HERE, FOR CONVENIENCE, IS A GATHERING OF THE FIRST TEN
Most days art critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in Surrey. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head?
10: WEAVING AND THE WEB
Gerhard Richter is the most expensive living artist (£24m auction record recently), and when you hear that he’s turned one of his paintings into four tapestries you might suspect he’s just milking his brand. Yet, on the contrary, the four woven works now on show at the smaller Gagosian Gallery retain a surprisingly painterly impact even as they move some way from the original source, Abstract Painting 724-4 (1990): each repeats four times, with kaleidoscopic reflections, the image of one quadrant of the painting. Moreover, they’re just part of a radical revisiting of that scraped abstract. Richter has also used its digital template to generate thousands of computer transformations which conclude with massive ‘Strip’ displays of more than 8,000 stripes – abstract representations, you might say, of an abstraction. You can discover all this of this at another Richter phenomenon, namely his website. www.gerhard-richter.com provides a superbly organised and fully illustrated overview of everything Richter considers part of his oeuvre: for example well over a thousand paintings; his vast Atlas archive of source material (maybe 8,000 newspaper clippings and photos), drawings, overpainted photographs, works on paper, watercolours, artist’s books, works of glass, and sculptures. What’s the point, you might wonder, of a printed Catalogue Raisonné? But there’s also one of those in progress …
|Abstract Painting 724-4 (1990)Abstract Painting 724-4 (1990)|
9: SAME WORK, DIFFERENT PLACE
Yet the same images work well at the Turner Contemporary in Margate: not only are they attuned to the curatorial context of a fascinating show on ‘Curiosity’, we see more of them, and they form just a small subset of Katchadourian’s ongoing project ‘Seat Assignment’, in which she makes art out of her mobile phone camera plus whatever’s available on a plane – she splits her time between the US and Finland and has made 101 flights since 2010! Katchadourian places items from the meal over in-flight magazines to surreal effect, catches fellow passengers reflected in seat belt buckles, exploits the glare of glossy paper to create ‘high altitude spirit photography’ etc. Now her lavatory hats seem part of a persuasive exploration of resourcefulness, which comments in passing on how much of the international art-set’s time is spent in the air.
Fruity-eyed Swallow (Male) from the Birds of New Zealand series
8: BASEL’S TICHÝ SHOW WITHIN THE SHOW
One could trace a fascinating three gallery show within the show at Art Basel relating to Miroslav Tichý, the Czech who – although a trained artist – became known during the last decade of his life for the thousands of photographs he took using home-made cameras to capture fleeting glimpses of women in his Moravian hometown of Kyjov in the 1960’s and 70’s. They have their own voyeuristic, yet epiphanic, aesthetic – especially in their deliberately battered state and clunky cardboard framing. Cologne’s Susanne Zander Gallery showed a selection of photographs together with twenty of Tichý’s drawings, caches of which were found only when he died in 2011. They show how knowing his apparently amateurish photographic techniques – such as odd cropping – must have been. Those drawings led me in turn to the work of the Polish conceptual artist Goshka Macuga. She often works with archives, including those of artists, and has recently been granted access to Tichý’s papers. Macuga has made ‘bodysuits’ which turn their wearer into living Tichý drawings: the designs were at the Andrew Kreps Gallery and the suits themselves were modeled at Galerie Rüdiger Schöttle , where two women lounged in front of a tapestry background derived from a photograph of naked women at the grave of Karl Marx – taking us back to the paradoxes of Tichý, a non-conformist provoking the communist state by means of apparently conventional fantasies.
Goshka Macuga performance
There’s quite a bit of art on show during the Basel Fair week: I saw 500 galleries across four of the seven Fairs, the hundred large works and projects of Art Unlimited (in the Art Basel Fair) and Art Parcours (out and about in the city), plus half of the twenty-odd significant non-commercial exhibitions in the city. Most prominently, there was something of a move towards abstraction, but given that volume, it would be possible to find enough work to support any number of smaller trends. I also came across various depictions of lightning and flooding (how close are we to natural end times?) and insects (will they take over?). There were fewer jokes than you would have found a few years back, though I liked Jeppe Hein’s deadpan neon announcement that ‘HAPPINESS DOES NOT COME FROM ACCUMULATING THINGS’ – perhaps it was only as the artist wished that it hadn’t sold by the time I left. And several works made striking use of bananas: Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, Erwin Wurm, David Altmejd, Steven Allan… Are artists suggesting that the art world is bananas? One might point to the surging market at the more expensive end of accumulating things, and question the economic logic. One might wonder about contemporary prices set against some older work: one gallery – in line, I understand, with the market – was offering a small painting by the canonical Phillip Guston at the same price as a similarly-sized work by the trendy but comparatively lightweight and potentially ephemeral Elizabeth Peyton. Yes, bananas.
Steven Allan: The Hunger Trail, 2013, at Ebb & Flow, Volta
(more subtly banana-based than most of his recent paintings)
Allan McCollum: ‘The Shapes Project’ installed at the JGM Gallery, Paris
Two interesting shows just reminded me that the line between one-off and multiple can get rather blurry. American artist Allan McCollum is known for collections of serially produced works which undermine the traditional criteria of rarity – and yet are subtly different from one another.
‘The Shapes Project’, on view at the JGM Gallery in Paris, pushes that to a new extreme, by setting up the computerised possibility of making 31 billion different possible shapes – that’s one for everyone who’s expected to be alive in 2050, the scheduled completion date for the project . A few dozen were on physical display: were they unique, or were they from a planet-sized edition? Back in London, ‘Run for Your Life’ is a 2013 remake of a work made, but not preserved, in 1993. Does that make it the new original? Whatever the answer, it’s a highlight of Michael Landy’s revelatory and affecting retrospective-through-drawing across Thomas Dane’s two spaces, which you could argue provides a more uniquely personal connection to some of his projects than the fabricated end product. Either way, I enjoyed it more than the National Gallery’s show of kinetic sculptures of the saints, 50% inoperative when I was there. There are no queues at Thomas Dane, and the only Break Down is a drawing related to Landy’s famous 2001 project of that name.
|Michael Landy: ‘Run For Your Life’, 1993-2013|
5: REGARDING THE MEDIUM
I found myself fighting an instinct in Rodney Graham’s new show at the Lisson Gallery. It see it as a witty take on the idea that what an artist makes is determined by his surroundings: thus, Graham plays an artist who makes paintings and sculptures which utilise pipe cleaners in a studio which happened to have them lying around. We see him in action, as an artist playing the role of an artist, and we see the results. But the most striking feature is the sheer scale of the light boxes, with the room-height triptychs almost twenty feet wide. They look good, but I wondered how much of that was to do with the scale and backlighting, which I suspect could make almost any photograph impressive. Cue that old experiment of taking a photo then assessing the image on my preview screen. Less impactful, of course, but then it occurred to me that I wouldn’t discount the effect of scale in painting or sculpture, but consider it an integral part of the production process and the effect. Yet just because photographs obviously could be printed at a range of scales, the particular scale chosen can seem a contingent matter which shouldn’t be a necessary part of the effect. Yes, I reflected, maybe that’s unfair, maybe – to coin a term – it’s mediumist.
4: MIND THE LACK OF GAP
Sarah Adams: Diggory’s oblique, left
It’s easy to assume a sharp contrast between fashionable galleries selling cutting-edge contemporary art and staid dealers handling traditional still lives, history paintings and landscapes. In fact, it’s not so simple: the same challenging and up-to-date spirit can be applied to any genre and shown anywhere. You can see a good demonstration this week. The Maas Gallery (15 A Clifford Street, with a temporary extension to 28 Cork Street www.maasgallery.co.uk) normally concentrates on historic masters, but has an extensive show of Sarah Adams’ latest paintings of rocks and caves around the Cornish coast. Adams goes to considerable trouble to make studies on site before increasing the scale in the studio through a repeated wet on dry process, allowing a layered spontaneity which parallels the geological processes being depicted. That, along with a range of weather conditions, mineral deposits and algae growths which yield more vivid and varied colours than one might have believed natural, leads to near-abstract passages which had me thinking of Braque, Feininger and Riopelle as well as the 19th century romantic tradition. The gap between realistic painting of a relatively abstract subject by an artist aware of modern art trajectories and more avowedly experimental process-based abstraction may not be so wide after all.
3: THE OPENING LAID BARE
2: THE SIZE OF IT
PHYSETER MACROCEPHALUS – SPERM WHALE (COW)
It’s always interesting to see how artists deal with scale, and Jonathan Delafield Cooke’s show at Purdy Hicks is an interesting case. His fantastically detailed charcoal drawings include a life-sized sperm whale. That comes in five sections (as if to emphasise the partial nature of most whale sightings) and at 35 feet wide only just fits along the gallery’s biggest wall. It contrasts with a 72-strong shoal of separate fish, each drawing six inches across. Should there, though, have been 205 tiddlers, that being how many you could buy for the £50,000 price of the whale?
My favourites, however, are Cook’s barnacles: he presents their surprising variety and majesty through drawings which blow them up to a mountainous aspect some 50 times their usual height. And while we’re on such comparisons, the show happens to feature both the family with the largest penis (the sperm whale’s fellow Balaenopteridae, the blue whale, has a 10 foot member capable of 35 pint ejaculations) and the infra-class with the largest penis relative to its body size: being stuck where they are, the Cirripedia have to wave their feathery genitals around to reach a neighbour, and so some of the 1,220 species of barnacle have penises eight times as long as their body – getting on for a hundred yards in whale currency…
|BALANUS CRENATUS II|
Most days art Critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, travelling between his home in Southampton and his day job in Surrey. Could he, we asked, jot down once a week whatever art stuff came into his head?
Robert Morris Blind Time II 1976
Spruth Magers’ new Robert Morris show doesn’t include his ‘blind time drawings’ – in that respect, I suppose, it is itself blind – but I found a beautiful book of them on the gallery desk. Morris draws with his eyes closed or blindfolded, the better to ‘undermine every idea of intentionality’. Other sighted artists have used similar techniques to set their imagination against radical physical limits – Claude Heath is my favourite – and the late styles of some masters, notably Titian and Monet, are arguably a function of deteriorating sight rather than deliberate strategy. And you would expect there to be plenty of partially sighted artists, given that only 10% of the registered blind can see nothing at all. Sargy Mann has become well-known for the paintings made after he went blind. But, I wondered, has a fully and congenitally blind visual artist ever made an impact? The best that Google can throw up is Turkish painter Eşref Armağan, hardly a household name. He achieves surprisingly conventional representations using a Braille stylus, plus paint on his fingers to colour the shapes. That’s to say, he doesn’t invent a ‘new way of seeing’ appropriate to someone with no vision, which would surely be more interesting. So, a gap remains: for an artist who’s never seen the world to reveal in some uncanny way just how they don’t see it.
|painting by Eşref Armağan|