19 November 2015 § Leave a comment
Pop art is very much alive and kicking. The World Goes Pop is currently at the Tate following on the heels of Post Pop: East Meets West at the Saatchi Gallery, the BBC ran a recent series BBC Four Goes Pop, Allen Jones was at the Royal Academy and Richard Hamilton had a solo show at the Tate last year. That is not even to mention continuing interest in other artists like David Hockney on the edges of the movement.
Maybe it is because we are bored of the self referential world of post-modernism or perhaps there is a recognition of the present day relevance of the movement as we fight off an ever increasing barrage of media imagery. It could well be that Pop Art turns out to be modern art’s most influential movement, parodying all this mass media imagery whilst creating a startlingly prescient take on the world of today: the age of consumerism.
Within this apparent surge of interest the work of Derek Boshier has found a new lease of life. Recently featured on BBC4’s ‘What do artists do all day’ (a series that also featured Sir Peter Blake) he now has a solo show at Flowers Gallery which also coincides with the release of an excellent Thames & Hudson monograph (reviewed here).
The Rethink/ Re-entry exhibition features a fascinating range of rarely seen pieces, much from Boshier’s own collection whilst surveying the shifting emphasis of his art in the late sixties and early seventies. It re-examines his work of the period via the extraordinary variety of his practice – assemblages, collages, drawings, films, graphics and prints alongside more recent films and collages.
In thé ground floor gallery we see the sharp political edge of his work in works like The Stun (1979), a spoof tabloid front page bringing together the Queen and Irish Violence with an incisive wit. Meanwhile in Hi Consumers Don’t Forget Nothing Lasts Forever (1978) Boshier takes a wry shot at consumer culture.
Three perspex vitrines take a more conceptual angle and have a distinctly affinity with John Baldessari works of that time. King George V Avenue Cardiff from 1971 for example features a series of red circles and black columns lined in perspective along a found image of a broad street.
Boshier’s provocative and experimental approach was reflected within the gathering punk movement and also appreciated by David Bowie who commissioned him to work on LP sleeves, as well as stage set design. Featuring both on walls and vitrines are original drawings from Boshier’s collaborations with The Clash on graphics for the CLASH 2nd Songbook, and with Bowie for the 1979 album Lodger. He happily told Boshier ‘do what you like’ for the interior of the gatefold sleeve; Boshier obliged with a collage on mortality that Bowie loved.
His versatility continues with a neat Joseph Cornell style box from 1976, State of Mind, that makes a statement both on consumerism and politics combining a toiletry bottle and newspaper cutting featuring strikers.
Downstairs three series of photographed images are a different take on Hockney’s photo collages and Ed Ruscha’s Every Building on the Sunset Strip. From his 1978 Routes series a sequential strip of images introduce time as an element as the camera’s lens takes a ‘stroll’ at three different locations.
In yet another media, film, Boshier’s 1973 Change is also showing, along with three more from 2014. In Change Boshier spliced sequences of still images from an installation at his Whitechapel Gallery retrospective of the same year. It remained unopened for 38 years, until its recent rediscovery provoked his desire to create new films using contemporary digital technologies.
Last but not least are four collaged works from 2014, each edged with his trademark broad black lines.
They look effortless and Boshier reminds us that his talent for drawing, eye for design as well as his desire to make works politically relevant are all still as strong as ever. He remains an important figure not only in the story of Pop Art but also in the contemporary art world.
For more information visit www.flowersgallery.com
Images courtesy of the artist, Flowers Gallery and CELLOPHANELAND*
18 November 2015 § Leave a comment
The preview day of Frieze always provides plenty of visual stimulation – both on and off the exhibiting gallery walls. As we shimmied past the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hooper, Tommy Hilfiger and Valentino we made our way around the fair to see what was on offer this year.
Glenn Brown was our undisputed favourite this year with a stand full of great pieces at Gagosian, including these examples of both oil and sculpture.
The young sensation Eddie Peake had two stunning works on show.
There were two superb Michael Fullerton portraits showing at the Carl Freedman Gallery.
The underrated Billy Childish had a large scale work, also at Carl Freedman.
A colourful large scale Allen Jones was a great example of his work.
Ai Weiwei has been dying his roots.
Self Portrait in bath by Tracey Emin underwhelmed us, but here are some others that drew our attention:
Frieze London runs until Saturday 17 October 2015. For more information visit www. friezelondon.com
For more information visit www. friezemasters.com
Images by CELLOPHANELAND* and courtesy of Frieze
17 November 2015 § Leave a comment
The title Fieldwork hints at some sort of preparatory work of rough ideas taken from the world at large – the resultant notes, plans and sketches not necessarily drawn in to a final form. This is indeed the format that it takes with an exhibition of interlinking new works by the artist, each offering a glimpse of the inspirations that feed his practice.
Encompassing everything from a kitchen sink (literally!), the exhibition presents an eclectic selection that includes for example a year’s worth of skies, the clothes of absentee statues, a tent, a helium balloon, the artist’s phone number and a pebble beach. As ever with Gander’s art, the forms convened in Fieldwork are elliptic and opaque, starting stories for the viewer to invent or complete.
Occupying the entire back gallery, the titular work Fieldwork 2015 opens a window onto the revolving touchstones of Gander’s art presented on a Generation Game style conveyor belt. Objects from the artist’s collection glide slowly past a window in the gallery wall and unsurprisingly including a ‘Cuddly Toy’ – this is a bear however that has seemingly been ‘tortured’.
Each piece is seemingly found but on closer inspection uniquely crafted. A National Trust sign proclaims ‘Culturefield’, the artists imaginary artistic utopia. Here there’s a baseball bat covered in nails, a pair of dead pigeons, a chocolate bar swoosh… This is a memory game of strange associations and a prism of connections (a chess set, a tortured teddy bear, a dead chick served on a plate with a napkin signed by Picasso…) through which to consider the rest of the exhibition.
Perhaps because of the the fact that Ryan Gander’s work is not always self- explanatory, much of its appeal lies in trying to work out what it is all about. Full understanding does often however require a gander (sorry) at the exhibition catalogue: a modern stick for example, has an arrow head attached. It is not self-evident that it is a selfie-stick with a genuine neolithic stone head, the object being cleverly reduced back to what it basically is – a stick that could have been used for example as a weapon in millennia past.
Preparation is everything is a work composed of 365 daily attempts to mix the exact colour of the sky in acrylic paint, while the installation Never enough – a shingle beach filling the entirety of the downstairs gallery – likewise refers to the seascape near Gander’s home, the endless pebbles reference an alleged punishment for smugglers: to seal up the perpetrator’s storage cellar with stones.
The entire exhibition is one that deliberately teases, presenting sealed-off worlds and frustrating knowledge. Enigmatic objects on the conveyer belt are tantalisingly out of reach, the cellar of pebbles can be seen but not accessed, in a sealed courtyard space is an internally lit, semi-transparent fibreglass tent while stuck, out of reach, high on a gallery ceiling is what appears to be a helium balloon.
Some other sculptural works seem to have disappeared entirely and are only suggested through the discarded items that remain while I be… (i) and I be… (ii) are dust-sheeted mirrors as might be found in a closed-up stately home, the sheets however are of marble, the mirrors reflections sealed forever.
Outside the gallery, a giant billboard announces Gander’s phone number to the public. We called the number to receive an apology from Gander for not answering his ‘second phone’ and requesting a message. In the playful spirit of the show we left a message apologising for not being available and asked Gander to leave us a message. We are still waiting!
Images by CELLOPHANELAND* and Lisson Gallery.
16 November 2015 § Leave a comment
My paintings have neither objects nor space nor time nor anything – no forms. They are light, lightness, about merging, about formlessness, breaking down form.
Agnes Martin, 1966
Agnes Martin is not for everyone. In sharp contrast to the eye-popping bling of the current The World Goes Pop exhibition a few yards away on the same level of Tate Modern (reviewed here) this is art that is understated and serene. There is nothing here that is brash or demands attention, and its appreciation requires a willingness to take a deep breath and slowly take in what the artist has to offer.
It is however well worth the time and effort. Agnes Martin’s art is about the search for sublime beauty and serenity, she herself states that “art is the concrete representation of our most subtle feelings.”
Working in the second half of the 20th Century, her early career covered the era when Abstract Expressionism was overtaken by Minimalism. She is often considered as a pivot between the two – her fine-lined grids, bands and square blocks of pale color fusing the emotional resonance of the former with the sparce purity of the latter.
The show is laid out chronologically, and begins with her highly derivative early “biomorphic” works reminiscent of artists like Joan Miró and Mark Rothko. Seeing her work in Taos in 1957, the dealer Betty Parsons however saw something in Martin’s talent and persuaded her to move to New York.
It was here she fraternised with, and was influenced by, artists like Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, and Robert Rauschenberg in the hot-bed of art that was the Lower East side at that time. She made sculptural assemblages using found objects such as boat spikes and nails and began to depict simple geometric forms such as squares, rectangles and circles as well as a range of linear marks and dots, often repeated across the surface.
By the early 1960s, Martin’s geometric compositions had evolved into what would later be seen as her signature style: the square grid. The beauty in this simplicity is seen in works like Friendship – where gold leaf is incised to produce a grid of tiny rectangles. Referring to these paintings, the critic Lucy Lippard described them as ‘legendary examples of an unrepetitive use of a repetitive medium’.
By 1967 however, fighting against mental illness, Martin left New York in search of solitude and settled in New Mexico for a self-imposed five year break from painting. When she did start again the grids are replaced by horizontal lines, and the darker tones by palest pink, blue and yellow. The colours are evocative of nature: sunsets, light through the mist, rocks in the sun.
Shown together in their own room here are The Islands I-XII – a spellbinding series of 12 near white paintings from 1979 that Martin considered a single piece These paintings can be seen as Martin’s most silent works and invite concentrated looking over time in order to see their fine lines and subtly nuanced surfaces.
The works convey a contemplative quality, indicating Martin’s interest in East Asian philosophy, and spirituality however knowing about Martin’s schizophrenia it is also clear that this calmness was hard won – the result of a deep inner battle.
Images by Tate and CELLOPHANELAND*
16 November 2015 § Leave a comment
The Newport Street Gallery is the culmination of a long stated Damien Hirst ambition – a desire to publicly show his private collection. It may also be part of an additional desire to prove that an artist can also be a gallerist and curator. Hirst of course broke the mould in 1988 as one of the main mover and shakers behind the notorious Freeze exhibition, where he helped gather together a group of his Goldsmiths art College contemporaries, many of whom later became known as the young British artists (yBa’s).
John Hoyland is perhaps surprising as a choice for the inaugural exhibition at the new space as he and Hirst are not at first glance natural bedfellows. Hoyland, one of Britains foremost abstract (he preferred the term non-figurative) painters, was notoriously anti-conceptual and also felt that artists should be very much ‘hands-on’ and physically creating their own work. Despite Hirst being the antithesis of Hoyland’s ideals the two however became friends with Hirst steadily purchasing dozens of his works.
And what an exhibition it is. Over thirty works pop and sparkle like jewels over the half a dozen airy ‘rooms’ set over two floors. This is a perfect venue for Hoyland’s works, the ‘white cube’ warehouse space a fine foil for the oversized canvases with their gloriously vivid blocks of colour.
Hoyland ‘discovered’ colour in the south of France in the fifties and in the early sixties was heavily influenced by American Abstract Expressionism, having visited New York to seek out artists like Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman. It is these influences from which Hoyland forged his own path and from this time that the first works in this exhibition were painted.
Arranged largely chronologically we begin with pieces from the sixties – the first room full of vivid red works, the second bright green ones. They are clearly heavily Rothko and Newman influenced, with expansive colour fields – the very earliest like 17.5.64 including biomorphic shapes, which in slightly later works have evolved in to roughly delineated colour blocks or columns. Rather than being flat though, there is a sculptural dimension with influence from his sculptor friend, Anthony Caro.
As we move onwards (and upwards) the soft edges of the colour fields harden whilst surface texture increases. In works like 29.12.66 greys appear, whilst in others there are more colours, diagonals and bolder forms make a more graphic statement.
One rather different work 23.2.71 painted in a pale pink and gold comes from a short period in the early seventies spent in his Wiltshire studio where he used a more delicate palette, but it was not long before he was back to powerful blues and reds alongside other strong colours in works like 29.3.80.
Using diverse means of application these forceful compositions include strong diagonals and fractured patches of colour in heavily textured paint.
Perhaps Hirst has selected Hoyland to avoid the more obvious selection of works from fellow yBa’s for example or perhaps he feels an affinity between this sculptural use of colour and his own spot and spin paintings. In any case this is a successful show in a truly wonderful space. Hopefully soon we can follow a Newport Street Gallery visit with a meal in Pharmacy2 due to open on the top floor in 2016.
For further information, visit: http://www.newportstreetgallery.com
All images by CELLOPHANELAND* and Newport Street Gallery.
15 November 2015 § Leave a comment
This is pop Jim, but not as we know it. There are no Warhol Brillo Boxes, Roy Lichtenstein Whaams or Peter Blake collages to be seen. The key word here is World and here the Tate is attempting to present this movement, usually and primarily seen as a British/American phenomenon, in a wider context by not only gathering works from lesser known European and America artists, but also farther afield.
How many people know that there is Icelandic pop art for example from the excellent Erro where, for example Chinese and Vietnamese troops invade the idealised American home (below) or Cuban ‘folk-pop’ from Raul Martinez?
It is an ambitious show presenting works by over sixty artists from Latin America to the Middle and Far East whilst also presenting a broader narrative for the creation of works considered to be included within the canon of pop art.
In the west pop has traditionally been seen as derived from, and as critiquing consumer and capitalist culture it is here presented as a much broader movement. Public protest, politics, the body, domestic revolution, consumption and folk art are all considered worthy of categorisation and given separate exhibition space in an examination of the broader worldwide movement.
The show, curated by the Tate‘s Jessica Morgan, also goes further in providing a platform for many of women artists who were also involved, and who have perhaps been under-represented in the history of pop art.
The best works here though are American with fetish painted car bonnets from Judy Chicago and Martha Rosler’s clever photo-montages. Nicola L created her iconic ‘Red Coat’ for eleven people to bond come rain or shine, but I’m not sure that Jana Zelibska’s silhouettes were really deserving of their own section and others are hit and miss.
Around the world pop was not just a celebration of western consumerism but was often a subversive international language of protest. Polish artist Jurry Zielinski’s protester for example has their red fabric tongue firmly nailed to the gallery floor, John F Kennedy and Nikita Kruschev face off in a work by Italian artist Sergio Lombardo whilst for the Frenchman Henri Cueco, The Red Men (below), alludes to the government provoked anti communist ‘Red Scare’.
It is an exhibition that only partially succeeds. It succeeds where it expands the narrative of Pop Art but there are occasional substandard works whilst others with dubious pop pedigree are shoe-horned in to make a point. It is also strange that whilst big name British/US artists are excluded others like Colin Self and Joe Tilson or Rosler and Chicago seem to qualify as ‘world’ artists.
Despite these failings it is still a fascinating show that brings a new and more international perspective to the well-worn mantras of pop art theory and is worth a view.
The EY Exhibition: The World Goes Pop at Tate Modern runs until 24 January 2016
For further information visit www.tate.org.uk
12 November 2015 § Leave a comment
Brutalism is not brutal. At the very beginning of a behind-the-scenes tour of the Southbank, I was embarrassed to discover my understanding of the architectural term has always been wrong, a comprehension apparently shared by much of the population. In fact, the great tragedy of Brutalism was the adoption of precisely that name for a set of architectural principles born of Modernism.
The term has been misunderstood since inception as referring to a ‘brutal’ effect on the eye of the beholder or the ‘brutalising’ impact on its residents. Little could be further from the truth. The term is actually derived from the French béton brut meaning literally ‘raw concrete’ as well as the Art Brut or ‘raw art’ of those such as Jean Dubuffet. Pure, natural and honest would probably have been more in the mind of the creators of the term at that time.
Inspired by Le Corbusier, concrete was considered the solution for new models for housing – especially social housing, but therein lay part of the problem. It became associated not just with cheapness but also with poverty – a link reinforced by Films like A Clockwork Orange which provided a dystopian view of the future set in modern urban landscapes.
I was also a tad embarrassed at my misunderstanding of the architecture of the complex. Always clubbed together as ‘The South Bank‘ I’d considered it all ‘Brutalist’, but our National Trust guide had immediately pointed out the strongly differing styles.
The Royal Festival Hall, built in 1951 for the Festival of Britain, is a curving white building built in Scandinavian Modern Style whilst the contrasting Queen Elizabeth Hall, and Hayward Gallery were built much later, in 1967/8, in cast and poured concrete.
We were here on a preview of one of a series of tours taking place in some of Britain’s most iconic Brutalist Buildings – other tour locations include Sheffield’s Park Hill Estate and the University of East Anglia in Norwich as well as on a Routemaster London bus. The National Trust is aiming to shine a light on the significance of Brutalism and no doubt also help raise the final funds required in a two year restoration of the Hayward, Purcell, and QEH that starts this month.
We were led on a fascinating tour in to spaces never-before seen by the public, shuffling through long underground tunnels, peering onto stages, ducking into ventilation rooms, all the while being expertly coached in the roles of form and function in the vision, construction and reception of these iconic buildings. There were tubes, control panels and ducts a-plenty whilst glimpses in to changing rooms, backstage areas, and green rooms also afforded a performers perspective.
Concrete itself was a frequent topic. At the time considered the ultimate for advanced buildings, it was a very high quality material, and with the extreme care taken in construction at the South Bank, these were buildings that represented one of the high points in its use. Cast, poured or mixed with straw, it was even finished like Japanese woodblock prints with a carefully textured wood-grain finish from three different types of wood.
It is clear that the legacy of Brutalism is currently undergoing a critical reappraisal. Heroic and controversial at its outset, it was initially largely dismissed as an unsightly imposition, whilst today its austere aesthetic is widely appreciated.
The National Trust’s Brutal Utopias seeks to foster this debate and engage the public with these buildings which, like them or not, now thankfully an essential part of our national architectural heritage.
Tours take place at the three locations between Friday 25th September – Sunday 4th October 2015 and can be booked at www. nationaltrust.org.uk
For further information on events at the Southbank visit www.southbankcentre.co.uk
Images by CELLOPHANELAND*