14 October 2017 § Leave a comment
Now that Frieze, Frieze Masters and the PAD art & design fair are packed up we can move our attention to what else is going on in London this month. October is always chock a block with inviting exhibitions it is hard to know what to recommend first.
The exhibition reveals the extraordinary breadth of her career over three decades, from the four early sculptures shown in her first solo show in 1988 to works made this year especially for Tate Britain including Chicken Shed, a new concrete sculpture installed outside the gallery.
It is particularly interesting to see the remarkable consistency of vision right from her work as a student at The Slade and up to the present day. The curator, Ann Gallagher has herself also noted “through consistency of process there is an incredible variation”.
Early works from her fist solo exhibition at the Carlile Gallery in 1988, just one year after her graduation include domestic objects like a wardrobe interior and underside of a bed.
From this point onwards we see the interests that define Whiteread’s ongoing practice – the process of casting forgotten space, with an experimental use of materials.
With ordinary, everyday objects she manages somehow to draw an unexpected emotional power. Each work managing to resonate with the history of human presence. A series of multi-coloured hot water bottle interiors cant help but bring to mind strange limbless and sculptural torsos.
Known for her signature casting technique, Whiteread’s work ranges in scale from the modest to the monumental in a variety of materials such as plaster, resin, rubber, concrete, metal and paper. Toilet roll tubes, furniture, windows, doors, rooms, stairwells and even libraries, all are prey to Whiteread’s attention.
The large spaces that Tate Britain have devoted to the exhibition allow us to gain some distance from the larger objects, whilst partitions allow places where there are more intimate groupings.
The centre of the room is dominated by a cast of ‘Room 101’ – a room in the old BBC Broadcasting House that may have inspired George Orwell. We not only see the large bulk and presence of the room but, moving closer, see the the fine details of the cracks, textures and marks on its internal wall.
Another monumental sculpture is of a large stairwell. From any angle it has an eerie familiarity as a stairwell such as one in an industrial spaces or concrete car park. However, of course it is the empty space that has been made solid – reminding us that it is our mental equivocation that brings a particular resonance to Whiteread’s work
Out in the expansive Duveen Gallery another highlight of the exhibition is Untitled (One Hundred Spaces) 1995 – a colourful installation of 100 resin casts of the underside of chairs.
Less impressive to us – but interesting to see nevertheless – were the special sections are also devoted to archive material and to the artist’s drawings. Working with pencil, varnish, correction fluid, watercolour and collage, these works on paper constitute a distinct area of Whiteread’s practice but do not have anything like the impact of her sculptural work.
On the way out be sure to see the internal cast of a chicken shed located in the gardens, an arresting sample of the remarkable visual power of Whiteread’s work as well as a reminder of the breathtaking cultural short-sightedness vandalism committed by Tower Hamlets council when they demolished ‘House’ in 1994.
The exhibition is co-organised with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, where it will be shown in autumn 2018, and will also tour to the 21er Haus Vienna and the Saint Louis Art Museum.
CELLOPHANELAND* were guests of the Tate Gallery
For more information visit www.tate.org.uk
10 October 2017 § Leave a comment
October is the very best time of year to see art in the capital. The city is abuzz with the latest blockbuster shows – 2017 brings Jasper Johns as well as Dali/Duchamp to the Royal Academy, Jean-Michel Basquiat at the Barbican and Rachel Whiteread is showing at the Tate. The commercial galleries have pulled out their biggest names – there are Jean Dubuffet at Pace, Jake & Dinos Chapman at Blain Southern and Anselm Kiefer & Robert Longo at Thaddeus Ropac. Meanwhile all the big names auction houses stage their autumn contemporary sales.
Frieze of course also comes to London, not only with the contemporary focused Frieze Art Fair, but the thriving Frieze Masters event just up the Regents Park footpath. The great and the good of the art world come together with a smattering of celebrity names to see the latest that the art world has to offer.
Our annual visit to Frieze is always highly anticipated. Not only to admire some great art but to also to discern new trends, see what the big names have on offer admire the most spectacular works – after all this is the biggest fair in the greatest city in the contemporary art world.
Yet still, and perhaps because of the anticipation, there is again a tinge of anti-climax. Are we expecting too much or could Frieze do better? Their gallery selection process doesn’t help – preferencing worldwide galleries means we seem to get mediocre work from perhaps Peru or Burkino Fasso at the expense of many excellent local galleries (is this not a London art fair after all?).
Gone are the bigger artists names and the spectacular and expensive works that graced earlier shows and we now seem to get more mid level and affordable (?) pieces – even from the big name galleries. One is left with the niggling impression that much of the best work is hidden away and that most of the deals are done back at their base.
The curated ‘Sex Work’ exhibition spread through the show failed to stir us and was rather tame. Still, this is the very best contemporary art fair in Britain, there is plenty of good art to be found and new names to be discovered. There is always something to surprise, people to meet and in the end, where else could you for example pick up a free Passport to Antartica?
Amongst our selection of what we noticed at this years fair were: Olafur Eliasson whose colour-shifting balls drew a large crowd whilst Eddie Peake was eye-catching as usual. We loved Ryan Mosley’s newest works, rather more colourful than usual and Mathew Ronay’s curious pastel-coloured and tactile sculptures. On the other hand Jeff Koon’s Glitterball Jesus and Hauser & Wirth’s Bronze Age pseudo museum display failed to inspire.
So, will we go back next year? Of course we will – and we’re looking forward to it already!
akickupthearts were guests of Frieze London
For more information visit www.frieze.com
9 April 2014 § Leave a comment
I’m not sure whether Phyllida Barlow’s Duveen commission dock (reviews by AKUTA here) was scheduled before Ruin Lust but on the surface this looks like an intelligent pairing of exhibitions. With Barlow’s wonderful, monumental constructions of industrial ‘debris’ filling the central parts of the building, an exhibition that looks at our fascination with the subject should be rich with possibilities. The words Ruin Lust, by the way, deriving from the German word Ruinenlust, an obsession with, or taking pleasure in, decay.
It all starts promisingly with John Martin’s magnificent Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum and Jane and Louise Wilson’s imposing wartime bunker, Azeville. Not unexpectedly we then find plenty of 19th century romantic visions of classical ruins amongst idealised landscapes. We have John Sell Cotman and JMW Turner’s wonderful Tintern Abbey for example.
Less expected are works from others like Eduardo Paolozzi, Patrick Caulfield and John Stezaker. Just how were these artists obsessed with decay? John Stezaker has exactly zero connection with the subject of this exhibition, his inclusion down to the fact that the featured works happened to collage a couple of old postcards of photogenic ruins on to his trademark film publicity photos, creating new meanings. And Paolozzi? Caulfield?
Next comes Tacita Dean and Kodak. Less about ruin and decay this is more a self-reverential elegy to the medium of film and is only marginally relevant to the exhibitions subject.
At this point I have to admit I switched off for the remaining, less than attention-grabbing, four rooms. It was crystal clear that the curators were starting with a catchy title to then shoe-horn artworks with superficial relevance to then claim they were part of a greater whole.
Furthermore the choice of artists haphazard, the selection of work poor, many selected pieces downright dreadful and the hanging almost random. To rub salt in to the wound the accompanying exhibition book was equally low quality.
To me this was a shallow and poorly conceived exhibition with many mediocre works amongst a handful of interesting ones. I beg you not to waste £10 – see Phyllida Barlow and spend your hard-earned tenner in the cafe instead.
7 April 2014 § Leave a comment
The latest commission for the imposing Duveen Gallery at Tate Britain is by sculptor Phyllida Barlow. Anyone who visited her impressive exhibition RIG, for Hauser & Wirth‘s Piccadilly gallery, would have been greatly impressed at how she was able to so totally take over such a selection of varied spaces. Using inexpensive, everyday materials such as cardboard, fabric, timber, polystyrene and plaster she created bold and colourful three-dimensional collages that utterly transformed the whole building – from the grand main gallery to the tiny former bank safe in the basement (AKUTA review here).
At the time this was her finest achievement. Not only is this better but quite amazingly she manages once again to completely command the space despite its vast dimensions. Seven distinct works somehow take over this pompous neo-classical space in one glorious, over the top, bricolage of industrial debris inspired of course by London’s docklands.
Stretching to the roof, tumbling across the floor, hanging from the ceiling and even encapsulating part of the structure Barlow’s dock has made the Duveen its own.
Ambitious and exuberant it is hard not to laugh out loud and the audacious transformation. Upon entering huge wooden boxes hang from a lofty timber construction. Partially broken open they reveal broken pink polystyrene foam which tumbles out whilst on the reverse painted cardboard makes a wonderfully modernistic collage.
Farther on a pile of broken pallets climbs up towards the rotunda whilst more broken and painted timbers, strewn with coloured canvas and assorted debris climbs up the wall. Opposite a grand romanesque pillar – as if an ugly embarrassment to be hidden away – is encased with cardboard and sealed with brightly coloured tape.
Finally, what can only be described as the cardboard core of a giant toilet roll is suspended from another gantry as a the display’s ultimate sculptural statement.
This is an ambitious work that truly works. Joyful and transformative it is a delightful contrast to self-regarding works of the world of old-fashioned and male dominated sculptural pomposity. Don’t miss.
Phyllida Barlow dock at Tate Britain, Millbank, London until 19 October 2014. Free.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
1 June 2011 § Leave a comment
In anticipation of the Tate Britain‘s upcoming Vorticist exhibition I thought it would be interesting to dig up my vintage copies of BLAST (1914), The Tyro (1921/2) and The Enemy (1927-9) by way of revision. These form the most part of Lewis’s, often vitriolic, earlier observations on art, artists and well, pretty much everything actually.
Having recently commented on the quality of art gallery ‘press’ releases a comment from the Tyro was particularly interesting. The Tyro, I should mention, represented Wyndham’s (and the Vorticists) self-styled critical and artistic persona (you may have seen his brilliant self-portrait as the Tyro) and the publications were an attempt to reignite the London debate on avant-garde artistic ideals following BLAST a few years earlier.
The confrontational Tyros are introduced in the first issue with these words: ‘These immense novices brandish their appetites in their faces, lay bare their teeth in a valedictory, inviting, or merely substantial laugh. This sunny commotion in the face, at the gate of the organism, brings to the surface all the burrowing and interior broods. Most of them are basking in the sunshine of their abominable nature’ … and so on.
In The Tyro no.2 he mocks Clive Bell and the ‘weak and foolish’ ‘Bloomsburies’ and comments on their gallery marketing. He complains that ‘imaginative finance’ is used to value their work and sold by predicting a financial gain on the art’s value over future years. He mocks their style ‘If you are a small man with a small purse then these are the pictures for you. They are not much to look at , but then neither are you…. Buy! Buy! Buy! I say to you buy! You will never regret it. You may live to bless this day. Plank down the ready and this elegant picture is yours.’
He then adds a very prescient comment. ‘I suggest before it is too late, that painters exhibit their pictures with notes, if the dealers require them, on the intellectual motives of the particular adventure they are engaged upon; but that they eschew the methods of the boot firm or cigar importer, as it is not likely to help them particularly.’
I would imagine that it was very many years before artists statments were introduced, a practice that is now ubiquitous. I have, however, no idea of when it became widespread. All suggestions welcome!?
The Vorticists: Manifesto for a Modern World runs at Tate Britain 14 June until 4 September 2011.
30 September 2010 § Leave a comment
The key shows for the 2011 have just been announced by the Tate. At Tate Britain Watercolour traces the medium from its beginnings, ‘through to William Blake and JMW Turner, right up to Patrick Heron and Tracey Emin.’ The exhibition starts on the 16 Feb 2011. It is interesting to have a show on an unfairly criticised and oft-neglected medium, but why is Tracey Emin there (again) when her links with watercolour are pretty tenuous and less worthy of examination than many, many other fine artists? Somebody please tell the Tate that we do not need the names of Hirst, Emin et al thrown about in order to draw us to the exhibitions.
The summer 2011 blockbuster is Joan Miró at Tate Modern. apparently the first Miró retrospective in London for over 50 years it opens on the 14 April. I shall look forward to seeing lots of his surrealistic early works, but Miro lived a long life, dying at over 90 years of age, and it will be more fascinating to assess the quality of his later work, usually regarded as inferior. Will the show provide any new insights?
Talking of surrealism Tate Liverpool shows René Magritte from 24 June to 16 October, and following, among others, Paul Nash at Dulwich and the Surreal House at the Barbican it looks like a good run for art from the subconscious. Magritte is a fascinating artist but will a whole show be just one bowler hat too many? Meanwhile how about an exhibition of the rather neglected Max Ernst sometime soon?
The Autumn arrives with the apocalyptic destruction of John Martin on 21 September 2011, closely followed by a fascinating Gerhard Richter survey at Tate Modern on 6 October 2011. We have hardly been starved of Richter in recent years but a big show will be very welcome and will be certain to cement his position as one of the leading post-war artists.
Overall, not a bad selection and plenty to look forward to, but is it all rather safe and, dare I say ‘old-fashioned’? There are more shows yet to announce but just where are the exciting new artists? Where is the very best and latest in contemporary art? Hopefully in shows yet to be revealed but don’t hold your breath!
Incidentally the images shown above are not necessarily in the exhibitions – although I hope that they are!
- Tate Modern to display Miro work (bbc.co.uk)