Barbara Kruger at Modern Art Oxford

27 July 2014 § Leave a comment

You have already seen Barbara Kruger’s work. Whether you realise it or not is a different matter, but the bold graphic design and powerful statements that typify her work have infiltrated the world of western consumer culture and have strongly influenced the world of media around us. You will recognise it on advertising hoardings, T Shirts, shopping bags and political banners.
Barbara Kruger Untitled (I Shop Therefore I Am) 1987 - not in show

Barbara Kruger Untitled (I Shop Therefore I Am) 1987 – not in show

Kruger’s instantly recognisable work combines bold lettering, colours and dramatic juxtapositions of text and image. Through ironic appropriation of specific slogans and imagery she deploys the visual strategies of mass communication in order to challenge the often manipulative logic at work in the language of advertising, television and other media and the role of Western consumerist culture.
Barbara Kruger Modern Art Oxford
Working since the 1980’s she is considered a vital element of the Pictures Generation – a group of artists including the likes of Richard Prince, John Baldessari, Cindy Sherman and Sherrie Levine that appropriated images from consumer culture questioning things like gender and identity.
Barbara Kruger Modern Art Oxford

Kruger’s latest exhibition at Modern Art Oxford comprises different strands of her work – a site specific text installation, multi-channel video and her trademark collages. The first work that you encounter having ascended the stairs in to the spacious first floor gallery is untitled ‘architectural wrap’ that impressively covers the covers the entire lofty space.

Barbara Kruger Modern Art Oxford

Over the floor variety of black and white words list supposed categories of people as varied as posers, fatuous fools or survivors. One might be happy to be considered grouped with intellectuals and professors as well as perhaps with doers and winners but to be labelled within sycophants, fatuous fools, jerks or airheads however may not be quite so desirable.

Barbara Kruger Modern Art Oxford

Here then is a potted selection of labels that we, consciously and unconsciously attach to those around us and Kruger cleverly forces us to consider our complicity in categorising not just ourselves but those around us. On the walls in words up to thirty feet high we are meanwhile invited to ponder statements like Be Here Now, Remember Me or Is That All That There Is

Barbara Kruger Modern Art Oxford

In the middle gallery a selection of her 1980’s pasted collages is presented – works that evolved from her work as a Conde Nast designer. Including Talk Is Cheap and You Kill Time these modest black and white pieces set the template for iconic future works like I Shop Therefore I Am or Your Body Is A Battleground.

Barbara Kruger Modern Art Oxford

Finally, Kruger’s video Twelve, 2004 comments on the absurdities of human interaction. Members of staged four-way interactions are projected on to the four walls of the gallery surrounding us. Whilst we see the expressions of the actors and hear their words, their ‘real’ thoughts are presented in written form as a news-channel style ticker-tape across the bottom of the screen challenging any cohesive narrative.

Barbara Kruger is at Modern Art Oxford until 31 August 2014

the shape of things to come – new sculpture at the saatchi gallery

19 July 2011 § 1 Comment

Is this Saatchi sculptural review really the Shape of Things to Come? One of the first things you notice is that it may well be a better picture of ‘How Things are Now’ or perhaps ‘Have Been Recently’ with only a handful of works less than about four years old. There also seem to be fewer new names than there are well known or long-established ones.

Amongst the latter is John Baldessari his Beethoven’s Trumpet  probably, neatly adding sound to the visual puzzle. Roger Hiorns was a Turner nominee, here using trademark copper sulphate crystal growths growing over church maquettes to experiment with natural sculptural forms. The German Anselm Reyle examines influences of modernism and here has appropriated a kitsch African sculpture and blown it up with a shiny purple finish. Deep in the basement Richard Wilson’s 20:50 – a pool of sump oil which reflects and expands on the architectural space – still beats the lot.

The big spaces of the gallery work best for the larger works and in the first gallery the monolithic blocks of Kris Martin’s Summit work well. Each has a tiny paper cross at the summit – death, hope or achievement? Moving on ‘New Sculpture’ still seems to have plenty of the figurative. Rebecca Warren‘s rough representations of the female form take aim at sculptural cliches and fill another gallery nicely. David Altmejd large-scale figures seem to dissolve and change form as you walk around them. Non-traditional elements are woven in to the figures such as endless staircases and strange geometric forms whilst materials include, foam, wood, epoxy, resin and paint. Folkert de Jongh’s tableaux feature macabre figures and hint at the ghosts of colonialism and imperialism. Thomas Houseago is a recent auction favourite – filling another gallery his impressive works absorb a variety of styles with rough, flat painted planes building up 3D forms and sshowing a definite debt to cubism.

Elsewhere Bjorn Dahlem‘s room-sized Milky Way is an impressive neon which surely owes a big debt to Dan Flavin whilst David Batchelor appropriates found boxes for his strangely alluring installations of vivid coloured panels. Matthew Bannon, Matthew Monahan, Joanna Malinkowsa and other assemble various multiple objects with varying degrees of success.

Sculpture has certainly come a long way in the last hundred years – from wood, metal and stone there is a now a vast post-modern array of materials and influences to confuse us.  So do we get any sort of hint here as to what is the Shape of Things to Come? This show certainly does not show us – but hints at the reality – that we simply dont know.

The Shape of Things To Come: New Sculpture at the Saatchi Gallery 10-6 daily until 17 October 2011

serpentine gallery expansion hits jackpot

1 July 2011 § Leave a comment

An astonishing 4.3 million (myown total from Sothebys gross results) – around double auction estimates – was raised this afternoon for the upcoming extension to the Serpentine gallery. Forty-six top contemporary artists including the likes of John Baldessari, Olafur Eliasson, Fischli & Weiss,  Antony Gormley, Jeff Koons, Yayoi Kusama and Rachel Whiteread had generously donated works to be auctioned alongside Sothebys contemporary art day sale.

Top lot was John Currin‘s Edwardian which raised £713k. Other significant amounts raised included £540k from Richard Prince‘s Untitled and £373k from a work by Takashi Murakimi.

Apparently the new space is to be called the Serpentine Sackler Gallery and will be located in Kensington Gardens, a short distance from the current gallery which lies close to the Serpentine in Hyde Park. It is due to open in 2012, and will be renovated and designed by Pritzker-Prize winning architect Zaha Hadid. The plans include an adjoining pavilion to be used as a social space and restaurant. 

John Currin - Edwardian

If it is anywhere near as good as the Serpentine has been over recent years at presenting interesting exhibitions of contemporary art it will be a great new addition to London’s art world. I am looking forward to the opening – oh, and any invitations to the opening party most welcome!

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