Reviews of exhibitions in London and beyond, as well as books and performances related to the visual arts.
As the varied and sometimes disturbing contents of this selection hints, there was more to Klee’s work than met the eye. He didn’t simply want to be some kind of amusing illustrator. Rather, he envisaged his work to be a reflection of transcendence and we can see him almost striving to get beyond the outward and visible to the inward —the essence of existence — in his ‘Static-Dynamic Gradation’ (1923) and ‘Steps’ (1929).
Perhaps the only lesson we can draw from the differing ideals summoned-up in these portraits - and the conflict which would destroy or change those ideals - is that neither presumption nor despair have a place in historical expectation. Human beings - either singly or socially - cannot exist without beliefs, and hopes for their fulfilment, but as to their outcomes; at the risk of suggesting a cliché, they must expect only the unexpected. But then, it is the best clichés that are true - usually.
Looking at what’s on offer here, it’s easy to side with those who felt that, at the Momart fire - when, in 2004, a number of famous YBA works were destroyed by a conflagration whilst in storage - those artists got what they deserved for producing meretricious, attention-seeking work with which they could fool the public and make a lot of money whilst doing so. But the option of a simplistic put-down - attractive though it may be - is to be resisted in favour of a deeper analysis
Bowie owed his fame, arguably, more to his visual style than his music. His ﬁrst job after leaving school was working in advertising and, while it’s easy to snipe at the morals and workings of that profession, it’s one which requires mental and visual skills for its practitioners. Bowie built on that early experience.
Whatever interpretation we place on Lichtenstein’s approach to his work, it is chieﬂy the early Pop material for which he remains famous and it makes the major visual impact in this exhibition. It leaves us with contradictory emotions.
It is, perhaps, ironic that that Man Ray — who participated in this movement which set out to challenge received social attitudes - could also produce photographs which are eye-catching, yet conventional. Perhaps he deliberately split his work into the customary and the disturbing, maintaining this juxtaposition of radically different things in a Surrealist spirit
The Duchamp season at the Barbican is a tribute to the most significant of Duchamp’s reincarnations, his American revival as the godfather of a new and irreverent attitude towards art’s institutionalisation and its obsession with the nature of the medium.
The impression that was given by these individuals was that despite their HIV diagnosis, they were getting on with their lives. So I was somewhat confused as to why the Bambanani members saw themselves as ‘disabled’. And this was the first point that came up in the discussion when Gadsden informed us that Nondumiso wasn’t even aware that she had a disability until she had been informed by the artist.
The tour moves on and I’m dragged, kicking and screaming out of my holiday from reality. Or should it be holiday from fantasy. It’s hard to tell how seriously to take the futurist Ray Kurzweil when he talks about humans and technology merging. But Superhuman has certainly made it clear than humans are embracing enhancements and apparently it wont be too long before robots get morals too.
At the heart of metal-work lies skilled craft, with its need to mentally master and physically apply scientiﬁc knowledge - along with the unavoidable effort this entails. in other words, technical education is involved here and this is something which has, arguably, been neglected by educationalists since the end of the Second World War.
Seeing these two exhibitions within a couple of days of each other was a fascinating contrast in museological approach. Bronze aims to entertain, to impress and even to overwhelm with its accumulation of great works. But it deadens the soul with poor display and foolish presentation. In every respect Raphael is the more worthy exhibition.
This chain of cosmic interdependency reflected the social hierarchy on earth, so the tombs of emperors and their officials were grandiose in order that their status would be duly acknowledged in the spiritual realm; if they were not, then the ranks of masses beneath them would have faced uncertainty after death, and would have wasted their lives observing official rituals.
The experience was enveloping and immersive, very much assisted by the chapel’s booming acoustic, which the musicians played into with glee (memorably, the machine-gun clatter of two snare drums grew into a deafening roar).