9 April 2014 § Leave a comment
I’m not sure whether Phyllida Barlow’s Duveen commission dock (reviews by AKUTA here) was scheduled before Ruin Lust but on the surface this looks like an intelligent pairing of exhibitions. With Barlow’s wonderful, monumental constructions of industrial ‘debris’ filling the central parts of the building, an exhibition that looks at our fascination with the subject should be rich with possibilities. The words Ruin Lust, by the way, deriving from the German word Ruinenlust, an obsession with, or taking pleasure in, decay.
It all starts promisingly with John Martin’s magnificent Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum and Jane and Louise Wilson’s imposing wartime bunker, Azeville. Not unexpectedly we then find plenty of 19th century romantic visions of classical ruins amongst idealised landscapes. We have John Sell Cotman and JMW Turner’s wonderful Tintern Abbey for example.
Less expected are works from others like Eduardo Paolozzi, Patrick Caulfield and John Stezaker. Just how were these artists obsessed with decay? John Stezaker has exactly zero connection with the subject of this exhibition, his inclusion down to the fact that the featured works happened to collage a couple of old postcards of photogenic ruins on to his trademark film publicity photos, creating new meanings. And Paolozzi? Caulfield?
Next comes Tacita Dean and Kodak. Less about ruin and decay this is more a self-reverential elegy to the medium of film and is only marginally relevant to the exhibitions subject.
At this point I have to admit I switched off for the remaining, less than attention-grabbing, four rooms. It was crystal clear that the curators were starting with a catchy title to then shoe-horn artworks with superficial relevance to then claim they were part of a greater whole.
Furthermore the choice of artists haphazard, the selection of work poor, many selected pieces downright dreadful and the hanging almost random. To rub salt in to the wound the accompanying exhibition book was equally low quality.
To me this was a shallow and poorly conceived exhibition with many mediocre works amongst a handful of interesting ones. I beg you not to waste £10 – see Phyllida Barlow and spend your hard-earned tenner in the cafe instead.
7 April 2014 § Leave a comment
The latest commission for the imposing Duveen Gallery at Tate Britain is by sculptor Phyllida Barlow. Anyone who visited her impressive exhibition RIG, for Hauser & Wirth‘s Piccadilly gallery, would have been greatly impressed at how she was able to so totally take over such a selection of varied spaces. Using inexpensive, everyday materials such as cardboard, fabric, timber, polystyrene and plaster she created bold and colourful three-dimensional collages that utterly transformed the whole building – from the grand main gallery to the tiny former bank safe in the basement (AKUTA review here).
At the time this was her finest achievement. Not only is this better but quite amazingly she manages once again to completely command the space despite its vast dimensions. Seven distinct works somehow take over this pompous neo-classical space in one glorious, over the top, bricolage of industrial debris inspired of course by London’s docklands.
Stretching to the roof, tumbling across the floor, hanging from the ceiling and even encapsulating part of the structure Barlow’s dock has made the Duveen its own.
Ambitious and exuberant it is hard not to laugh out loud and the audacious transformation. Upon entering huge wooden boxes hang from a lofty timber construction. Partially broken open they reveal broken pink polystyrene foam which tumbles out whilst on the reverse painted cardboard makes a wonderfully modernistic collage.
Farther on a pile of broken pallets climbs up towards the rotunda whilst more broken and painted timbers, strewn with coloured canvas and assorted debris climbs up the wall. Opposite a grand romanesque pillar – as if an ugly embarrassment to be hidden away – is encased with cardboard and sealed with brightly coloured tape.
Finally, what can only be described as the cardboard core of a giant toilet roll is suspended from another gantry as a the display’s ultimate sculptural statement.
This is an ambitious work that truly works. Joyful and transformative it is a delightful contrast to self-regarding works of the world of old-fashioned and male dominated sculptural pomposity. Don’t miss.
Phyllida Barlow dock at Tate Britain, Millbank, London until 19 October 2014. Free.
29 March 2014 § Leave a comment
It is not often that an exhibition impresses as much as this one. The new Richard Hamilton retrospective at Tate Modern, London, is one that could genuinely make the art world reassess just how important and influential a figure was, not only amongst British artists but within 20th century art history in general. The title of Hal Foster’s excellent new book: The First Pop Age: Painting and Subjectivity in the Art of Hamilton, Lichtenstein, Warhol, Richter and Ruscha shows that even this hugely important critic puts Hamilton in the same league as the greatest artists of the late 20th Century and this exhibition reinforces that view.
Hamiltons greatest legacy is of course as the widely acknowledged founder of Pop Art. His collage Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing? is considered the first work of the genre and the groundbreaking exhibition in which it featured – This is Tomorrow at the Whitechapel Gallery – Pop Art’s first exhibition. The movement over the pond followed on later led by the likes of Lichtenstein, Oldenburg and Warhol and was only getting under full steam by the early sixties.
In a note to Alison and Peter Smithson he jotted the following, worth repeating in full as a brilliant example of a memorable, off the cuff, manifesto for a movement: Pop Art is: Popular (designed for a mass audience), Transient (short-term solution), Expendable (easily forgotten), Low Cost, Mass-Produced, Young (aimed at youth), Witty, Sexy, Gimmicky, Glamorous, Big Business.
If Hamilton has, up to now, perhaps been less recognised than he should it may be because the British Pop Art scene was quickly submerged by the bigger, brasher and bolder works from the States, his time in history just a brief interlude before being overwhelmed – perhaps by mass production and big business?
The chronological hang at the Tate however allows groups of his early, and later, works to be shown together and lets us better assess Hamilton as an artist. We are first taken though rooms of pieces, often heavily influenced by Marcel Duchamp, who he admired to the point of taking two years out to oversee reproduction of the Brides Stripped Bare… (Large Glass), shown in this show and other works from the 1960 Duchamp retrospective at the Tate.
It moves on past his impressive and telling multiple Marilyn portraits on to a eclectic series of works that often incorporate and pastiche the world of advertising, such as Slip it to Me – a giant American Badge and a number of works where Richard replaces the Ricard of French Pastis fame.
Blink and you miss the tiny Just What is it… before a series of the famous Swingeing London images featuring a handcuffed Mick Jagger – Hamilton often worked in series repeating and varying works as part of his practice.
Later works, often revisiting earlier themes, are hit and miss but it is notable that right in to his eighties he produced dynamic and impressive works that still had the ability to find a target – often political – his Venice Biennale Northern Irish triptych The Citizen/The Subject/The State being particularly noteworthy.
Make sure you visit and perhaps go after 17 April to catch Henri Matisse: The Cut-outs at the same time!
Richard Hamilton is on at the Tate Modern until 26 May 2014
1 June 2011 § Leave a comment
In anticipation of the Tate Britain‘s upcoming Vorticist exhibition I thought it would be interesting to dig up my vintage copies of BLAST (1914), The Tyro (1921/2) and The Enemy (1927-9) by way of revision. These form the most part of Lewis’s, often vitriolic, earlier observations on art, artists and well, pretty much everything actually.
Having recently commented on the quality of art gallery ‘press’ releases a comment from the Tyro was particularly interesting. The Tyro, I should mention, represented Wyndham’s (and the Vorticists) self-styled critical and artistic persona (you may have seen his brilliant self-portrait as the Tyro) and the publications were an attempt to reignite the London debate on avant-garde artistic ideals following BLAST a few years earlier.
The confrontational Tyros are introduced in the first issue with these words: ‘These immense novices brandish their appetites in their faces, lay bare their teeth in a valedictory, inviting, or merely substantial laugh. This sunny commotion in the face, at the gate of the organism, brings to the surface all the burrowing and interior broods. Most of them are basking in the sunshine of their abominable nature’ … and so on.
In The Tyro no.2 he mocks Clive Bell and the ‘weak and foolish’ ‘Bloomsburies’ and comments on their gallery marketing. He complains that ‘imaginative finance’ is used to value their work and sold by predicting a financial gain on the art’s value over future years. He mocks their style ‘If you are a small man with a small purse then these are the pictures for you. They are not much to look at , but then neither are you…. Buy! Buy! Buy! I say to you buy! You will never regret it. You may live to bless this day. Plank down the ready and this elegant picture is yours.’
He then adds a very prescient comment. ‘I suggest before it is too late, that painters exhibit their pictures with notes, if the dealers require them, on the intellectual motives of the particular adventure they are engaged upon; but that they eschew the methods of the boot firm or cigar importer, as it is not likely to help them particularly.’
I would imagine that it was very many years before artists statments were introduced, a practice that is now ubiquitous. I have, however, no idea of when it became widespread. All suggestions welcome!?
The Vorticists: Manifesto for a Modern World runs at Tate Britain 14 June until 4 September 2011.
30 September 2010 § Leave a comment
The key shows for the 2011 have just been announced by the Tate. At Tate Britain Watercolour traces the medium from its beginnings, ‘through to William Blake and JMW Turner, right up to Patrick Heron and Tracey Emin.’ The exhibition starts on the 16 Feb 2011. It is interesting to have a show on an unfairly criticised and oft-neglected medium, but why is Tracey Emin there (again) when her links with watercolour are pretty tenuous and less worthy of examination than many, many other fine artists? Somebody please tell the Tate that we do not need the names of Hirst, Emin et al thrown about in order to draw us to the exhibitions.
The summer 2011 blockbuster is Joan Miró at Tate Modern. apparently the first Miró retrospective in London for over 50 years it opens on the 14 April. I shall look forward to seeing lots of his surrealistic early works, but Miro lived a long life, dying at over 90 years of age, and it will be more fascinating to assess the quality of his later work, usually regarded as inferior. Will the show provide any new insights?
Talking of surrealism Tate Liverpool shows René Magritte from 24 June to 16 October, and following, among others, Paul Nash at Dulwich and the Surreal House at the Barbican it looks like a good run for art from the subconscious. Magritte is a fascinating artist but will a whole show be just one bowler hat too many? Meanwhile how about an exhibition of the rather neglected Max Ernst sometime soon?
The Autumn arrives with the apocalyptic destruction of John Martin on 21 September 2011, closely followed by a fascinating Gerhard Richter survey at Tate Modern on 6 October 2011. We have hardly been starved of Richter in recent years but a big show will be very welcome and will be certain to cement his position as one of the leading post-war artists.
Overall, not a bad selection and plenty to look forward to, but is it all rather safe and, dare I say ‘old-fashioned’? There are more shows yet to announce but just where are the exciting new artists? Where is the very best and latest in contemporary art? Hopefully in shows yet to be revealed but don’t hold your breath!
Incidentally the images shown above are not necessarily in the exhibitions – although I hope that they are!
- Tate Modern to display Miro work (bbc.co.uk)
20 September 2010 § Leave a comment
Alison Jackson is one of the best video artists/photographers around at addressing the cult of celebrity. I have featured a few of her photographic works before but here is a video that I just could not resist posting – especially as it only has had a modest few hundred views on YouTube over the last month.
Although her work teeters on the borderline between fine art and entertainment – possibly because she is almost too good at what she does – I thoroughly approve of any artist who can provoke The Sun to explode in to a double page rant on the moral poverty of the art establishment (see article here)! The photographic work in particular is beautifully done and is capable of making as much relevant comment on the world around us as the very best in contemporary art. She says “Likeness becomes real and fantasy touches on the believable. The viewer is suspended in disbelief. I try to highlight the psychological relationship between what we see and what we imagine. This is bound up in our need to look – our voyeurism – and our need to believe.”
Jackson graduated in Fine Art Photography at the Royal College of Art and has recently featured in Tate Britain‘s Rude Britannia exhibition. She has done the Double Take series for the BBC and also has published photo books like Confidential and Private.
17 August 2010 § Leave a comment
The mid-summer lull in the London gallery schedules allows a moment for contemplation on what looks like a very mixed bag of Autumn shows. I just cannot quite work myself up in to a frenzy of excitment about this motley assortment of old hands and uninspiring newcomers.
Starting with public galleries the blockbuster Gaugin will undoubtedly be the major event of 2010 and amazingly his first major UK exhibition for 5o years. The Tate Modern promises that the exhibition will explore ‘the role of the myths around the man.’ Starts 30 September – stick it in the diary! Arrive after the 12 October and see what Ai Weiwei has installed as the 11th Turbine Hall commission. Recently involved in the Beijing Olympic stadium and then almost beaten to death for his political views he has said: ‘Everything is art, everything is politics. You can call it art or you can call it politics, I don’t give a damn.’ Should be interesting.
Over at Tate Britain the schedule, starting 8 September, is totally underwhelming. Eadweard Muybridge (yes, correctly spelt) was a the 19th century photographer who ‘proved that a horse can fly’ with multiple images and anticipated the coming of cinema with the zoopraxiscope. He also travelled and documented America of the time. Just about worth dropping in.
Rachel Whiteread Drawings is the other choice – but why? Her casts of varied spaces, apart from being a direct steal from Bruce Nauman are getting tedious. Now she says this: ‘A lot of the works that I’ve been making over the years have been part of a cyclical process. I often feel a cycle is incomplete and need to tread the same path again.’ So now having run out of (someone else’s) ideas all she can do is more of the same again, but this time in drawings. Keep well away! The Gagosian, Daniels Street, is taking advantage with their own Rachel Whiteread exhibition on the 7 September – and I don’t see any reason to bother with this one either.
The Turner Prize 2010 exhibition is of course at Tate Britain too – from 5 October. Calming down in its old age but an interesting selection. Dexter Dalwood and Angela de la Cruz painting, sound artist Susan Philipsz and the multi-disciplinary Otolith Group. I like Dalwood but the inventive Otolith Group have to be my favourite.
The second part of Newspeak: British Art Now opens at the Satchi on 27 October. Despite the overwhelming mediocrity of the show it is strangely compulsive viewing, and there is a particularly nice cafe. Apart from that I can not wait to update my critics Saatchi league table from my previous posts!
The Royal Academy’s Treasures of Budapest starts on 25 September. Although there will be the opportunity to save the air fare to Budapest it doesn’t seem to be a show-stopper, but worth a visit. It promises Raphael, El Greco, Manet, Monet, Schiele and Picasso amongst others.
Of the smaller Galleries the Camden Arts Centre always seems to have something interesting. On 23 September Rene Daniels’ opens. His interesting work is ‘permeated through and through with writing, word games, literary references, visual puns, and allusions to art movements, institutions, and mass media.’
Of the private galleries Hauser & Wirth’s opens its expansive new Savile Row space on the 15 October with a Fabric Works of Louise Bourgeois - hardly inspirational, but I look forward to seeing the gallery. Of their other exhibitions the Piccadilly branch has the first posthumous show of Jason Rhoades’ opening 24 September. The exhibition features ’1:12 Perfect World’, Rhoades’ scale model of his groundbreaking 1999 exhibition, ‘Perfect World’ in Hamburg. Ho-hum.
At Haunch of Venison there is the strange choice of Loud Flash: British Punk on Paper, starting 24 September, which nevertheless looks like it may be quite interesting. Meanwhile do not miss the excellent Joana Vasconcelos and quirky animal-stuffer Polly Morgan whose exhibitions are currently on until the 25 September!
At the White Cube, Masons yard Christian Marclay opens on the 15 October: ‘Over the past 30 years, Christian Marclay has explored the fusion of fine art and audio cultures, transforming sounds and music into a visible, physical form through performance, collage, sculpture, installation, photography and video.’ Meanwhile over at WC Hoxton on 13 October Mark Bradford’s ‘multi-layered collaged paintings incorporating materials found in the urban environment’. Both may be worth a look but hardly captivating.
The pick of the rest are Jacco Olivier at Victoria Miro from 7 September - Olivier fuses colourful paintings with video – his works are delightful and fascinating. Finally Marina Abramovic is at the Lisson - god knows what we will see from the ‘grandmother of performance art’ but it is well worth a detour!
There we go – the best of the autumn? Not great and, in respect of painting very lop-sided. The public galleries mostly with retrospective painting, the private with, well all sorts from taxidermy to performance but pretty much steering away from anything on canvas . No demand? No talent? Are the private galleries out of sync with what the public wants - or is it the Public galleries? I will leave you to ponder the mystery….
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- Saatchi to Donate His Gallery and Art to Britain (nytimes.com)
- In pictures: 10 Years of Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall (news.bbc.co.uk)
- Nothing to see here – beyond the blockbuster exhibitions (guardian.co.uk)