Posts Tagged ‘Epstein’

Blackpaint 246

January 27, 2011

Gabriel Orozco and Damien Hirst

Orozco exhibiting at the Tate Modern, reviewed in the Guardian the other day, by Adrian Searle.  Referring to Orozco’s skull, drawn all over with a chessboard pattern, Searle says: “It is a thousand times better than that glittery, diamond-crusted skull of Damien Hirst’s.”

He doesn’t say why, though.  Maybe he thinks there is something repugnant about the conspicuous money (waste) involved, the spurious “value” of the Hirst piece – that’s one of the points that Hirst’s skull makes, surely.  The art market has to do with vulgarity, conspicuous consumption, bad bad taste and sensation.  Also, it reminds you that you can’t take it with you, however much you’ve got – and you’ve got to go.  True, these are well-worn observations and he’s made £50 million – or was it $? – by re-stating them; but he can’t take it with him and he’s got to go…

I suppose his exhibit in Modern British Sculptors (Blackpaint 245) says more or less the same thing; lovely juicy steaks, nice bottle of wine, summer al fresco dining, all rotting away with a smelly, disgusting carpet of dead flies;  says it better, probably.

What about the Orozco?  Searle says it is to do with “mapping the cranium, like a mind meeting its container”; that sounds plausible to me and it certainly looks great and is apparently beautifully executed.  Perhaps that’s enough – it’s enough for me, anyway.  Others  may feel the need to “read” the work…

Epstein 

Reading the teacher’s notes to the Royal Academy exhibition, I was intrigued to find that Epstein began his massively proportioned “Adam” by sculpting the genitalia.  So, you visit his studio  a few days or maybe a week in, and he says, “I haven’t done much so far, just this – what do you think?”

Caro

A  simple, obvious thing, again from the notes, was that with Caro’s sculpture, the plinth was abandoned and it became normal for sculptures to rest on the floor – when not hanging or occupying a vitrine, of course…

Charles Sargeant Jagger

How closely his reliefs for the war memorials resemble the Assyrian sieges and lion hunts; not only because they are also reliefs, but in the angularity, the musculature, the sharpness of the relief.

Carl Andre

Final point from notes on Andre’s famous bricks, or “Equivalent VIII”, to give proper name.  The notes quote the Daily Mirror’s headline from 1976, commenting on the Tate purchase of the bricks in 1972: “What a Load of Rubbish!” and later: “the gallery didn’t even get  the original pile of bricks.”  So it would have been OK if they’d got the originals, then…

Turner

I don’t know why, but I haven’t paid enough attention to this painter before -many of  his later pictures  are just staggering and I have a feeling that he should be the most important and  influential English painter ever; I’m not sure why he’s not.  Maybe he was too far ahead of his time to influence others and they just turned away  from him and carried on doing the more acceptable stuff.  “The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons, October 16th 1834” (the one in Cleveland, Ohio); doesn’t need a title, looks just as good on  its side, judging by the Phaidon book.  Or the Petworth interiors; look like Roman murals at Pompeii.  Or “The Ship on Fire” watercolour – level of abstraction comparable to Melville’s “Moulin Rouge” (see Blackpaint 139 and 146).  

These paintings are still too much for some people (Blackpaint 195). 

Listening to Blind Lemon Jefferson, Matchbox Blues:

“Now when the sun goes down, she crochets all the time;

Sun  goes down, crochets all the time;

Babe, if you don’t quit crocheting,

You gonna lose your mind.”

Blackpaint

27.01.11

 

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Blackpaint 245

January 23, 2011

Royal Academy, Modern British Sculpture

First room, anteroom really, Lutyens Cenotaph and photographs of Epstein’s figures from the British Medical Association, naked, genitaled figures holding babies and items of medical significance.

First room: sculptures of the – when? 30s to 50s? in polished woods and marbles, echoing the ancient artefacts from Egypt, Assyria, Mexico that inspired or informed them.  Skeaping, Gordine, Moore of course, Hepworth – an extraordinary phallic torso – Eric Kennington, an Indian style relief entitled “Earth Child”; which surprises when you go behind it to see it is cupped by a giant hand, Eric Gill – another relief of a nude girl with strong echoes (for me) of the Shobdon Tympanum – and Underwood, an “Embryo” and a “Nucleus”.  Laura Cumming in Observer says they suffer in comparison with the “old originals” – and she’s right, for the most part; the exceptions being the Moores and the Hepworths.

Next room, Epstein’s massively thighed and buttocked – well, massive all round really – carved albaster figure of Adam.  Giant penis flattened against thigh as if in a wind tunnel, or glued above the copious scrotal sac.  The penis looks as if it ‘s attached to a plate below Adam’s stomach.  The other exhibit in this room is a small, knotted, phallic snake in Aztec/Mayan style, by Henry Moore.

Next door is a bronze Adam by Charles Wheeler, standing alert, with conventional musculature and tiny genitalia, which won’t do, so close to the Epstein gargantua.  Nearby is Philip King’s “Genghis Khan”, a black cape with bats’ wings and an enthroned Victoria from 1892, by Alfred Gilbert.  It looks like one of those Indian figures encrusted with decorative flourishes.  There’s a gold crown and crusts of gilded decoration all over the throne.

When I was at school, I remember posters showing Peoples of the World, wearing national dress and doing national things; Eskimos fishing through holes in ice, Kenyan women with long necks stretched by brass rings, Swiss in leather shorts, blowing Alpine horns, Canadian lumberjacks, Texan cowboys… Everyone else had a culture, but we English were normal, lived in redbrick terraced houses, didn’t dress up; the others were exotic.  This statue of Victoria looked as strange to me as, for example, the saints’ effigies that are brought out from Spanish churches on saints’ days.

Victor Pasmore and Richard Hamilton next; a walk-through assemblage of hanging, coloured plexiglass (?) rectangular panels, making corridors and rooms by slicing the air into shapes.  Caro’s “Early One Morning”, the long, red metal structure like a plough with end plates attached; also cuts the air, but into different shapes.

Next room, Carl Andre’s 60 bricks, Richard Long’s “Chalk Line”, Keith Arnatt’s photos of “Self Burial” – going, going….  Tony Cragg’s “Stack” like a 10 or 12 decker wooden sandwich, stuffed with breeze blocks, blankets, rags, a red plastic bucket like a pickle.  Boyle Family (Irish folk singers?) *Olaf Street Project”, photo of a bit of road, tilted vertical, littered with rocks and a milk bottle.

Sarah Lucas, “Portable Smoking Area”,  chair with a large box on tripod tilted over it to be lowered over smoker’s head; Damien Hirst’s “Let’s Eat Outdoors”, a table set with plates of food and wine, white plastic chairs – and a thick carpet of juicy dead flies over all.  Fly executor over table, but we didn’t see any fatalities in the two or three minutes we watched.  A faint, urine-y, formaldehyde smell near glass – presumably flies rotting.

John Latham; his burnt books, smeared in blue paint and stuffed in a giant white, bursting eyeball.  Also three books set as if driven into a large, thick fragment of broken glass, hung on a frame.  On closer inspection, the books were a Qu’ran, a Torah, I think,and a Christian Bible.  Can’t imagine him getting away with that today, which is interesting.

In the last room, a boxed exhibit by Stuart Brisley, called “Null Comma Null”; in a container -like box, rendered virtually impossible to see by a blinding spotlight.  Catalogue says “It deliberately hides its contents, thereby creating an air of mystery..” ; certainly creates strong irritation.

So, some great exhibits (Epstein, Moore, Hepworth, Gill, Cragg, Hirst, Latham, Arnatt) but as Cumming says, no obvious logic in who was included and who left out.  A sample of British Modern Sculpture, not a survey.

Blackpaint

23.01.11