, I was a student at Cal Arts: a school founded by Walt Disney who was another pilgrim/pioneer who also had made his westward journey across America. Though I was a painter by nature, the school was eager to push all its students passed the “dead” arts and so I tried my hand at video, which was the class Wolfgang was teaching. I made a short black and white piece shot out the back of my kitchen door that framed a concrete stoop and steel railing. The composition was very flat, geometric and abstract. The camera patiently recorded its own meaninglessness. Very slowly, silently, and after much time where nothing was happening, an orange fruit appeared to roll up onto the stoop from out of nowhere followed by another and then another. Wolfgang loved this piece and at that time I did not understand why. I had done something ridiculous, something without apparent meaning, absurd and tongue in cheek. For me, it was not art. It was transient, disposable, and a big fuck you to those who wanted me to be someone else. Only in retrospect did I come to see that he loved my piece for precisely those reasons because that was so much what his art was all about. Wolfgang’s work could create an awkward stillness in anticipation of an unexpected event. He courted the failure and he courted the trivial as legitimate content for art. It always amazed me how he could create an indelible experience of something that should be forgettable. 

I learned much about life from the art of this man and, after all is said and done, isn’t that what art is meant to do?