Andre Wallace

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

60s revision; Yoko Ono and Peter Blake.

The Sunday Press seems full of reviews of Yoko Ono's show at the Serpentine. Guess it's a mis-match of priorities. Michael Glover's Independent review is apt and critical, he manages to see through the hype to the aesthetic vacuum beneath. Unlike Waldemar who writes an effusive glowing piece on the thin artistic gruel in the Sunday Times. It contains some wrong facts, such that Yoko was an artistic force to be reckoned with in the sixties - she wasn't anything of the sort. Her only status in the art world then, was the publicity as John Lennon's partner, no more no less. Her artwork definitely has not improved with time, it was vague and effete then and is more so now when life is so much harder for many people. We have Waldemar telling us that outside the gallery you are encouraged to write down your wishes and pin them to a wish tree. I remember seeing a real one of these by a spring in deepest darkest Essex 20 years ago and it struck me as an occult and regressive primitive gesture. This is not exactly original, more a metropolitan re-hash of something country people in many cultures have being doing for thousands of years.

Octogenarian Peter Blake has a four page spread in the Sunday Times supplement entitled "Still top of the Pop." His art is populist in the real sense of the word, the artistic content of his work being photographically and fan worship based. He hasn't advanced his technique in fifty years, apart from his time as a member of the brotherhood of Ruralists he still remains the staid depictor of 60's popular culture, an eternal fan of transient kitsch. Revisionists may not know that his work was really challenging when it was produced. One thing about his painting, he never seems to finish anything, the unfinished gesture is his trademark, as in this self image from 1961 where his right hand and his left shoe simply do not work. Only in the field contemporary art could a man who produced this image become a RA and an honory doctor of the Royal College of Art. He was also a skills based professor of drawing at the RA, unlike the present incumbent.(she who must not be mentioned.) As Hockney has had his Olympic year day in the sun, it was only a matter of time that Blake, would also have his at the Fine Art Society and Pallant House, Chichester. The state art curators seem to have overlooked Frank Auerbach and Howard Hodgkin!

Claudia Pritchard (who she?) at the Independent goes into ecstasy over the BP Portrait awards. Safe as houses, this annual pictorial event is not to be missed and always throws up some surprises, even if it is always representational painting. "Auntie by Aleah Chapin" deserves first prize for sheer naked effrontery. At least the artists on show know how to look deeply and know how to accurately depict a visual image.

"Self portrait with reference to Caravaggio" by Alan Salisbury, "Today you were far away" by Ian Cumberland and "Self-portrait" by Jean Paul Tibbles are particularly fine paintings worthy of a visit to the National Portrait Gallery. Admission free.

Interesting little side report in this weeks Private Eye. They report that the Russian owner (Evgeny Lebedev) of the Evening Standard invited his art critic Brian Sewell to dinner and asked him to soften his criticism of YBA's as several of his friends were worried about the effects that Sewell's criticism was having on the price of their investments. Sewell is reported to have walked out and left his dinner on the table. Contemporary art has always been a risky investment, whatever happened to those most famous sixties contemporary sculptors, Francis Morland, Roland Piche or the great Michael Sandle.? Caveat Emptor - this seems unnecessary when there are so many well-informed people inside and outside the art world who could have given them very sound advice on the work of YBA's before they invested in it. Perhaps they should seek out a subscription to the Jackdaw?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Invisible Art show at the Hayward - Sunday 17th June 2012

First some more excellent artists to peruse;

Tilo Baumgartel
Michael Tarr
Stas Frenkiel
Danny Pockets
Jenny Baron
Jilly Sutton
Simon Gales
Mick Davies

In the Sunday Press
The oft used phrase; "Art, is what you can get away", with springs to mind when considering the Invisible Art exhibition at the Hayward. At the Sunday Times, Waldemar, at the Independent on Sunday, Charles Darwent and the Observer Laura Cummings all discuss the invisible art show at the Hayward. Seems like this exhibition is a test of the gullibility of contemporary art addicts, it takes the idea of supine acolyte to it's logical conclusion, that what's not here, actually exists.

All have some choice comments concerning the status of conceptual art. Waldemar Januszczak is his usual open self, not much criticism here, just enthusiasm for the entire project. He says it's good that the project is being tackled and then takes a pop at Martin Creed. Discussing the invisible labyrinth by Jesse Hein he mentions the shrinking gap between contemporary art and the funfair ride. This is apt, but he qualifies it saying that it's a valid method of dumbing down. As if we need any encouragement to pursue that inane, stupid strategy. Then he finishes his piece with the remark that the show leaves one with the feeling left behind by the bad conceptual art, presumably the sour feeling!

Charles Darwent argues that it is hard to see the point of the show. That invisibility as a strategy has not the consistency of say oil paint as a material or media. Nor the materialization. It's hard to see how this could be so, how invisibility could have any validity as a medium, despite the artists attempts to convince us of the truth of each empty gesture. He argues that this may be the point of the exhibition but the truth is; nothing comes of nothing and nothing ever will.

Laura Cumming however is far more enthusiastic with the project as she asserts that Invisible is a show replete with assertions and claims................its only the thought that counts. This gets to the heart of the matter. The integrity of the artists concerned. The integrity of the Hayward. Where an assertion of a belief is all that is visible, assertion of disbelief has quite equal validity and status. Assertions are unsupported proofs, no more, no less. They have no empirical existence beyond a supine and willing audience with an accepting response. In the end there is nothing in the show, nothing to look at, absolutely no visual art - just unsubstantiated wordy conceptual assertions, not visual - despite the cool exhibits. Andy Warhol's empty celebrity obsessed plinth on which he said that he stood, provokes the quite valid rational response; So what, and why would anyone care!  Pity Brian Sewell didn't review the exhibition!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Portrait Sculpture in Bath

Excellent exhibition of portrait sculpture at the Holburne museum in Bath. Laura Cumming in the 3rd June Observer gives it a sound review.  It is she says about as good a survey of portrait sculpture as you could get - have to agree, well put together with some real surprises.

Charles Darwent in the Independent on Sunday 10th June discusses Tess Jaray's hanging at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition bun fight. Darwent is enthusiastic about the way the galleries have been hung, as well as the giving over of one gallery to one film. Don't share this enthusiasm.

The RA charges large fees per entry to unknown artists for a poor chance of showing their work. Most open exhibitions in the UK do this and it is often a vanity project. If you are a young artist reading this, and are thinking of submitting work to any open exhibition, suggest that you check exactly who is doing the selection before pay out your hard earned cash. That way you will know exactly why you were disappointed by rejection and what sort of artwork they were actually looking for.

Contrast Darwent's piece with this cogent one from the Jackdaw.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Catastrophic art.

Many conspiracy theories have arisen around December 2012.

This Israeli artist Eyal Gever is using computer technology to produce sculptures based upon catastrophic events. The results have prefect sculptural conviction simply because they are very accurate re-modelling of the physics of the real world, using seven computers. There is no human being involved in their production, and as such they have exactly the same bland feeling as virtual reality movies such as Toy Story.  Their interest lies in their complexity.

Some other artists exploring the theme of catastrophe are  Louis SaurelKatherine Mulherin and  Gregor Schneider.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Henry Moore at Gagosian - some revisionist criticism

This article concerning a Henry Moore exhibition at the Gagosian popped up in Sunday's Independent. It contains some interesting mis-conception and mis-interpretation of the bronzes. Firstly the article harps on about a descriptive crude term, "the turd in the Piazza" - as if any educated person in the sixties would have used such an expression in public. In private maybe to friends, but certainly not in print or in any other media. To have used such an expression then, would have immediately damned the user as an ignorant bore not worthy of being heard. Now of course in a much cruder, ignorant and coarser age, this phrase, gulled from the Internet is perfectly acceptable. So too is this: " In a room to the right as you walk in are Two Piece Reclining figure No 2 (1960) and Large Four Piece Reclining figure (1972-3). The newer , bigger work is smooth and highly polished, like a Brancusi of 50 years before: and the smaller earlier is rough, black and cloacal, made to look like an outsized clay maquette." 
This is exactly what the sculpture is, as Moore's working procedure almost always involved the creation of several maquettes, before scaling up to the final clay model. If it works as a 3D maquette it will usually work as a large version. Moore prided himself on his ability to make very, very accurate millimeter measurements by eye. The sculptural procedure of messing around with maquettes is a standard procedure for bronzes from the 15th century onward, the V and A has rooms full of cast maquettes.

So much for Charles Darwent, it was followed by a similar piece by Michael Glover in Monday's Independent. He remarks on the over-familiarity of the sculpture and again a misinterpretation with this;" See how the dimpling of the bit of coral is transposed from found object to grand made thing. Yes, Moore in common with so many sculptors, song writers, painters and poets, was a canny thief. The skill was in putting it all together. And there is great skill here, in the ways these forms so skilfully accommodate each other..........." This betrays a complete ignorance of Moore' working procedures, insofar as he never worked from his imagination alone. Moore accepted that in order to make great sculpture, as artists have done since the renaissance, you cannot loose visual touch with nature. Nature is your total visual touchstone and source however abstract the resultant work. His work was the imaginative, re-working of natural forms, seen as a duty, and not thieving - as if such a dim-witted idea would have held any meaning for him! Time was (not so long ago) when all fine artists were trained to look and work from the visual natural world and not their dim-witted feelings.