Andre Wallace

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Moriko Mori at the RA

This weeks Sunday Press is full of the Moriko Mori show opening at the RA. It ostensibly marks this friday's Mayan end of the world calendarCharles Darwent isn't convinced (Independent on Sunday) and dislikes what he sees, whilst Waldemar Janusczcak (Sunday Times) and Adrian Hamilton (Independent) get carried away with new age enthusiasm for quiet beauty and low lights.

Charles Darwent isn't happy with the japanese equivalent of Anish Kapoor, he argues that it is difficult to imagine any British artist tracing their history back to Amesbury or Stonehenge but this to ignore Richard long or Andy Goldsworthy. This would betray a seriousness that would make the British snigger - but that depends upon your age and generation, excluded older perspectives learned to think of 20th century art as an extremely serious business. The current generation seem only capable of superficial art and appreciation. Who do they have to contemplate? Mori is quite at home with the Japanese culture of 14,000BC the Jomon. Contemporary British art, is, he says prevented from being serious and the spiritual is quite beyond the pale. What does this say about the our contemporary art? Darwent says he doesn't get it, the work is too damn nice and will only appeal to Prius drivers, inhabitants of Findhorn, Totnes or weavers? He is annoyed at it's pure niceness and spirituality.

Janusczcak on the other hand loves the Buddhist contemplation. He terms it Avebury, menhirs and monoliths with expert spiritual massage and goes completely with a purely emotional response.  He suggests that if Friday does mark the end of human existence there are worse places to spend you time than under Mori's artificial sky............ The show is like swimming through a gigantic Lava lamp with expert massage from an invisible geisha. Impeccably presented, it consists of the kinds of totally batty creative effects you get from japanese artists. He also mentions the ignored and marginalised artist Algernon Newton (too 19th century) whose exhibition is at the Daniel Katz gallery. Richard Dorment's article is here.

Adrian Hamilton whilst enthusiastic also says there is something risible in Mori's mood making discs and self help manuals that are intended to leave you untroubled. He says the more the work is conceptual the less it succeeds. Some of it is very conceptual indeed, for instance Tom na Hui II has lights connected to a computer in at the Institute of cosmic ray research at Tokyo University. This logs and detects neutrinos entering the atmosphere and the lights within the sculpture itself respond accordingly.  What does this actually mean? She is, he says, one of the few artists around who succeeds in dealing with the noumenal and the etherial. This is an achievement if anything, in a truly cynical time.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Jonas Mekas and AKA Peace 9.12.2012

Not much art this week except discussion of the American film maker Jonas Mekas at the Serpentine - The autobiography of an extraordinary man in love with the ordinary, as Charles Darwent describes him. Waldemar Januszczak  also waxes lyrical with a comment that film stock was capable of subtle and delicate moods before it was kidnapped by contemporary art - with all the brash and crude showmanship of the circus that entails.

Came across this thought provoking piece on Mark Vallens "Art for a change" Blog about the limits of current Political art which deserves attention. This was an ICA exhibition in September that didn't get much press here for whatever reasons. The exhibits point up both the pretence and the formal artistic limitations at the heart of much YBA artwork. The ICA exhibition was trite, inane, and conceptually inadequate. This blog has mentioned how Desecration has crept into contemporary art as a legitimate strategy and the action of Brothers Chapman in desecrating the Goya Disasters of war suite has passed largely unremarked by a supine art world.  The attitude is, if they can afford to purchase it then they can do what they like with a cultural treasure. Anti war artwork like Goya's is what is needed at this time and not attempts to glorify the ubiquitous Kalashnikov like good bad little boys. It is very striking how inadequate the YBA sculpture is, when compared with real political sculpture like that of Michael Sandle. A traditional anti-war sculptor who creates and combines new forms and old forms to get the anti-war message across. None of the artists who showed in the AKA Peace exhibition seemed to be capable of creating a basic sculptural form, lazily presenting the object; Grinding the Kalashnikov to small scurf (Gavin Turk), Knotting the barrel (Tim Noble and Sue Webster), painting it bright colours (the usual suspect and Stuart Semple), covering it with butterflies (Laila Shawa), covering it with banknotes (Bran Symondson) and Thorns (Nancy Fouts), drilling holes in it (Charming Baker) and finally confusing the message (Langland and Bells). Sarah Lucas's piece is downright rude in intent, whilst the Chapman brothers have just repeated the same old, same old without considering what their little figures actually communicate.  A demonstration that these artists have not the wherewithal to create meaning within a new form and they cannot see the bigger picture. Just going through the motions - as if that was enough.  So much more could have been attempted, even with the kalashnikov - plenty source material is available from the graveyards of Empires in the middle east.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Art of the year - 2012?

It's that time of the year again: the Guardian 2's art critic Adrian Searle has taken the trouble to give us a list of his favourite art of 2012. He need not have bothered giving us this uncritical guff. First off, he cannot resist a swipe at David Hockney, accusing him of services to East Yorkshire tourism and encouraging anyone meeting Hockney and his ipad in the Wold countryside to tell him to desist. Why should he dare to presume this far, except to ingratiate himself with the me, me, me, generation?

His heroes of the year 2012 are the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei and Pussy Riot - both of them for not doing or saying what they are told! What their politics has to do with their art i.e. literally nothing, shows our erstwhile critics in his true colours, as a right on, state art acolyte with wet liberal confusions.
However the reason for his hyping of Tino Sehgal's performance art at the Tate turbine hall in the summer is (Not art , not even close) but according to Searle it was totally Life changing and "mind-fucking". Charming dumbed down phrase  that one - He made Searle laugh and cry we are informed and then to go back again and again, but what has all this got to do with visual art? - performance and entertainment, (at the Tate for what that says about their priorities,) well yes, but art, not even close. Just amusing all the punters. Searle says some people just don't get it, but that's ok because plenty do! Maybe they don't want to get it because it isn't actually visual art. Judging by the huge number of hits that the previous entry on Sehgal on this blog has received, he is correct, but that doesn't give him the right to brow beat us into accepting that the Unilever sponsored performance theatre was visual art - it wasn't anything of the sort and it will never be, despite all Searle's wordy confusion.

Other lists of 2012 art
The New York Times list of the years art is here.
San Francisco Bay guardian is here
List Co uk is here
Huffington Post is here

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Turner prize and Bloomberg Young Contemporaries

This evening 3rd Dec brings the news that Elizabeth Price has won the Turner Prize. Price is a former pop singer from the group Talulah Gosh, so her celebrity status as arty film maker is now firmly assured.
Be that as it may, both she, Sir Nicholas Serota and Jude Law who presented the prize took the public chance to take a swipe at the UK coalition government for ignoring the arts in Mr Goves new Ebacc. Film star Jude Law described the proposals as cultural vandalism, which indeed (as we have pointed out before in this blog) it is, but there is an undercurrent of worse going on in education and of much much worse to come. There is never any recognition by the Tory party of the significance of the cultural industries which are now both more important economically and will employ more people than the financial industries. This is a very short sighted policy for the future. Particularly as Mr Gove's concept of a Ebacc curriculum appears to be 19th century in gradgrind intent and content. Arguable the creative and interpretive skills of arts education are crucial to the life chances of all 21st century citizens.
Ms Price said that it was incredibly depressing that a comprehensive schoolgirl in Luton such as she herself had been, may not in future have any opportunity to become an artist.  This chance in future being down to a specific academy headmaster or headmistresses art/anti art prejudices and not as it should be, legislated for by government for the benefit of the whole of society. Someone seems to be convinced that there are way too many artists, which there probably are, but this is a very good thing at a time when so many are being deliberately deprived of employment. At least most artists are usually able to survive on their creative wits (think of pop music history and the art schools) without relying upon the state for support.

Passing onto the attention that the Bloomberg New Contemporaries is drawing from the media - guess there isn't anything else, similar out there at the moment. Laura Cummings in the Observer is keen on talking up this pseudo-controversial art school exit stuff as is Adrian Hamilton in the Independent. Cummings piece is homely and predictable as she argues that there is a resurgence of painting, - if you could call Freya Douglas Morris's daubs that. She seems to be an artist who has actually gone backwards through her career and not forwards, compare her recent work to that of several years ago. Cummings is also very critical of the selection procedure which is now the bog standard one - i.e. send in your jpg and we will get back to you if we can be bothered! Surely a fine method of selection - Not. Adrian Hamilton argues that the exhibition shows how photography still dominates figurative art which is complete nonsense because they are not at all the same thing, although art critics frequently confuse them because of the likes of Cindy Sherman. He says that what is missing is any sense of the anger that the young should feel towards their elders and their personal fear for the future. What total tripe, this has nothing whatsoever to do with their artwork. As if the elders themselves have no genuine right to be angry with the banksters, politicians! and the state. Please note Mr Hamilton not all elders are banksters and it is only art after all.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Art on the underground

What is it about contemporary art and the underground station, why has the decor of a station become an international city status competition?
Real art can be beautifully successful when it is fully absorbed and carefully melded into the architectural design of an underground station. A good example is the metro in Naples which is part of the Art station line project. The crater of Luz by Oscar Tusquet Blanca in Toledo underground station is absolutely outstanding and successful environmental design. Athens tube stations are like a series of underground museums. London's Gloucester road tube has been a dimly lit art gallery for some time, but then explicably, it is next to Sloan Square station.
So why then do other cities have far more reverence and respect for their underground systems than London seems to have? There appears to be a trend for cities to compete for the top design place with outstanding examples in Lisbon, Montreal, Shanghai, Tokyo, Stockholm and Vancouver all competing for a top spot in the contemporary art stakes.  In the UK we take an amateurish half baked approach to this crucially important aspect of urban design which is very significant for visitors as well as for the long suffering residents. The powers that be, commission any artist to do something, not necessarily design, sling out some philosophical attitude and irrelevancy acted out with amateur flair and expense. Where we do permanent design it is almost always utilitarian and functional with added contemporary art surfaces and pretentions. Such a missed opportunity but then again, we can do it when we try.?