Andre Wallace

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Sistine Chapel and the branch.

Reporter Christina Patterson pens three pages in the Saturday's Independent on Sarah Lucas - wondered where she was hiding? In among this jobsworth promotion we learn that there is no love lost between herself and the usual suspects. Indeed she professes the fact that she doesn't even like their work and that they are second rate.  Note like Hirst she is another school drop out who found her way into art after hitch-hiking around Europe and attending an evening art class - there is something significant in this. Lucas produces work that is not to everyone's taste but which is not as celebrity centered and self-promotional as that of the usual suspects. It is, to quote Bardolf; common, base and popular, her crucifixion made of cigarettes, like most of her sculpture betrays a confused message, referring to the condition of art but never quite creating the actuality. Her most famous work, "Au Naturel" is no more than an adolescent level visual joke, that doesn't sustain ever re-visiting. Optimistically perhaps, she will mature with more promise?

Sundays press contains a very weird surprise, Waldemar at the Sunday Times discussing the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Why he asks, has the Vatican missed the 500year anniversary of Michelangelo's painting? Aesthetic concerns are not going to be a Vatican priority and why indeed should they be? He then asks some ill-considered questions about the real meaning of the ceiling, seemingly because he is so conceptually sophisticated he has lost the capacity to see. He raves on about the terror in the ceiling imagery as if this was news, the word terribilita specifically describes the feeling of religious awe and faith that Michelangelo was intent on conveying. This is not terror as in terrorist, it's a far more sophisticated concept and never once in the whole article does he mention that Michelangelo was on the cusp between the medieval mind and the renaissance, that the visually expressive power of his sculpture and painting is primarily medieval Gothic. There are more Michelangelo freaks out there than you can shake a stick at and Waldemar begins to sound like one in this text. Dan Brown pulp aside, the Sistine Chapel seems to provide ample food for conspiracy theorists, in our dim-witted visual culture we have lost the capacity to understand biblical and faith interpretation. Some of the net speculation is risible in it's misinterpretation of very obvious visual and ecclesiastical imagery. Just because it looks like a cat as the man said, it doesn't mean that it isn't a cat. So it goes with Waldemar speculating about pope JuliusII believing himself to be the branch. Most catholic  scholars accept that Zachariah was referring to the messiah when he spoke of the branch in 560BC, he was foretelling the coming of Jesus Christ. There is no way even a renaissance pope, would have confused his own identity with that of Christ, it takes an art critic to do that.

Truth often is, that when people cease to believe they end up believing anything. The most sensible comment is the one that concludes the article, that the reason the Vatican don't wish to celebrate the 500 year anniversary of the greatest painting in western art history is that it does not need to - it gets more than enough visitors and attention as it is!

Jeff Koons occupies Charles Darwent's attention at the Independent on Sunday although he really isn't worth the bother. Koons is a former wall street commodity broker who turned artist. The work he gets others to produce is risible despite the academics who have lavished their arcane verbal crap upon it's empty meaning over the past twenty years! The artist doesn't do subtlety, art, meaning or even entertainment - end of story! Those curators again - have gone to town showing him alongside Hellenistic marbles or Egyptian sarcophagi which can only end in pretentious crocodile tears. There is no intelligence whatsoever in attempting to compare works of art that have absolutely nothing in common, least of all a religious meaning and significance.  We all deserve so much better.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Los Angeles MOCA

An almighty row has reportedly broken out as to the direction the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art - MOCA is taking.

The following high profile artist/trustees John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger, Catherine Opie and Ed Rucha. have all resigned from the board in protest at the dumbing down of the museum and it's abandonment of education and scholarship, a trend that is becoming more noticeable recently in contemporary art at every level. Apparently property developer Eli Broad rescued the museum from failure with a $30million bailout and has appointed several hedge fund mangers/oligarchs to the board. Broad's motives are reported as questionable, and he has appointed New York art dealer Jeffrey Deitch as MOCA director. He has also cut the education budget and has put on the exhibitions that are widely seen as dumbing down. These were a graffitti and street art show, an exhibition of actor Dennis Hoppers artwork and a show curated by actor James Franco. Deitch in turn has dismissed long term curator Paul Schimmel, who is responsible for the museums past reputation. Moca's supporters report that this is a row that the artists can win, whatever the trustees of any institution may want to do to promote feet on escalators there comes a point when it isn't viable for a serious artist to exhibit in poor company. MOCA however, is not the only art institution to which this rule should to be applied.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Those Tate Tanks

Bryan Appleyard in the 15/7/2012 Sunday Times supplement reports that this week, Sir Nicholas Serota becomes even more omnipotent with the opening of the oil tanks, the first stage of a £215 million extension to Tate modern to be completed by 2016. The tanks will house installations, performance works, dance and audience participation. So no real art then, just the usual marginal poorly made interests. As Serota says; "many younger artists want a performative audience relationship rather than the contemplative relationship you have in the studio."  Maybe that's because they don't do contemplation - too boring. We are then told 5 million visit Tate Modern annually so this will rise to 6 Million with the opening of the tanks - feet on escalators that is.

The rest of the article plays the usual faux stupid game of contrasting detractors with the wonderful state art establishment achievements, thereby ensuring that questions are only asked by the ranty and ignorant. Some of this copy is totally incomprehensible drivel, for instance Appleyard contrasts the bad old days (70s) when "Fife Robertson was sniffy with bricks as art and Carl Andre bought down the wrath of her Majesties press." What does this stupid copy mean? Since when did Her Majesty the Queen control the press? But there's more - we then get to the nitty-gritty - the historical holes in the Tate's historical acquisitions cunningly hidden by non-chronological hanging - but not for long and we all thought that it was down to too expensive artworks and the foibles of Tate curators. It's a real scandal that under Sir Nicholas, the Tate has consistently ignored it's historical remit and responsibility to preserve and exhibit an historical perspective of British contemporary art in the pursuance of popularity. There is no-one else to do it, least of all Charles Saatchi.

"I was just in the right place at the right time", says Sir Nicholas. No single thing, apart from the opening of Saatchi's gallery in 1985, the usual suspects Freeze exhibition, Rachel Whiteread's house  - need we go on? Ok, then the success of the YBA's who were so media savvy, then there were the bankers and oligarchs desperate to spend their cash (which actually prevented the Tate from acquiring and discharging it's responsibility to the Nation by purchasing art) Bankers aside, we are told the Tate is now the monopoly brand and contemporary art rules - Warhol is an old master etc, etc, etc, tiresome and tedious crap. In short the cultural sea change and the major dumbing-down that was Thatcher's wonderful cultural legacy to the Empire and the advertising industry.

So bring on the critics, and we have Brian Sewell quoted as saying that the dance, the video and the cinema are crap and irrelevant and the ephemera and transient is constantly replaced like pop music. Sewell says, that Sir Nicholas cannot admit this nor can the markets, which is actually quite true but investments are at risk and we are informed that Sir Nicholas believes they will build another Tate to accommodate it all in 2040-50. This is sad optimism by any stretch of the imagination, the Tate and contemporary art will in all likelihood be supremely irrelevant in the apocalyptic crisis ridden world of 2050. Then Appleyard calls up that tedious old windmill of opinion Mathew Collings, although one is at a loss to know why?  Collings is the past master of superficial dumbing down, a mass of contrary unsupported feelings who rants about how much he hates going to Tate Modern. "It's a horrible revolting and repulsive environment" he bleats, "with a stale flavour of contemporary conceptualism that permeates the whole. It's whole advertising and corporate atmosphere is repulsive and against art."  Would that he had said that twenty years ago when he was so enthralled by YBA's and suchlike.

So in summary we are asked to believe that Sir Nicholas has pulled off the most extraordinary transformation in modern British cultural history. A sea change rather than a fashion. "we are at a good moment, young artists have moved on into new areas - a moment comparable to modernism."  A biblical quote seems needed to bury this puffed up piece of dross press copy; "By their fruits you shall know them...........!"

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Eddie Wolfram and Pavel Buchler

The Jackdaw has related an extraordinary story concerning one Pavel Buchler. This state art acolyte, discovered a number of paintings by one Eddie Wolfram (deceased) in an Oxfam shop in Manchester. He then bought the lot and re-cycled them as his own artworks, largely by removing the paint and sticking it onto new canvases with no-nails in new (meaningful) configurations. This is supposed to be conceptually meaningful in a number of ways, as a comment on the artists rejection by the market place etc, etc, etc, the usual conformist conceptual crap and misbegotten thinking. The stuck on recycled paint bits are now being shown at Max Wigram in Cork street.

This blog has complained about artists being ripped off before but this one really achieves a new low. This dumb gesture displays no artistry, no sensibility, no decency, no sensitivity towards a dead artist and no morality - what he has done here comes under a old religious and moral heading, that of desecration. Once upon a time all artists were made aware of their moral and ethical responsibilities and they even took them seriously. One can only imagine what he may reply to that charge! This is no more than a conceited, jack-ass, lazy, idle stunt, and can only be the product of unadulterated ignorance and overweening ambition - and note that he is ostensibly the professor of fine art at Manchester school of art - God help his poor long suffering students!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Wind turbine at Tate

The Media seem to have kept this art protest about the Tate's links with BP very quiet. It slipped below the radar: A Wind turbine was gifted to gallery last week. The reason seems to be that  -  the turbine blade, an artwork gifted to the Tate, under the terms of the galleries legal foundations, the gallery is compelled to accept any art gift. whatever the motive of it's sponsors. In this case the choice of a turbine blade, as a gesture to green politics seems an appropriate object considering some of the garbage that the Tate is only too willing to endorse as art without any basic logical or academic justification. Nothing more will be heard of the blade as either a work of art or object. Raises some interesting questions about exactly whom legitimates an object as an art work. Is mass acceptance part of the criteria? If not, then who decides and who approves the legal legitimacy and status of approved state art? Curators or artists, art market, patron, collector or word of mouth?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

July 8th Jenny Saville

Waldemar Januszczak at the Sunday Times pens a eulogy to a Jenny Saville show at Modern Art Oxford.  An artist for whom one is compelled to have respect, who has firmly trodden the road of figurative painting, ignoring all conceptual fashion and trends and is all the better for it. As Waldemar says she is in her 40's so her best work probably lies in the future but that isn't to deny her not inconsiderable achievements to date. This is a woman who can actually paint, a successor to Lucian Freud, whose manages to convey the transience of flesh and thereby life.  Note that Waldemar actually remarks upon her superb talents as a draughtsman - now that is a really rare piece of copy.

Charles Darwent in the Independent on Sunday addresses the Impressionism show at the RA. A show based upon the Clark's (Singer sewing machines) collection which is travelling whilst it's home is being renovated. At the end of the piece he mentions the murky mess surrounding the Barnes collection. After years of dirty work it was removed from it's purpose built Palladian home -  reportedly in defiance of Barnes will,  by the city of Philadelphia. As Darwent reports; Philadelphians should hand their heads in shame at the anti-educational machinations of their town council.  Barnes worked on creating his educational foundation project with John Dewey and in a more enlightened world this alone would be seen as ample reason to preserve the entire art educational conditions of his will. Greed however has won out, the after the friends of Barnes were declared an inadmissible organisation by the judge the town council helped themselves to a complete treasure. A very sordid tale from start to finish.

Lastly and most embarrassingly we have the "stunning series of posters unveiled for the Olympic games." Martin Creed's  "podium" is a void -  no change there then.  Bob and Roberta Smith's Ks3 art effort for the Paralympics, Chris Ofili's dire attempt to draw an athlete, Gary Hume's pretense at abstracting images from a wheelchair tennis player photo and Anthea Hamilton's (courtesy of Hockney) "Divers" are all cringe-making in their sheer amateurishness. Only Michael Craig-Martins "Go" and Sarah Morris's "Big Ben" come near to what was actually required. We can excuse it all by watching 2012 and congratulating ourselves on how sophisticated and self-regarding we are and with what skills the chattering classes mock themselves! Suggests mass embarrassment to cover a sense of inferiority. Now that's food for a Phd Thesis - Embarrassment in fine art as a cultural strategy. We are unable to mention the usual suspect's effort which is now off limits?  You can buy the entire boxed set for an extortionate sum - good investment.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

More Curators and Trustees

Today 4th July brings the news that an idyllic depiction of rural Suffolk was sold yesterday by Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. It fetched over £22,000,000 from an unknown buyer.

Be that as it may, the most interesting reported footnote is that; The sale has prompted Sir Norman Rosenthal,  former RA exhibition secretary to resign in protest from the trustees of the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum in Madrid. He is reported to have said that the sale was "morally shameful" and accused the Baroness of "having no understanding of art history or art appreciation." This is pretty rich stuff, coming from the man who put on the Sensation exhibition at the RA, thereby sealing the rapid decline of British visual culture.

This site has criticised curators in the past for their stupid attitudes and behaviour towards artists without whom their jobs would not exist. Arts managers and other useless hangers on such as curators are usually paid far more than most artists can expect to earn and the preponderance of non art educated suits continues to expand, despite the severe contractions in the rest of the art market -  today brings the news that Tate media have set up an online Gallery of Lost Art curated by a Jennifer Mundy which will display photographs of lost artworks or art that no longer exists. One has to ask the question; why is public money being spent on this totally misbegotten and stupid excuse for an online gallery? Even if it's covert function is to promote the careers of state art acolytes such as RA Michael Landy. If the work is lost it's cultural value is totally non-existent, it is absolutely irrelevant - gone. Why is this money not being spent upon the safe exposure of the nation's art history which is the Tate Galleries actual Raison D'etre?  There is a desperate need for a clear-out of  those persons who stunts are unwittingly accelerating our rapid cultural decline! It's not as if the artists concerned have not already have sufficient exposure such as Duchamp.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

YBA wide open school

The Independent reports that a number of YBAs are running art classes for the challenged at the Hayward. Interesting item is the list of who these artists would like to have been taught by. This says a lot about their real intellectual values. As does the sour first comment in the thread on the page below; "It would be nice to be taught something in art school". Well yes, but as contender Martin Creed explains with typical conceit, nobody teaches anything, people just learn, but this doesn't stop his class from running. These classes, such as method acting from Gillian Wearing, destruction from Michael Landy or Music from Martin Creed are being run in a classroom environment. The taster reported upon was by the Wilson Twins and the theme was surveillance inspired by the assassination of Mohmoud al-Mabhouh in a hotel in Dubai. They did a Bourne by checking into the same hotel room as Al-Mabhouth and filming there. Emma Love reports that the beauty of it was that unlike her own schooldays, everyone wanted to be there. Why go back to the classroom, unless they were all aspirant private detectives or MI5 wannabees?

On to Waldemar on Munch at the Tate Modern in the Sunday Times, though why this master of misery, over-priced and over-exposed expressionist should appear just before the Olympics is puzzling? Have we no decent British artists left, having done Hirst, Emin, Hockney, Freud and Blake? Have seen three separate Munch exhibitions over the years, all of which left behind a memorable feeling of claustrophobic nausea in the pit of the stomach. Sufficient to make one want to vomit. Munch is for those who need faux misery in their lives to remind them how fortunate they are, that is the over-privileged and not the man on the Clapham Omnibus. Have to disagree with all the hype by Laura Cummings in the Observer and Charles Darwent in the Independent on Sunday about the self portrait between the clock and the bed. Execrable drawing and depiction with crude colour, it does not even bare comparison with some of Lucien Freuds later self portraits.