Saturday, 28 September 2013

ART STUFF ON A TRAIN: 11-20




HERE, FOR CONVENIENCE, IS A GATHERING OF THE SECOND TEN
WEEKS OF MY QUIRKY WEEKLY COLUMN FOR FAD ART NEWS


Aug-Sept 2013

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?

20: ‘One Leg Good’


176 Hans Hartung 01 ART STUFF on a plane # 20: ‘One Leg Good’
Hartung in action

Paralympics for art would make no real sense, so it’s rather perverse to ask ‘who painted best from a wheelchair?’ Naturally age can lead to frailty: Renoir and Matisse made iconic late works that way. More youthfully, Frida Kahlo’s last works before she died at 47 were made after losing a leg to gangrene, and Chuck Close has been confined to a wheelchair since 1988.
In some of those cases – notably Matisse’s cut-outs – physical limitations directly affect the type of work; and that’s true of the last years of the German-born, mostly French-dwelling Hans Hartung (1904-89). His unusual life included marrying Norwegian artist Anna-Eva Bergman both before and – having divorced in 1939 – after the Second World War, in which he lost a leg while fighting for the French Foreign Legion. Hartung’s studio is preserved on the hills above Antibes, along with various implements for applying paint: brooms, branches, forks, curry combs – and a garden spray attachment much-used during his last decade. That found Hartung, considerably aided by assistants, in ‘a trance-like state… partly induced by wine and an insulating barrier of Baroque music played extremely loud’*. Those many late works – e.g. 360 canvases in his 85th year! – have been considered of dubious status, but now the centrality of Hartung’s direction of events from the wheelchair tends to be recognised, however far from the vigorously mobile archetype of the heroic painter.

* from Jennifer Mundy’s excellent analysis of the late work at www.tate.org.uk/download/file


T1989 E46 1989 hartung ART STUFF on a plane # 20: ‘One Leg Good’
Hans Hartung: ‘T1989-E46′, 1989 

19: ‘Where's the Picasso Museum?’



pp whitefaun picasso ART STUFF on a plane # 19: ‘Where is the Picasso Museum?’


White Faun Playing a Double Flute, 1946 

Picasso is readily associated with Malaga, where he was born; Barcelona, his teenage home; Paris, where he found fame; and the Riviera, where he grew old – and all have museums in his name. There are also four so titled elsewhere: in Berlin, where a recent refurbishment dedicates a whole building to the immensely impressive Picasso holdings of the Berggruen Collection; a much more modest selection in Madrid, derived from a friend; Münster, with 800 prints; and Lucerne, which concentrates on a photographic record of Picasso the man. Perhaps there are more, but I know of none outside Europe, which – after all – Picasso hardly left.
On the Riviera, Picasso lived mostly in Vallauris (1948-55), where he discovered ceramics and painted the giant murals ‘War’ and ‘Peace’, which form the basis of its Picasso Museum; Cannes (1955-61); and the village of Mougins above Cannes (1955-73). Yet just a two month residency in the Chateau Grimaldi, Antibes in the summer of 1946 forms the basis for one of the best of the nine: 23 paintings and 44 drawings with plenty of shown where they were made: nymphs and fauns, including the famed ‘La Joie de Vivre’ make for a beautifully coherent and joyful set. Picasso required that they stay put – so, to Antibes…


pp bardot ART STUFF on a plane # 19: ‘Where is the Picasso Museum?’ Picasso and Bardot seems like plenty of Riviera

18: ‘How Much Is Not Enough?’



louise thomas Isla Nublar Lagoon ART STUFF on a train # 18: ‘How Much Is Not Enough?’
Bischoff Weiss are currently showing Louise Thomas’ fascinating paintings of amusement parks’ fantasy landscapes, such as ‘Isla Nublar Lagoon’
Galleries vary in how much information they give. Some believe a press release is too reductive or demeans the purity of the work, so a list of titles is your lot. Saying that little tends to come across to me not as cool, but as lazy or arrogant – unless there’s genuinely nothing worth saying about the work: if so, perhaps there should be a disclaimer to that effect! Occasionally there’s a press release, but it isn’t available physically (‘it’s on the web site’, you’ll be told, as if to emphasise how awkwardly old-fashioned it is of you to turn up in person). Such reticence is unusual, though: most gallerists see it as part of their role to make explanations available in writing and orally, and many make quite an effort. This seems unrelated to the size of gallery or the reputation of the artists involved: Cabinet and Corvi Mora, for example, do the bare minimum. Some do plenty, but largely on a chargeable basis: Gagosian, Annely Juda and White Cube tend that way. Others belie apparently modest resources with both a press release (for a rapid overview) and a free quality booklets for most shows: Bischoff Weiss, Austin Desmond, the Hua Gallery and Maddox Arts, for example, take a bow…


maddox objeto magico 3 1 ART STUFF on a train # 18: ‘How Much Is Not Enough?’
Maddox Arts’ ongoing South American ‘Visual Poetry’ show includes this florally-adapted typewriter ‘Objecto Magico’ by Glenda León
 

17: ‘How to Get In’



theft contemplation gagosian ART STUFF on a train # 17: ‘How to Get In’
A visitor contemplates the possibility of stealing a Henry Moore…

Every now and again I hear an artist wondering how they can get into a show. Artists aren’t always the most practical types, but actually it’s fairly straightforward. Points to look out for are that some small galleries are erratic in their opening hours and it’s best to phone first; entry intercoms can be a pain; there’s the odd gallery three floors up with an eccentric lift; and Gagosian’s doors are unusually heavy. That said, Larry does employ impressively muscular security with the dual function of opening the door and providing the art with an aura of value, even if – his Henry Moore show was a case in point – vandalism of any impact would be difficult and theft impossible without a at least a forklift truck.
So what is the best way of getting into the world’s top gallery? I recommend approaching too swiftly for the doorman to react, applying far more force than a casual opening would normally require, and then strolling through with cool independence. As for the related question, of how to get one’s work in… Assuming that, too, isn’t of a weight requiring heavy equipment, Banksy solved the matter some years back with his guerrilla placement strategies. Why do artists persist in asking these questions?


gag filename p1020698 large ART STUFF on a train # 17: ‘How to Get In’
… only to find there is a guard on duty

16: ‘Marooned with Caulfield’



caulfield record ART STUFF on a train # 16: ‘Marooned with Caulfield’
Stereophonic Record Player, 1968

Some artists are strongly associated with a particular colour: Van Gogh’s yellow, Klein’s blue, Reinhardt’s black etc. I wouldn’t put Caulfield in that group, but I was struck at Tate Britain’s exemplary overview of his paintings (closes 1st September) by the number in which dark reds predominate.The usual Caulfield tropes are certainly in evidence, too: plenty of time in the restaurant; no one else around yet; the Cubist still life flattened out and then expanded into architectural settings; persistent traffic between reality and artifice; an interest in the exotic smuggled into the everyday; sharp shadows; the black outlines which – until the late 80’s – fix and almost imprison objects, so contributing to an atmosphere of bittersweet melancholy; the late mix of styles through which Caulfield reflects, pre-internet, on how our perceptions are largely constructed second-hand by images. But anyway, Stereo Record Player, Tandoori Rest, Registry, Happy Hour and his last painting, Braque Curtain, are all predominantly dark red. Happy Hour includes a glass of claret, reflecting Caulfield himself and triggering the thought – most of these are wine-dark tones. That fits with his recurring interest in food and drink, and also matches the sense that we’re balanced somewhere between the anticipation of pleasure and the expectation of regret. Still, I’d rather be marooned with Caulfield than in the parallel Hume or Lowry shows.


caulfield braque ART STUFF on a train # 16: ‘Marooned with Caulfield’
Braque Curtain, 2005

15: ‘The Separated Tongue’



hart08750 24147 ART STUFF on a train # 15: ‘The Separated Tongue’  
Emma Hart

There’s an attractively visceral semi-obscenity to the tongue, which is like – indeed, which is – something you find inside the body. And yet it comes out into the world, physically and as communicator. You can tap some of that just by sticking it out, but what if you want to isolate the tongue as an item of sculptural interest? You can poke one out of a picture or wall, as in Urs Fischer’s widely-shown Noisette (2009). Otherwise, as Emma Hart explained when she found herself making any number of ceramic tongues for her engaging Dirty Looks show at Camden Arts Centre (to 29 Sept), you have a ‘plinth problem’ – on what are the tongues to be put? Artists haven’t been put off by this recently, though: 2013 has seen something of a stand alone tongue fest. Henrik Potter showed a real ox tongue at IMT. Martha Friedman sculpted giants and stuck them in the ground at Frieze New York. Michael Dean had concrete tongues curl around the edges of tables at Herald Street. Hart herself has tongues on trays and picture frames, as trowels, rosettes, door handles, napkin rings etc. All part of a riotous show which captures life’s confusion and excess through a call centre, gargoyles, gardens, persistent coughing, hidden videos and, of course, a gaggle of tongues…


dean ART STUFF on a train # 15: ‘The Separated Tongue’
Michael Dean


14: ‘ Feathers and light’



mccgwire 2 ART STUFF on a train # 14: ‘ Feathers and light’
Surge, 2012

It’s natural to concentrate on what an artist is showing, but where makes a big difference. Kate MccGwire’s ‘Lure’, on tour to the Discovery Centre, Winchester this summer, originated at All Visual Arts, who – long with Pertwee, Anderson & Gold – have shown MccGwire extensively in London. Both galleries favour the gothic drama of spotlit darkness, and it was a welcome change to see the work in daylight. MccGwire has been using feathers – sourced from an extensive network of pigeon fanciers and farmers – since 2006, and if that sounds a gimmick on a par with building ships out of matchsticks, the naturally-lit results belie any such equation. Rather, MccGwire marshalls various feathers into a rich and darkly animate minimalism in which all parts get used, from the thousands of full feathers teeming into abstracted yet creature-like forms such as ‘Gyre’, to the quills of crows: laid flat, they make for serial mark-making akin to Hanne Darboven’s; stood on end (‘Surge’) they seethe like an organic version of Gunther Uecker’s nail works. Then, peeping at fanned pigeon feathers through lead sheeting (‘Stigma’), I was reminded of the burned works of Alberto Burri. And a promising new strand creates a version of one of Hans Haeckel’s illustrations of underwater forms, neatly combining the freedom of the air with life in the watery depths.


mccgwire ART STUFF on a train # 14: ‘ Feathers and light’  
Stigma, 2012


13: ‘ MinimumValues'


Emma Hart

There’s an attractively visceral semi-obscenity to the tongue, which is like – indeed, which is – something you find inside the body. And yet it comes out into the world, physically and as communicator. You can tap some of that just by sticking it out, but what if you want to isolate the tongue as an item of sculptural interest? You can poke one out of a picture or wall, as in Urs Fischer’s widely-shown Noisette (2009). Otherwise, as Emma Hart explained when she found herself making any number of ceramic tongues for her engaging Dirty Looks show at Camden Arts Centre (to 29 Sept), you have a ‘plinth problem’ – on what are the tongues to be put? Artists haven’t been put off by this recently, though: 2013 has seen something of a stand alone tongue fest. Henrik Potter showed a real ox tongue at IMT. Martha Friedman sculpted giants and stuck them in the ground at Frieze New York. Michael Dean had concrete tongues curl around the edges of tables at Herald Street. Hart herself has tongues on trays and picture frames, as trowels, rosettes, door handles, napkin rings etc. All part of a riotous show which captures life’s confusion and excess through a call centre, gargoyles, gardens, persistent coughing, hidden videos and, of course, a gaggle of tongues…




Michael Dean




2013 07 11 18.20.44 ART STUFF on a train # 13: ‘ Minimum Values’  
Martin John Callanan with two ‘Fundamental Units’

White Cube’s Masons Yard summer show includes six of Martin John Callanan’s striking series ‘The Fundamental Units’. Callanan uses thousands of exposures via a 3D optical microscope at the National Physical Laboratory to achieve intensely detailed (400 million pixels) images of the lowest denomination coins, here printed at over 50 times life-size. This elevation of the near-worthless reveals the construction and traces of circulation invisible to the naked eye. It also has a mournful aspect, as many of lowest value coins (Callanan has captured 16 of the 166 currently in use) will doubtless be withdrawn from circulation soon enough. As you can see at www.greyisgood.eu, Callanan has good form for obsessive projects, such as taking 2,000 photographs of floors in important buildings with restricted public access .
‘The Fundamental Units’ reminded me of a similarly-sourced but psychologically contrasting series : Moyra Davey’s late 80s series of 100 ‘Copperheads’, which concentrate on one coin – the US one cent – to show the range of scratching, rusting and tarnishing inflicted on the most famous American. These, focusing on one national economy at a time of recession – and currently on display at Tate Liverpool during the next recession – become harder to read as the damage tends towards abstraction. But then, isn’t the whole convention of money an abstraction of sorts?


moyra ZZ050613tate 002JPG 4066402 ART STUFF on a train # 13: ‘ Minimum Values’
Moyra Davey with ‘Copperheads’



12: ‘ What About The Ceiling?’



04 IRWIN RYB 7217 25 v02 JPEG ART STUFF on a train # 12: ‘ What About The Ceiling? Who’s afraid of Red, Yellow & Blue³ III

Painters make little use of the floor, which they tend to leave to sculptors, and also seem reluctant to use the ceiling, despite the lack of competition and the historical example of Michelangelo. Step forward Robert Irwin: not only is it good to see Pace give a debut London solo show (to Aug 17) to Californian master of perceptual effects, and to see the locally-specific 47 tube light work Piccadilly, it’s also refreshing to see that the whole room installation Who’s afraid of Red, Yellow & Blue³ III consists of paintings which fully cover the floor and ceiling, while the walls remain bare. I struggle to think of another example of this, save Irwin’s previous (San Diego, 2007) expansion of the iconic 1969-70 Barnett Newman painting. Who’s afraid of Red, Yellow & Blue³ III covers 1,400 square feet of floor and a matching amount of ceiling with brilliantly reflective lacquer and polyurethane paint on six honeycomb aluminium panels, arranged so that matching colours reflect each other. At the crowded opening the many movements around and through the panels (you can’t walk on them) made for a busily changeable scene. When I returned later, in contrast, I was able to appreciate its more meditative and inwardly reflective side, when the windows mirrored in the ceiling and floor came fully into their own.

 irwin ART STUFF on a train # 12: ‘ What About The Ceiling?
Piccadilly


11: ‘ What Isn’t There'


Are Merlin James ART STUFF on a train #11:  What Isnt There

Merlin James: Are, 2006-13 (courtesy artist and Mummery+Schnelle, London, Photography: Andy Keate)
There are two ways of reviewing a retrospective: on the basis of what’s in it, or according to what’s missing. I’m more interested in the merits of what I can see than of what I can’t, so it rather annoys me when a show-off reviewer concentrates on the latter. Looking round the latest offering from the excellent Parasol Unit, then, I’m inclined to focus on how the non-chronological hang in a large space of Merlin James’ intimately-scaled, gently hesitant experimentalism allows for 44 paintings to build up rhythms and thematic repetitions which feed lovingly off a gamut of other artists.
But here’s the rub: the show could be a little less polite, a little more surprising. There’s no sex – though this has been a major strand of James’ work, and one which would have allowed for more radical irruptions; and there are only a couple of the recent paintings on transparent surfaces; which expose their own construction and can feature, for example, rather absurd little houses placed in the visible supports. That stream feels to me like the distinctive place towards which James has been travelling. So I’m breaking my own rule… In which case I may as well ask: why does the Tate’s Lowry retrospective include none of  his seascapes, nor any of those creepy constrained-marionette drawings which the aging artist gave to his niece?
lowry  49556689 ballerinasketch ART STUFF on a train #11:  What Isnt There
                                                         LS Lowry, untitled

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About Me

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Southampton, Hampshire, United Kingdom
I was in my leisure time Editor at Large of Art World magazine (which ran 2007-09)and now write freelance for such as Art Monthly, The Art Newspaper and Border Crossings. I have curated five shows in London during 2013-15 with more on the way.Going back a bit my main writing background is poetry. My day job is public sector financial management.

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