Posts from 23rd February 2005

23
Feb 05

four art shows

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 112 views

four art shows

I was nearly put off writing this by Tim’s superior piece below, but as I saw these today, I’d like to mention them. Order of my attendance rather than preference…

Mark Tobey at Robert Sandelson

Tobey’s work kind of looks like Pollock’s, but came about in a completely different way. It’s about calligraphy really, making swirling gestural marks that largely cover a surface, with no more compositional focus than Pollock. He’s another in the great tradition of abstract painters with strong spiritualist intentions, but as usual that’s easy to ignore if you want – but the meditative aspect is visible, I think. This is a strong show with a lot of fine works, and the gallery also has some nice works downstairs, including a lovely recent Riley and a couple of terrific Vasarelys.

Jenny Holzer at Spruth Magers Lee

Tim covered this below. I was disappointed, but the experience of the work not pictured on that link was made interesting and slightly disorienting by the varying speeds of the scrolling, individual lines varying, and their being a little out of synch. I’d still prefer her own statements to someone else’s poems, though.

Dan Flavin at Haunch Of Venison

Flavin was kind of a minimalist, linked with Judd and LeWitt. His work consists of small numbers of fluorescent tubes in some kind of structure. This has a handful of ’60s works by him, and I really liked a couple: a set that is apparently a tribute to the Russian constructivist (sort of), Vladimir Tatlin, and a set in a corner where the reflections in the corner worked well with the two hidden lights of different colours.

Chinese landscape art at the British Museum

I wasn’t surprised that this was my favourite of the day. Its title is ‘mountains and water’, which is what the Chinese say when they mean landscapes in painting. It’s a slightly patchy show, with some (very good) photographic reproductions of very old works, some second rate works and plenty of omissions; but there are some extraordinarily powerful works. It’s not helped by the thoughtless hang: people routinely tend towards the anticlockwise, and this is organised that way – but this means that the long handscrolls, made to be read right to left, are experienced the wrong way, unless you keep walking to the end then coming back again. Also, the best work of the lot, a titanic work by my favourite 20th Century Chinese painter Fu Baoshi, is right at the start. This sort of emphasises a unity in the last millenium of the genre in China (also reinforced by omissions), but it does make the rest (where the only rivals are in reproduction) slightly anti-climactic.

Guy Cannon–You Didnt Even Know My Name.

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Guy Cannon–You Didnt Even Know My Name.

A still born fetus sings his own elegy to his grieving parents, reassuring them that everything will be ok.
Its weirder then it seems.

One More Time!

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One More Time!

It’s the final Club Freaky Trigger tomorrow (before our glorious rebirth as Poptimism), and the big question is…

What should our last EVER song be?

Schnappi? Daft Punk? Where’s Me Jumper? Something completely different? It’s actually up to Steve, not me, as he’s doing the closing set, but I’m sure he’ll welcome your suggestions.

And then play the Sultans anyway.

Day 23: Saturn V AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 LOUSY TUNES

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Day 23: Saturn V
AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 LOUSY TUNES

A pallet in the back yard of a boathouse is not the worst place I have ever slept (that would be Wembley Arena during a Van Morrison concert) but it was pretty uncomfortable. I was up fresh in the morning with the sun though, to catch my old ship mate, if not actual mate, Captain Jack sneaking into the yard.
“Jack,” I shouted.
“Yarr,” he said back, accidentally catching his foot ina lobster pot. “What brings you here, you’re bad luck.”
“I’m bad luck. Its you boat that is called the Jonah. It is you who lost my container. Now tell me, where is Crispian?”
“The young lad. Well, once he registered you dead, he decided to use your money fulfilling his dream.”
“What? Starring in a remake of One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest?”
“No. Going in to space. I believe the lad is down at the Kennedy Space Centre now.”

At the suggestion of the word Kennedy my face lit up. It was about time I ripped the piss out of The Wedding Present. However after I forced Captain Jack to give me lift to the Space Centre I realised I would have even bigger fish to fry. As I got to the large rockets I saw Crispian, sneaking into a Saturn V rocket. I followed, almost to immediately get clumped round the head with a spanner.


INSPIRAL CARPETS: Saturn V

Why would you name a band after a carpet? Why? So I can walk all over them. Okay then. I think it is a fact universally accepted that OAsis are one of the worse bands ever. So to think that Noel Gallagher learned his craft as roadie for the Ispiral Carpets makes you wonder what kind of reverse meritocracy was operating in Manchester in the nineties. Though of course the Carpets come from Oldham, which containing the words Old and Ham may give you some idea of the general quality fo a Inspiral Carpets gig. Except that in this case Old Ham does not mean Mick Jagger sticking his arse in our face, that it refers to a ropey old machine much belov’d of the Carpets. Lets just say it wasn’t a boon for anyone when Clint got his hammond out. Wheeze wheeze drone drone.

But to this terrible song. “The Saturn V was one of the most impressive machines in human history” says Wikipedia. How ironic, then, that the Inspiral Carpets’ tribute to the monster rocket was recorded using one of the least impressive machines in human history, viz. the Hammond Organ. Named Hammond after its inventor, and organ because it sounded like cock. The Saturn V missions flew between 1967 and 1973, coincidentally the heyday of the Hammond – unfortunately there the similarities end.

These days the rockets are in museums with big “DO NOT TOUCH” signs on them. The Hammonds are in the hands of chimps like the Inspiral Carpets. Would that the situations were reversed! Then the Inspirals would perhaps blast themselves into space where grotesque alien life could look on their frightening faces with strange familiarity.

A great piece on football and community

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A great piece on football and community by David Conn in today’s graun (hidden away in the Society bit). Good quotage (near the bottom) too in an accompanying piece. Interestingly the pictures used to illustrate the article (in the actual paper-based version, the graun never uses these images online for some reason) have a youth worker of african/carribbean extraction working with kids of african/carribbean extraction as part of project with Chelsea, above it is a crowd pic from Stamford Bridge which, as far as i can see, is almost entirely made up of white faces…

On a related theme, i found this, um, thinkpiece, if you will, about Celtic, “celticness” and the community of Parkhead very interesting, although i don’t claim to be any sort of expert of the issues it raises.

Just a Bild of fun

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Just a Bild of fun

Awful rubbish from Bild notable for the ‘sexologist’s rather sly claim:

According to German newspaper Bild sexologist Piero Lorenzoni said: “A woman’s breasts denote a woman’s character, just like her star sign.”

This is, strictly speaking, entirely true.

(No data on man-breasts given, frustratingly.)

Top five things in galleries to go and see for free in London right now

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Top five things in galleries to go and see for free in London right now (in reverse order)

5. Henrik Plenge Jacobsen: “J’accuse” at the South London Gallery

HPJ is really saying something in this exhibition, something about justice and media, but I’m not sure quite what. The pieces here are diverting enough, and I’m always going to be a sucker for a specially-pressed op-arty picture disc, but whenever I felt like I was getting near working out what he was trying to express, past a sense of something being wrong, the ideas seemed to drift away from me. The show’s included here partly for the cheeky pair of architectural proposals, for a new European Central Bank building (a pile of dollar bills) and a new Bank of England building (three piles of Euro coins), both of which made me snigger. But he’s also had a set of red, spherical lights installed in the tree outside the gallery like Xmas baubles. Each has ANGST written across them in some strong sans-serif and they’ve been giving me great pleasure as I take the newly-bendy 12 along the annoyingly slow going of Peckham Road. (Ends Feb 27)

4. Hamish Fulton at Maureen Paley Interim Art

Hamish Fulton walks. He’s been toddling around for the best part of forty years now, each action an invisible line on the world, each one commemorated by something you can put in a gallery, something you might buy. His earlier pieces were mostly photographs with a few words of oblique description, but gradually the words became more important. It’s his entirely textual works which really excite my imagination, and this show has a nice selection of both. The largest single piece, concerning a journey made across Western Europe, just reads WATER, and takes up a whole wall, too large to hold the whole thing easily in your field of vision. I can understand how that might sound uninteresting but these pieces, these few simple words, get me dreaming.
For Fulton, I understand, the art is the action, the walking itself. For me, I’m only really interested in the evocation. I suppose it’s poetry, of a sort. (Ends March 24)

3. Jenny Holzer at Spr’th Magers Lee

Two works, each installed across a corner of the gallery space. Regular Holzer business, words scrolling across LED displays. Unusual Holzer business in that the words are poems by Henri Cole. I’m not used to proper grown-up poetry neing presented in goofy scrolling text, not used to having to catch it line by line as it scrolls away. Also the back of each LED gives out a reddish light so the space behind them glows pink, like some robot ribcage, or ET. (I see, on a cursory glance at the notes, that one of the works is called “Rib Cage” so I guess Jenny will be pleased with me). It’s as fleshly a move as I’ve seen Holzer make, which still isn’t very fleshly, to tell you the truth. (Ends April 2)

2. William Scott at Archeus, Albemarle Street

It’s billed as A Survey of His Original Prints, and there’s work spanning almost 40 years here. I think of Scott’s prints as being mostly naively-rendered pans, and cookign implements, with maybe a bowl or an egg or a pear or two, often just in silhouette against more or less single-coloured ground colours. Turns out I was largely right, though his work encompasses a few simple landscapes and some abstractions too. Sounds dull, eh? I’m not sure I can really explain why it’s not, except to say that I find myself enjoying very much indeed my time standing in front of these bits of paper, the subtleties of their colour and form; I end up thinking yes, here’s what my eyes are really for.
(Ends Feb 26)

1. Abram Games at Ben Uri

Abram Games was a commercial artist who worked mostly in the medium of posters. He, and contemporaries of his like McKnight Kauffer, were known in advertising circles as the Mid-Century Modernists, apparently, which is enough to endear him to me before we even start. Even so, this show which consists almost entirely of ads and public information posters contains the most arresting and most fascinating images I’ve seen for ages. It’s interesting to see similar graphic techniques used to sell newspapers I would’t dream of buying, and used to try to persuade soldiers to wash their feet. Real actual social history interest here, then, especially in the series of posters showing progressive social measures in high modernist buildings as a reminder to British soldiers of what they were fighting for (Churchill pulled this campaign, saying that the soldiers knew Britain wasn’t like that). But we’re not going to be rockist about this and merely examine commercial art for its historical value, are we?
There’s plenty of aesthetic reward in these posters, plenty of luscious, visceral shape-and-texture enjoyment too, more than enough to justify being snowed on on the Abbey Road on a Sunday afternoon. (Ends March 6)

1968 – Mark Kurlansky

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1968 – Mark Kurlansky

Mass-market history reaches the recent past, and faces a stylistic problem. The genre tends to a gentle narrative style, rich with curios and always willing to take the occasional detour. But widen the focus and the narrative strains to cope – and since Kurlansky’s main theme is global youth consciousness, he has to range pretty wide. His story jumps from Vietnam to Chicago to Prague to Mexico to Paris, and strands drop out for hundreds of pages before quickly resurfacing. Inevitably, some chapters feel rushed, and the occasional detours stick out even more. A brief history of 20th-century Mexico is interesting, for example, but only emphasises the futility of taking a single year out of history and trying to make it mean something. Even a year as eventful as ’68.

The book kept my interest – the 60s are a bit of a blindspot for me historically and as a factual primer 1968 did its job. But by the end of the year you want to know, what had changed and why? Kurlanksy doesn’t answer so much as run out of story. You can judge for yourself of course – the terms of battle of the ‘culture war’ had been sharply laid out, and it had been further brought to the attention of ‘non-combatants’. Kurlansky has some interesting things to say about television and the changing methods of newsgathering, and makes a case for a lot of ’68 events being crucial in forcing these changes. But we’re only getting part of that story – and this is the problem with the book as a whole. We get entertaining chapters of a lot of important stories, but they don’t add up to much of a whole. The book ends up feeling like the background notes for another, imaginary, more holistic and considerably longer book.