Blackpaint 343 – Hansel and Gretel, Staring Eyes and Jones v.Hirst


Bauhaus at the Barbican

Bauhaus to me means those Modernist white buildings with big windows and outside staircases, distinctive lettering, smoking artists with staring eyes, wearing overalls they have designed themselves…  This exhibition shows the early Arts and Crafts nature of the movement, buildings designed in wood by Walter Gropius having that Hansel and Gretel quality, or maybe Goering’s Karin hunting lodge.  Some of the early woodcuts on display, by Feininger, Itten and Gerhard Marcks, the latter two new names to me, very German Expressionist.  So that was unexpected. 

 Then there were the dolls, or puppets:  again, some of these were slightly sinister – one called the Executioner, another with a head consisting of an electrical circuit, and, the most memorable one of Paul Klee, with the staring eyes and a laboratory coat.

A set of small, colourful Kandinsky abstracts, entitled “Small Worlds”, consisting of shapes and symbols apparently flying apart, suggesting notes of music to me; of course, Kandinsky believed in synaesthesia, the perception and representation of sound, particularly music, in visual image.  Wasn’t that in Fantasia?

The Oskar Schlemmer figures, slim, androgynous, anonymous, very prevalent – and Schlemmer’s pneumatic costumes from “The Triadic Ballet”.  Furniture, Breuer chairs, nests of pastel coloured tables; teapots, tea sets and “liqueur flasks”, made from nickel silver? looking strangely fragile, awkward and impractical – the handles look difficult to hold and as if they might burn your fingers.  Probably very simple and utilitarian in the context of the times, though.

Trouble with the Bauhaus stuff is that it’s had a fair amount of exposure over the years – I remember a really big Bauhaus exhibition at the V&A, I think, a few years back, so seen all this before.  Good, though.

Damien Hirst at White Cube

An interestingly vitriolic review of these paintings by Jonathan Jones in the Guardian, entitled “A message to Damien Hirst: stop now, you have become a disgrace to your generation”.  He says that the paintings fail “to come close…to basic competence”,  that they “lack the skill of thousands of amateur artists who paint at weekends all over Britain”.  He can’t, says Jones, manage to paint an orange accurately; the “poor sphere seems to float in mid-air because of the clumsy circle of shadow below it”.

I won’t quote more from the review as it can be read online, no doubt, but the tone interested me; Jones wrote a similarly savage review of an exhibition by Mark Leckey a while back; like Hirst, once praised and admired by Jones (see Blackpaint 276).

Some of the paintings are reproduced in the Guardian; they don’t look that bad to me, I have to say; the orange looks like an orange and doesn’t seem to me to be at any worse odds with the tabletop than some of the fruit in Cezanne or Bonnard paintings (Hirst seems to be playing about with the picture plane by using a grid of dots in “front” of the table).  OK, they wouldn’t merit an exhibition if they weren’t by Hirst – but not that bad, on this showing.  Have to go and see it now, to see if it really warrants the Jones blitzing. 

Bram Bogart

Obit. in Guardian.  See the book “Intensely Dutch”; he uses paint applied inches deep, even thicker than Appel, great slabs and billows of single colour, white, yellow, red.

And an old one of mine to end with, just gone to a new home;

Brother Angels

Blackpaint

24/05/12

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