Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Beuys’

Blackpaint 472 Lard, Lilith and Daybreak in Paris

December 8, 2014

Nefertiti again

Reading my Phaidon “30,000 Years of Art”, I find that the astounding head in the Berlin Neues Museum was done as a sort of template for Nefertiti heads – it wasn’t even intended as a masterpiece, but as a pattern!  The unpainted eye was on the less important side; apparently, the right profile was the important one in Egyptian culture (but what about figures “walking” towards the left?  Are they all looking behind them?).  No, of course they’re not – I just checked.

nefertiti2

 

 

The Hauptbahnhoff Museum

This is an old station, converted;  it has a vast central hall, with a series of display galleries to the left and right of the entrance and downstairs, long corridors of white walls, opening on big and small white chambers, packed with great stuff – although not really “packed”; loads of room,so well spaced out.  There is so much fantastic stuff in here that I can only mention a few pieces (why? – because otherwise I’ll be writing this for ever and I want to publish and go to bed).

First, to the left, for Beuys.  There’s the old felt suit, shoals of blackboards with his crazy lecture notes all over them, rusted iron rails attached to an iron cannon barrel with an iron man’s head poking out – iron’s wired up, something to do with iron storing electric earth energy like a battery….  But the standout exhibit is a roomful of giant blocks of “tallow” – not candle wax but lard.  It’s made from mutton fat, leavened with some beef fat to stiffen it and moulded into blocks by the contours of some underground subway on a new concrete estate. He had been invited to celebrate the completion of the estate with an appropriate work.  Some of the chunks are strapped together with bolted metal struts, some are wired up to detect heat in the centre to see if they had solidified.

No doubt, those who invited Beuys’ contribution were well pleased.

photo 1

 

Blocks of lard, Joseph Beuys 

There is a room of Warhols, giant prints of kitchen knives, flowers (green and blue), Elvis with the six-gun, and a HUGE face of Chairman Mao, surrounded by slapdash strokes of yellow paint.  There is also that horrible ambulance crash, with the dead woman hanging backwards out of the smashed window; I couldn’t see how such a crash could have happened – I wonder if it was staged in some way.  Then again, he used other shocking images that were not staged, like the woman jumping to her death from the flat…

Moving on from Mao, there are four or five big Twomblys, the usual fragments and scribbles, looking indefinably great somehow and three fabulous Rauschenbergs (see below).

photo 1 (1)

 

photo 2 (2)

photo 2

Just a little bit like Karel Appel, I think.

Now Kiefer.

Three things: a parody of a wedding dress, on a stand, penetrated with great shards of broken glass, like that of a reinforced window; a huge, black, wooden plaque, scarred and scored, with cartoonish portraits of great figures of German and world history (I think Bismarck and Einstein both there).  Finally, on end wall, “Lilith” – a long plaque of grey lead, with big, loose lead rolls and sheets attached; in the centre, a number of little girls’ dresses. half-painted over and stuck on.  There is a blurb on the wall about Lilith, Adam’s first wife in the Kabbala and the legend – but anyone can see it’s about the camps, whatever Kiefer might say; in that respect, he’s a prisoner of German history.

photo 1 (2)

 

Lilith, Anselm  Kiefer 

Of the rest, Katharina Grosse reminded me a little of Kiefer in the use of two felled trees for her exhibit; he goes in for using entire felled trees on occasion.  As can be seen below, however, Grosse uses distinctly unKiefer-like spray colours on her trees; Anselm sticks to silver and gold, browns, black, greys and white, pretty much.

photo 2 (1)

 

Le Jour se Leve, Marcel Carne, 1939

At last out on DVD, the great Jean Gabin, on his push-bike, with that slouchy flat cap and the ribbed sweater; working class hero, holed up in his attic room, chain smoking, besieged by the flics, awaiting daybreak and the inevitable.  I was astounded to see a brief – but not that brief – shot of Arletty totally starkers; a surprise to say the least, seeing as it was made in 1938 or 9.  It mirrors the fall of the Popular Front, according to the commentary on the DVD.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan

I’m only about half way through, but I’m seriously wondering how this won the Booker Prize.  Apart from the laughable and well-publicised sex scenes  and the interminable, slushy affair that bogs down the first half, there’s a bit of a problem with the camp scenes; he’s inclined to do that Gallipoli thing where they ‘re all larrikins, ex-shearers, roo hunters, prospectors… He actually says at one point that they have arrived in the prison camp from the 19th century.  He seemed like a nice bloke on the telly, though, and there is the fact that his father was a POW of the Japanese and died before it was published.  Maybe the judges have been softened up by all the WWI stuff.  Or maybe they haven’t read any of those red-spined Corgi war paperbacks from the 50s and 60s, RH Whitecross’s “Slaves of the Son of Heaven”, for example.

 

photo

 WIP,

Blackpaint

08.12.14

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Blackpaint 362 – Squirrel Suicide and Beuys Hanging at the Whitechapel

October 10, 2012

Whitechapel Gallery

Giuseppe Penone – Giant “felled” tree, in bronze,  cut into sections and hollowed so that you can look right through it – almost; there’s a curve at one end.  The branches are naked and lopped, like the upright real trees by the same artist  in the Arte Povera bit of the Tate Modern.  But as well as being made of bronze, this one is lined with crinkly gold stuff.  So – it’s like a Bond Street version of an Anselm Kiefer, or a Damien dry run before he thought of the skull.

Maurizio Catellan

There’s a small exhibition by this artist, famous for the pope felled by a meteorite in the Sensations exhibition and for the horse halfway to the ceiling with its head stuck into the wall.  This is show is small in both senses; the famous squirrel suicide (sprawled across a table, tiny gun on floor, empty glass, possibly poison) is on the floor against the wall.  it’s tiny but then of course it is – it’s squirrel-sized.  For some reason, I was surprised;  I expected a giant squirrel.

A small man in a grey felt suit hangs by the collar from a peg on an upright trolley; slick black hair, prominent, curved nose.  I saw the felt suit and thought, “Beuys” – but unfortunately, didn’t say it to my friend.  A moment later, I read the wall blurb and it identified the suit as a reference to Beuys.  Cursed the missed opportunity to make an informed comment in a loud voice within earshot of the attendant.

A huge industrial rubble bag filled with bricks and – rubble.  Apparently, from an art gallery in Sicily bombed by the Mafia.

A large circular rug on the floor, made from the design of the label on a box of Bel Paese cheese. And that’s about it, apart from a couple of unremarkable neons.  The squirrel scenario and the hanging Beuys I liked – the cheese rug reminded me of Boetti and the maps.

Eyes Wide Shut

Watched this mildly erotic Kubrick film over several evenings, 40 minutes a hit (it’s pretty long) and was surprised it was good – I remember it being widely slated on release.  What was really striking, however, was the dialogue between Cruise and Kidman in the grass smoking scene – they both, but particularly Cruise, seem to be channeling Jack Nicholson in “the Shining”.  That thing where Nicholson, as Torrance, repeats the last thing that Shelley Duval has said in that mocking, disbelieving way – Cruise does it several times.  “The Shining” was, of course, a Kubrick film so presumably it’s the direction.  The lighting, too, at the first party, reminded me of the bar scene with Delbert Grady; very intense on the faces, enhancing the shadows and highlights.

Freedom of Expression

Having signed petitions about Pussy Riot and others banged up abroad, I was alarmed to see jail and community service sentences being handed out in the UK for posting stuff on the net that was “grossly offensive”; not life-threatening, or part of a campaign of harrassment, but grossly offensive.  How do we criticise other countries and protest about free speech issues when we start locking people up for saying or writing offensive things?  The youth who posted the “joke” about the missing girl deserves our censure and disapproval but if you start jailing people for that, you are faced with the problem of definition – who decides what’s offensive, and to whom?  The answer is the judges,of course – and we all agree with them…

 

Servan

Figure Collage

Blackpaint

10/10/12

Blackpaint 247

January 30, 2011

Gabriel Orozco at the Tate Modern

One of the main exhibits at this show is a stone(? actually plasticene, the booklet says) ball that Orozco rolled around Monterrey, and then New York – an act reminiscent of Francis Alys and his melting block of ice (Blackpaint 180).  Different point, of course; ball was to pick up impressions, not to disappear in a demonstration/celebration of futility.  Close though, trundling objects round the streets.  The connection goes further;  Mexico City is where Alys lived.  Who had the idea first, I wonder.

The booklet that goes with the exhibition, like the Alys, is great; pretty much everything listed with a brief explanation.  The trouble is, you end up having everything explained to you and you don’t think about what you see.  Martin Creed is right – you should go round, look at it all without reading anything (unless there are words on the art itself) and then, maybe, read the booklet and the wall plaques and labels.  Then again, see the stuff above about the plasticene ball; wouldn’t have known that, without the booklet. 

So, what’s in the exhibition?

Some lovely small oil works on paper – blotty, a bit Nogueira, bit Tillmans..

The squashed-in Citroen (actually middle chopped out and resealed).

Four bikes, screwed together in improbable ways to make a sculpture.

Lots of – too many – photos of two yellow motor bikes, like little friends, parked in different locations.

Inner tubes inflated to huge balls.

A whole room of shredded tyre fragments, laid out, alligned on the floor.  Kieferish.

“Lintels” – shreds like flags, strung on wires across the room, assembled from the fluff collected in industrial cleaning machines.  When this, according to the booklet, was first exhibited in NY in November 2001, “the ash-coloured lint took on a poignant significance”.  I thought of Beuys – a bit.

A billiard table with no pockets, and a red ball suspended and swinging in an arc across.  Children were playing , trying to get the red ball as it swung.

“Samurai tree” paintings, on wooden blocks; highly coloured spheres and half spheres, connected like some table construction game.

The chequered skull, of course.

Ripples in lines of print on long, Chinese scrolls that turn out to be tiny numbers assembled from phone books.  A huge amount of fiddly work – symptomatic, really.

I felt that, with some exceptions, the show consisted of knick-knacks; contrivances to make you smile wryly, or exclaim gently, like something in Covent Garden on a Sunday afternoon.  The skull is beautiful – skulls are – and so is the way the chessboard pattern is stretched in the eye sockets, for instance, like netting – but none of it really says much to me, unlike the Francis Alys.  I would compare it to Anish Kapoor’s show at the Guggenheim – high quality fun objects, to make you smile, but not laugh or frown.  I couldn’t see a dark side to it at all (the September 11th suggestion in the booklet didn’t persuade me).   

all that said, the small oils were beautiful and there were two intriguing photographs; “Plastic Bag with Water”, I think, Prunella Clough – type image, and “Simon’s Island” – I can’t make out if it is an egg in close-up or someone’s – presumably Simon’s – globular belly, rising from the bath water.

Varda Caivano

Argentinian abstract painter, looks more my sort of thing; at the Victoria Miro Gallery to 12th March.

Blackpaint

30.01.11

Blackpaint 200

September 27, 2010

Gerhard Hoehme

Fantastic painting, ” the Wild Blue Picture”,  in “Action Painting – Jackson Pollock” (Hatje Cantz).  Also a number of grey and/or cream collages involving pins and wires or threads wound round them, sometimes multi-coloured.  Have a look – more interesting than I’ve made them sound.  Hoehme, like Sam Francis and  Joseph Beuys, was a flier in WWII – he died in 1989.

Huang Yong Ping

Wrote about Huang’s work in last blog, but knew nothing about him (didn’t stop me writing, of course).  He left China in 1989 and has since lived in Paris.  I should havr included him in my list of artists who use strange materials (see Blackpaint 162) – he has used live snakes and scorpions and stuffed bats.  Had a show in UK at Curve in 2009; it commented on Anglo-Chinese history, mainly Palmerston and the Opium Wars.

Next example of artists whose work can be linked in a totally dubious way – (although I think this comparison is actually quite fair)

 Cecily Brown and Elizabeth Neel.  Have a look at their work on Google.  I think Neel’s is actually more abstract;  Brown tends to conceal bodies – often naked and engaged in sex – in a mass of foliage or swarming brush strokes.  They have a link through Bacon; neither resemble Bacon in style, but they both have used his scenarios and motifs. 

Gauguin

Since there is a “blockbuster” exhibition about to start, I thought I would get in early by mentioning “The Vision after the Sermon (Jacob and the Angel)” 1888.  It’s at the NG of Scotland in Edinburgh and I’ve probably written about it in an earlier blog.  That red against the white of the women’s caps… The women are watching the fight, but in their imaginations, of course.  To my eyes, its a totally atypical Gauguin and I would never have recognised it as such, without being told.

Seurat 

Whilst I’m in Edinburgh, mentally that is, I should refer to Seurat’s “la  Luzerne, Saint Denis”; recently, I realised that I had used the phrase “positively seethes” twice in quick succession, when referring to surfaces.  If I were still using the phrase, I would use it here.  Seurat’s field of alfalfa and poppies appears to be alive with worms of colour, red, yellow, green and blue.

Japan and China

Two works to mention, just because they are staggeringly beautiful and very old.  The first is Japanese, “The Tale of Genji”, sea(?) green and light brown on paper with a pattern of heads like abstract black clocks, by an unknown artist from 1130.  The Chinese one is by the Emperor Song Huizong, from 1112; it is entitled “Auspicious Cranes”.  Again, ink and colour, this time on silk, light brown mist(?) rises around the palace gateway and against the grey-blue sky, 2o cranes, black and white, circle or perch.  Both of these works are in the Phaidon “30,ooo years of art”.

No Name as yet – Blackpaint

 26.09.10