Sunday, 29 November 2015

ART STUFF on a train 131-140

Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #140: ‘Foregrounding the Background’

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Jim Shaw: ‘The Third Angel’, 2015 – acrylic on muslin, 183 x 114cm

How much explanation can art reasonably require? Some purists hold that all works should speak entirely for themselves, but that not only rules out many approaches but would reduce the latter-day impact of older works which need some context. On the other hand, you don’t want to feel that the work is subsidiary to its explanation, however fascinating that might be. Jim Shaw’s latest paintings (at Simon Lee to 9 Jan) take a halfway position: they work in themselves as wacky compositions which meld together mysterious elements using the striking backcloth of 1940’s theatrical backdrops to introduce the sense of another time. The titles suggest there may be a coherence rather than a mere stream of consciousness at work, but I suspect most would need Shaw at their shoulder to work out what’s going on. Luckily the galery staff can tell you what he’s said. ‘The Third Angel’ is one of the simpler paintings: this version of the Jolly Green Giant of sweet corn fame is based on the description of an angel that appears in the Book of Revelations, pouring his bowl of woe onto the earth. Here a spill of Huntz tomato sauce, also from 1960’s adverts, coalesces towards figures representing toxic GMO chemicals poisoning the crops below, and so critiques the commercial drivers illustrated. My second example incorporates Arshille Gorky, an Ad Reinhardt cartoon, Edward Snowden as Prometheus wrestling Zeus, various NSA intelligence-gathering elements, Buzz Buzzard as a predator drone and more… Best to go see and ask for more!

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Jim Shaw: Prometheus: Liver is the Cock’s Comb, 2015 – acrylic on muslin, 143 x 193cm

Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #139: ‘Maastricht Beyond TEFAF’

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Part of Levi van Veluw’s ‘The Relativity of Matter’

Maastricht, known as the venue of The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF), has quite a bit of additional art interest, especially for a town of 100,000. The Van Eyck institute has a good reputation, and Taus Makhacheva (Russia / Dagestan) currently holds a post-graduate residency there. We were able to meet at the University-supported Marres, where the Dutch artist Levi van Veluw has filled two large floors with a darkened maze of installations – mostly in wood – which took a year to build. A strict timed booking system keeps the experience of ‘The Relativity of Matter’ intense. It recreates van Veluw’s childhood obsessions – one corridor contains shelves with more than 3,000 identical geometric sculptures – then blows them apart in the most compulsively controlled presentation of chaos you could hope to see. Taus and I then strolled to the agreeably eccentric Museum aan het Vrijthof, which presents all manner of things made in Maastricht, and over the River Meuse to the Bonnefanten Museum. In addition to its permanent collection, that currently has 250 ceramics forming a history of how modern and contemporary artists have used the medium. Rodin, Picasso, Fontana, Schütte and Ai Wei Wei showed strongly as expected, but there were plenty of surprises among the 100 artists chosen – Taus was bowled over by the Japanese; my favourites were some of the 60 miniature ‘apartment gardens’ that Raoul Dufy created in the late 20’s with two Catalans: master ceramicist José Lloréns Artigas and architect and landscaper Nicolás Rubió y Tudurí.

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Raoul Dufy: ‘The Music or Opera Garden’, 1927 – ceramic

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 #138: ‘When to Visit Tate Modern?’

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The Empty Lot as at 28 November

What’s the best time to go to Tate Modern? Yes, when it’s open, but two of the main current attractions suggest waiting a while. By February, I suspect, Abraham Cruzvillegas’s Turbine Hall commission Empty Lot will be an impressive sight. The Mexican artist’ has filled a spectacular structure of triangular flowerbeds with soil sourced from London’s parks, A few weeks on from the opening, the beds are starting to show green life: give them a couple of months and the space should be verdant. I also hold out hopes that the Alexander Calder show will improve: not that the judicious selection of works ought to be different, nor that the forlornly static early mechanical works will be set in motion as some surely should be periodically, but that the air flows will be freshened up to animate those driven by air. The advance publicity suggested that this was being planned for scrupulously, but only two had significant movement when I visited. Tate quotes Calder himself saying of a display of his non-moving ‘Constellations’ that it was ‘a very weird sensation I experienced of looking at a show of mine where nothing moved’, and that is pretty much what we get here. The Tate must be embarrassed, given that the show is subtitled ‘Performing Sculpture’. Surely adjustments will be made, such as the odd discrete fan, by the New Year? That will be when to visit Tate Modern.
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?
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Calder’s ‘Red Gongs’, 1950, waiting to move


Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #137: ‘Certain Perversities’



Rudolf Stingel: ‘Untitled’, 2015 – oil on canvas, 244 x 244cm

There’s a certain perversity to the first show at the new Sadie Coles space in Davies Street: it features four paintings by Rudolf Stingel in a show which continues with a further four paintings in her spacious gallery on Kingly Street (to 18 Dec). That could have accommodated all eight in comfort, suggesting that the elegant new premises were unnecessary. As for the show, there’s a comparable perversity to the effort in making huge photorealist versions of what are just illustrations from vintage German calendars. Yet the animals so shown take on a lively current presence, even as they play neatly with chronologies: photography as a record of the past, linked here to a calendar month and its subsequent reworking; and the time spent in painting, made explicit by patterned impasto brushstrokes which come into abstracted focus when you get close. In the gallery’s words ‘the original image is disclosed and withheld in the same instant’, making for a metaphor for memory. By way of bonus perversity, Sadie’s husband, Juergen Teller, recently provided his usual plenty in an extensive exhibition in the Phillips auction space directly opposite his wife’s new outpost (10-20 Nov). That included all 72 images from the new series ‘Kanye, Juergen & Kim, Château d’Ambleville’. The reality couple are pursued through the French countryside by the trouserless fiftysomething photographer in anorak and rainbow coloured footwear, in what seems to be a case of ‘you bring the looks, I’ll bring the socks’.

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Juergen Teller: from ‘Kanye, Juergen & Kim, Château d’Ambleville’

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 #136: ‘Soaring and Diving’

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Peter Lanyon in a glider


Peter Lanyon: ‘Soaring Flight’, 1960

Finding a new way in to your subject can make all the difference. After the war, Peter Lanyon (1918-64) emerged from constructivist roots to an engagement with Cornwall which sought to use abstract painting as a method to capture his bodily experience of the landscape – in his words, ‘I paint placeness’. His 1950’s work is often alluring, but that agenda really took off only when he discovered gliding. He was able to find equivalents for air streams, flight paths and weather conditions which operate lyrically as abstractions but can also be read back to what they represent. Now the sky could be all around, and Lanyon could imply movement and change. He could use the contrasts of assisted ascent, stalling, falling; turbulence and calm to stand in for sexual abandon. existential states or social concerns.. By the time Lanyon died following a bad landing, his four years of unpowered flight had a powerful sequence, now celebrated in paintings (Courtauld Gallery 17 January) and a complementary exhibition of his drawings (Gimpel Fils to 30 Jan). Not only that, but his fellow founder member of St Ives’ Crypt Group, Bryan Wynter (1915-75) has a centenary show (Jonathan Clark 5-27 Nov). He was closer to ‘psychonaut’ than astronaut, using first mescaline and later diving as his means of achieving a fresh take on landscape-originated semi-abstraction in the 1950’s. The 28 work show concentrates on that best-known style, but also includes a fine 1962 painting inspired by aqualung diving.


Bryan Wynter: ‘Blue Deep’, 1962

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                            Bryan Wynter: ‘High Country’, 1956

Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 135: ‘The Monumental Intimate’

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Jonas Wood installation view

The question of size arises powerfully in the first British show of Jonas Wood’s paintings (at Gagosian Britannia Street to Dec 19). His interiors are semi-graphic riffs which update tradition attractively, but without great impact. Hasn’t Dexter Dalwood, for example, already done this just as well? But there’s also a room with five really big paintings – 10 feet high – of pots. The images somehow become more interesting for being on pots, even though they’re very flatly rendered, and the size gives the pots a grandeur which does something new. When you look at the paintings in reproduction they’re diminished, obviously, but radically so. Artists often distinguish the factual matter of size from the more metaphorical matter of whether a work has found its scale. It seems that Wood’s pots need colossal size to achieve their appropriate scale even though, paradoxically, that’s way above the life size of the pots made by his ceramist wife – which feed this part of Wood’s practice and so give it a personal infection. That adds to the combination of intimate and monumental which may be why the size – maybe 25 x likely actual – is so effective. I was still musing on this when I saw Luke Jerram’s glass sculptures of deadly viruses such as Ebola (at the Elena Shchukina Gallery to 8 Jan): they are about a million times life size, and show us something with its own intimate aspect but which we can’t normally see…

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Wood with wife Shio Kusaka in the family’s LA house

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Luke Jerram: ‘Malaria’, 2011: Glass, 50 x 18 cm

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 #134: ‘Solo, Group or Bugged?’

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Oona Grimes: Flann's architectural digest #6 spray paint on paper mounted on di- bond56 x 111cm : 2015

Oona Grimes: 'Skinner's pigeons', 2015 - clay

Solo or group show?  Maybe, to escape the norms, artists could appear in sequence, or collaborate, or respond to each other’s work across shows? Tintype’s current season of three exhibitions 'Stop Bugging Me' escapes the binary norm more innovatively: it started with an Adam Gillam solo show. Halfway through the run, though, Gillam was ‘bugged’ by Oona Grimes. That segued into the current Grimes show, which is now haunted by Jo Addison (to 7 Nov). Her show (11 Nov- 5 Dec) will then be invaded by Gillam to complete the loop. Nice idea, then, and nor is it wasted. Grimes delivers a complex mixture of serious and playful: stencil and spray painted objects float against blackness which could be a film set or deep space or the disordered mind of an Alzheimer’s sufferer – such as the artist’s mother, the heavy end being taken up by a moving film of her. The lighter side yields joke spectacles made of clay in the form of drinking glasses, complete with eyeholes; clothes hangers brilliantly recategorised as pigeons; and a pile of clay potatoes. Their lumpiness is picked up in the curious video object, somewhat like a blackberry which can’t decide if it’s a satellite or a molecule, with which Addison has joined in; and by a herd of baked-spud-like forms which scuttle round the gallery on bugs’ legs. Seeing such a range made me glad Grimes is 1/11th of my next curation* – of course, I love the other 10/11th’s, too…

*  ‘The Shapes We’re In’ at Bread & Jam, 52 Whitbread Rd, Brockley 13 – 22 Nov:

Installation view with Jo Addison's 'A Possible Object' in front of two elements from Oona Grimes' multi-part 'Flann's architectural digest'

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 # 133:

 ‘Performance to the Exponential Max’

Millie Brown: Rainbow Body Performance
The ongoing pro-performance trend in the art world has come to something of a peak in London exhibitions. To complement the Gazelli Arthouse’s show of Californian light work (to 14th Nov), Millie Brown hung with crystals attached for 4 hours on 4 days – so a not unimpressive 16 hours in all. Ilona Sagar had two actors inhabit her interviews with clinical neurologists and psychiatrists as part of ‘Haptic Skins of a Glass Eye’, her complex consideration of the relationship between body and technology at Tenderpixel: 8 x 3 hour performances x 2 actors = 24 hours. At the Lisson Gallery, Broomberg & Chanarin’s very varied photography-based practice includes not just a film of military drill counterpointed with the clowning of a ‘bouffon’, but an adjoining live performance in which a double shift of drummers play a drum roll for the entire six week run of the show (to 31 Oct): 6 x 46 = 276 hours x 2 drummers = 552 hours. That’s quite a commitment for a commercial gallery to make, but the public sector goes further in the Barbican’s Curve Gallery, the unusual layout of which encourages artists to stretch their capabilities. The whole three-month run of Eddie Peake’s ‘The Forever Loop’ features two dancers and a skater. The naked dancers interact very effectively with synchronised video footage drawing on Peake’s previous work. The skater, clad in a diaphanous costume, glides around the full length of Peake’s sculptural installation. That’s 65 hours per week x 13 weeks x 3 performers = 2,535 hours!
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Ilona Sagar: ‘Haptic Skins of a Glass Eye’ performance
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Broomberg & Chanarin: Rudiments performance
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Eddie Peake: The Forever Loop performance
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 # 132: ‘Fair Ground for Snakes’

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Kathleen Ryan: ‘More Is More Snake Ring’, 2014 – François Ghebaly Gallery for Frieze Sculpture Park 
There were several snakes at Frieze this year. I refer, of course, not to any underhand dealers, but to works of art. Tunga, the veteran Brazilian with a desire to undercover the mystical undercurrents of modernity, was prominent: his pair of twins roamed Frieze Live with conjoined hair, and there were related works which turned extended tresses into serpentine sculptural form, plus his seminal photograph of a 1985 performance for which he sedated vipers then wove them together. The Sculpture Park features – for three months – another entwinement, for which young American Katie Ryan used polished concrete to effect. Phallic symbolism is never too far off when snakes appear, and that was entertainingly explicit in Yayoi Kusama’s impressive accumulation of phalli (you could argue that she fills a parallel role to Tunga’s, but for Japanese art). Alison Jacques’s stand included a sample from her current gallery show by Brazilian sculptor Erika Verzutti, a bronze in which a cobra stood in for pubic hair in a rather alarming surreal substitution. Ukranian Boris Mikhailov is best known for his photographic narratives of urban poverty and mental illness, but accidentally leaving one slide on top of another led to the series ‘Yesterday’s Sandwich’, in which communist era drudgery is juxtaposed with sex and beauty, surprise and potential escape. Two snakes appeared in the sequence of 176 images, which – to Mikhailov’s own choice of Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ – made for a Frieze Masters highlight at Sprovieri.

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Tunga: ‘Viperine Avant-Garde’, 1985 / 97 at Luhring Augustine and Galleria Franco Noero

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Yayoi Kusama: ‘A Snake’, 1974

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Erika Verzutti@ ‘Cobra Goodnight’, 2015 at Alsion Jacques

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Boris Mikhailov from the slide show ‘Yesterday’s Sandwich’ 1966-1968 at Sprovieri

Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #131: ‘Noi Amiamo l’Italia’

Fontana at Tornabuoni

Is there no limit to London’s appetite for Italian art centred on the 1960’s? It’s all over the auctions and fairs, and you can also now see:

* Lucio Fontana at the impressive new Tornabuoni Art – 50 top examples, including two of only four hexagonal paintings he made.

* Luxembourg & Dayan’s presentation of yet another worthwhile Boetti show – indeed the quality and quantity is close to the Tate’s retrospective of 2013 (and Boetti is the key generative figure in White Cube’s tapestry survey at Mason’s Yard).

* the slightly less well-known Alberto Burri at Mazzoleni: he should be up there with Fontana and Boetti and this thiese exemplary selections from each of his phases show why..

* Two substantial presentations of artists in the kinetically-inclined Gruppo T: Robilant + Voena have two floor of founding member Gianni Colombo, including a walk-in environment; Cortesi Gallery show the elegant geometries of Grazia Varisco, its movement more often implied than literal. 

* Paola Ugolini’s fascinating choice (at Richard Saltoun) of Italian women linked to performance – the very intense Gina Pane and several more.

Given the quality, it’s hard to complain, but add the recent prominence of Manzoni, Pistoletto, Dadamaino, Calzolari, Vedova, Carol Rama (who died recently at 97) and all the Arte Povera group, and you may wonder whether there’s a key figure who hasn’t had a London solo show. Enrico Castellani comes to mind, but you only have to wait till February for Dominique Lévy’s account of him… Maybe Carla Accardi should also be lined up?

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Boetti at Luxembourg & Dayan

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?

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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, Frieze, Photomonitor, Elephant and Border Crossings. I have curated 20 shows during 2013-17 with more on the way. Going back a bit my main writing background is poetry. My day job is public sector financial management.