Abstract Expressionism at the Royal Academy

14 November 2016 § Leave a comment

Abstract Expressionism was a watershed moment in the evolution of 20th-century art, yet, remarkably, there has been no major survey of the movement since 1959.

Abstract Expressionism Royal Academy Jackson Pollock

It is a movement that has been tainted with the political interference of the American Government who sought to position the movement, and by association, the country at the heart of creative and artistic world during the cold war (excellent Independent feature here. Were we all ‘conned’ in to believing that these artists were better or more interesting than they perhaps really were?

Abstract Expressionism Royal Academy Jackson Pollock David Smith

Most emphatically the answer is no. This glorious exhibition should be an eye opener to those who have grown up with a predominance of conceptual, performance and installation art and the idea that painting was deeply unfashionable.

Abstract Expressionism Royal Academy Mark Rothko

The Royal Academy looks at this the “age of anxiety” surrounding the Second World War and the years of free jazz and Beat poetry, artists like Pollock, Rothko and de Kooning broke from accepted conventions to unleash a new confidence in painting.

The scale of the works was a revelation as was their intense spontaneity. At other times they are more contemplative, presenting large fields of colour that border on the sublime. These radical creations redefined the nature of painting, and were intended not simply to be admired from a distance but as two-way encounters between artist and viewer.

Abstract Expressionism Royal Academy Arshile Gorky

The exhibition begins wth some fascinating early smalls scale works from the major players, followed by a room dedicated to Arshile Gorky, an acknowledged forerunner of the movement.

Abstract Expressionism Royal Academy Jackson Pollock

The largest gallery is given over to Jackson Pollock with an impressive display of some rarely lent works.

Abstract Expressionism Royal Academy Clifford Still

‘Gesture as Colour’ is the theme of another room that is once again full rarely lent works. This time by Clyfford Still who employs great fields of colour to evoke dramatic conflicts between man and nature taking place on a monumental scale.

Abstract Expressionism Royal Academy Franz Kline

For ‘The Violent Mark’ we get some fabulous canvases from Franz Kline, before other rooms largely filled with Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman.

Abstract Expressionism Royal Academy Willem de Kooning

Right through the exhibition a series of fine David Smith sculptures effectively tie the rooms together and provide respite from the huge canvases. Appropriately he often said “I belong with the painters” and considered that his work was painting rendered in 3D.

Sadly however, historically peripheral and unfairly overlooked figures remain that way. The RA offers no insightful re-assesment of these artists, especially female. The suspicion remains of establishment misogny and a movement whose defining elements are frozen in time and too well established to even be discussed.

Abstract Expressionism Royal Academy Janet Sobel

We have one abstraction by Janet Sobel, who may have influenced Pollock, there are few by Lee Krasner, Pollock’s wife, whose career was long overshadowed by his. Joan Mitchell is only represented in passing.

Abstract Expressionism Royal Academy Joan Mitchell

Despite this minor criticism this is a tremendous exhibition providing a long overdue look at a movement that has has rather unfairly been deemed unfashionable. Don’t miss.

For more information visit www.royalacademy.org.uk

Re-View: Onnasch Collection at Hauser & Wirth

18 November 2013 § 2 Comments

The must-see museum show of the winter season is a surprise. Not Klee at the Tate or another at a major institution but instead it is a show at a commercial gallery Hauser & Wirth – Re-View: Onnasch Collection.

Jerry Bell

Jerry Bell

Hauser & Wirth of course is not any old commercial gallery but an international powerhouse that represents many of the world’s leading artists. It has taken the unusual move to put aside all three of its London spaces to a non-profit show curated by their highly paid new partner Paul Schimmel, previously of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

The exhibition is that of the collection of former dealer Reinhard Onnasch, who owned galleries in Berlin, Cologne and New York. Seemingly a gallerist who preferred to keep rather than sell he gathered together an unmatched collection that has become a guide to major artists and movements of post-war art, particularly from America.

hauser___wirth__re_view_onnasch_collection

 The Piccadilly gallery features early assemblages and combines, most noticeably by Ed Kienholz – a master of the creepy assemblage and unsettling juxtaposition.

Ed Kienholz

Ed Kienholz

Over at Savile Row the galleries are dedicated initially to pop art, with a group of Claes Oldenburg’s faamous soft sculptures, as well as Jim Dine and Claes Oldenburg. Other minimalist and conceptualist art includes Richard Serra and Dan Flavin.

Hauser-Wirth-Re-View-Onnasch-Collection-SR-South10-low-res

Next door is another gallery featuring American abstraction, including works by Frank Stella, Ad Reinhardt, Cy TwomblyMorris Louis and Clyfford Still.

Robert Rauschenberg

Robert Rauschenberg

It would take a book to do justice to all the works and their interlocking influences. This is a museum quality display, beautifully curated and comprising works that even the Tate would die for.

hauser___wirth__re_view_onnasch_collection

Naturally Hauser & Wirth are not exhibiting for the general benefit of the public at large but to boost their own standing. It oozes power, influence and money. It aims to place the gallery in an art historical context and looks to drag their own stable of artists along with it.

Paul Schimmel

Paul Schimmel

Take full advantage of the gallery’s attempt to inflate its standing and drop in whilst you are Christmas shopping in Bond Street (!) to see this wonderful show before it ends.

‘Re-View: Onnasch Collection’, Hauser & Wirth London until 14 December 2013

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