Reviews of exhibitions in London and beyond, as well as books and performances related to the visual arts.
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).
It would be a mistake to interpret ‘Waste Not’ as a straightforward critique of the materialist ethos of consumer culture, or as drawing a parallel between the drab uniformity of the Maoist era and the homogeneity of globalised consumerism. More profoundly, it hints at the possibility that material abundance can free us from the kind of tyranny that possessions have over us in times of scarcity.
Freud’s grandfather, Sigmund, attempted to examine and explain the workings of the human mind and helped to expand our understanding of them, including their more disturbing aspects. In a sense, his grandson followed in his footsteps. But instead of using the consulting room and couch, the younger Freud employed the studio and the paintbrush.
‘Three Trees near Thixendale, Summer 2007’, shows bulging trees leaping out towards us like boxers’ gloved fists punching towards their opponents, while ‘Hawthorn Blossom near Rudston, 2000’, shows these vast shrubs lining the approach to an arch, giving it an air of mystery.