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

Yoshishige Saito & Taku Aramasa at Annely Juda

4 April 2014 § Leave a comment

Despite being just yards from Bonhams and Sothebys on New Bond Street Annely Juda is not that easy to find. On Dering Street adjacent to two other good galleries, Vigo and Ronchini, it is accessed via a discrete doorway and a lift up to the third and fourth floors and is well worth the effort to discover. The gallery’s current exhibitions feature two fine Japanese artists who each occupy one of the gallery’s two bright and airy exhibition spaces.

Yoshishige Saito

Yoshishige Saito has been championed by the gallery over many years and despite being a little known figure in the UK he is recognised in his native Japan as one of the great abstract sculptors of the twentieth century. Born in 1904 in Tokyo, Saito never attended art school but was heavily influenced by European and Russian art of the early 20th Century – especially the Dada movement and the Russian Constructivists – and once can readily see the influences of for example Jean Arp or Kazimir Malevich.

Yoshishige Saito

Here the gallery becomes a part of the work as the wooden forms jut out and recede into space, over- lapping and interrelating. Saito uses strong, primary colours – black, white and red – to enhance their spacial presence, making the air and space between the materials a part of the work.

Yoshishige Saito

These works are both powerful and eye-catching and if they are strangely familiar it is because many other later artists have also drawn on the same strong modernist influences. If somebody said these were long lost works by perhaps Sir Anthony Caro or David Smith one would not be surprised and at the same time Saito’s work is certainly worthy of such comparison.

Yoshishige Saito

This posthumous exhibition features ten of Saito’s pieces dating from between 1987 and 2001 and includes the last work that he ever made.

Aramasa Taku

Also showing are the photographic works of Taku Aramasa, part of his Horizon project. Works in ‘The Border’ series consist of multiple images taken with the position and optical axis of the camera being shifted sideways between each shot. whilst pieces from the ‘Visible Transfiguration’ series are more performative in conception. Aramasa manipulates close-up images of plant forms by blurring light with dark, and shadow with reflection.

Aramasa TakuMost interesting is the way in which Aramasa has been using OROgraphy, a special method of printing he has recently developed, to alter the appearance of his works and give them added depth. After scanning a negative, to create a digital image, he prints onto clear film before applying gold leaf to the back of the film. Whilst adding depth and intensifying the effects of shading the gold also reminds us of the gilding of traditional Japanese craftsmen.

photo 4 copy 5

Beautiful and timeless these are delightful works, worthy of showing alongside the excellent Saito upstairs.

At Annely Juda until 26 April 2014

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with David Smith at a kick up the arts.

%d bloggers like this: