Posts Tagged ‘Hamilton’

Blackpaint 305

November 14, 2011

Richard Hamilton

At the Tate Britain last week, saw Hamilton’s iconic “Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?” for the first time in the flesh- it’s the one with the Charles Atlas cutout holding a giant lollipop, while a semi-naked woman with a lampshade on her head pouts from a nearby armchair – it’s so small!  26*25 cms!  I’d always thought it would be huge, perhaps because it was so famous…   Dali and Miro and Ernst and Turner pictures have all provoked the same surprise in the past.

Great Movie Scenes

Two today; first, “Russian Ark” (Sokurov), after the ball, the officers, officials and ladies in period dress descend the great staircase of the Hermitage toward the sea of oblivion awaiting them;

Second, “Satantango” (Bela Tarr) – Irimias, Petrina and the boy march, heads -down through the driving rain, across the empty, darkening Hungarian plain towards the twisted trees along the horizon.  An accordion plays a tune vaguely reminiscent of Beethoven’s 7th, the Allegretto – just the first two chords, really.  They arrive at a house; instead of following them inside, the camera lingers on the steps and the slanting rods of rain, lit up in the doorway, surrounded by swallowing blackness.  The accordion plays on…

Degas at the RA

Ballerinas – or rather, ballet dancers; ballerinas sounds too fey.  These girls are sturdy, the legs sometimes heavily outlined in black, the errors and corrections, as Degas strives to get the positions exactly right, enhancing the drawings.  Perhaps “strives” is putting it rather too strongly.  The “Fourth Position” drawings, I think, are the best; the way the girl’s shoulder bends forward.  Her features look African or mixed race to me – Dago Red commented recently that Degas was himself Creole (see Blackpaint 295, comments).  Another striking one is the Arabesque, the male dancer thrusting his torso forward out of the picture at the viewer.

The oil paintings actually look like pastel drawings, those warm reds and ochre rich and beautiful.  Can’t stand that bloody awful chalky, but acid, green that he sometimes uses, though; Gauguin also prone to use it at times.

I understand that the girls would be from the lower social classes and were targeted by numbers of “gentlemen” for prostitution; Degas’ interest in them seems to have been technical, however; notes on some of the drawings about positions – he was trying to get them right, as if for an instruction manual.  Whatever his reasons, beautiful drawings – I have to say, though, a bit of variety in the subject matter would have improved the show.  Enough of the ballet dancers already.

Building the Revolution

Also at the RA; Russian artists and designers and their influence on Russian architecture in the 20s.  Popova, very Futurist; Klutsis, with his designs for loudspeakers, podia, propaganda kiosks (where and when else?); Sternberg, Korelev and, of course, Rodchenko.  They provide the drawings, paintings and plans – the other half of the exhibition is made up of  photographs, many of them huge colour ones,  taken by Richard Pare in 1998.  The photos include the circular, stainless steel bakery, the Cheka Buildings (fantastic, curling staircase, curved building, chilling name), the derelict “Red Banner” textile works.  You can plainly see the influence of the curves, circles, intersecting lines…  The dilapidation of some of the buildings enhancing the “glamour” of the colour photos, somehow – like Degas’ “mistakes”.  Very familiar Bauhaus- type features – that ocean liner profile, those curves.  The Melnikov Building, with diamond shaped windows studded into a cylindrical “funnel” of pure white; a Palace of Culture, by contrast, almost without windows – looking like a prison.

Leonardo next time, whether I get in or not; always ready with an opinion.

Blackpaint (Chris Lessware)

14.11.11

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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