Archive for February, 2017

Blackpaint 588 – Fundamental! Wolfie and Hockers at the Tates

February 27, 2017

Wolfgang Tillmans, Tate Modern

Huge blown-up photos on the walls, but also desktops full of his “snaps” (and pro-Remain, anti-Brexit propaganda posters/leaflets he presumably produced).  He calls each room an “installation”, the nature of which he expounds in the booklet, to avoid explanations on the walls.  My favourite below:

 

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Try to see that right arm and hand as a leg and foot and you get a totally different image…

Additionally, you can see –

A drainpipe and drainhole, with water running down through soggy litter; an amazing starscape over a dark hillside; a male bumhole close-up; a close-up of a vagina which appears to be that of a transsexual, judging by the hairy legs (echo of the famous Courbet picture); several large, beautiful colour field abstracts, red and ochre mainly, recalling Hoyland or more, Diebenkorn’s desert colours combined with his Ocean Park structures; crystalline car headlight; that strange shape of the swimmer picking his foot; enormous, rather touching blow-ups of delicate weeds sprouting in his backyard – and a simple image of a man in a blue T shirt, that is startlingly clear and 3D, when looked back on through the arch, from a short distance – try it.  And, of course, those great ones of pigment threads, slowly floating and whirling in fluid.  Great exhibition; Tillmans can find beauty in strange places – drains, for example.  Not sure about the other apertures.

Hockney, Tate Britain

After the big RA Hockney exhibition of 2012, I was expecting a bit of deja-vu; there was a bit, but I was surprised at how informative and enjoyable the Tate show is.  I’ve been twice, on a Saturday and a Thursday, and both times, the Tate was rammed with white-haired, retired schoolteacher types, along with the tourists and students.  Hockney is definitely a Treasure of Middle England, comparable, I guess, to Alan Bennett in his fanbase.

I reckon there are about ten or twelve different “sections”, some of them being distinct phases in his painting, others different areas of activity; here’s my breakdown of the show:

  • The earliest real Hockneys from the early 60s – textured, splashy paint, cartoon boys, areas of raw linen, words and letters (cf.Johns), jokey content – Boys Together, Typhoo Tea, toothpaste, the boys speeding towards Italy (see below).  I can’t get away from seeing a similarity to Bacon in the brushwork, splatters and bare surfaces here, if not the content (although one of the shower ones could be).

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Flight to Italy

  • Next, the Kitaj-like ones, where Hockney makes well-drawn, naturalistic figures, often alongside flat cartoon characters (see below).  Various palm tree and pyramid pieces, chaps in pants on bed or in shower.

Hockney, David; Man in a Museum (or You're in the Wrong Movie); British Council Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/man-in-a-museum-or-youre-in-the-wrong-movie-176794

Man in a Museum (You’re in the Wrong Movie)

  • Swimming pools, snakey surface reflections, Bigger Splash of course.
  • A roomful of drawings, from early “cartoons” through beautifully, sparingly executed portraits, Kitaj, Kasmin etc.
  • Raw red USA desert canyons and Yorkshire Dales – hills and winding roads, flattened against invisible glass of the surface, shining with vivid colours, which I thought were a bit much in 2012, but I see from a TV film on Hockney last night are pretty accurate.  That one of hawthorn trees with maggot blossoms and the Van Gogh pink and grey sky..
  • A room of beautifully drawn but underwhelming drawings of woodland scenes.
  • The static portraits of Ossie Clark, Celia Birtwell, Henry Geldzahler, Hockney’s parents  et al; they recall della Francesca in the respect that the characters appear self-absorbed, or at least, uninvolved with each other.  There is a della Francesca on the wall behind Geldzahler, Baptism of Christ, I think.
  • Piercingly psychedelic verandahs, blue with red flowerpots, overlooking fiercely green lawns.  Those flowerpots really cut through.
  • A roomful of his composite videos of wood and meadowland in different seasons, taken by a battery of cameras from a moving car.
  • Ipad drawings and pictures he has worked up from them.
  • The psychedelic woods and landscapes from the 2012 exhibition.

I like the early stuff best, but it’s an impressive body of work, to understate the case.

To finish, a series of quick life drawings done with a brush and black acrylic.  Picasso at Barcelona next time.

 

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Woman with Fan, 1 – 6

Blackpaint

26/2/17

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 587 – What would you do if I sang out of tune? Estorick, V and A, Whitechapel…

February 20, 2017

War in the Sunshine, The British in Italy 1917 – 1918, Estorick Collection

Several nice exhibitions in the Estorick at the moment:  photographs of British soldiers in the Italian theatre are accompanied by the paintings and drawings of Sydney Carline, a pilot and painter who did the aerial combat shown below.  He survived the war, only to die of illness during his first exhibition in 1929.

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There is a permanent collection, mostly of Italian Futurists and Surrealists, Boccione (below), Severini, Carra, de Chirico and others: look out for three great charcoal portraits by Boccione, which remind one somewhat of Auerbach’s early charcoals, writ light perhaps.

Boccioni, Umberto; Modern Idol; Estorick Collection, London; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/modern-idol-132962

Finally, there is a roomful of drawings by Giorgio Morandi.  No prize for guessing the subject matter.  But there are bottles too and a couple of trees, I think.

 

Edward Paolozzi, Whitechapel Gallery

Paolozzi was definitely hyperactive; my mental picture is of him leaping from one mode of expression to another, bit of sculpture, poster, design a dress, print, collage, make a film…  Big, strong, scattering fag ash – did he smoke?  Must have, they all did then – producing furiously.  Then again, everything is finished so beautifully and is often so detailed that this impression is probably wrong; there’s nothing slapdash about his work.  And although you can see glimpses of other artists, it’s quite original.  A few examples below:

 

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Touch of David Smith about these, maybe?

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I’m pretty sure this collage was 1950, pre-dating the obvious Richard Hamilton piece by ……

 

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Here’s three of his pre – psychedelia prints.

 

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A later poster.  It occurs to me that he resembles Rauschenberg and Hamilton as an ideas man, as well as maybe Fernand Leger in his visual style and workmanlike demeanour.  Maybe also Sonia Delaunay – the dresses and plates.  I’ve omitted his well-known, boxy, thin metal sculptures with crusts of embedded cogwheels and other bits and pieces; the Frinck-like heads; collages of comics and magazines; surrealistic, Monty Python-ish films…

This is a timely resurrection of an artist who seemed, to me at least, to be somewhat overlooked.  An explosive, exhausting artist.

You Say You Want a Revolution, the Victoria and Albert Museum

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It’s a pure nostalgia wallow, for the throng of  white haired ex-hippies – can this lot REALLY have worn loons and long hair and smoked dope and dropped acid and capered like idiots in the mud at Bath and the Isle of White?  No, of course not – it was just me.  the only cry to be heard, over and over again, unnaturally loud over the soundtrack playing into their earphones, was: “Look!  I used to have that one – and I’ve still got all three of those!”  Vinyl albums in the racks…  Biba, Granny Takes a Trip, Blow-Up, Stones, Pepper, Jethro Tull, CSNand Y, Joni, Janice, Jimi, Leary, Stokely, Huey, Eldridge, Angela – there’s Charlie! –  Vietnam, Kent State, Grosvenor Square –  some other stuff about space and Expo and then back to the real thing – a series of outtakes from Woodstock, mashed together to give 15 or 20 minutes.  Great Grace Slick and Airplane; oh no, Joan Baez – but thank God, saved by Joe Cocker; not enough Janice; Jimi’s “Star Spangled Banner”; Country Joe, “What does that spell?”; The Who, sounding rather lethargic to me – Live at the IOW is much better; the bloke who cleans the toilets and has one son in the crowd and another in Vietnam;  Arlo, completely out of his head..  I didn’t enjoy it at all.  Who’s that old git think he’s looking at?  Shit, it’s me, in the mirror glass…

The Cast Room, Victoria and Albert

After, walking through the cast room, we came upon this fabulous Michelangelo, which I’m sure I’ve never seen before:

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Another great back to add to my collection, with Kitaj, Ginger etc.

 

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And this, in one of the Medieval rooms: Agostino di Duccio, I think.  It’s got a sort of Bosch feel to it, somehow.

Soutine

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I love Soutine.  Everything’s a bit (or a lot) bent in his pictures, especially out on the fields, where people sometimes walk on their sides like in Sokurov’s “Mother and Son”.

A Bigger Splash, (Luca Guadagnino, 2015) DVD

Starring Swinton, Fiennes, Schoenaerts and Dakota Johnson, this is the most ludicrous film I have ever seen.   We turned it off in the Fiennes/Swinton kareoke scene, but having bought the DVD, I watched the rest after my partner went to bed.  It improved, because Schoenaerts finally drowned Fiennes in the swimming pool, which he should have done much sooner.  I was astonished to see it described somewhere as a comedy-drama and more so at the quote from Monocle, on the case: “A dazzling, sun-soaked masterpiece”.

Two life drawings to finish:  one ballerina,  doing three poses in each drawing.

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Yes, I know it looks like she’s kicking her mate…

Next time, Hockney and Tillmans at the Tates, and Picasso at Barsa, which I didn’t get round to, this time.

Blackpaint

20/02/17

Blackpaint 586 – Voodoo and Venus in Barcelona and Bloomsbury

February 13, 2017

MACBA, Barcelona

Museum of Contemporary Art.  Fabulous white Bauhaus-y building, reminiscent of  Helsinki, besieged by surly, hooded skateboarders.  First, “Hard Gelatin” (1977 – 82); politics, pretty much Anarchist/punk/porn/activist, two fingers stuff; some comic called “Buttafera” was the focus of much.  Porn drawings and posters featuring sucking, dismemberment; old photos of protests, “happenings”; video of transvestite Spanish Donna, roaring songs in alternate deep voice and falsetto…

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Wow – radical.

 

 

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Next, science/tech “experiments:  above is Jordi Benito, “Hands transforming ice into water by body heat”; like a hand dance, strangely beautiful (he wrote pretentiously).  Also Beuys – like pieces, producing spunky white froth under a glass dome – and a giant wooden barrel rocket ship by Mireilles.

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Rather like Keith Arnatt, I think.  There’s another series of her gradually disappearing into a hole in the ground; even more like Arnatt.

Plenty of other stuff, but the real hit for me was Antoni Miralda, or Miralda Madeinusa, as he styles himself.  His first installation (below) is in a disused chapel next to the museum and is called “Santa Comida” (Holy Food) – series of shrines round the inside of chapel, Yoruba deities, transformed in the Americas to Santoria or Voodoo.  Ogun was the main deity.  Offerings of food – sardines, cod, herrings for the fish god, bay leaves, bananas, canned goods for the earth god; loads of little figurines – one was Oliver Hardy – mostly South American by appearances.

This is all from Miralda’s personal archive; but he is also a forerunner of Jeremy Deller, in that he gets lots of people to take part in, or mount exhibitions, parades, events and then makes videos of it all, and related artworks.  This one dates from 1984-89.

 

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Holy Food

In the MACBA building, several more Miralda installations and commemorations:  in “Wheat and Steak” (1981), in Kansas City, he got people to parade with floats and placards of steaks and a three -tier “Tri-Uni-Corn” (below), which was the main float.

 

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In “Breadline” (1977), there are videos of the Rangerettes of Kilgore College. Texas, going through their training routines; a long line of dyed bread slices, green, red, yellow, orange (below); “Texas TV Dinner”, a series of disgusting, video images of fast food, franks etc., appearing on screens set in a counter next to groups of condiments.  Also, videos of dyed macaroni “landscapes”…

 

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Hail Caesar (Coen Bros, 2016);  Trumbo (Jay Roach, 2015)

Both of these films set in the McCarthy era in Hollywood. the Coen Bros one, features George Clooney in his manic comic mode, as a star kidnapped by a group of Communist screen writers, and is a skit, complete with a Russian submarine and a cowboy hero who I guess is based on Audie Murphy.  A brilliant dance scene, sailors in a bar, worthy of Follow the Fleet, or more closely, On the Town.

Trumbo is a conventional biopic, featuring Bryan Cranston as the left-wing screenwriter who did time for refusing to cooperate with HUAC et al and had to use a front man to submit his scripts, including Roman Holiday.  Heroes: Kirk Douglas, Otto Preminger, both of whom hired Trumbo and credited him; villains: John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, but above all, Hedda Hopper, played here by Helen Mirren.  Good, but weak; Edward G Robinson, who initially stood out against the witch hunt but buckled to pressure in the end and named names.

Sussex Modernism at 2 Temple Place

Stunning wood -pannelled house, built by David Waldorf Astor, watched over by a gaitered officer (of the Temple? Church?), thronged with grey and white heads on Saturday we visited, as might be expected.

A bizarre Venus and Adonis by Duncan Grant (below); just look at that twist and the positioning of the head!  Also by Grant, a beautiful still life with wine bottle and flower.

Venus and Adonis c.1919 Duncan Grant 1885-1978 Purchased 1972 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T01514

A life size Christ from the wall of Berwick Church, based, I think, on David Garnett (quite wrong about this – it was either Edward le Bas or poss. Leonard Woolf).  A most impressive table model of the De la Warr Pavilion in Bexhill and the David Jones (below) done at Capel-y-Finn, I believe.  Several Vanessa Bells, but nothing remarkable; Gaudier-Brzeska, Wadsworth and other surrealists and of course, several Eric Gill pieces to raise the aesthetic, if not necessarily the moral tone.

 

Jones, David; The Garden Enclosed; Tate; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-garden-enclosed-199551

Next blog, Picasso in Barsa, Soutine, Swinton and Fiennes in Italy.

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Time and Place no.7

Blackpaint

13/2/17

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 585 – Vegetable Heaven, Miro at Montjuic, Bacon in Soho

February 3, 2017

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Still Life with Sharon Fruit

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Barcelona – probably worth two blogs, although only there three days; we’ll see how it goes.

Sagrada Familia

Gaudi’s famous perpetually developing cathedral/folly – first visible from the south-west by two of its towers peering like Triffids over the surrounding roofs.  In some ways, it’s a rather vegetable experience, both inside and out.  The towers (seven, I think) are grey cucumbers; the columns inside are like giant sticks of celery.  Some way up, they swell into diving helmet bulges, with lights behind glass windows (see below); from these bulges, the branches fork upwards, ending in thorn-like fingers slayed against the ceiling, reminiscent of Graham Sutherland’s paintings.

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Over the main entrance, Christ appears to be about to launch himself from the high board.  Other scenes from the crucifixion below the cross; the sad man,  Christ dragging the cross, the mourners…

 

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Giant celery and diving helmets

The stained glass inside is a stunning spectacle, washing the interior in piercing blues, reds, greens and gold.  I thought it was all abstract, but you can detect figures in some of the designs, and there are one or two constellations.  There is another crucifixion inside, with Christ hanging with bent knees and an Art Nouveau canopy which would look OK in a French period pub.

Outside again, to the other doorways, which are thickly encrusted in decorative carving and studded with statuary depicting other biblical scenes; the Massacre of the Innocents, the Flight into Egypt et al.  Also worth a mention is the Ascension of Christ, the figure perched on the bridge between two of the “Passion Towers” outside.  See my sketch (rough – but not bad from about 80 feet below):

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Miro Museum

Spectacular Bauhaus – type white building, in a spectacular setting, up Montjuic, the hill overlooking Barcelona. The chap below was on the door.  Beautiful dark green bluff behind building, cedars, poplars…

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The permanent exhibition covers much the same ground as the huge Miro exhibition in London from a few years back (see Blackpaint 222 and 262): the early farms and village squares that could be anyone; the blue, green and brown backgrounds with spidery line drawings; then into the familiar Miro territory of biomorphic shapes and blazing primary colour (my two favourites below);

 

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The huge plain canvases with the wandering line, protesting the imprisonment and execution by garotte of the Anarchist in 1974; the black fireworks; the burnt canvases.

The large sculptures below brought home to me the similarities between Miro and Karel Appel.  Since Miro was earlier, the influence must have been his on the Dutchman.  The bird things, the staring eyes and bared teeth of the figures, the primary colours, the painting onto wood, the highly coloured shapes and like carnival figures on floats – the two artists share all these things.

The difference between the two – Appel’s extreme “painterliness” (I saw an Appel in St. Ives on which the paint must have been two and a half inches thick) while Miro’s surfaces are mostly smooth.  He famously said he wanted to “assassinate painting”.

 

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Miro

 

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Appel (figures for The Magic Flute, CoBrA Museum, Amsterdam)

More on Barcelona – Picasso, MACBA -next blog.

Love is the Devil (John Mayberry, 1998)

Watched this again the other night after the BBC documentary on Bacon, which revealed that George Dyer’s death on a French hotel toilet  before Bacon’s Paris exhibition was concealed for two days by Bacon and several of his entourage, to avoid spoiling the grand opening.

Derek Jacobi is astounding as Bacon – Bacon’s chin was more pointed, otherwise he was perfect.  And so was Daniel Craig as Dyer; he’s wasted as Bond. Fantastic (imaginary) shots of Craig, bloody, flayed, tumbling forward as from a diving board.

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Little Ice Fall

Blackpaint

3.2.17