Andre Wallace

Thursday, March 28, 2013

David Bowie at the V and A

More Plagiarism
They often say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but sometimes it goes way too far and it can be a criminal activity as a blatant breech of copyright. This well known Somerset artist, Nancy Farmer who is a brilliant and original talent is having her work directly ripped off by a very poor internet copyist. There are some people out there who have no ethics whatsoever and they think that this sort of activity is ok, despite the execrable and appalling quality of their copies......

David Bowie at the V & A
This weeks press brings us news of the David Bowie exhibition at the V & A. Waldemar Januszczak in the Sunday Times tackles this but starts with the caveat that the exhibition has no place in the V & A, - have to agree with this as it's yet another example of questionable design in the wrong place.  It's not as if Bowie hasn't access to all other prestigious venues.   Januszczak argues that the show is an act of colonisation that should have been held at the O2 or National Exhibition centre. The place of the V and A is to preserve the cultural significance of 15th century german woodcarving because that is the museums public remit. Anyway as he argues, it is questionable whether it's the job of the V and A to help sell more recordings of Bowie songs. Waldemar says that the show is painfully pretentious in its portentous presentation. It seems we learn, that Bowie left school at 16 and went to work in an advertising agency. Would that today's youth could be so lucky?   Ending the review, - "it's a giant jukebox thinly disguised as an art exhibition."

We have to go to Peter Conrad in the Observer to get the really pretentious lefty hype. We get the usual state art crap quoting from Roland Barthes, announcing the death of the author and authority etc, etc, setting the critic free to impute whatever meaning they wish to a work of art. If only this were true, it seems curiously outdated and outmoded tripe in the middle of a recession! The show starts with the portentous "all art is unstable? There are only a multiplicity of readings." This just isn't true and it has no cultural validity at the V & A - state art palaces such as the RA or Haywood yes but the V &A, definitely no. The market here is however god and we are given two whole pages of hype which ends with this; "So now we know who David Bowie is  - King Arthur or David Beckham depending upon your taste. " as indeed it does, taste being the operative word. "We get the god, like the government that we deserve." Puts one in mind of a visit to the Tate Britain in 1997 with a student group. Leaving proved problematic as David Bowie and Iman were sitting drinking their coffee in the restaurant  surrounded by silent, reverential and worshipping students who did not wish to depart to the waiting coach. He definitely had a charismatic hold over them despite the relative age differences and then we were late back ....... 

Charles Darwent turns his attention to the George Bellows exhibition at the RA. He makes some interesting  comparisons between the Bellows and the Manet exhibition next door. He writes; "Bolshie french artist paints silk frocks - bloated american capitalist paints slums, something wrong here " He explains that what is wrong, is that beneath the modernity of Bellow's crowds there lurks something to be feared, something feral, i.e. democracy. The painting of the digging of the foundations of Pennsylvania station reminds Darwent of Ground Zero - revisionist criticism that! He asks this, as Bellows died at 42 of a burst appendix in 1925 where would he have gone in his work had he lived? Interesting to speculate.

The New York Times reports something 'new' that art teachers and lecturers have known for aeons. That there is now a growing body of evidence that smart design can reduce aberrant behaviour. "Evidence from myriad studies and design research strongly supports the notion that architectural design can reduce violence." It has been known for over a century that poor environments create and enhance crime and social problems but we never seem to be able to learn the lesson and apply it, do we?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Serpentine and tube stations

Waldemar Januszczak is taking the Serpentine Gallery to task this week. He seems to have sharpened up recently and is asking why some artists are admired beyond their worth in some galleries, whilst others are not?  Could posit the answer but won't for fear of offence. Waldemar doesn't rate Fischli/Weiss who have been given the entire Kensington Gardens to balance two rocks on one another. It is art that displays little amusements, intriguing but lightweight. He says their work has a dry tragicomic edge that substitutes for meaning but isn't anything of the sort.  The review goes as far as to criticise the Serpentine Gallery curator's tripe concerning the two balanced rocks; " That Fischli/Wiess have continuously demonstrated that irony and  sincerity could not exist without each other, and that in fact, there is no sincerity like irony." Which is just inane as there are legions of underemployed poseurs balancing rocks on each other and calling it sculpture - some maybe even in lost world homage to land art.  As Waldemar remarks, the thinking here is so trite, such back of the envelope stuff, that cynically one asks how much did it cost? Why was such an effort expended on so little gain? Moving on, he states that Rosemary Trockel's show inside the Serpentine is so bad that to see how unspeakably ghastly it is, you will just have to visit it.
Continuing in the same vein he writes of Simon Starling's show at Tate Britain; "Michelangelo working on his own, took four years to paint every inch of the Sistine Chapel ceiling whilst Starling working with fifty others at unthinkable TV expense took a few weeks to produce five minutes of mildly diverting film."
 "For a clear view of the collapse of values that has disfigured the contemporary art world hurry along to watch Phantom Ride."  he says.  This is all good critical stuff and proof that the recession is inevitably going to shake out those "artists" who are continuing to produce work as if the recession never happened, earnestly fiddling whilst Rome burns.

Speaking of which Charles Darwent at the Independent on Sunday is rather too enthusiastic about Mark Wallinger. An ageing  YBA who believes that he is a real heavyweight, Wallinger sprang to public notoriety with his huge painting of Myra Hindley made from children's hand prints at the Sensation show in 1997.  For that one single pursuit of fame one cannot forgive his complete lack of sensibility and sensitivity! Darwent is enthusiastic about his simple maze symbols which he has so far put onto the walls of 10 tube stations. You can buy children's books full of these maze designs and once again there is a nasty issue of plagiarism rearing it's ugly head, anything is fair game. Darwent pens this;" There is something faintly Dan Brown about all this. Conspiracy theorists will recall that red, white and black roundels incorporating a cross were  used to some effect by the Nazis. Reducing things to symbols, as Wallinger is aware, is fraught with danger. His labyrinths remind us of that."

Really? This also brings to mind Donald Kuspit's remark about Andy Warhol; “the protean artist-self with no core”

Peter Conrad at the Observer writes well about the George Bellows exhibition at the RA. Bellows, a great painter died in 1925 at the young age of 42, unfortunately his later works were no improvement upon the earlier ones.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Chuck Close

Sunday 10th March press;

Charles Darwent at the Independent is discussing Chuck Close. He mentions the moral anxiety of Roy Lichtenstein's Ben-Day dots in a discussion of 1970's process art, because Close used grids to construct his images from the 1970's onwards in common with Sol Lewitt and others.  Close is reported to have had severe health problems when young.
He was born with prosopagnosia, a condition that prevents him from recognizing faces, Mr. Close explained that the only way he can remember a face is by breaking it down into small “bite-sized” pieces, like the tiny squares or circles of color that make up his paintings and prints. This forms the basis of his artwork.  Making something positive of a difficulty as it were. Darwent writes this cogent summary;
"This isn't the glib nihilism of a Postmodern artist, but the horror of an instinctive traditionalist who has looked and looked and, at last, seen nothing but the reflection of his own glasses. Come to think of it, Self-Portrait (1977) may be like Mona Lisa after all, in that it gives nothing away about its subject. But then, neither image was meant to." Altogether a rewarding exhibition and a figurative one. Waldemar Januszczak is off the contemporary art track writing up American Indians in the Sunday Times and Laura Cummings is on holiday.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Roy Lichtenstein rehash at the Tate Modern

Sunday 24th Feb the art critic press is all Roy Lichtenstein at Tate Modern, this from Richard DormentCharles Darwent, Laura CummingAdrian HamiltonAlice Vincent Alistair Sooke to Waldemar Januszczak.

It's often been repeated that Pop art was the most superficial and empty art movement of the past fity years. This points up the problem of meaning in Roy Lichtenstein's painting, the facile content of the image.

Sarah Churchwell's criticism in the Guardian is erroneous in arty word assumptions. She argues that the paintings are conceptual and that Lichtenstein uses conventional representation to explore abstract concepts, such as seeing stars? what's that about? so seeing stars is abstract and not representational of brain damage? Or curving lines that suggest motion because these relate to the futurists. No, just comic books ? - and this is conceptual art?   No, No, No, not even close to being conceptual art, he swiped and copied most standard newspaper cartoonist's representational devices particularly the ubiquitous black outline that a child uses..... The images  were not his, not even close, they were all plagiarized, and stealing is stealing, images or ideas. There is also little formal alteration made as a gesture to the scale of the images. There is also, as Churchwell mentions, the problem of the work being a parody of art which Lichtenstein was often fond of quoting as a justification for his "sophisticated" rip-offs. Churchwell should be able to see that there is no trace of visual parody in the work, it is basically simple minded and sincere in it's worship of the graphic image writ large - it is what it is, no more, and no less and time hasn't improved it one tiny bit, despite it's putative huge popularity......  Roy Lichtenstein should have given some acknowledgement and consideration to the graphic artists who actually did the work for him but then the fine art world often approves this kind of blatant dishonesty.

Richard Dorment seems to have lost the plot completely, he writes; "I came away with a new respect for the way Lichtenstein used the work of other artists as a means to analyse, explore and sometimes subvert the building blocks of art — illusion, perspective, line and colour." If only this remark contained even a glimmer of truth, he could have taken the trouble to look at some of the internet sites that record where Lichtenstein had pinched his images from!

Charles Darwent is as usual a bit more perceptive and we learn that Lichtenstein was a history painter and indeed he can now be seen as such, he writes;" His art is often funny, intentionally glib; but it is, at heart, tinged with despair." Waldemar Januszczak in the Sunday Times makes much the same point when he writes in conclusion; "It is all rather sad."  Indeed it is all very sad.

Laura Cumming is her usual effusive self, "In one scene, straight out of Picasso, two nudes are running along a beach but one looks comically cross to be left behind while the other is nearly out of the picture." What does this suggest; poor composition or spacial problems, but clearly nothing to do with Picasso..

Sooke gets it wrong on most levels as he so obsessed with his feelings, Lichtenstein wasn't the architect of Pop art, Richard Hamilton was. He is right in his conclusion, but he lacks any conviction. The paintings are about art, but it is other peoples art and not Lichtenstein's very own.

Popping out of the woodwork is Richard Cork the apologist for the dreadful "Sensation" exhibition at the RA in 1997 who doesn't seem to have written much for years. He was once all over god's creation. Hasn't improved much in the absence. He writes this;" 
Studying the comic books also makes us appreciate how cleverly Lichtenstein zeroed in on the essence of a scene. An arresting picture from 1964 concentrates, in powerful close-up, on a young red-haired woman clutching her phone as she mutters: "Ohhh . . . Alright . . ." We are left to wonder why she looks so tense and crestfallen, whereas the original, showing a far less stunning woman, reveals exactly what she is hearing through the receiver: "I'm sorry, Nancy, but I'll have to break our date! I have an important business appointment."  That is not art criticism, merely proof that the artist edited the original image and that the critic looked up the original sources. Says nothing about copying.

Worrying effects of any image upon the brain.

An artist's thing, artists have particular respect for the power of the image. It is not for no reason that the image is forbidden in all Islamic art. Similarly the one time much mocked  Mary Whitehouse had been an art teacher. As such she had an acute sense of the power of images and their subtle effects upon innocent people. For this she was constantly reviled and abused by the media and the establishment who were managing the cultural decline of the west. Those of us who lived through those stupid times knew she was right all along, and the proof that she was right is now emerging from academic papers. Too late alas, as the damage has been done and it has accelerated because of the ubiquitous internet. There is a worrying article in this week's Observer concerning the blatantly obvious effects of porn upon the susceptible minds of children and and coincidentally another from the New York Times which discusses that old sore, violent video games and children's minds. It seems blindingly obvious that the US military wouldn't spend the vast amounts that they do upon the evolution of military video games if they were not very effective ways of  training troops, so they have no compunction at killing at one remove, via the screen.
The porn problem is more worrying, it is obvious that free access to all kinds of sponsored evil has been rotting kids minds for some time. The article's  conclusion is sufficient to prove that something needs to be done and soon, only our politicians have neither the will nor the interest, perhaps they will attend when it begins to affect them personally. Moral cowardice is no use.

Last but not least an election day video , but its all good publicity for the cause!