Wim Wenders: Instant Stories – The Photographers Gallery, London

8 November 2017 § Leave a comment

Anyone familiar with the work of Wim Wenders may suspect that he has more than a passing interest in photography. In two of his movies in particular the use of Polaroid cameras is a vital part of the narrative: in the road movie Alice in the Cities there is a photo-obsessed protagonist whilst in The American Friend, Dennis Hopper snaps himself repeatedly. Both make appearances in the exhibition, the film clip of Hopper showing alongside multiple images taken during the period of filming.

Wim Wenders: Instant Stories - The Photographers Gallery, London

It is not however necessary to have any knowledge of his films to enjoy this exhibition for Wenders is a fine photographer. He is reluctant to admit this, and wants the Polaroids to be enjoyed rather as illustrations of the period and a record of the people and places.

Wim Wenders: Instant Stories - The Photographers Gallery, London

He says “I was learning the craft of filmmaking in those years, and Polaroids were the perfect complimentary tool: as a visual notebook, a quick way of ‘framing’ the world, a verification of my interest in people, places, objects, or simply as a way to remember things.”

Wim Wenders: Instant Stories - The Photographers Gallery, London

Wenders was a prolific Polaroid user, so much so that the company would supply him with cameras and film to test. He himself estimates that he took more than 12,000 Polaroids between 1973 and 1983 although only 3,500 remain. “The thing is,” he says, “you gave them away. You had the person in front of you, whose picture you had just taken, and it was like they had more right to it. The Polaroids helped with making the movies, but they were not an aim in themselves. They were disposable.”

Wim Wenders: Instant Stories - The Photographers Gallery, London

The images are wonderfully evocative. The are instinctive and clever. Sometimes they make clever use of colour and light at others there are moody black and white street scenes. He dips in an out of recognisable styles. In one a car door hangs loosely open, inviting us to complete a story perhaps. In another a pair of spectacles looks back at in front of a blurred cityscape.

Wim Wenders: Instant Stories - The Photographers Gallery, London

There are moments of leisure – a casual image of a bottle of ketchup on a table is cleverly composed and invokes Martin Parr’s casual inspection on culture. An image of Dennis Hopper cigarette in hand is a perfect off-screen image of a celebrity. Stacks of Campbell’s Soup are clearly a reference to Andy Warhol.

Wim Wenders: Instant Stories - The Photographers Gallery, London

Often they were his visual notebook – a way of testing out frames and ideas – but more than that they offered him a kind of liminal space between the subject and the photograph, the photographer and the act of taking a photo, the intention and the outcome.

Wim Wenders: Instant Stories - The Photographers Gallery, London

He is also well aware of the place in photographic history of the Polaroid. “The entire Polaroid process has nothing to do with our contemporary experience, when we look at virtual and vanishing apparitions on a screen … This was a true THING, a singular object of its own, not a copy, not a print, not multipliable, not repeatable.”

Wim Wenders: Instant Stories - The Photographers Gallery, London

Sadly it is now 30 years since Wenders took any Polaroids. “It’s not just the meaning of the image that has changed – the act of looking does not have the same meaning. Now, it’s about showing, sending and maybe remembering. It is no longer essentially about the image. The image for me was always linked to the idea of uniqueness… that whole notion is gone.

Despite his insistence that this is ephemera not to be taken seriously, when displayed in a gallery and viewed as a body of work there is no doubt that these are important images and easily elevated to the status of ‘art’.

Wim Wenders: Instant Stories - The Photographers Gallery, London

Wenders insists “The meaning of these Polaroids is not in the photos themselves – it is in the stories that lead to them. That’s why the exhibition is called Instant Stories – the catalogue is a storybook more than a photo book.” This is a ‘story’ that is absolutely essential viewing for any photographer or film maker whilst still being a rich and fascinating experience for everyone.

Instant Stories is at The Photographers’ Gallery, London until 11 February 2018

CELLOPHANELAND* were guests of The Photographers’ Gallery

Basquiat: Boom for Real – The Barbican Gallery, London

2 November 2017 § Leave a comment

Do not come to the latest Barbican Gallery exhibition Basquiat: Boom for Real expecting a straightforward show of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work. This is rather more than that and all the better for it. This is an exhibition where, in the words of Jane Alison, the Barbican’s Head of Visual Arts, we can “see those works in the context of the New York scene of the 1980s.”  We therefore get videos, photographs, music, film, books and paintings, where Basquiat is presented as a multidimensional artist weaving between media.

Basquiat_Boom for Real_Barbican Jean Michel Basquiat

New York at that time was certainly a rich melting pot. A dangerous and violent city on the edge of bankruptcy, it housed a thriving cultural scene. Basquiat, young and black has often been pigeon-holed as a a poor outsider, who developed from homeless graffiti artist to gallery favourite. The truth is rather different.

Basquiat_Boom for Real_Barbican Jean Michel Basquiat

From a relatively wealthy family, Basquiat went to a private school, was well educated and a talented artist and was admiring Renaissance masters in New York galleries in his teens. Having dropped out of college, he briefly ran away from home, stayed with friends and scrawled graffiti as ‘Samo’ (a play on ‘same old shit’), although its style was not ‘from the streets’ but always from an artist insider critiquing the contemporary art scene.

Basquiat_Boom for Real_Barbican Jean Michel Basquiat

The Barbican Gallery divides the show in to some fourteen sections. From Samo graffiti we then see the beginning of his stratospheric rise in a recreation of the New York/New Wave exhibition. A landmark show where despite including the likes of Andy Warhol, Nan Goldin and Robert Mapplethorpe, the young Basquiat was singled out for admiration.

Basquiat_Boom for Real_Barbican Jean Michel Basquiat

Between examples of his work we get to learn plenty about the post-punk underground art scene: The Canal Zone, a graffiti covered downtown loft/art space brought him together with collaborators for collage and postcards; the Mudd Club was where he hung out and performed with his band; at Area he hung out with Keith Haring or Madonna whilst dj-ing sets on a Brian Eno created sound system.

Basquiat_Boom for Real_Barbican Jean Michel Basquiat Downtown 81

A key element of the exhibition is a remarkable film, Downtown 81, a chronicle of a day in the in the life of a down and out artist, for which Basquiat was chosen to play the leading role. It is essentially a prescient version of his real life as we see him spraying Samo-tagged graffiti and hawking his art (some of it in the show) around galleries as he visits clubs, watches bands and interacts with the larger than life local characters.

Basquiat_Boom for Real_Barbican Jean Michel Basquiat

Glenn 1984 – Jean-Michel Basquiat

If so far we haven’t mentioned his art much, it is with good reason – there is not a lot here. We do see his graffiti, collages, postcards, sketches, polaroids and even his graffiti covered fridge. We also see books, records and photographs as the Barbican outlines his jazz, art and classical influences.

Basquiat_Boom for Real_Barbican Jean Michel Basquiat

Jean Michel Basquiat – King Zulu 1986

Where we do see his larger works – vibrant, raw imagery, abounding with fragments of bold capitalised text – they offer insights into both his encyclopaedic interests and his experience as a young black artist with no formal training. New scholarship sheds light on some of his most acclaimed works – sampling from an extraordinary breadth of source material – anatomical drawings to bebop jazz to silent film.

Untitled (Pablo Picasso) 1984 - Jean-Michel Basquiat Boom For Real Barbican Gallery

Untitled (Pablo Picasso) 1984 – Jean-Michel Basquiat

“Untitled” (1981), for example, includes variations of the name Aaron. While Basquiat’s father understood it to be a reference to baseball player Hank Aaron, the Barbican Gallery posits other allusions: a character in Shakespeare’s play “Titus Andronicus,” and the brother of Moses in the Old Testament. Two letters also feature individually, “A” and “O,” and relate to a passage from Revelation that fascinated Basquiat: “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.”

Jawbone of an Ass Basquiat_Boom for Real_Barbican Jean Michel Basquiat

Jawbone of an Ass 1982 – Jean Michel Basquiat

The label for his 1982 painting Jawbone of an Ass, he lists historical figures including Hannibal, Machiavelli, Savonarola, Sappho and Rameses II, is a vision of world history as a ceaseless round of wars. Cartoon monsters with savage teeth express the violence of the painting’s Biblical title. In the bottom right, a black boxer hits a white opponent.

Basquiat_Boom for Real_Barbican Jean Michel Basquiat

He worked surrounded by imagery: open books, pages from magazines and photographs laying around him as the TV flickered and jazz music played. He worked rapidly absorbing influences from anything and everything.  Sometimes the resulting art is hard to like, at others remarkably fresh, powerful and multi-layered.

Basquiat_Boom for Real_Barbican Jean Michel Basquiat

“Untitled” (1982) – Jean-Michel Basquiat

Strangely there is nothing here about his heroin addiction and untimely death at just 27, and we do not know if there were lost chances to save him from self-destruction. We are ultimately left to ponder what sort of art this talented and elemental force would have continued to produce if it were not for his tragic end.

Basquiat: Boom for Real is on at the Barbican Gallery in London until 28 January 2018.

All images  © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Licensed by Artestar, New York

Alex Katz: Quick Light – Serpentine Gallery, London

29 June 2016 § Leave a comment

It’s the instantaneous light. If you get it right then you get it in the total present tense – that’s what you’re going for, that’s eternity.” Alex Katz

The new Alex Katz exhibition at the Serpentine Galleries is a combination of two distinct series of work representing two aspects of his work – portraits and landscapes. Entering the gallery we are met with three walls each with one gigantic orange painting.


These are recent portraits of women – each given the subjects first name – Vivien, Anna and Ada (his wife, a frequent subject). They may be named and are ‘of’ somebody but that is as far as Katz wants to take us. These might just as well be still lifes, we are not invited to learn any more about these ladies and there is no narrative. We are simply encouraged to be ‘in the moment’ and the artists wants to see no more or no less that what is right before us.


The subjects are simply dressed, if indeed we see what they are wearing, almost expressionless, and return our gaze. The backgrounds a pure bright orange – they could be ‘Easy Jet’ adverts and indeed the link with advertising is there, Katz heavily influenced by billboards, his paintings characterised by their flatness of colour and fluidity of line.


The artist, now 88, came of age as an artist in 1950s New York, and developed his unique approach to contemporary representational painting during the height of Abstract Expressionism. His work is reminiscent of artists like Tom Wesselman and Andy Warhol but any association to pop art is to be avoided though as gentle and careful brushstrokes energise the caves and bring life to the faces.


The exhibitions title, Quick Light, comes from Katz’s desire to bring the image to us as quickly as possible – as in adverts – removing superfluous detail in order that our brains absorb the image with minimal delay. Like the almost totally two dimensional figures the paint is flat and he is happy to agree with the term ‘aggressive’ in respect of the quick impact that his images have upon us.


The Serpentine has also taken the clever opportunity to present a number of Katz’s landscape paintings in the leafy surroundings of Hyde Park. The central gallery is occupied by several of these, some almost abstract in appearance exemplify his life-long quest to capture the present tense in paint. The largest fill whole walls of the Serpentines sizeable walls.


Reflection is a rohrsach-style mirrored reflection water in blue and  black, West 1 features illuminated windows on a black background whilst Black Brook 18, in green and black we guess must be a stream and grass.


They are enigmatic and again Katz gives no story – these are paintings simply of present ‘moments’.  Regardless of their scale, he describes these paintings as ‘environmental’ in the way in which they envelop the viewer. Defined by temporal qualities of light, times of the day and the changing of the seasons.


Everything Katz does looks deceptively easy, and thats how he wants it. Seeing that Henri Matisse’s work seemingly required ’no effort’ he was inspired to paint in a similar way. The inspiration of this Serpentine show is seeing another master at the peak of his powers.

Alex Katz: Quick Light is at the Serpentine Gallery until 11 September.

For more information visit www.serpentinegalleries.org

This feature also appears on www.cellophaneland.com


Best Album Art – Art Vinyl Awards 2015

9 January 2016 § Leave a comment

This post also appears on CELLOPHANELAND* arts and culture online magazine. Link here.

One of the most unfortunate aspects of the decline of the album, and to some extents the CD, has been the loss of the potential space for sleeve artwork. With the rise of vinyl sales during the last century, the artistic potential of the sleeves was not lost on the very best artists and photographers of the period, and many became involved contributing to a very memorable, if narrow, artistic genre.

Drenge-Undertow-Art Vinyl & Belgraves Hotel Best Art Vinyl 2015

Remember the great original Warhol covers for the Stones’ zippered Sticky Fingers and the banana for The Velvet Underground & Nico? The Beatles were of course involved too, with the Peter Blake photograph (not a collage by the way) for Sgt Peppers.

stick Fingers-Art Vinyl & Belgraves Hotel Best Art Vinyl 2015

The Beatles drew in other Pop artists  – Richard Hamilton made his minimalist statement for the ‘White Album’ whilst for David Bowie, Derek Boshier created the striking Lodger designs.

Richard Alvedon, Simon & Garfunkel Art Vinyl & Belgraves Hotel Best Art Vinyl 2015

Top photographers were there too. Robert Mapplethorpe’s image of Patti Smith provided the iconic cover for Horses, Richard Avedon took Simon & Garfunkel’s picture for Bookends and – here’s a little known nugget – Man Ray created a photo collage for Exile on Main Street (below), sadly unused.

Man Ray Exile on Main Street Rolling Stones

This is to barely touch the surface of the phenomenon of album art, something that we thought had gone forever with the apparent demise of vinyl in the 1990’s. Fortunately the death of the album had been greatly exaggerated and sales are now booming again.

Dave Gilmour Rattle that Lock Art Vinyl & Belgraves Hotel Best Art Vinyl 2015

With this resurgence comes a new generation of album artists, designers, prize and inevitably, an awards ceremony. Art Vinyl have a competition that is actually now in its 10th year, with this year’s fifty nominations selected by a panel of music design experts and previous Best Art Vinyl Award winners. In co-operation with Belgraves Hotel they have just revealed the 2015 winners.

Tame Impala Art Vinyl & Belgraves Hotel Best Art Vinyl 2015

David Gilmour’s ‘Rattle That Lock’ album took the top prize with Drenge’s ‘Undertow’ second, and Tame Impala’s ‘Currents’ third. The winners and all of the shortlisted entries are now on display in the window at Belgraves until the end of April.

Not Real Stealing Sheep Art Vinyl & Belgraves Hotel Best Art Vinyl 2015

Jim Lambie, Linden rest and be thankful Art Vinyl & Belgraves Hotel Best Art Vinyl 2015

The artwork covered a wide range of creative disciplines, including fine art, photography, sculpture and computer graphics. Given the august history of album artwork we perhaps should not be surprised that the short list also included two Turner Prize nominees, Mark Wallinger and Jim Lambie (for Linden).

Darkstar Art Vinyl & Belgraves Hotel Best Art Vinyl 2015

David Gilmour’s wining cover was created by The Creative Corporation, in collaboration with Aubrey Powell from the legendary Hipgnosis – a design studio that produced covers for the likes of Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and T Rex.

Petite Noire - La Vie Est Belle Art Vinyl & Belgraves Hotel Best Art Vinyl 2015

Petite Noire – La Vie Est Belle

Best Art Vinyl founder Andrew Heeps explains, “This is the first year such an established artist’s record has won Best Art Vinyl, but notably the design team have historically been responsible for so many iconic sleeve designs… It’s interesting that two of the top three are conceptual compositions, using photography as the core of the design.”

Bjork-Vulnicura Art Vinyl & Belgraves Hotel Best Art Vinyl 2015

Bjork – Vulnicura

In January 2016, the winners of the Best Art Vinyl 2015 award will feature in exhibitions in London, Scotland, Italy, Germany and Hungary as well as on www.artvinyl.com.

You can check out the entries on www.artvinyl.com or visit the window installation at the Belgraves Hotel, London Belgravia from 7th Jan 2016

For more information and the 50 nominated Best Art Vinyl 2015 records with designer credits see Artvinyl.com

The World Goes Pop at Tate Modern London

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.

The World Goes Pop Tate Modern

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?

The World Goes Pop Tate Modern

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.

The World Goes Pop Tate Modern

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 World Goes Pop Tate Modern

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 World Goes Pop Tate Modern

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.

The World Goes Pop Tate Modern

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.

The World Goes Pop Tate Modern

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

The World Goes Pop Tate Modern

The Worlds Best Auction Search & Valuation Site – barnebys

6 November 2015 § Leave a comment

Online auctions are big business. We all know of course about Ebay which started as a local experiment and astonished even its founder as it evolved to cover almost anything that anyone could imagine. Many other online-only sale platforms as well as proprietary auction house live bidding sites have appeared on the web since but many have assumed that the online auction model would never work for big ticket items like blue chip fine art or collectable automobiles.


They were wrong. Despite being late to the party the major auction houses have now all realised that you can indeed sell anything of any value on the web and they too have jumped on the bandwagon. The whole panoply of art, culture and design from $1 to $100 million is now available online.


Naturally with choice comes complication. A search for a photograph by, say, Terry O’Neill could easily take hours via checks upcoming auctions at multiple houses and still be incomplete. It was this growing problem that actually led a Swede, Christian Barnekow, to develop a way to search easily across multiple auctions. barnebys was the result and is now the biggest of its type in the world. It now covers hundreds of thousands of lots from over 1000 auction houses – a number increasing daily – and makes a complex search achievable in seconds – it is an invaluable resource that we use here almost daily.


Another familiar problem for potential buyers is that once you’ve found a Terry O’Neill you need to know its value? Up to now expensive subscriptions to companies like Artnet and Mutualart were needed for, not always satisfactory, access to their databases. A free search at barnebys ‘realised prices’ instantly supplies over a hundred full Terry O’Neill auction records between 1998 to now and allows a quick and easy comparison of other similar works. How brilliant is that?


The auctions, and results, are subdivided in to around thirty different categories across the world of art, design and culture and include for example Fashion & Vintage, Jewellery & Gems, Photographs, Sculpture and Furniture & Design and its a great place to search for affordable designer furniture or perhaps a designer handbag. You can search by any key word, product or select individual auction houses and sales to browse through.


There are many other useful features accessed via the barnebys site including access to a blog with trends, news article and ideas. Last but not least is a free valuation service – simply send details of your item via an online form (here) – and details are forwarded to auction house experts for an appraisal.


We particularly like the website layout which is clear, nicely arranged and easy to use. All in all barnebys should be saved on any everyone’s ‘favourite’ websites.  Now, maybe I’ll just put a sly bid on that Picasso ‘La Gommeuse’ at £38 million or perhaps the Warhol Marilyn Monroe instead – a snip at around £100k?

For more information visit www.barnebys.com

Love Is Enough: William Morris & Andy Warhol – Jeremy Deller at Modern Art Oxford

30 October 2015 § Leave a comment

“Art isn’t about what you make but what you make happen.”

– Jeremy Deller

When artist, Jeremy Deller, was invited by Modern Art Oxford to examine two of his artistic heroes in an unconventional exhibition that draws surprising connections between these two iconic cultural figures, few could imagine the result. Upon viewing, it’s clear they have much more in common than we might suspect.

As a 20-year-old art history graduate, Deller had a chance encounter with Andy Warhol in London which led to an invitation to visit Warhol at the Factory in New York. Deller spent two weeks just hanging out watching Warhol work. “It felt like there were things happening all the time, but it was a relaxed environment with a purposefulness nonetheless. You never knew who was going to walk in. He surrounded himself with people – people with different skills who had ambition and creativity.” Deller describes William Morris as the “Warhol of his day” trying to revolutionise the alienating world of industrial work by the means of soft furnishings and floral wallpaper.

Warhol and Morris both established printmaking businesses, both envisaged art as not something done alone, but through collaboration. Both wanted art to be for the people, not a pampered few, and both men definitely made stuff happen.


The exhibition looks at common interests that both artists shared across different periods of history. Themes covered are: mass population of contemporary art, design process and manufacturing techniques, shared mythologies and obsessions, along with politics and publications. In one room there are Andy Warhol’s famed portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Joan Collins and Elizabeth Taylor alongside Willam Morris’s Holy Grail tapestries.


Warhol’s obsession with celebrity is apparent through the letters and autographs from famous actors that the artist collected as a child, including his most treasured possession: an autographed photograph from Shirley Temple. A range of vintage Interview magazines (the publication established by Warhol in 1969) is in perfect contrast to Morris’s interest in medieval legends and iconography shared with artists like Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones. Both artists’ interest in the politics of their respective times is explored through screen prints by Warhol drawn from newspaper cuttings alongside Morris’s strident items, including his membership card for the socialist league as well as pamphlets and correspondence.


Repetition is a key theme; decorative patterns of Morris’s textiles, fabric swatches and wallpapers are contrasted with Warhol’s Flowers paintings and works on paper depicting soup cans and dollar bills.

What becomes increasingly apparent, is that neither artist was satisfied with just one discipline. They both wrote, published and, in their embrace of commercial and fine art, had a massive influence reaching far beyond the art world.


Love is Enough: William Morris & Andy Warhol run to 8 March 2015 at Modern Art Oxford.

Fur further info, please visit: www.modernartoxford.org.uk

Richard Hamilton at Tate Modern

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.

Richard Hamilton Tate Modern

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.

Richard Hamilton Tate Modern

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.

Richard Hamilton Tate Modern


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?

Richard Hamilton Tate Modern

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.

Richard Hamilton Tate Modern

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.

Richard Hamilton Tate Modern

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.

Richard Hamilton Tate Modern

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.

Richard Hamilton Tate Modern

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

Richard Hamilton Tate Modern



Warhol, Lynch & Burroughs at The Photographers Gallery

31 January 2014 § Leave a comment

This is not one exhibition but a trio of simultaneous shows from three great cultural  icons. Each occupies a floor of London’s Photographers Gallery, all are separately curated and feature just black and white photographic works.
warhol lynch burroughs
Both the weakness and strength of this exhibition lie in the fact that this photography was secondary to each of them – if none of these artists were famous the works would not be worthy of exhibition. Nevertheless each show is an insight to their practices and – with varying degrees of success – acts to expand our knowledge of these culturally important figures.
david lynch
Starting on the top floor is an exhibition of David Lynch‘s work. Shot in various locations including Germany, Poland, New York, New Jersey and England, the photographs depict industrial dereliction and decay.
David Lynch
Formally conventional they feature high contrast, unusual viewpoints and close-ups of chimneys, wire, and rusting steel and offer obvious similarities to his iconic films, most obviously Eraserhead – there is even a similar eerie soundtrack from Lynch himself serving as background.
William S. Burroughs was one of the most influential American writers of the 20th century, yet despite this his work as a photographer is rarely acknowledged. Coinciding with the centenary of his birth and entitled Taking Shots this is the first exhibition ever to highlight his photographic work.
william burroughs
This exibition is the most interesting of the three. He obsessively photographed, collaged and re-collaged. Acknowledging his debt to Dada and the surrealists the cut and paste ethos also reflected his methods of writing and creating. It also showed his debt to his mother who published books on flower arranging, gathering together disparate objects with her arranged flowers and no doubt acted as a surprisingly homely influence.
Andy Warhol
Although famous as a printer, painter and filmmaker Andy Warhol’s use of photographic imagery permeates his work. In later life he was always with a ‘point and shoot’ Minox with which he shot dozens of shots of everyday life. As we know with Warhol mundanity quickly becomes art.
Most interesting are his striking series of ‘stitched’ photographs, reflecting his interest in multiples. These feature identical images arranged in grid form, which he had stitched together with a sewing machine.

Undoubtedly Burroughs’ exhibition is the most revealing of his wider work and despite the lesser appeal of the other two shows triple exhibition is well worth catching whilst it’s here.

Until 30 March 2014

The Photographers Gallery, 16 – 18 Ramillies St, London W1F 7LW

+44 (020) 7087 9300  info@tpg.org.uk

Mon – Sat 10.00 – 18.00, Thu 10.00 – 20.00, Sun 11.30 – 18.00

Admission to Warhol, Burroughs and Lynch
£4 (£2.50 concs) – last ticket 17.30
Free admission on Monday from 10.00-18.00 and
Thursday from 18.00-20.00
Free Entry to under 17s

david bailey – hitler killed the duck at scream

23 October 2011 § Leave a comment

I have always thought that the notoriously irreverent and enjoyably grumpy photographer David Bailey has always been slightly underestimated. Not that of course he goes unrecognised but that perhaps he is often dismissed as simply a fashion photographer or celebrity snapper. Actually his work has often been groundbreaking with for example his use of excessive contrast and very tight cropping.

I recently visited his studio where, despite being well in to his seventies, he had been up since 6.30 am working in the darkroom (he still does much of his own printing). This despite the fact that by now he should of course be able to hang up his lenses for good and have a very comfortable living from his back catalogue. Still working every day – “otherwise I’d get bored stiff” – his latest work has not actually involved photography but painting.

Paint is of course a departure from his usual work but, no doubt encouraged by his good mate Damien Hirst, he fancied trying his hand at something different. And different it certainly is. The exhibition is called Hitler killed the Duck – a title derived from the bombing of his local cinema when he was a child. The works in the show are split between expressionistic – if one could call it that – canvases that variously feature Mickey Mouse, warplanes, Donald Duck and Hitler with daubed graffiti such as 1942 WAS A BAD YEAR, WANTED or WOT, and inspired by these childhood experiences. The remainder take one of his iconic photographs as a starting point for some overpainting.

The former do not really work and some might be unkind and say that perhaps he should not have bothered – but hey, its David Bailey, if he wants to try it why not? In any case am sure he would say something like ‘f*** ’em – who cares?’ As for the photographic-based pieces they are actually work very well, perhaps due to the sthrength of the original images.

In Red Warhol, Jack Nicholson and Noel Gallagher the original photographs featuring the thoughtful, bad and mad respectively are tightly cropped with the black and white or sepia images still visible through or inside the painted background.

It is not great art – but here is one of Britains iconic photographers having some fun and what the the hell, why not take a look.

David Bailey Hitler Killed the Duck is on at Scream until the 12 November 2011

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