19 November 2015 § Leave a comment
Pop art is very much alive and kicking. The World Goes Pop is currently at the Tate following on the heels of Post Pop: East Meets West at the Saatchi Gallery, the BBC ran a recent series BBC Four Goes Pop, Allen Jones was at the Royal Academy and Richard Hamilton had a solo show at the Tate last year. That is not even to mention continuing interest in other artists like David Hockney on the edges of the movement.
Maybe it is because we are bored of the self referential world of post-modernism or perhaps there is a recognition of the present day relevance of the movement as we fight off an ever increasing barrage of media imagery. It could well be that Pop Art turns out to be modern art’s most influential movement, parodying all this mass media imagery whilst creating a startlingly prescient take on the world of today: the age of consumerism.
Within this apparent surge of interest the work of Derek Boshier has found a new lease of life. Recently featured on BBC4’s ‘What do artists do all day’ (a series that also featured Sir Peter Blake) he now has a solo show at Flowers Gallery which also coincides with the release of an excellent Thames & Hudson monograph (reviewed here).
The Rethink/ Re-entry exhibition features a fascinating range of rarely seen pieces, much from Boshier’s own collection whilst surveying the shifting emphasis of his art in the late sixties and early seventies. It re-examines his work of the period via the extraordinary variety of his practice – assemblages, collages, drawings, films, graphics and prints alongside more recent films and collages.
In thé ground floor gallery we see the sharp political edge of his work in works like The Stun (1979), a spoof tabloid front page bringing together the Queen and Irish Violence with an incisive wit. Meanwhile in Hi Consumers Don’t Forget Nothing Lasts Forever (1978) Boshier takes a wry shot at consumer culture.
Three perspex vitrines take a more conceptual angle and have a distinctly affinity with John Baldessari works of that time. King George V Avenue Cardiff from 1971 for example features a series of red circles and black columns lined in perspective along a found image of a broad street.
Boshier’s provocative and experimental approach was reflected within the gathering punk movement and also appreciated by David Bowie who commissioned him to work on LP sleeves, as well as stage set design. Featuring both on walls and vitrines are original drawings from Boshier’s collaborations with The Clash on graphics for the CLASH 2nd Songbook, and with Bowie for the 1979 album Lodger. He happily told Boshier ‘do what you like’ for the interior of the gatefold sleeve; Boshier obliged with a collage on mortality that Bowie loved.
His versatility continues with a neat Joseph Cornell style box from 1976, State of Mind, that makes a statement both on consumerism and politics combining a toiletry bottle and newspaper cutting featuring strikers.
Downstairs three series of photographed images are a different take on Hockney’s photo collages and Ed Ruscha’s Every Building on the Sunset Strip. From his 1978 Routes series a sequential strip of images introduce time as an element as the camera’s lens takes a ‘stroll’ at three different locations.
In yet another media, film, Boshier’s 1973 Change is also showing, along with three more from 2014. In Change Boshier spliced sequences of still images from an installation at his Whitechapel Gallery retrospective of the same year. It remained unopened for 38 years, until its recent rediscovery provoked his desire to create new films using contemporary digital technologies.
Last but not least are four collaged works from 2014, each edged with his trademark broad black lines.
They look effortless and Boshier reminds us that his talent for drawing, eye for design as well as his desire to make works politically relevant are all still as strong as ever. He remains an important figure not only in the story of Pop Art but also in the contemporary art world.
For more information visit www.flowersgallery.com
Images courtesy of the artist, Flowers Gallery and CELLOPHANELAND*
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
10 February 2012 § Leave a comment
I have always been rather disappointed that Rachel Whiteread has been allowed to forge a career by simply copying an idea of Bruce Nauman‘s from 1965 without any noticeable critical comment. I would have been much more impressed had she developed his idea much further and created something more as of course Nauman did with a truly impressive body of conceptual work.
Meanwhile, the Whitechapel gallery has just announced a commission by Whiteread for the building’s historic façade to be unveiled in June 2012 as part of the London 2012 Festival. Perhaps the similarities of name inspired the gallery to select Whiteread perhaps?
The original plans for the Gallery included a frieze which was never realised leaving a large blank rectangle above the main entrance. The Whitechapel states that “Whiteread has drawn her inspiration from the Tree of Life motif, which is part of the terracotta building, making casts from existing features to then create clusters of gilded leaves and branches….. Four negative casts of existing Gallery windows in terracotta will be located centrally within the recessed panel area between the towers, as a formal counterpoint to the leaf elements.”
Grudgingly I think it looks quite promising – the notion of the original terracotta motif ‘growing’ into a gold ornament being quite interesting – but I will reserve judgement until I see it in place!
- Rachel Whiteread designs ‘ostentatious’ Whitechapel Gallery frieze (guardian.co.uk)
- Whiteread to make gallery frieze (bbc.co.uk)
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
- Thomas Struth: Photographs 1978-2010, Whitechapel Gallery, review (telegraph.co.uk)
- Thomas Struth: Life through an epic lens (independent.co.uk)
13 September 2010 § 2 Comments
It is a cliché I know. Nowadays one can hardly open a newspaper or switch on the TV without being assaulted with yet another ‘best/worst of’ listing. As soon as something enters the public realm it is instantly categorised, tabulated and graded – from Rooney’s indiscretions to ways of cooking artichoke, nothing is allowed to escape the ratings police.
My excuse is a visiting friend from San Francisco, interested in modern & contemporary art, has asked me to send him a list of those galleries that he should definitely take time out to visit. Any guilt in populist list-making thereby assuaged by the potential education of an American philistine. Here then are my very personal top ten public galleries (private galleries listed tomorrow) – starting at ten and working up to the (overly long and unnecessary pause to build up an unconvincing and unjustified tension that was previously totally lacking) ‘winner’;
10. Zabludowicz Collection. A messy collection of future ’emerging’ artists, most of whom never quite fully ’emerged’. Put together by a curator employed by a multi-millionaires wife. Anita Zabludowicz seems to have no knowledge of art (is she more interested in social status?) but she has found a handful of good works, put them in a converted church and created a very interesting place to visit.
9. Dulwich Picture Gallery. A lovely gallery with a fine permanant collection (pre-twentieth century). Temporary exhibitions hit and miss. Recent Paul Nash was a cracker. Current Wyeth so-so. After the long hike out to Dulwich you will be glad to find an exceptionally nice restaurant and terrace.
8. National Portrait Gallery. It is always a pleasure to wander around their peaceful galleries finding a new gem. Some interesting temporary exhibitions (currently there is the annual BP Portrait Award and Camille Silvy, 19th century documentary photographer) and a local secret – a wonderful top-floor bar with views of Trafalgar Square.
7. Saatchi Collection. The exhibitions here always seem to be frustrating and fascinating in equal measure. The work is of uneven quality, but is nevertheless always worth visiting and is shown in an excellent space. Enjoy a break at the cafe/restaurant on the pretty square afterwards or stroll down Kings Road.
6. Tate Modern. Of course it has to be there. Sometimes frustrates with messy curation, has some big chunks missing from its collection and thinks that teaching children about art involves playing facile games that fill galleries with noisy groups. Membership benefits include a cramped lounge busier and less pleasant than the public facilities. Visit weekdays outside school holidays.
5. Camden Arts Centre. Has a knack of putting on exhibitions of artists that have been overlooked, misunderstood or simply long overdue. A must-visit gallery if you want to keep one step ahead. This autumn Rene Daniels on the 23 September is followed by Simon Starling on the 16 December 2010.
4. Whitechapel Gallery. This is a gallery that is always worth a visit. The home of always excellent, often ground-breaking, exhibitions. This is Tomorrow in 1956 was so iconic and memorable that a current small show looks at some plans, letters and posters -quite interestsing. It has the best gallery restaurant in London – alternatively pop around the corner for a Brick Lane curry.
3. Serpentine Gallery. Take a relaxing stroll through Hyde Park (ie: don’t take a taxi!) to reach one of my favourites. The exhibitions, usually monographic, are invariably interesting and well-curated. An excellent Wolfgang Tillmans exhibition is on until the 19th September 2010. And then there is the pavilion to enjoy – this year Jean Nouvel’s red construction makes an uneasy contrast to the green of the park!
2. Courtauld Gallery. Step a few yards off the hustle and bustle of the Strand in to an oasis of calm. A must-visit gallery that is often overlooked. Go to see the amazing Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works as well as their Fauvist, Bloomsbury and German Expressionist collections – and much much more. And dont forget the cafe.
1.Estorick Collection. A delight. A north london townhouse in a peaceful back street holds a fine collection of Italian 2oth century art. The futurist works are especially good and there is always an interesting temporary exhibition. Coming up is Against Mussolini on the 22 September 2010. I hardly need to add that they do a great cappuccino.
12 August 2010 § Leave a comment
A previous post on Harry Hill the Idea Generation Gallery briefly discussed the term outsider art. This was mainly in respect to some basic ‘outsider’ credentials of Hill’s work. In retrospect however the term is rather difficult to use so briefly and I have been itching to expand on this brief mention, but focusing on contemporary art and adding traditional crafts into the mix.
This is not an overview of ‘outsider’ art since the terms attached to it are so broad, have been so widely misused and applied in a casual manner. Outsider, Naive, Folk, Visionary, Neuve Invention, Art Brut, Marginal, Intuitive are all variously used in connection with it, and have been used in varying ways in different places. Raw Vision has done a good job of definition on their website, even if the terms are frequently misused elsewhere.
Most interesting to me is the steady resurgence in interest not only in the more ‘traditional’ definition of this art but its latest incarnation within recent contemporary art. The deeply unfashionable nature of the naive/folk/craft tradition within the post-war art scene was especially attractive as a basis for rebellion for some British artists of the 1990’s. The award of the Turner Prize to Grayson Perry in 2003 brought this theme to the fore and, despite her disgust at the award to Perry, Tracey Emin’s wall-hangings and tent also betray the same craft origins.
Harry Hill has already been discussed and there are many other artists that could be added to the list of those who draw on, or are inspired by the same traditions. In particular are those painters of ‘amateurish’ style whose star has been on the ascendant in recent years. Coming to mind immediately is Alice Neel (above) with her current retrospective at the Whitechapel. Neel uses a casual style to portray the famous as well as marginalised and vulnerable of society – immigrants, children and the elderly. The title of the exhibition, Painted Truths, demonstarates the widely held view that this more natural ‘folksy’ style somehow allows Neel a deeper psychological insight in to he mind of the sitter. The portraits cerainly reveal a fragility and the paintings are delicate and sensitive. Interestingly Neel herself led a troubled life which included mental breakdown and attempted suicide.
Karen Kilimnik’s loose and ‘awkward’ style, is outwardly similar although she paints not from life but using appropriated images of celebrity. She is currently showing at Sprueth Magers, London. Elizabeth Peyton paints small, intense and colourful portraits of friends, celebrity and monarchy. Like Kilimnik and Neel she has found broader acceptance only since the 1990’s. More recently there are artists like Ryan Mosley who combines multiple traditions to create mysterious quasi-mystical worlds and Lynette Boakye who produces naive and dark portrait of imaginary characters, have also appeared on the scene amongst many more.
None of this adds up to a movement, and many of the artists have of course been successful and well established for many years. Nevertheless the trend is there for all to see – the Whitechapel has had major shows featuring Neel and Peyton in the last twelve months, Kilimnik was at the Serpentine a couple of years back and features in the current Saatchi imagazine, which also includes a substantial article entitled ‘The Folk Spirit in Contemporary Art’. Last but not least, the subject of the original posting, Harry Hill manages a few pages in the latest isue of Tate etc. I could mention many more artists and more exhibitions, but it is clear that the influence of these traditional and ‘outsider’ styles is here to stay – at least for a while yet with investment in this area less speculative and more reliable.
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- Alice Neel: Painted Truths at the Whitechapel Gallery, review (telegraph.co.uk)