thomas struth: photographs 1978 – 2010 – the whitechapel gallery

20 July 2011 § Leave a comment

Thomas Struth seems to photograph structures – cultural, natural, artificial, historical and probably lots more I’ve not even noticed. Except he does not always. You could also say his work is about relationships. And its also about the nature of looking. And… well, the thing is, just when you think you have put your finger on exactly what you believe Struth is doing it slips away from you. There is always just a litttle bit more than meets the eye.

This retrotrospective at the Whitechapel looks at his work from 1978 to the present day – effectively his whole working career. Given the 30 years or so covered and the vast scale of many of his works the show barely skims over the surface but despite this you do not feel short-changed – this is a well curated and wide-ranging overview of his work.

Learning his trade under the influential tutelage of Berndt and Hilla Becher Struth began taking small scale city shots, absent of people in places like Dusseldorf and New York and by photographing similar scenes he emphasies their differences. Soon the images become monumental and large scale. In one series he captures both museum visitors and artworks examining not just one but both of them as well as their relationships to each other. The curve-ball he throws in is our position as observers – what are we doing, what are we looking at and why?

Back to the structures. There are cathedrals and places or worship, tangles of wires and industrial scenes, jungles and forests. All in immaculate detail, verticals miraculously straight (how does he do it?). They are often beautiful, impressive and aesthetically pleasing, but there are always more questions being asked – what are we being asked about the nature of religion or the role of technology?

Even when Struth takes what appear to be straight-forward family snapshots they are not quite what they seem.  It turns out that the subjects arrange themselves in a location also chosen by themselves. These shots are more then about family structures and personal relationships than a simple photographic record.

An impressively curated show about a very important artist. Do not miss. Another recommendation? The little curry house on the corner does a great lunch….

Until 16 September 2011 at the Whitechapel Gallery

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

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with contemporary art london at a kick up the arts.

%d bloggers like this: