Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Cornell’

Blackpaint 506 – Light through the Thorns, Parrots in Boxes, Budgies in Trunks

August 8, 2015

William Gear – A Centenary Exhibition, Redfern Gallery, Cork Street W1

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A couple of blogs ago (Blackpaint 502), I wrote about the Neil Stokoe exhibition at the Redfern, to which I’d gone. expecting William Gear.  Now the Gear is on, until September 5th and it’s well worth the trip to Green Park tube and the heat of Piccadilly to see it.

Gear exhibited with CoBra in 1949 – he and Stephen Gilbert were the only British artists – but I have to say, I don’t think he has a lot in common with painters like Appel; his work strikes me as much more like Adrian Heath, Bryan Wynter and even sometimes Patrick Heron, than the wilder, thicker, more gestural products of Appel and Jorn.  There is one painting, however, “Le Marche aux Fleurs” (1947), which could easily have been an early Jorn.

There are several recurring features of Gear’s work, the most prominent, perhaps, being the tangled bundle of jagged, hooked, thorn-like shapes he seemed to fling across his canvases, so that the patches of bright colour seem to peep out through a thicket of scrub.  The shapes are often, but not always, black.  Gear isn’t afraid of yellow; he uses a full spectrum, but it’s the yellow and black that stay with you after the Redfern.

Triangular grids are another feature, and there are a number of works like “Black Form on Red”(1957), that comprise two or three colours used in large, simple shapes, looking rather like sheets of thin leather or felt, collaged onto the canvas – Poliakoff, maybe, or Burri.  An influence that is suggested in the catalogue is that of Nicolas de Stael – I couldn’t see that, I have to say.

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Good exhibition, in association with the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne, where Gear was the curator in the 60s.  There was a great black, thorny self-portrait on show at the Pallant House in Chichester recently; maybe its still there.  made me think of Tony Bevan, a bit.

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Joseph Cornell at the RA

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This is an exhibition for those, and there are many of them apparently, who like quaint objects and photographs displayed in shallow boxes.  Inevitably, there is a large overlap with the likes of Max Ernst, Rene Magritte and other European surrealists; the difference being that, whereas Ernst, for example, also painted and sculpted, Cornell stuck to the box formula permanently.  Clearly, he had a thing for parrots and cockatoos; his work goes completely against the grain of North American art of the time (40s and 50s) in two ways – it’s small and it’s in boxes.  Although there were later, feminist, artists in the states who put things in drawers and boxes to display them – not parrots, though, as I recall….

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The Swimmer, Frank Perry (1968) DVD

I think John Cheever’s short story is a masterpiece of the form, one of the best of the 20th century; hard to think of others so perfect, maybe a couple of Joyce’s Dubliners or Margaret Atwood’s Serpent’s Egg.  The film is also a work of art, though very much of its era (Hamlisch’s lush theme music, coupled with jagged Johnny Staccato jazz riffs and some eye -watering psychedelic visuals).  Burt Lancaster is brilliant as the ageing playboy Ned Merrill, in his budgie smuggler trunks, swimming home across the county, by way of the “river” of swimming pools of his “friends”.  Lancaster is by turns genuinely creepy and strangely sympathetic, despite his insensitivity. The pools are not there for freeloading swimmers to propel their sweaty bodies through.

 

The Longest Journey, EM Forster

Even though I’m currently re-reading “Finnegans Wake”, Forster’s book is the strangest, most difficult novel I’ve struggled through for ages; I had to keep going back and reading bits over again to make sense of it.  the problem is twofold – the language: very arch, ironic, riddled with Edwardian Oxbridge phraseology and slang – and the concerns; “love children”, family disgrace, inheritance, the intellect v. the physical, the prosaic v.the poetic, genetic flaws, town and country, social class… Actually, that’s quite a lot and I’m sure I missed plenty.

I was interested to see that Forster kills his characters  in an even more offhand way than Virginia Woolf; a “hurt” at football, a drowning and a steam train across the knees- the last completely unsignalled (sorry) and dispassionate: “It is also a man’s duty to save his own life, and therefore he tried.  The train went over his knees.  He died up in Cadover, whispering “You have been right,” to Mrs Failing”.  That’s it.

 

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Finsbury Mud 2,

Blackpaint

08.08.15

 

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Blackpaint 421 – Kienholz Dolls and the British on the Beach

November 14, 2013

Onnasch Collection at Hauser and Wirth

This spreads over both H&W galleries – the one in Piccadilly and the other in Saville Row.  I’ve only seen the Piccadilly one, but will certainly get to the other one.

There is a ridiculously high wooden chair on a sort of curved wooden boom, by Ed Suvaro and a group of wooden assemblages by Ed Kienholz: a pumpkin thing on a miniature bike; a group of bound, captive dolls atop a pedestal – with pedals; half a cello with a fat tube of squashy wire/wool stuff pumping out.

kienholz

Then there is Lance Tuttle, who makes cardboard and paper “plaques” with dangling plastic cups or drink cans; and George Brecht, a member of the Fluxus group, who made assemblages, for example, doll’s house furniture, a screw press, inside glass domes and Joseph Cornell – type boxes, cabinets, shelves of cards and magic tricks…

Finally, there is  a great block of turf-coloured bricks with red tongues of something curling out of them like flames, or some disease.  On closer inspection, it is apparent that these are the tips of gnomes’ hats – they appear to have been rammed through the blocks, as you can see the bases of the figurines on the other side.  it’s called “Dwarves”, I think, and it’s by Dieter Roth.

The Media Space at the Science Museum

There is a wonderful exhibition at the above, of the photographers Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr; they’re all black and white, from the 60s through to the 80s.  Fantastic, sad, funny pictures, both men very similar in approach (to my eyes, anyway).  The Britannia Coconut Dancers; serious seaside pleasures, men and women dozing in deckchairs with handkerchiefs under the lenses of their glasses, as if trying to make themselves as daft looking as possible; old men standing forlorn on run-down northern rugby grounds; a cinema queue for “Jaws”, which seems to contain Martin Carthy, Lucille from Coronation Street and Thora Hird; 1977 Silver Jubilee picnic tables, thronged with celebrants – then, in next picture, deserted, under driving rain.  Those old prams with their curly suspension struts; old women praying or dozing in chapel pews; squads of holiday makers excavating a beach, like building workers, below a fortress of a hotel in Newquay; Broadstairs beach with promenade and stairs in concrete (?) tiers, like a Moroccan citadel; echoes of Cartier – Bresson in the fat back of a man on the beach.  Both men have that facility of capturing several “events” in the one photograph.  My favourite, Parr’s, I think, is the sandwich queue at the mayor’s inaugural party in Todmorton – that bloke with the medals looks determined…

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Impossible not to smile at these photographs, which are great art in my opinion.  Tony Ray -Jones died at 31, of leukaemia; Parr is still producing great pictures, of course, in colour now.

Jacob’s Room

Several times, I caught similarities to the “Wandering Rocks” section of Ulysses in this, the most experimental of Woolf’s novels, surely.  It ends with Bonamy and Jacob’s mother clearing out his room; presumably he dies in WW1.

I notice that Woolf seems to like a little surprise at the end.  I thought that Katharine Hilbery, in Night and Day, was showing signs of mental illness – fugues, detachment, going walkabout – but no-one else on the net seems to think so; one read it as a romantic comedy.

Augustus

John Williams epistolatory novel about the Roman emperor – it’s good; like Stoner, it’s a “whole life” job – but again, like Stoner, it takes Williams for ever to kill his hero off.  Minor fault, perhaps.

The Act of Killing

I’ve only seen the first 25 minutes of this terrifying film, in which old gangsters gleefully re-enact their mass murders of “communists” in the coup of 1965; the repulsive Congo bears a slight, but disconcerting, physical resemblance to Nelson Mandela.

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Solo Flight

Blackpaint

14.11.13