Blackpaint 376 – Naked Wallowing and a Brown Smudge


A Bigger Splash at Tate Modern

Second review of this exhibition, which I only got half-way round the first time.  I wrote then about Yves Klein orchestrating his women body-printing on paper and the film of Jackson Pollock painting “Summertime”.  Niki de Saint Phalle, looking beautiful as she fires a rifle at her white plaster dummy to release dribbles of brilliant paint; Pinot Gallizio’s loom with the long random print spooling out; photos of Shiraga preparing to bombard his huge canvas with paint bombs and the thickly plastered, surprisingly effective result of one of his missions; the “shocking” photos of Herman Nitsch, Otto Muhl and their associates in the Viennese Actionists, wallowing naked in animal blood, fake(?) ordure, slithery piles of – organic matter; Stuart Brisley, doing something similar but in a more acrobatic fashion against the wall and floor in the corner of a house or studio (the result looking quite good – like to have seen it for real).

Then the women and drag artists who transform their faces and bodies and adopt personas:  Valli Export ,Cindy Sherman and others, mugging at the camera, painted and disguised to exhibit themselves as art objects.  Thus far, I made it last time.

The second half of the exhibition is about the creation of environments and performances within these.  The most striking exhibit is the Cocteau bedroom, a sort of sky-blue, dreamlike room, created by Marc Camille Chaimowicz, and fitted out with paintings and objects that Cocteau might have liked(!) – Vuillard, Duncan Grant, but also a Warhol electric chair print.  Very camp but probably right for Cocteau.  In the same vein, Karen Kilimnik’s “Swan Lake”; a bedroom, dressing table bathed in electric, mauve-ish light, objets again, recording of Swan Lake on a loop and, for some reason, an overpowering musty pong around this exhibit; part of the exhibition or left by some other visitor?

There are more such exhibits from Joan Jonas, Guy de Cointet and others.

It felt to me like two different exhibitions stuck together – the action stuff at the beginning and the theatrical rooms and sets in the second bit – with, maybe, the self-transforming crew providing a bridge between the two.  Hockney’s inclusion initially mystified me; not only “inclusion” really, given the title of the exhibition!  The explanation in the little free booklet you get is that “Hockney’s paintings – hung in homes and galleries – act in the film (Jack Hazan’s documentary “a Bigger Splash”) as a provisional stage set.  They create an environment that seems to encourage the self-consciously flamboyant behaviour of the artist and his associates…”.  I’m not convinced by this, but it’s a rich exhibition, lots of interesting spectacle and there is enough content for several visits; pity it’s not free.

Jonathan Jones and Titian

A startlingly upbeat and assertive report in the Guardian on Tuesday from the above critic, about a portrait of one Girolamo Fracastoro, which the National Gallery has owned for years, but has just decided  is definitely a Titian, and not just an “attributed to”.  Nicholas Penny, the director of the NG, has no doubt it is a Titian – neither does Jones, it appears.  If it is a Titian, it means the NG now has “the finest collection of Titians in the world”.  Jones refers to discoveries in the restoration lab about “the canvas and  technique” which “blaze the name of Titian”.  The only detail of these discoveries that Jones describes relates to the fur collar: “we are feasting our eyes on a flecked mist of white, gold, brown and black, a virtuoso, nearly abstract(?) performance which has all the magic of Titian.  With joyous freedom and a casual command of fluffy gossamer colours, the master sensualist has recreated the richness of a lynx fur on Fracastoro’s shoulders”.  After this flight, reminiscent of Daily Telegraph advertising, Jones has this bathetic quote from Penny: “The great thing about the lynx is that it has got this brown smudge as well as black and white”.

I was at an exhibition just about a year ago, at the National Gallery, which was entitled “Fakes”.  It highlighted works that had been wrongly attributed, cut up and stitched together or were outright  fakes and quoted surprising estimates of the number of errors and fakes undetected in galleries and museums worldwide.  Big change in outlook at the National Gallery, then, and Jonathan Jones obviously approves.

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Blackpaint

10/01/13

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