lee friedlander: america by car & the new cars 1964 at timothy taylor

9 September 2011 § Leave a comment

I was surprised to discover that despite Lee Friedlander being one of great American photographers of recent years this exhibition is his first in the UK since 1976. It is also one not to be missed. Lined up in close succession around the extensive walls of Timothy Taylor’s pleasant West End gallery every image is of the highest quality.

The automobile and the open road are highly evocative icons of American culture. Immediately therefore one is drawn in to the ‘American Social Landscape’ that Friedlander so successfully seeks to record. Captured on a large format Hasselblad, which brings the forground in to sharp relief these are images taken entirely from the interior of rental cars. 

Friedlander immediately makes one a voyeur as, using the side window and windscreen as frames he democratically records passing subjects – or perhaps I should say objects. Gas stations, motels, advertising signs, churches and the occasional Officer of the law all are carefully photographed. Shapes and angles are cleverly captured; edges, reflections and verticals neatly matched. Perhaps it is the very eyes of the car itself as it roams the dusty roads?

In remarkably clever asides there are often further images that pop up  in the wing-mirrors. Appearing to be accidental they are obviously not. Neatly framed the smaller image may encapsulate the larger or act as a comment upon it. Other windows, mirrors, advertising signs provide more grist to the mill for Friedlander’s multiple visual games.

Shot over the last ten years as he has travelled around the states of the USA the series is cohesive and brilliant. Across the gallery is a recently discovered series of shots from 1964, a rejected Harper’s Bazaar shoot. The car, typically photographed as iconic objects of desire is placed down amongst the urban landscape. Sulking in parking lots, half hidden or reflected they provide a clever counterpoint to the seemingly more geometrically considered shots they face.

Timothy Taylor Gallery until 1 October 2011

latest exhibition openings

8 September 2011 § 1 Comment

After the summer lull the Autumn ‘season’ is off with a bang. Here is a selection of my recommended new exhibitions, starting with those that have opened in the last few days.

Timothy Taylor. Lee Friedlander – America by Car & The New Cars 1964. Fresh from MoMA, breathtaking photographs from a master. Until 1 October 2011.

Hauser & Wirth. Phyllida Barlow – RIG. Urban structures reacting to the gallery space. Until 22 October 2011.

Wilkinson. Thoralf Knobloch – Wegkreuz & Matt Calderwood – Full Scale. Until 2 October 2011.

Stephen Friedman. Paul McDevitt – Running on Woollen Legs. Disney meets De Stijl – fascinating! Until 1 October 2011.

Blain Southern. Marius Bercea – Remains Of Tomorrow. Beautiful but complex landscapes of a fractured society. Until 1 October 2011.

Victoria Miro. Conrad Shawcross – Sequential. Geometrical, metaphysical and ambitious. Sure to be excellent. Until 1 October 2011.

Sumarria Lunn. Modern Frustrations. In particular check out Tim Phillips’ excellent Hyperion – a corporate logo for a new age. 8 to 30 September 2011, just around the corner from….

Haunch of Venison. Adrian Ghenie. Complex figurative paintings back in HoV’s restored original space. 8 September to 8 October 2011.

Alison Jacques. Dan Fischer. Immaculate pencil drawings that ask searching questions about modern icons. 9 September to 8 October 2011.

Gazelli Art House. Air I Breathe. Latest exhibition from an ambitious and innovative pop-up gallery. 9 September to 7 October 2011.

Josh Lilley. Christof Mascher – Urban Ornamental. Painting, ceramics and sculpture recounting mythological narratives. 9 September to 8 October 2011.

All in all it is a mouth-watering selection, I have seen most (will try to review in future blogs) and cannot wait for the rest. Go on, get downtown and create your own gallery tour….

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!

in dreams at timothy taylor – opening

15 September 2010 § Leave a comment

In Dreams, Timothy Taylor Gallery, 8 September – 2 October 2010. Armen Eloyan, Volker Hueller, Tomasz Kowalski, Norbert Schwontkowski, Kiki Smith, Rose Wylie

 Exhibition review by Sue Hall. 

Remember that scene in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet where the frilly-shirted Dean Stockwell uses a worklight as a microphone and lip-synchs to Roy Orbison’s In Dreams while Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper) comes over all peculiar? The title of the new exhibition of works on paper at Timothy Taylor Gallery refers to that scene in Lynch’s dark surreal film, and to the lyrics of Orbison’s song, with its allusions to the sandman of folklore and of E.T.A Hoffmann’s unheimlich tale.   It’s a great image.

The exhibition features the work of six contemporary artists of different nationalities and generations and begins with Norbert Schwontonski’s small-scale, muted works, which evoke faded, out of reach other worlds.  Surreal imagery, such as that in Kaputte Kalebasse, where a calabash gourd is pierced by a winding thorn ending in a lightbulb, provokes lots of questions but, as is the way with the surreal, no answers.

Schwontkowski, who lives and works in Bremen, taught the younger artist Volker Hueller and his influence is apparent in the latter’s restrained use of colour, and sense of inscrutability.  Hueller’s large hand–coloured etchings, Waiting for the moon (2010) hark back to the drawings of George Grosz with a similar use of line and complexity of composition.  Hueller uses collage too, but you have to look quite hard to see it. That’s Ok, because these works repay close examination: there’s so much going on and the violence and sexual tension only reveal themselves when you really look at them. 

Tomasz Kowalski, a young Polish artist who lives and works in Berlin, paints lugubriously coloured portraits and figures that conjure up images of nineteenth century fairground impresarios.  In spite of their macabre qualities they fail to entrance the viewer.  Looking at them again in reproduction they are more arresting so perhaps it’s the medium that doesn’t really work.   I’d like to see Kowalski’s larger oil paintings and sculptures: perhaps we could have a solo exhibition of his work?

Armenian artist Armen Eloyan is known for large impasto canvases and use of cartoon-like figures in human roles.  The works shown here feature a Pinocchio style wooden doll having dreams, painting, feeling sad. The fairy tale quality of the subject matter is emphasized by the bold, graphic outlines and intense watercolour, as if in a children’s storybook. The artist has created a fantastical world; and these studio works allow us glimpses of it but don’t tell us the whole story. ‘A while ago the elephant ordered the ants to make him a burger’ stresses the peculiar logicality of the world of dreams.

Kiki Smith - Home

 

Changing scale again (and this is one of the reasons the exhibition works) Kiki Smith’s three large collage and ink works on Nepal paper have an ethereal, elegiac quality.  Produced following the death of her mother, the sense of loss is almost palpable.  Who is going to sit in that empty chair now? The window trope, suggesting removal and apartness, is a common one, but is given fresh energy here: a tension is set up between the solidity of the window and the fragility of the Nepal paper hung delicately on the wall.  For all their melancholic language there is little sense of the uncanny in Smith’s works.  That’s not a criticism, it’s just that they lack the weirdness of an ‘other world’. 

Like Armen Eloyan, Rose Wylie is an artist who usually works on a larger scale.  Here her works on paper are, in contrast to all the other works in the show, hung in a seemingly random group, as if to emphasize her separateness. Her painting seems untaught, ‘outsider’ art, and indeed until very recently she was on the outside of the art world. That changed when she was selected for the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington DC’s recent exhibition Women to Watch featuring “underrepresented and/or emerging women artists”. She’s now 76, so recognition has been a long time coming. She’s not untaught though; she had a conventional art education from which she seems to want to escape.  Her inspirations are wide–ranging, from TV and films to dreams.  The picture of her cleaner on her knees, scrubbing-brush in hand, but with a cream cracker instead of a head made me laugh.  That’s what happens to people in dreams. 

 When I saw Blue Velvet for the first time I came out of the cinema feeling unsettled, disconcerted, or, as my niece would say, ‘creeped out’. I didn’t come out of In Dreams feeling like that but then not all dreams are like David Lynch’s. 

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