Monday, 5 January 2015

ART STUFF ON A TRAIN 81-90

ART STUFF on a train # 90: ‘The Colour in Rembrandt’

Rembrandt Juno ART STUFF on a train # 90: ‘The Colour in Rembrandt’


              Rembrandt: Juno, 1662-5

Rembrandt is known, of course, for his crepuscular tone and his ability to draw symbolic and emotional meaning from shadows and darkness relieved by telling illumination. Presenting the 40 paintings, 30 prints and 20 drawings of ‘The Late Works’ in the National Gallery’s windowless Sainsbury basement rooms (to 18 Jan) emphasises the point. All the same, my wife and I were struck, as we thought back across our shuffle through the end-of-run crowds, by the thought that – whatever might have been in the mix of the sombre browns and glowing ambers – we could recall no visible straight yellow, green or blue. Even when Rembrandt paints a parrot (‘Portrait of Catrina Hooghsaet’, 1657) and a peacock (‘Juno’, 1662-5) he manages to avoid any such hues. The show is a stream of well-presented masterpieces, so that’s more observation than complaint, though one area of darkness somewhat under-illuminated was the accompanying booklet’s apparently contradictory claim that the reclining nude ‘La Négresse couchée’ (1658) might represent not a black woman but a white one in heavy shade – without mentioning that the title isn’t Rembrandt’s, but that given by Adam Bartsch, the Austrian scholar of printmaking, in 1797. That said, Jonathan Jones in his Guardian review swallows Bartsch whole, stating plainly that ‘in one erotic etching he portrays a black woman naked. He loves her difference’. Either way, it’s a typically sumptuous etching and drypoint in which the last thing we miss is chromatic colour.

Rembrandt   Negress Lying Down 1658 ART STUFF on a train # 90: ‘The Colour in Rembrandt’

Rembrandt: Reclining Female Nude (‘La Négresse couchée’), 1658

 
Rembrandt: 'Portrait of Catrina Hooghsaet’, 1657

 

Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 89: ‘The Curators’ Egg’

 

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Iliya & Emilia Kabakov: ‘Incident in the Corridor near the Kitchen’, 1989


What proportion of a show do you need to like? It may depend on how easily you can isolate the good parts of a curate’s egg. ‘Post Pop: East Meets West’, the Saatchi Gallery’s sprawling examination of the second wave of pop influence, broadly from the 1980’s to date, is unusual for the venue in consisting of art not owned by Saatchi. 250 works by 110 artists are split by theme; and by geography, too, with separate curators responsible for UK and the USA (Marco Livingston), former Soviet Union (Andrey Erofeev) and China / Taiwan (Tsong-Zun Chang). Continental Europe, though strong in post-pop, doesn’t feature. By and large the Anglo-American choices are spot on without being predictable; the Russian ones tick most of the right boxes, but the quality is more variable; and the Asian work is pretty weak. Moreover, the show get progressively lower in quality as it gets higher in altitude, from the excellent and impressively installed ground floor exploration of ‘Habitat’ and somewhat patchier representation of ‘Advertising and Consumerism’ to decidedly erratic rooms on ‘Ideology and Religion’, ‘Sex and the Body’ and ‘Art History’, and a rather dire concluding selection on ‘Mass Media’. Oddly, however, this works quite well as an exhibition experience: the chances are you’ll bring maximum attention to bear on such lower floor highlights as Ketter, Kabakov, Nakhova, Milroy, Whiteread, Woods, Komar & Melamid, Bulatov, Koons and Sachs – but be moving pretty fast by the time you get up to the third floor. And, to be fair, there are top moments on all levels. So yes, I recommend a visit, especially if you’re not too sensitive to context.

20141029010153 Milroy Lisa Shoes 1990 website Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 89: ‘The Curators’ Egg’

Lisa Milroy: ‘Shoes’, 1990

 

Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 88: ‘100 years x 3’

orpen theipval Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 88: ‘100 years x 3’

Sir William Orpen: ‘The Gunners’ Shelter, Thiepval’, 1917


The Imperial War Museum is the obvious place to go for an account of World War I art a century on. Its ‘Truth and Memory: British Art of the First World War (to 8 March) has a new film by the Wilson twins and also stars C.W.R. Nevinson, Wyndham Lewis, Paul Nash and – less predictably – William Orpen. Tate Modern’s war photo blockbuster ‘Conflict, Time, Photography’ (to 15 March) is brilliantly organised on the principle of presenting images taken at increasing distances from the battle action, from instantly to a hundred years afterwards. This raises intriguing questions of how we can judge the truth after the event, but does distance the visceral impact of battle. For that, and for more surprising inclusions as a whole, head for the Manchester Gallery’s mixed media show ‘The Sensory War 1914-2014’, which concentrates (to 22 Feb) on the impact of technologies of war. I was struck by Jonty Semper’s anthology of two minute silences, Nina Berman’s distressing photograph of a wounded veteran on his wedding day, Pietro Morando’s documentary drawings from the little known Italian Front in World War 1, and a three screen projection by Dinh Q Lé exploring Vietnamese relations with American helicopters during and after the Vietnam War. And Manchester, lke the IWM, showed some of society portraitist Orpen’s paintings of the trenches at the Somme in August 1917, just after the German retreat. He found the mud over chalk baked lunar white: were they photos, would have fitted perfectly into the Tate’s show.

marine wedding berman custom 53b3bb4722ffdbf7728bc666e3a8b6f1c43be3b8 Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 88: ‘100 years x 3’


Nina Berman: ‘Marine Wedding’, 2006 (Marine Sgt. Ty Ziegel, wounded in Iraq, pictured with Renee Kline, on their wedding day, Metamora, Illinois) 


Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 87: ‘Encore, Silver Paint’

lavier Ndébélé 2014 Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 87: ‘Encore, Slathered Paint’

Bertrand Lavier: Ndébélé, 2014

Given his renown in France, confirmed by a 2012 Pompidou retrospective, it’s odd how little Bertrand Lavier (born 1949) has been shown in London – but suddenly three moments amount to a retrospective of sorts. Outside the Serpentine’s Sackler Gallery (to 4 Oct) is a fountain made of multiple multi-coloured hoses. Massimo De Carlo (to 31 Jan) has the abstract paintings he derived from those made by Mickey Mouse in a Disney cartoon, and a room of mirrors painted in expressive silver to almost blur out the viewer as Lavier reflects on the brushstroke as a means of representing the reality denied. And Almine Rech (to 20 December) has just shown four pieces, including an inkjet print from a South African flag overpainted in the thick ‘Van Gogh style’ which Lavier has most famously applied to items such as a still-functioning piano. Lavier attributes some of his desire to destabilise categories – is an object or a painting? – to an awareness of grafting, picked up from his five year training as a horticulturalist. All of which adds up to an engaging post-Warholian way of questioning the boundaries between the everyday and the artistic, and between high and low culture. So how about an institutional survey, s’il vous plaît?

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Bertrand Lavier: Fountain, 2014

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Bertrand Lavier mirror paintings installation view

Most days art Critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in London. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head?

 

ART STUFF on a train # 86: ‘Welcome to the Machine’

machine copy ART STUFF on a train # 86: ‘Welcome to the Machine’
Mark Selby’s machine

Black WhitecircleCMYKnew copy ART STUFF on a train # 86: ‘Welcome to the Machine’


                  a William Bradley painting ‘before’

Many artists have experimented with painting and drawing machines: Jean Tinguely, Rebecca Horn, Richard Jackson and Angela Bulloch come to mind. On the other hand, Robert Rauschenberg’s ‘Erased de Kooning’ is a seminal piece of hard manual labour. Now Mark Selby combines those impulses by making an imposingly heavy yet sleekly efficient machine for removing paint from paintings. The victims / beneficiaries (downstairs in the two hander ‘Work Hard, Play Hard’ at Berloni to 24 Jan) are jaunty abstract paintings on aluminium by William Bradley. They’ll have the colour wiped off their faces at a rate of about one a week, emerging like arbitrary ghosts of a Richter scraped abstract. The process is a performance art of its own: gobs of paint stripper plop down, a table length brush sweeps the stripper across, and then moves back to leave interim chance patterns of pooled run-off. Bradley and Selby see this as a humorous duel between painting and sculpture. The paintings are purpose-made by Bradley, who didn’t seem too keen when I suggested that his mainstream production (on view upstairs) might also be fed in, but that’s nothing: any painting on aluminium might be fair game … Gary Hume, who already lost a painting in Michael Landy’s Breakdown (2001) might need to watch out.

ALU2 copy ART STUFF on a train # 86: ‘Welcome to the Machine’

                William Bradley’s painting ‘after’

Most days art Critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in London. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head?

Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 85: ‘One Form of Being Uncontent’

image56  Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 85: ‘One Form of Being Uncontent’
Allen Jones installation view at the Royal Academy

Allen Jones always seems to generate broadly the same debate: is he an objectionable sexist, or an important artist whose overall achievements have been undervalued due to a mistaken interpretation of a small minority of his work? I would argue for a third position on the basis of his current Royal Academy retrospective. Good art needs to marry form and content successfully. Jones experiments with admirable energy, and the bulk of his painting and sculpture deals in potentially interesting ideas about the flux between sexual roles, such as through merging couples; and the analogies to be drawn between various types of performers – in magic, fashion, music, dance – and the artist. That, as a totality, could yield a complex self-portrait. Yet I find Jones’ painterly style of pop falls rather flat,and its self-conscious presentation as art gets in the way of suspending disbelief. Likewise, the cut-out sculptures don’t carry off the necessary grace, and they too suffer from surface distractions. The mannequins, in which women appear to be objectified to the extent that they may be used as furniture, treat the surface as fetish finish and generate a language which delivers their definite punch. But, whether or not they’re sexist – and Jones might point to their uxorious origins as well as a desire to explore boundaries – they fail to address the potentially interesting content of his broader work. Jones, then, succeeds in form and content… but not at the same time.

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Allen Jones: The Dance Academy, 2002

Most days art critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in London. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head?


Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 84: ‘The Minimal and the Excessive’

tuttle Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 84: ‘The Minimal and the Excessive’
                          
                         Richard Tuttle: 44th Wire Piece, 1972

Walking round galleries with a group of artist friends, it was interesting to compare the reactions to two shows which take off from minimalist language and add emotion. Richard Tuttle (Whitechapel to 14 Dec) has been exploring fragile forms of simplicity since the mid 60’s, using a personal language which seems distinctly prescient of many artists working today (say – to cover three continents – Gedi Siboney, Ian Kaier and Adriano Costa). The Whitechapel’s survey concentrates on textile works, and in his use of those, too, Tuttle anticipated a trend. Half the group were won over by the delicacy, daring almost-not-thereness of his language, such as in the real and fake shadow play of the wire pieces which, in this context, stand in for threads. Others found it ‘mannered’, ‘precious’ and ‘sentimental’, judgments reinforced by Tuttle’s brave / foolish decision to couple the work with his own lyrical musings on them, shown alongside. I like such risks to be taken, but they are risks. Yet everyone loved London-based Japanese artist Rie Nakajima’s ‘Fall’ at noshowspace (to 6 December, and superbly documented at www.noshowspace.com). There were two strands: found objects and electrical devices set up to rise and fall in response to the space; and ‘drawings’ made by placing such automated objects onto carbon paper. Both were oddly affecting without tipping into mere cuteness.

rie n fall Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 84: ‘The Minimal and the Excessive’
Rie Nakajima, part of Fall 2014. Whistle, motor.

 

Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 83: ‘Paris Photo without the People’

Penelope Umbrico Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 83: ‘Paris Photo without the People’

Penelope Umbrico: 5db0_1-2.jpg from Broken Sets / eBay 2008/2014 at Robert Koch Gallery, San Francisco


As I mentioned last week, Paris Photo (13-16 Nov) proved decidedly crowded. That may have increased the attraction of these works, which are markedly devoid of people, and I’ve also gone for maximum colour. You can see a wider personless selection at paulsartworld.blogspot.com. American artist Penelope Umbrico is known for culling unexpected sets of images from the Internet: her collection of suns will feature at the Photographer’s Gallery from 4 December. The ‘Broken Sets’ of chromogenic prints on metallic paper show that mal-operative LCD TVs – being sold on eBay for their parts – do function to the point of illuminating the screen. In these unpictures, the failure of new technology folds into with the aesthetics of modernist abstraction in a match-up of utopian aspirations. Interdisciplinary Swiss/Danish artist duo Putput have made a cheerfully saturated series of scouring pads masquerading as ice lollies, on the one hand referencing classic product shots, on the other hand undermining the sales intent by the disfunctional result. That putput me in mind of how food is often rendered inedible in order to photograph it optimally; and of how someone has to do the domestic drudgery which facilitates children’s enjoyment of treats…

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Putput: popsicles, 2012 at Galerie Esther Woerdehoff,Paris

ART STUFF on a train # 82: ‘S p a c e d Out Crowded’

longo ART STUFF on a train # 82: ‘S p a c e d Out Crowded’
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Robert Longo: photo and drawing from ‘Men in the Cities’

Paris Photo – like the broader-based FIAC art fair – has the advantage of the soaring splendour of the Grand Palais as its venue, which swallows 169 galleries easily enough. The focus on photography is very pure, with no moving images presented, but in other ways – historical periods, styles, presentation of publications, talks, and special exhibitions – the range is impressive. I’ve chosen two different angles on well-known works. Robert Longo’s iconic late 70’s series of big, intensely detailed charcoal drawings ‘Men in the Cities’ shows figures caught between dancing and falling as if just shot. They were based on photos of Longo’s friends – such as Cindy Sherman and Larry Gagosian – acting out exaggeratedly in business suits on rooftops. In Camera Gallery, Paris, showed some of the less often seen original photographs. Richard Avedon’s ‘Dovima with the Elephants’, 1955, in which the model wore the first evening dress designed for Christian Dior by his new assistant, Yves Saint-Laurent, is one of the most famous fashion photographs (edition 30/100 is on sale at Phillips, London this week, est. £30-40,000). Vanessa von Zitzewitz keeps the contrast of grace and power in her updates at Bernheimer Gallery, Munich, but drops the haute couture for an alignment of skins suggesting environmental empathy. Paris Photo is highly popular, which translates into considerable crowding and queues: the space granted to the individuals seemed implausible…




Dovima et les Elephants par Vanessa von Zitzewitz 3 ART STUFF on a train # 82: ‘S p a c e d Out Crowded’

Richard Avedon and Vanessa von Zitzewitz versions of ‘Dovima with the Elephants’


Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 81: ‘Art and Almost’

tattoo 11 Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 81: ‘Art and Almost’

When does documentary photography become art? Only, perhaps, when the primary effect is down to why the subject is chosen and the way it’s depicted rather than what the subject is – see, say, Ghirri, Egglestone, Sugimoto and Ruff, to nominate some favourites. But there’s considerable power in the straightforward presentation of the right subject ‘unimpeded by artistry’, to quote Grimaldi Gavin’s press release for 23 photographs from Arkady Bronnikov’s Russian Criminal Tattoo Police Files (to 22 Nov). They show the extensive markings on prisoners in the in the 1960’s – 80’s, typically made crudely with an adapted electric shaver. They were recorded purely to facilitate police recognition of criminals, but now, with the extensive commentaries provided, they reveal the oppositional personalities and unofficial histories of a separate world. A knife tattooed as if through the neck indicates that the man has murdered another prisoner. Churches are presented not for religious reasons but to flag a refusal to conform to the state system: each cupola indicates a conviction – here six for burgling houses (as indicated by the cat). And how were those eyelids made to say DO NOT / WAKE? By inserting a metal spoon under the lids so that the needle didn’t pierce the eyes. Tattoo culture is now much more mainstream (and has been offered by artists such as the Chapmans), and Russian prison tattoos themselves are widely known – but this is still a fascinating exhibition of almost art.

tattoo 21 Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 81: ‘Art and Almost’

Most days art Critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in London. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head?



                                                          About Paul Carey-Kent

Art critic and curator, based in Southampton. I write most regularly for Art Monthly, Frieze, The Art Newspaper, Border Crossings, STATE, Photomonitor, Art Critical, ArtLyst... and, of course, FAD - when I'm on the train to and from my job in London as a health and social care financial policy analyst.

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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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