Posts Tagged ‘Mark Bradford’

Blackpaint 609 – Soutine, Kabakovs, Green Penis Man and Giant Cloth Moths

November 7, 2017

Soutine at the Courtauld: Cooks, Waiters and Bellboys (until 21st January)

A great exhibition of Soutine’s colourful, wonky portraits that are so individual I’m hard-pressed to do my usual spurious comparisons.  Although maybe one or two remind me a little of Max Beckmann… and the ghost of Bacon is hovering about here and there.  I like that shoulder disparity below and, of course, the sticking-out ears, echoing the fall of the chef’s hat.  The sumptious blue of the background in the first portrait is worth mentioning too – Soutine uses it a lot.  He was a favourite of de Kooning; maybe some similarities there?

 

 

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov at Tate Modern: Not Everyone will be Taken into the Future (until 28th Jan)

Also one to see.  Ten rooms of the most varied works:  paintings, wooden model “theatres” that you peer into through little windows, full-size, re-constructed rooms full of artifacts, a winding, half-lit corridor, along which you walk trying to read the captions to the old photographs, led on by the voice of Ilya K himself, humming and crooning old Russian songs from somewhere ahead (Labyrinth (My Mother’s Album), 1990) – and the rear end of a train (the exhibition title piece, 2001).  The exhibition requires you to read the brief captions by the pieces to make sense of some; I don’t normally like doing that, preferring the visuals to do the work, but it’s worth doing here, to get the context of the Soviet setting.

The main tone is set by memory, nostalgia and fairly gentle satire; see the painting below, with its layer of torn, floating fragments, as well as the “Labyrinth” corridor.

My favourite piece is the model “Where is Our Place?” (2002 – 2017);  I missed the giant legs and feet completely until I read the caption.  Some of the paintings have a slightly Peter Doig feel to them (probably the “Snow” ones in Room 7) and the attachment of a severed arm to one item – I forget the reason given – recalled the current Jasper Johns show at the RA; very superficial connection,  I admit.

Ilya Kabakov was never imprisoned or persecuted under the Soviet regime, but showed only to “a close circle of artists and intellectuals”.  He married Emilia in 1992, after emigrating to the States.  It is not clear to me what Emilia’s contribution is – most of the pieces appear to be Ilya’s.

Venice Biennale (on until 26th November)

This year, the theme of the Biennale is “Viva Arte Viva”, a suitably Fellini-esque title for the often staggeringly pretentious pieces on show at the various sites.  This year’s theme is “The Journey”.  I quote from the Short Guide: “Along the journey of the Exhibition’s itinerary, the artists encounter each other; they draw near to, or distance themselves from one another, according to the affinities manifested in the impulses and stimuli which move them, in the challenges they must face, or in the practices they have chosen to follow”.  As far as I can make out, this means that some are like each other and some are not.  To give an idea of some of the pieces on display, I reproduce a few of the notes I jotted down as we went round the Giardini:

  • Huge fat blonde disco video (Divine?)
  • Eskimo paintings (Pootoobok)
  • Snow monkey video
  • Green penis man (Uriburu)
  • Trainer plant lattice
  • Hexagonal quartz pillars
  • Giant cloth moths

Plenty of variety, with the usual dubious connections made in the blurb(s):  migration, refugees, threatened ethnicity, climate change…  Below, three of the best from the national pavilions:

Frank Walter, Antigua and Barbuda Pavilion

“Outsider” painter (brilliant) and sculptor (not so good); lived latter part of his life in an isolated shack/studio, no power or running water, churning out the most vivid and exciting pieces on discarded and improvised supports, like old boxes of photographic equipment.  A couple of examples below – his colours are really piercing.

 

 

Geta Bratescu, Romanian Pavilion

This woman, now in her 90s, we knew from an exhibition at Tate Liverpool a couple of years ago – but there, the artworks were nearly all cloth pieces.  This time, her very varied graphic styles (she has at least three) are on display, ranging from the fiendishly detailed and accurate hands and mouth below to animated cartoon style.

 

 

 

Mark Bradford, US Pavilion

Interesting American artist who works on a giant scale, layering and tearing, scraping and sanding at his multi-coloured placards of paintings.  This huge downward bulge of a work requires you (or me, anyway) to stoop low as you enter the pavilion.

This giant head, if that’s what it is, reminds me a little of a Guston made out of Weetabix, or maybe shown on a giant TV with the reception breaking up.  Fizzing with energy.

Nothing completed by me recently, so best I can do is this work in “progress”.

Work in Progress

Blackpaint

5/11/17

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Blackpaint 559 – Yellow, Pink and Tweedy Things

June 20, 2016

I’m not sure if this is a finished painting or not, or if it’s the right way round.  One thing I am sure of is that it lacks good taste, so that’s a point in its favour.  Like several other paintings I’ve done, it looks a bit like someone running away to the left, trying to escape, perhaps, from the threatening mass of yellow coming in from the right.

yellow one 2

The Yellow Thing

Blackpaint, 20.06.16

 

Mary Heilmann at Whitechapel Gallery

Great free exhibition, some examples below.  One criticism:  too many dots.  They remind me of Smarties and give the whole show a sort of nursery overtone (enhanced by the fluorescent little pieces of furniture).  I know this is not a valid point, but more of an unreconstructed male prejudice, but there we are.

mary heilmann1

This spidery motif is repeated effectively in several other works, as are the spots and stripes.

 

mary heilmann2

Reminds me of that great Vanessa Bell abstract (below), done with less muted colours – and less texture, but texture is something that Heilmann does do elsewhere, swirling her brush where you might expect matt finish.  That pink square in that position must be a reference, surely.

bell abstract

Vanessa Bell

 

mary heilmann3

Still my favourite Heilmann painting; I like the thin, trickle- down effect in that beautiful blue-green.  Terrific exhibition, if you can handle the dots.

New Tate Modern gallery – the Switch House

switch house

The cladding, spaced – out beige bricks (they seem to be supported by rubber washers), looks like tweed.  A vaguely Aztec tweed tower with a pleat up the side.  Inside, blond wood floors and stairs, Fred and Ginger spirals, the “Maria and Peter Kellner Bridge”.  Dizzy, full window views here and there.

Most of the memorable art seemed to be by women; I think they are operating a 50-50 policy now, I guess that’s only in the new bit.  These are the works I remember:

  • Roni Horn’s big glass pink cube.
  • Rebecca Horn’s roomful of surreal costumery, inspired surely by Ernst (feathers) and maypoles (head extension).
  • Lygia Clark’s huge grey metal – well, air conditioning unit, it looks like, lying in the middle of the gallery, as if brought from the Ali Baba kebab restaurant in Bloomsbury (NB – I THINK it’s Clark’s; the labelling generally is infuriatingly difficult to match to the pieces).
  • A roomful of Louise Bourgeois pieces, very similar to those currently on show in the Guggenheim, Bilbao – see last blog – and containing several of the very few paintings of any description in the new bit; Mark Bradford’s big, dark, abstract cityscape-ish picture is the only other thing on a wall, as I recall.

 

roni horn

Roni Horn’s pink cube

  • Ana Lupas, Romanian artist, farmers’ wheat structures, contained in “tins”.
  • Down at the bottom in the tanks, when we went, there was a musician playing a sort of hurdy-gurdy, amplified electronically; it made a clicking drone which seemed to loosen your fillings.

 

Lygia Clark at Alison Jacques Gallery, W1

An exhibition of Clark’s work from the fifties.  She was Brazilian, died in 1988 and made a whole lot of intricate little hinged metal pieces, one of which is in the new Tate Mod gallery – maybe two, if she did the “AC unit”, described above.  But that is neither hinged, nor little…  There is a MOMA catalogue of Clark’s work in the gallery and when you see a whole lot of these contrivances together, they take on the feel of executive desk toys.  I liked the pieces below, however, especially the miniature room – seen a lot of these lately, in the Bilbao Bourgeois show for example.

lygia clark1

 

lygia clark2

lygia clark3

Gomorrah, Sky Atlantic

It’s Series 2, episode 12 or 13 already, but I’ve only just discovered it.  The gangster taste, the violence, the haircuts, the huge, dilapidated, concrete spaceship flats -fantastic, but above all, the language.  Neapolitan dialect, sounds like Portuguese to me, nothing like Italian, and the theme – “Nuje Vulimme ‘Na Speranza” by Nto’ and Lucariello.

gomorrah-tile-a1b8f830

 

yellow one 1

Maybe it’s better this way round?

Blackpaint

20.06.16

 

Blackpaint 494 – House of Leaves, Murder in Moscow and Eric in Dulwich

May 10, 2015

Down Dog

Down Dog

I’m deeply traumatised by the election result and the prospect of 56 SNP-ers coming to take all our English money away and leave us defenceless against Russia et al, so tonight’s blog will be short and hurriedly written (no change there then, I’m tempted to write – but I won’t because I’m trying to avoid cliche).

House of Leaves, Mark Danielewsky

Now a hundred or so pages into this experimental horror(?) novel, with several hundred more to go – but since many of these pages are blank or nearly so, might just make it.  The experimentation, so far at least, consists of a labyrinthine structure of textual references, many obviously fictional, some probably real authors but fictional works, some probably the other way round.  There are “windows” of text which is reversed on the obverse page, as if the paper were transparent; some of the refs continue over numerous pages and are printed upside down.

At the core of this playfulness are two continuous narratives, one an intermittent commentary on the other, which can be read in a conventional way – so the “experimentation” forms a sort of packaging for the story and as such, can be more or less ignored – you still get the gist.  One of the narratives is rather flat and impersonal in tone, an “objective” report of events; the commentary is slangy, wild, peppered with expletives and full of graphic sexual and chemical encounters, real or imagined.  It reads a bit like the Stephen King of The Dark Half.

So, an experimental novel, rather like most of BS Johnson; odd- looking textual things going on, little jokes and metaphors dancing around – but a solid central narrative core provided by identifiable narrative voices (so far).

NOT Finnegans Wake, then; Joyce’s dream language retains the power to subvert, corrupt, or, at least, to flavour anything else you choose to read after putting Finnegan down.

Ravilious at Dulwich Picture Gallery

Went round this in half an hour, as the gallery was about to close; the pictures – and there are plenty of them – have a delicate beauty and cleanliness, but can be rather bloodless in bulk.  The best ones. I think, are those where he has used darker hues, obviously night ones like that below.  His other weakness, to my mind, is the human figure; his people tend to be stiff and cartoon-ish.  Great illustrator though, reminiscent of Paul Nash and maybe Ben and Winifred Nicolson.

ravilious

Force Majeure, Ruben Ostlund

A funny film, looking at the aftermath of an avalanche threatening (apparently) diners at a ski resort restaurant; how one’s behaviour stands up to examination when the danger has passed.  As is the convention, male behaviour is unheroic, selfish, foolhardy, self-justifying, self-obsessed, vain, pathetic and consequently very funny.  The women tend to be relaxed, responsible, caring, t0lerantly amused – perhaps stressed by the demands and insecurities of the men, but basically proper people.  The Scandinavian norm.

There is a terrifying sequence in which an incompetent (male) coach driver attempts to get his laden vehicle round hairpin bends above a chasm – couldn’t watch it.

force majeure

This is Moscow Speaking, Yuli Daniel

I first read this in 1970 at university and just re-read it; it’s fantastic – tough, poetic, fearless.  It’s 1960 in Moscow – the authorities announce August 10th to be Public Murder Day.  All citizens over 16 can kill who they choose, certain categories (police, prison officers) excepted…

It got Daniel 5 years in prison, along with Andrei Sinyavsky.  Alexander Ginzberg also got 5 years for protesting at the imprisonment – and eventually, Daniel’s wife got 4 years for opposing the invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Tate Modern, Painting After Technology

club foot

Club Foot, Amy Sillman

Great “new” works on display at Tate Modern, notably by Amy Sillman, Albert Oelhen, Christopher Wool and Mark Bradford.  And a most wonderful huge Sam Francis; see it through the arch, it looks much better from a distance.

And nearby, in the Geometric bit, two great Pasmores and a black-based, coloured Mary Martin sculpture.

 

port jackson

 Blackpaint

10.05.15

Blackpaint 418 – Whiteley, Schendel, Shining and Drowning

October 24, 2013

Brett Whiteley

I’d hardly heard of the above Australian artist until I saw “Art of Australia” this week.  What a brilliant painter he was  (died of an overdose in 1993); earlier stuff looked like Diebenkorn a bit – later, shades of Roger Hilton, Bacon and, I think, Scarfe and/or Steadman.  He mixed abstract, figurative, letters, techniques in a manner reminiscent of Albert Oelhen (but before Oelhen?).  Fantastic.

brett whiteley

Mark Bradford and Larry Bell at the White Cube Bermondsey

Bradford does huge canvases – I estimate the largest are 20ft * 18ft (dimensions not given and attendant didn’t know).  He plasters them with paper, paints it and then rips and shreds it down with a power sander.   The results resemble road systems and landscapes – one is like a coastline, another a tsunami investing a coastal city, another, Turner’s “storm at Harbour Mouth” (the sander swirls on black are like the rings on the cross section of a felled tree).  Some are bright – blue, pink, orange, white – reminding one of Peter Doig’s early paintings; others, dark and oppressive, like Anselm Kiefer’s work.

There are two beautiful Larry Bell pictures; they are like crumpled tinfoil and celluloid film, printed onto white canvas.  there are many more, but for my money, they are spoilt by being on black canvas and in black frames.

Blue Jasmine

Saw this Woody Allen film this week – it’s Streetcar, set in San Francisco rather than New Orleans.  Cate Blanchett does a great job of playing a neurotic, pampered, addicted, desperate woman, once rich, now broke, dumping herself on her despised working-class sister.  Script is great, but you never for a second forget you are watching acting; it’s naturalistic, rather than natural.  I can’t help comparing it to the fabulous Joanna Hogg films, Archipelago and Unrelated, that I’ve written about – in which, most of the time, no-one, pro or amateur, appears to be acting at all.

Reading Sebastian Faulks’ A Possible Life, which begins with a WW2 training exercise; officers lead their men mistakenly into flooded area and a soldier is drowned.  Strangely similar stories from two sources; Pete Seeger’s song “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” (I have it by Dick Gaughan on his “Sail On” album) and a Scott Fitzgerald story I read recently – can’t find it at the moment, he wrote so many stories.  The SF version is the earliest – I wonder if it’s the original.

The Shining

Watched it yet again the other night; like Goodfellas and Casino, you only have to see a few seconds and you are hooked – these films are Ancient Mariners.  I can’t understand why Stephen King hates the Kubrick film – it’s obviously a work of art, unlike most attempts at filming King books.  Kubrick changed it a bit – killed off the Scatman and left the Overlook standing, whereas King blew its boilers and burned it down.  I think Kubrick’s ending was better.  Pity about the Scatman, though.

Klee at Tate Modern

Went round this exhibition again, and, yes, I was rather snotty about it last time.  Room 13 is great, with the ones that are composed of dots and look like little tapestries – also the blue one, “path into the Blue” I think it’s called.  There’s also the miniature opera stage set that reminded me of Picasso’s “Night Fishing at Antibes” – but much smaller.

Mira Schendel

Great antidote to Klee – Brazilian minimalist, recalling Lygia Pape and Oiticica a little; wobbly square…  Triangles, bi-and trisected canvases; then, rough paint drawings and collages of bottles on bars, drips and splatters; some brilliant black ink on off-white paper, strong lines and jagged scribbles.  Then letters appearing and playing with typefaces; hanging tablets of rice paper; Eva Hesse-like tubes of gold-ochre, suspended from ceiling; silky, white nylon threads hanging in masses and curling up like hairs at the floor; a series of rough, eye-catching tablets on walls with bible quotations – she was a struggling Catholic, apparently.

schendel1

schendel2

Also visited “Art Under Attack” at Tate Britain; save that for next time.

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Work in Progress

Blackpaint

24.10.13