Least impressive Richard Serra
Most Curious Sculptural Objects
The trees in Bilbao tend so severely towards the minimalist, at least in February, that most are reduced to humanoid stick-ciphers, many to little more than an apparent V-sign to passers by. One of the Guggenheim’s excellent subsidiary shows was of Albert Oehlen: it included several paintings using his long-running tree motif. Untitled, 2013, exploits Oelhen’s accidental discovery that he liked painting on aluminium. The series uses magenta, he says, as ‘a hysterical colour, somehow – to me they look like psychopathic human trees’.
The Guggenheim’s spaces are very large, so to see one containing just one painting per wall was striking: the three fully available walls were occupied by exceptionally wide horizontal format works by Rauschenberg, Rosenquist and Warhol. One Hundred and Fifty Multicolored Marilyns, 1979, is well over ten metres wide. It’s a dark, obsessive and gestural reversal reprise of the icon, making it seem all the more emotionally engaged with its creator’s thoughts of his own death.
Notoriously fiery artist and theoretician Jorge Orteiza (1908–2003) spent 1935-47 in South America either side of his Basque years, and taught the more famous Chillida (but fell out with him for 30 years from 1967 before a late reconciliation). Orteiza is known for his small works, well represented in the Museum of Fine Art. However, this public sculpture Ovoid variation on the emptying of the sphere is a rather successful later scaling up of a 1958 sculpture which makes use of his characteristic interest in emptied forms to ‘capture’ the town hall's tower from some angles.
I was a couple of days too early for what sounded an impressive survey of intimacy in Renoir. No matter, I decided to explore the city's small clutch of commercial galleries before catching the evening flight - only to find that the standard gallery hours are 11-2 and 5-9, which makes plenty of sense but caught me out. I did catch a glimpse of Isabel Garay's exhibition of sculpture through the door of the Vanguardia galleria, and it looked good enough to wish it had been more fully viewable.