koen van den broek: chicane at marlborough contemporary

4 December 2012 § Leave a comment

Just in case you hadn’t noticed the long-established Marlborough Gallery (AKA Marlborough Fine Art) has just opened a Contemporary gallery space in Albemarle Street, Mayfair. The Gallery is of course one of the biggest names in the art world – I quote from their website:

” Marlborough Fine Art was founded in 1946 by Frank Lloyd and Harry Fischer who emigrated to England from Vienna, where Lloyd’s family had been antique dealers for three generations and Fischer had dealt in antiquarian books. They first met in 1940, as soldiers in the British army. In 1948 they were joined by a third partner, David Somerset, now the Duke of Beaufort, and chairman of Marlborough Fine Art (London) Ltd.

After the wartime years of recession, London became the principal market for modern art and Marlborough’s role in this changing art world was established. It set standards for exhibitions that were worthy of a modern museum. These were reviewed like museum shows, and the gallery became a focus for collectors, museum directors and connoisseurs as well as history of art students. In 1952 Marlborough was already selling masterpieces of late 19th century including bronzes by Edgar Degas and paintings by Mary Cassatt, Paul Signac, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Auguste Renoir amongst others and drawings by Constantine Guys and Vincent van Gogh.”

Koen van den BroekImpressive stuff, so one should have high hopes of the new Contemporary branch especially with its director, Andrew Renton, former director of curating at Goldsmiths. The first, rather dry, exhibition from Angela Ferreira linked the Cullinan diamond mine and the Chislehurst caves and commented upon social space and cultural histories.

Koen van den BroekThe latest show is from Koen van der Broek who reduces landscape in to bare minimums, rendering them as almost unrecognisable. He revisits a chicane in a short stretch of LA street from which he has produced just five large canvases using a repeated palette of buff, cream, blue and black. Reminiscent of the American abstract expressionists to which he consciously refers they fill the large upstairs gallery space.Koen van den Broek

They are undeniably impressive, and interesting to view alongside his earlier work, but van den Broek has been around for some while and is not exactly cutting-edge. Staying dull and safe so far Marlborough Contemporary has not – for me – quite (yet) hit the wow factor that it perhaps had with the modernist artists back in the 1940′s!

Koen van den Broek until 5 January 2013 at Marlborough Contemporary

yayoi kusama at tate modern; now & future japan; hyper japan

24 February 2012 § 1 Comment

I’m turning Japanese, I think I’m turning Japanese,  I really think so….. It seems that there are all sorts of Japanesey things happening here in London pretty much at the same time – the Yayoi Kusama exhibition at Tate Modern being the highlight of course.

yoko ono - mend piece

Opening soon Now & Future JAPAN supports orphaned children from the Tsunami and features a work by Yoko Ono repeated from 1966 - Mend Piece – where visitors are invited to join in by repairing broken china. A fund-raising auction takes place alongside – see website for details. Please try to support it.

Meanwhile, starting today at Earls Court, Hyper Japan is UK’s biggest celebration of Japanese ‘culture, cuisine and cool.’ I will try and drop in if only to say konishi wa to Satoshi Miki – director of those unforgettable classics Instant Swamp and Turtles are Surprisingly Fast Swimmers (see it!) and to check out the World Cosplay Summit (Cosplay being anime/manga/video dressing up – don’t ya just love it!).

Talking about someone who loves dressing up Yayoi Kusama‘s big solo exhibition at Tate Modern kicked off a couple of weeks ago. I do like Kusama, but I was not overly excited about the prospect of some 14 rooms chock full of her trademark spots. However this was a prospect that I has seriously misjudged and Yayoi, bowing deeply, I apologise. Like many, I am sure, I have been far too ready to assign her to the ‘it’s just lots of spots’ category (even the Tate get carried away in the foyer – image above!) but here was a timely reminder of all the wonderful, innovative and varied work that she has made over a long – and still continuing – highly influential career.

A prodigy and already exhibiting in her teens Kusama moved quickly from oils to every variety of works on paper and the first rooms of the exhibition show stunning imagination and variety. Quickly even Japan was too small for her. She soon decided, whilst only still in her mid twenties that ‘For art like mine… questioning what we are and what it means to live and die… [Japan] was too small… My art needed a more unlimited freedom and a wider world.’  

So off she went to the USA first having made contact with Georgia O’Keefe – one of the most influential painters of that time: this was no shrinking violet but a hugely determined artist. She quickly switched now from the compulsive and repetitive Infinity Nets to sculpture-making, her Accumulation Sculptures covering everyday objects with repeating forms. Her huge influence on the avant-garde of pop art being clear if I simply tell you that a boat sculpture was exhibited as the ‘One Thousand Boats Show’ in a room pasted on all sides with repeating silkscreen images (of the same boat from above) a full three years before Warhol created his ‘Cow’ wallpaper and that her stuffed objects predated those of Claes Oldenburg.

Her work continued to evolve rapidly. She featured herself in her own collages, photographs and films, putting the artist at the centre of the work – a tactic we are now (overly?) familiar with a la Emin, Abramovic, Gormley etc – but back then highly original. She threw herself in to happenings, performances and installation ‘environments’. As if she had not yet done enough she returned to Japan where she briefly set herself up as an art dealer before, deeply troubled, she checked herself in to an asylum where she remains to this day. As you may have guessed even this did not stop her with production of collages, sculpture, painting and installation still continuing apace.

If anyone has forgotten, or did not realise, just how influential and original Kusama really was then this excellent and comprehensive exhibition is a real must-see. A highly surreal, visual treat right through until the final two room-sized installations; one an infra-red/day-glo world of multi-coloured spots that float before your eyes, the other a mirrored space containing infinitely reflected tiny multi-coloured lights. Dazzling in every way – and the kids will love it too!

Yayoi Kusama at Tate Modern until 5 June 2012

Now & Future JAPAN at 39 Dover Street, London W1S 4NN from 3 – 9 March 2012

Hyper Japan at Earls Court 24 – 26 February 2012

tracey emin, love is what you want, at the hayward

29 June 2011 § 1 Comment

I was not a big fan of Emin - or even a small fan for that matter. To me she seems to represent the art worlds version of Big Brother. Here is Emin determined to reveal every personal trait, good, bad and ugly to the public who are determined to lap it all up – the more lascivious or embarrassing the better. Life laid bare as entertainment. Reality TV as art.

Nevertheless I was determined to go to this exhibition with an open mind. She has an army of fans in the art and media and they surely must see something compelling in her work. However the omens were not good. I arrived at the usual ‘opening day’ - the day immediately following the private view – but the exhibition, strangely, was ‘closed for a private event’. I eventually got in the following day.

In the catalogue Emin explains that her art is all about words and as we enter we get an awful lot of them, the first galleries occupied by her blankets and neons. The appliqued blankets are very impressive. Large, colourful and eye-catching they are more powerful as a group than individually with words and phrases used cleverly to illustrate a ‘patchwork of memories’ or concerns in the wider world.

Extending across the room is ‘Knowing the Enemy’ -  a partially collapsed pier inspired by a letter written by her father. It is clever and interesting - the broken planking isolating a lonely cabin at the pier’s end. Evocative of longing and loss.

From this point the exhibition sadly goes rapidly downhill. The neons look pretty but putting trite statements like ‘love is all you want’ in neon does not unfortunately make particularly interesting art. A lame film of Emin on horseback wandering around Margate sand is one of several films to avoid. There is a ‘scrap book’ of a room entitled ‘Family and Friends’ with lots of trivial bits and pieces scattered over the wall and reverentially placed in cabinets – I started to try to read and make sense of these sundry fragments but lost the will to live.

In ‘Drawings’ there are various scrawled versions of Tracey masturbating and little else whilst searching desperately for more ‘Room’ topics the Hayward scrape the barrel with ‘Trauma’, ‘Menphis’, ‘Early Work’ (almost non-existent), ‘Sculpture’ (ditto) and ‘Terraces’ (a couple of teddies under benches).

A couple of works were sadly missing - ‘Everyone I ever Slept With’ was destroyed in the Momart fire and ‘Bed’ which Saatchi has kept aside for a 2012 show in Chelsea. Both would have added much to what was ultimately an exhibition rather devoid of strong individual pieces

It is undoubtedly true that many of the works would be lost individually but brought together in to a – sort of – coherent whole they have much more impact. Emin’s art, and life, makes much more sense and the gallery has done a good job of curation. I quite enjoyed the exhibition as an overview of a cultural icon but as for the art I ended up siding with Jake and Dinos Chapman who recently laid in to Emin during an Independent  interview (18 June 2011) ‘I cant stand it. It’s art therapy – it doesn’t belong outside her head.’ ‘Tracey draws very badly .. and everybody claps their flippers together.’  The Chapmans incidentally are preparing for an exhibition at White Cube (opening 15 July 2011) where they have worked apart for several months, the results secret to the gallery and each other – now that I will find interesting.

Tracey Emin Love is all you Need. The Hayward Gallery until 19 August 2011

Jake or Dinos Chapman at White Cube Hoxton Square and Masons Yard. 15 July to 17 September 2011

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