Andre Wallace

Monday, May 27, 2013

Please do not enter!!

This Utube film is a superb tongue in cheek comment on contemporary art values. Not one to be missed for exposing the pretention of the widespread current assumptions that if it is in a museum or gallery then it is undoubtedly art!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Tate Britain - A history of art re-hang

First off this week a little politics - Giles fraser in the Guardian is incensed at Maria Miller - the culture secretary's philistinism. Throwing Marcuse at this won't make any friends though, Ms Miller is a former advertising agent. He writes some sadly touching tripe about Anish Kapoor's pseudo religious aspirations, and says the Marxes and Millers of this world are a mortal danger to true art (and Kapoor wax cannons are true art, are they?) for they constantly seek a reductionist explanation of it's value. Whilst he may well be correct, one might take his diatribe more seriously if he had considered mentioning the long term damage of the two UK kingpins, before he set about the culture secretary.

Sunday 19.5.2013 brings us the news of the Tate Britain re-hang and very good news it is! Both Laura Cumming in the Observer and Waldemar Januszczak in the Sunday Times tackle the re-organisation of the Tate Britain collection and report the news. at last someone, curator Penelope Curtis has made the effort to make chronological sense of the British art collection . Even so there is critical dissent in some quarters. "Year-on-year chronology", says Tate Britain director Penelope Curtis, is “a neutral search tool”, indeed it was traditionally always so until it was dumped in favour of more dumbed down thematic aberrations. Cumming isn't pleased with chronology, as a state/conceptual art acolyte she whines on that the emphasis is on looking and not reading.  This is art isn't it? This looking, she says remains somewhat rhetorical in congested and ill-assorted galleries where you cannot properly see all the art on display. At least it is now on display and we can see what British artists have accomplished over the centuries! Waldemar is more balanced, he says that Ms Curtis deserves the Nations thanks for this re-hang - amen to that.

The FT enthuses with the assertion that the re-hang brings the museum up to a global status whilst detracting from the achievements of Turner, Constable, Bacon or Freud, and the Huffington Post provides a photo archive.

Richard Dorment writes the usual predictable stuff in the Telegraph and he sees the re-hang as full of errors. This cant is typical of him;"According to the works on view here, British art became more and more derivative in every successive decade until it bottomed out in the conceptual art of the 1970s. That may well have to do with the quality of the Tate’s acquisitions, but it is a fact that no amount of special pleading can change."  No mention of the obvious cause of that fact.

Art History news has a slight disagreement in that the re-hang has an air of permanence and there is still a great deal of great art hidden away. 

Grumpy art historian complains that the displays have been so bad anything would be an improvement. Whilst Brian Sewell whinges; " I could see no clear impression of the once revolutionary and influential New English Art Club, the Camden Town painters, the Bloomsbury Group, Vorticism, British Surrealism, Neo-Romanticism and the Seven and Five abstract painters." None of which rate on an international scale. He also points out that the exhibition building has two halves to the east and the west?

Al Wei Wei  is getting a lot of attention at the Venice Biennale, little of it deserved. One has to ask what the future might make of a map of China made of tins of infant formula milk? It won't be understood by looking at it, that's certain and it's becoming increasingly obvious that works of conceptual art simply won't last, physically or conceptually, little of cultural significance has been created and this isn't it! Like journalism the work strikes a contemporary chord and then it's resonance vanishes. Jonathan Jones is just plain wrong when he asserts;"This is the moment of Ai Weiwei, an artist who will be the stuff of legend," fat chance, dissent is so predictable. Meanwhile there is a huge row going on over a Banksy painting that has been snaffled from a Poundland store wall in Wood Green and is being offered for £450,000. This could be the start of a definite trend - the removal and snaffling  of wonderfully imaginatively over valued street art from our community walls. Perhaps it will replace the theft of scrap metal objects.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Kossof and James Tyrell

This week 12.5.13 brings us news of a Leon Kossof exhibition at Anneley Juda. A grand old man of heavy impasto expressionist painting, Waldemar Januszczak in the Sunday Times looks at Kossof's obsession with London as experienced by a long resident immigrant. Like Frank Auerbach, London has provided Kossof with a visual source for decades, and are struck by the similarities between their projects and that of L S Lowrie.  Lowrie being based in Manchester. Both Auerbach and Kossof specialise in heavy mark making and their painting hangs on the verge of sculpture. It uses three dimensional paint to create a specific heavy atmosphere, derived from Bomberg's teaching. Kossof doesn't usually do specific people, they are usually in groups and Auerbach still spends a lot of time in front of a life model.

What is interesting about this piece by Waldemar is his comment that the show doesn't  feel like a State Art - Tate effort, it has a personality to it and it shows us a London that is "worth seeing". Note the irony here, seeing - not conceptualising, or faking or outraging or challenging or disturbing or provoking:  just doing what art should do, quietly communicating meaning directly through the eyes via an image that is decipherable and full of personal meaning.  The show was curated by Andrea Rose Director of visual arts at the British Council, more power to her independent elbow and less to Tate - State art, that would be a very very good thing!

The International Herald Tribune of 11th may has a full article on James Tyrell  who is quoted as saying "I didn't expect it to be my lifes work. It's just a strange furrow I've chosen to dig." He currently has shows at LACMA, the Guggenheim, and the museum of fine art at Houston. Houghton Hall has two of his works, and Kayne Anderson Capital Advisers chairman enthuses about his work saying his vision is epic, well beyond most contemporary artists and thinkers. Yah! Right! but the article and its photos begs the question that always arises when one is confronted with any Tyrell artwork. The question; Is he doing anything more than providing very sophisticated frames for what are actually perfectly natural aesthetic experiences? Providing the rich with an aesthetic experience anyone can get lying in a field looking up at the sky, preferably through a little cardboard frame? The same edition has two pages on the erstwhile Paul McCarthy which also begs a question. Is this performance sculpture anything more than set design with obscenity and dressing up acting sequences - Expensive Walt Disney animatronics or not? His huge hubris is reported to extending to building a new Dodge City in the desert near Tehachapi, will end in tears.

The 12th May Independent on Sunday has a small report by Charles Darwent on Land art. Peculiarly british land art which is at the Southampton Art Gallery. Land art seems to have been out of fashion for some years, this show is a small scale resurgence. As we are reminded by Darwent, american land art is huge, really huge, James Tyrell's Roden Crater is 600ft high, Walter De Maria's,  Lightning Field is over 9000 acres. Andy Goldsmith is tiny in comparison, as Darwent states UK land artists look backward with an eyebrow raised because looking forward is too scary. It may be the post empire thing he suggests. Much like Rasheed Araeen's criticism of Richard Long for post colonialist appropriation of the earth by white men.  That kind of criticism doesn't get written in america.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Saatchi - New Order

The big exhibition this week - 5th May is the new Saatchi survey of British art - New Order. Why does the contemporary art world have to leave definitive British visual art taste to the sole remit of Charles Saatchi, who like Nicholas Serota was put in place by Mrs Thatcher in 1988? Isn't it time someone else took over the roles of chief visual UK cultural Czar and promoter? Isn't it time that they took a backseat considering the damage that they have done to many good artists who cannot get exhibitions? It is ironic that Charles Saatchi is reported by the press to be trying to search for artists of quality having promoted so much crud over the years. Unlike Mr Frank Cohen who hates being called the Saatchi of the north and who got his fingers burnt trying to sell off some of his collected artist's works.  Note that things are changing a little as Tate Britain will be hosting a show in June of the work of the erstwhile English eccentric L S Lowry, rehabilitating him as a serious artist will be quite difficult as his cultural profile has been seriously dumbed down over the past thirty years.

Waldemar Januszczak gets worked up over the New order show from Saatchi. It seems that the one characteristic of the work on show is it's viciousness and bad taste. As Waldemar points out it is no good Saatchi complaining about art now being the sport of the hedgefundy, the Eurotrashy, the hamptonites, the Oligarchs and Oiligarchs as he is the one person who started it all off and has created the present situation.  But Saatchi has always led the way in his pursuit of the narrow interests of advertising, and greedy pecuniary sordid little interests they are too. A case of never wish for what you desire most - you may get it.
 Laura Cumming tackles Fiona Rae and the same show, and she says most of the artists are not British. The show has constant Saatchi theme type repeats, same old, same old, oleaginous oil portraits, impasto flayed and flanged, Richard Billingham type photo portraits of english life, nasty child mannequins etc etc etc. In short the usual, kinds of sad conceptual art that says nothing new, expresses nothing new and sustains no aesthetic interest.  Adrian Hamilton in the Independent also gets excited with comparisons between YBA's and the new order. His weak commentary makes remarks about the inability of the young to express their feelings through art, which whilst irrelevant, certainly is the last concern of Saatchi's collecting interests; as Cummings suggests, this is another Saatchi show just like all the rest that have gone before. It is a real paradox that as the media and pecuniary interest in contemporary art has grown exponentially the quality of the product has declined.  The fault lies with art education which has given up the ghost.

Colin Gleadell at the Telegraph Art Daily and Aesthetica blog both produce simpering fawning commentary. Richard Dorment writes the usual downright brown-nosed fluff at the telegraph. If only it were new or different or exciting or challenging or even mildly worthwhile, but as it is, it's a sarcastic tribute to the pathetic state of contemporary art education?  As if the only valid criteria for any artistic success is fawning to Saatchi; The pouring of the empty into the void.

This article also makes for some interesting reading!