Glen Brown, Come to Dust – Gagosian Mayfair, London
20 February 2018 § Leave a comment
“I am rather like a Dr. Frankenstein, constructing paintings out of the residue or dead parts of other artist’s work. I see their worlds from multiple or schizophrenic perspectives, through all their eyes. Their sources of inspiration suggest things I would never normally see – rocks floating in far-off galaxies, for example, or a bowl of flowers in an 18th-century room, or a child in a fancy-dress costume. The scenes may have been relatively normal to Rembrandt or Fragonard but because of the passage of time and the difference in culture, to me they are fantastical.” Glenn Brown
Glenn Brown’s latest show, amazingly his first major UK one since 2009, takes advantage of the large spaces of Gagosian’s recently opened (see here) Mayfair gallery. This is a hugely impressive, state of the art space and Brown’s classical themes and inspirations are well suited to this gallery’s wooden floors and dark walls as opposed to the cliched concrete floored white cubes found in most commercial spaces nearby.
The lighting is low and each work is spotlight whilst besuited security guards add to the feeling of entering a major London Museum rather than a west end gallery. This seems entirely relevant since Brown appropriates from classical artists that include Rembrandt, Delacroix, Greuze, and Raphael in a variety of genres like landscape, portrait, flower and history painting.
He usually uses Photoshop to distort, merge and colour the selected sources in sophisticated compositions that fuse diverse histories – Renaissance, Impressionism and Surrealism. The original may in turns be obvious or hardly recognisable. Sometimes he puts them in historic gilt frames to confuse us more.
In his oils, hybrid figures painted in intricate swirls reveal the sumptuous potential of oil paint. While these paintings give the illusion of thick impasto with volume, closer scrutiny reveals smooth surfaces that glow with a vital force. Up close form also disappears in complex swirls and vortices as if slipping from memory in some drug induced trance or dreamlike haze.
In graphic works Brown paints using largely black and white lines over a neutral ground. Meticulous, elongated brushstrokes reimagine works from the likes of Raphael and Guido Reni to create depth and animation in portraits that barely seem to exist.
There are also a significant number of sculptures, which we found slightly less successful. Elaborate masses are built from thick ‘strokes’ of coloured paint – perhaps imagine the likes of a sculptural Kossof. Some partially encase nineteenth-century bronze statues with growths of pulsating, gravity-defying paint.
This is a stunning exhibition of formidable technical ability and Brown impresses with an artistic language that transcends time and pictorial conventions. In his unique vision the abstract and the visceral, the rational and irrational, the beautiful and grotesque, churn in a dizzying amalgamation of reference and form. Not to be missed.
Glenn Brown, Come to Dust runs at Gagosian Mayfair until 17 March 2018
For more information visit www.gagosian.com
Cecily Brown – Madrepora, Thomas Dane, London
4 July 2016 § Leave a comment
“I want there to be a human presence without having to depict it in full” – Cecily Brown
Located mid way on the short stroll between two of St James’ art heavyweights – Christies, King Street and White Cube, Masons Yard – are the two spaces of the Thomas Dane Gallery. It is always well worth dropping by to see the latest exhibition and with artists like Walead Beshty, Michael Landy, Hurvin Anderson and Steve McQueen on the roster there is a good chance you will find something very special.
Showing for the first time at the gallery, we found the wonderful Cecily Brown. She has recently jumped ship from Gagosian no less, a move that shows the growing power of Thomas Dane. Brown is, and has been throughout her career, one of the most engaged and distinctive painters of our time. Her preoccupation has always been the Body – in all its various guises and narratives, fleshy shapes and forms appearing from her many layered works.
Brown’s paintings are immersive and her passion is contagious. She reminds us how great it is to look at art unhurriedly: the pleasure of contemplation and examination. Her paintings reveal themselves slowly, almost ‘continuously’.
Brown often talks about ‘Sublimation’, paraphrasing Francis Bacon who craved “the grin without the cat”, the “sensation” without the “boredom of its conveyance”. Something she calls a ‘Breaking-down’ process.
Recently we discover that Brown has been (re)looking at a particular painting, and has fallen in love with it all over again: Degas’ Young Spartans, from 1860, at London’s National Gallery. She brings Degas’ very recognisable, cluster of bodies, postures and composition into some of the work here.
Crowds are indeed very present for example – in the enigmatic Madrepora, 2015. The ghoulish assembly of The Smugglers, 2015, too could have sprung out of a James Ensor painting.
A series of ‘Dark’ paintings are reminiscent of the Spanish Masters and brings together Brown’s taste for the slightly macabre, or forbidden, with more risqué reclining male nudes.
Spanning both spaces of the gallery, the exhibition includes some of works from the past. These are cleverly hung alongside her sketches and allows us to add some history and context to her work. Her star must surely continue to rise.
Cecily Brown – Madrepora runs until 23 July 2016
For more information visit www.thomasdanegallery.com
Richard Serra at Gagosian London
27 October 2014 § Leave a comment
Richard Serra is not a particularly prolific artist – quite understandable given the scale of his individual works. His works are usually large, site-specific sculptures for architectural, urban and landscape settings. As for seeing them in London, other than an occasional smaller work at the Tate its hard to recall when I last saw a work in the city – indeed his last show here was again at Gagosian way back in 2008.
In one room two vertical expanses of steel are jammed corner to corner across the room and sit diagonally one upon the other, as its title London Cross suggests. Walking under the balanced sheet one is apprehensive about the vast weight balanced above your head.
In another gallery is Dead Weight – two massive blocks of steel that rest one on top of the other. They are not exactly the same size, texture or shape, the upper is larger, more rusted – it seems to impose itself upon the lower, plainer block . Peering through the uneven crack between them you can see the uneven shapes; they sit together, as Serra says, ‘like ancient rocks’.
The largest space is occupied by Ramble and its rows of upright blocks. In a variety of different sizes they sit at 90 degrees to the predominate direction of passage through the space physically blocking your progress. They invite you to weave your way through them experiencing their size and mass as you wander through the gaps and pathways.
The most impressive was, one presumes, the most complex to construct. Backdoor Pipeline is a curving tunnel, a doughnut-shaped segment of monumental steel in two parts. About fifty feet long one is urged to enter the dark tunnel that it forms, with the exit only revealed as you walk through its interior.
Cleverly Serra asks us to variously walk under, through, around and inside – each piece experienced in a different way. Despite their unyielding weight, massive size and imposing presence his handling of these vast steel blocks is clever and delicate. Even in his seventies Serra clearly has lost none of his touch.
london commercial galleries – top ten
23 September 2010 § 1 Comment
Continuing on from the public gallery top ten here are my commercial gallery selection. This was a much more difficult choice and reflects the fact that curating a commercial gallery is in many ways a harder task. The potential range of art is usually much broader – a good gallerist will need have an eye for the best of these new artists, be able to develop existing ones and at the same time, let us not forget, run a business to make money. They have to curate interesting shows at close intervals in spaces that are often less than ideal. Many galleries can rarely exploit prime locations – with the cost of retail space in London at exorbitant levels – and they will often need to attract visitors to out-of-the-way locations.
There are however plenty of arty masochists willing to give it a go. A guideline figures for the number of London galleries is impossible to nail down – not least because they open and close faster than Wayne Rooneys flies – but it seems to be somewhere between 300 and 500. Picking a random selection and dropping in may seem like one way to look at some art, but it will produce very mixed results. A recent trawl around a series of ‘first Thursday’ galleries in the East End nearly made me slit my wrists in frustration – I found nothing that was close to worthwhile looking at over a period of over three hours. Ultimately only a fine curry and a beer on Brick Lane saved the evening!
My advice? Try sticking to names that you may have heard of or those recommended to you. At the same time why not try popping in to their near neighbours – these galleries may be riding on their famous neighbours coat-tails but are often are looking at the same market and at least can afford similar rents. Many of the best galleries are in small clusters in key areas – Hoxton, Vyner Street and Cork Street for example although some are out on a limb and need extra effort. Some the best are big and international, some are small and inventive. Here is a brief and very flawed guide to my ten favourites:
10. Stephen Friedman. An interesting international roster of established contemporary artists that include Yinka Shonibare, Thomas Hirschhorn, Yoshimoto Nara, Catherine Opie and David Shrigley. An OK gallery space close to Cork Street.
9. Hauser & Wirth. An International giant. Represent the estates of Eva Hesse and Allan Kaprow as well as Henry Moore. Founded in Zurich 1992, the London gallery is in a wonderful historic Sir Edwin Lutyens building on Piccadilly, another branch being on Old Bond Street and yet another opening in Savile Row on 15 October 2010. Important and impressive exhibitions by established artists but are they a little dull?
8. Maureen Paley. Ever black-clad Maureen was one of the first to present contemporary art in the East End. Promotes US and European artists as well as launching new talent from the UK. Gallery artists include Turner winners Tillmans and Wearing plus nominees Gillick and Warren. Always interesting and worth watching her artists.
7. Gagosian. Another international monster founded by Larry Gagosian with seven galleries: four in the USA, two in London, one in Rome and one in Athens. Built on the legacy of the New York School, abstract expressionism and Pop Art it also showed then contemporary artists like Basquiat. Expect museum quality exhibitions that feature artists of the calibre of Twombly, Picasso, Bacon and Warhol.
6. White Cube was set up by Jay Jopling in 1993 and is arguably one of most influential galleries of the past twenty years. Many of the very biggest names in art have appeared here, Hirst and the YBA’s of course amongst others like Kiefer and Orozco. Has very impressive spaces in both Hoxton and St James’s.
5. Timothy Taylor. A lovely space, just next to the exclusive Connaught Hotel (drop in for tea!), they feature a fascinating mix of established names like Arad, Riley and Katz with an, always interesting, selection of contemporary artists like Martin Maloney and Philip Guston. A good place to watch recently emerged talent.
4. Lisson Gallery. An impressive history which it has continued to build upon. Founded in 1967 artists included the likes of Sol LeWitt, Donald Judd, Dan Flavin and Art & Language with art that represented an ethos concerning art’s place in a wider cultural and social context. They have continued to feature those like Anish Kapoor and Julian Opie ‘identifying and supporting succeeding generations of artists, each with a radical and distinctive approach to the artistic possibilities of their times.’ Always interesting.
3. 20 Hoxton Square. Facing White Cube across Hoxton Square this gallery ‘is a collaborative project space, operating as a platform for emerging contemporary artists, whilst also acting as a creative hub for independent projects.’ They also have resident artists, a bookshop, screenings, artists talks and performances. Great place to spot emerging artists.
2. Haunch of Venison. Formerly the Museum of Mankind this vast neo-classical space just off Piccadilly includes ten separate gallery spaces. Often featuring multiple exhibitions its artists are contemporary, cutting edge and top notch. The curation is excellent and the space spectacular. Sometimes the vast open areas can overwhelm the art but who can complain when it features wonderful shows like the recent Joana Vasconcelos. Sadly it is all owned by Christies and widely despised in the art world. It loses money hand over fist and may not be here long – enjoy it whilst it lasts!
1. Victoria Miro. A fabulous big white-cubey space, a little out on a limb but near enough to Hoxton and East End galleries. Wonderful artist portfolio includes the likes of Eggleston, Neel, Doig, Ofili, Perry and Elmgreen & Dragset. The current Jacco Olivier is excellent too. Make the effort to get there and drop in to the excellent (charitable foundation) Parasol Unit gallery, next door.
Please suggest your own favourites or tell me who I should have included!
- Victoria Miro | interview (guardian.co.uk)
london galleries autumn preview
17 August 2010 § Leave a comment
The mid-summer lull in the London gallery schedules allows a moment for contemplation on what looks like a very mixed bag of Autumn shows. I just cannot quite work myself up in to a frenzy of excitment about this motley assortment of old hands and uninspiring newcomers.
Starting with public galleries the blockbuster Gaugin will undoubtedly be the major event of 2010 and amazingly his first major UK exhibition for 5o years. The Tate Modern promises that the exhibition will explore ‘the role of the myths around the man.’ Starts 30 September – stick it in the diary! Arrive after the 12 October and see what Ai Weiwei has installed as the 11th Turbine Hall commission. Recently involved in the Beijing Olympic stadium and then almost beaten to death for his political views he has said: ‘Everything is art, everything is politics. You can call it art or you can call it politics, I don’t give a damn.’ Should be interesting.
Over at Tate Britain the schedule, starting 8 September, is totally underwhelming. Eadweard Muybridge (yes, correctly spelt) was a the 19th century photographer who ‘proved that a horse can fly’ with multiple images and anticipated the coming of cinema with the zoopraxiscope. He also travelled and documented America of the time. Just about worth dropping in.
Rachel Whiteread Drawings is the other choice – but why? Her casts of varied spaces, apart from being a direct steal from Bruce Nauman are getting tedious. Now she says this: ‘A lot of the works that I’ve been making over the years have been part of a cyclical process. I often feel a cycle is incomplete and need to tread the same path again.’ So now having run out of (someone else’s) ideas all she can do is more of the same again, but this time in drawings. Keep well away! The Gagosian, Daniels Street, is taking advantage with their own Rachel Whiteread exhibition on the 7 September – and I don’t see any reason to bother with this one either.
The Turner Prize 2010 exhibition is of course at Tate Britain too – from 5 October. Calming down in its old age but an interesting selection. Dexter Dalwood and Angela de la Cruz painting, sound artist Susan Philipsz and the multi-disciplinary Otolith Group. I like Dalwood but the inventive Otolith Group have to be my favourite.
The second part of Newspeak: British Art Now opens at the Satchi on 27 October. Despite the overwhelming mediocrity of the show it is strangely compulsive viewing, and there is a particularly nice cafe. Apart from that I can not wait to update my critics Saatchi league table from my previous posts!
The Royal Academy’s Treasures of Budapest starts on 25 September. Although there will be the opportunity to save the air fare to Budapest it doesn’t seem to be a show-stopper, but worth a visit. It promises Raphael, El Greco, Manet, Monet, Schiele and Picasso amongst others.
And now for something completely different? How about the Barbican with Future Fashion: 30 years of Japanese Fashion. Not ‘art’ but could be spectacular.
Of the smaller Galleries the Camden Arts Centre always seems to have something interesting. On 23 September Rene Daniels’ opens. His interesting work is ‘permeated through and through with writing, word games, literary references, visual puns, and allusions to art movements, institutions, and mass media.’
Of the private galleries Hauser & Wirth’s opens its expansive new Savile Row space on the 15 October with a Fabric Works of Louise Bourgeois – hardly inspirational, but I look forward to seeing the gallery. Of their other exhibitions the Piccadilly branch has the first posthumous show of Jason Rhoades’ opening 24 September. The exhibition features ’1:12 Perfect World’, Rhoades’ scale model of his groundbreaking 1999 exhibition, ‘Perfect World’ in Hamburg. Ho-hum.
At Haunch of Venison there is the strange choice of Loud Flash: British Punk on Paper, starting 24 September, which nevertheless looks like it may be quite interesting. Meanwhile do not miss the excellent Joana Vasconcelos and quirky animal-stuffer Polly Morgan whose exhibitions are currently on until the 25 September!
At the White Cube, Masons yard Christian Marclay opens on the 15 October: ‘Over the past 30 years, Christian Marclay has explored the fusion of fine art and audio cultures, transforming sounds and music into a visible, physical form through performance, collage, sculpture, installation, photography and video.’ Meanwhile over at WC Hoxton on 13 October Mark Bradford’s ‘multi-layered collaged paintings incorporating materials found in the urban environment’. Both may be worth a look but hardly captivating.
The pick of the rest are Jacco Olivier at Victoria Miro from 7 September – Olivier fuses colourful paintings with video – his works are delightful and fascinating. Finally Marina Abramovic is at the Lisson – god knows what we will see from the ‘grandmother of performance art’ but it is well worth a detour!
There we go – the best of the autumn? Not great and, in respect of painting very lop-sided. The public galleries mostly with retrospective painting, the private with, well all sorts from taxidermy to performance but pretty much steering away from anything on canvas . No demand? No talent? Are the private galleries out of sync with what the public wants – or is it the Public galleries? I will leave you to ponder the mystery….
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- Saatchi to Donate His Gallery and Art to Britain (nytimes.com)
- In pictures: 10 Years of Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall (news.bbc.co.uk)
- Nothing to see here – beyond the blockbuster exhibitions (guardian.co.uk)