Posts Tagged ‘Philip Guston’

Blackpaint 570 – AbExes at the RA and the Thin Man in the City

September 30, 2016

Abstract Expressionism at the RA

Fantastic, of course; the best show in London since the RA’s Diebenkorn, which was not that long ago (OK, Auerbach at Tate Britain was also great, but I think the Diebenkorn had the edge, with the three distinct styles/periods/modes, whatever you wish to call them).  Back to AbExes – I went on Saturday when it opened; queued for only 10 minutes and for once, it wasn’t throgged with immovable punters, walkie-talkies clapped to their ears, so you could see some of the paintings.. and sculptures, mustn’t forget David Smith and a few Barnett Newmans.

I’ll be going again and again, for sure, so this is nowhere near exhaustive:

  • The Guston and Mitchell paintings made Frankenthaler’s “Europa” look rather dowdy, on the far right of the wall.

guston-prague

Guston, Prague

  • The stunning Mitchell “Salut Tom”; four huge panels of white, blue and yellow, Monet of course and a little bit Cy Twombly, those panels of the seasons that were in the Tate Modern a while back.

salut-tom

  • When you look through the archway at the two small pink, green and yellow de Koonings, they look like Toulouse Lautrecs.
  • The Clyfford Stills, most of them, are great on their own but as Laura Cummings says in the Observer, putting them all in one room next to each other, they tend to drain the others’ glory.

still

 

  • This is NOT the case with the de Koonings, however, before which you can only – well, I can only stand in awe.  Sorry, hyperbole creeping in – I could do lots of things, ONE of them being to stand in awe.  A couple of fantastic Women, “Whose name was writ on water”, “Villa Borghese” with its green sweeps, the yellow and grey one with its yellow sweeps, that juicy red one, the collage with the tin tacks…  He’s the guv’nor, no question.

dk-water

de Kooning  – Whose name Was Writ on Water

  • Pollock’s not bad either.  I’m quite familiar with Pollock’s work, so the one enjoyed most was the 1943 “Mural” with the repeated green figures.

pollock-mural

Pollock, Mural

  • Can’t get on with Barnett Newman, sorry to say; I don’t like that liverish red/brown he uses, or the orange zips.
  • Rothko – an unusual, scrapy, scrappy blue and yellow panel on paper.
  • Lovely, punchy B&W Klines and an unusual wobbly one.

kline

Franz Kline – Zinc Door

  • Ad Reinhardt, pursuing his obsessions to their black ends – one of his, with spidery lines and figures, just like a Constant.
  • Guston’s paint, especially on the cartoon one (yes I know, but they DO look like cartoons) is greasy, dobby and looks moist.
  • And then there’s Jack Tworkov, with the diagonal slashes of colour.

Enough for now.  I’ve been reading “Anti-Matter” by Ben Jeffries, an extended essay about Houellebecq and “Depressive Realism” in which there is a discussion of Faking It – the idea that all works of art are “fake”, even when they are avowedly realist.  I think that’s right in a sense, and particularly right for the AbExes; once you are putting paint on a support, brushing, dripping, blading, flicking, you are faking it, unless it’s a real action picture and even then, you choose the paint, so there is a gap.  Rothko is not in some transcendant state when he paints, at least not most of the time; he’s thinking how to portray his feelings/revelations – the ones he’s already had, that is.  He’s faking it.

Doesn’t matter – they’re fantastic anyway, faking it or not.

Metropolis, dir. Fritz Lang (1927) 

metropolis

I’ve been watching the print found in Buenos Aires, and shown on BBC, in 30 minute chunks – I have a short attention span.  Once you get past the hero’s make-up, curly hair and jodphurs, it’s full of influence: so far, I’ve got montage scenes recalling Grosz; Rotwang the inventor’s false hand in leather glove (Dr.Strangelove);  Frankenstein, of course; the downtrodden, Zombie-like workers have offspring in the Wizard of Oz, Popeye cartoons and  – zombie films; all films with an underground or hi-tec citadel – Indiana Jones, James Bond films, Wallis and Gromit..  No doubt, there will be many more.  And it has another memorable villain to add to the gallery: Fritz Rasp as the “Thin Man”.

rasp

Fritz Rasp – watch the film, you’ll laugh – but he’ll come to you in your dreams….

islares-2

Islares under Cloud

Blackpaint

30.09.16

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 501- Dress Like Hepworth, Swear like Swearengen

June 28, 2015

Barbara Hepworth; Sculpture for a Modern World. Tate Britain 

The first thing to say about this is how small it feels.  There are seven areas shown in the map of the exhibition, but it actually feels like about four rooms.  In the first, there are a number of small works by her contemporaries as well as Hepworth ; John Skeaping, Epstein, Gaudier – Brzeska, Eric Gill, some of which are as good or better than hers.  I love the larger pair of doves by Epstein, with their deadpan expressions and pointed bills; then there’s the yellow cats, Skeaping I think, and Gill’s “Eve”.  There are also a number of beautifully smooth eggs and cylinders, assemblages of spheres and cuboids that cry out to be felt – which is, no doubt, why they are under glass.

 

Doves 1914-15 Sir Jacob Epstein 1880-1959 Purchased 1973 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T01820

Epstein’s Doves

There is a room which is dominated by the paintings of Ben Nicholson, a succession of dreary Picasso-like black heads – maybe I’ve seen too much Nicholson of late – and those works of Hepworth’s that are strung with wires, like the ones by Naum Gabo (and I think Henry Moore did some too – did they all have the same idea at the same time?).

Then, there are the interlocking segments of burnished wood, like so many pieces of classy furniture from the 50s; you wouldn’t be surprised to find the nutty wood cocooning a radio or radiogram.  A couple of breeze block walls  with greening metal pieces hidden round corners, as if reproducing the effect of the pieces in her garden at St Ives.

The exhibition ends rather suddenly – it took us about 40 minutes to go round the lot.

Sculpture with Colour (Deep Blue and Red) 1940 Dame Barbara Hepworth 1903-1975 Presented by the executors of the artist's estate 1980 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T03133

Sculpture with Colour (Deep Blue and Red) Hepworth

There are a number of purchasing opportunities, prints, scarves, pottery and a range of Hepworth-inspired clothing: a duffle jacket and a sort of canvas/linen shirt for sculpting in, so you can dress like her as you hack at the marble in your back garden, cigarette in mouth, drink on the table.

RA Summer Show (again)

A few more names and works to look out for:

Phyllida Barlow – a sculpture actually made of wood, that looks like rough old square-cut concrete conduit chunks stuck together; looks great in the context of more refined pieces, shying away from it in horror.

John Carter – brightly coloured plaques with small window-like notches cut into them; like walls of some North African fortress.

Phillip King – two small, colourful abstract drawings, in the corner next to his sculptural assemblage (I think the lop-sided window shape with the neon would make a good piece on its own, separated from the rest of the dreck he has attached it to; it would be like an early Martial Raysse).

 

Guston at Timothy Taylor Gallery

guston tt

Near the taxi-polluted Berkeley Square (the nightingale would have died choking), a prime collection of Gustons, ranging from unfamiliar free line drawings, through the big pink, red, green black and grey abstracts – only one, I think – to the cartoons.  Yes, I know they are more profound and painterly, not really cartoons but ironic appropriations of the form, look at the way he uses paint, and so on… but they still look like cartoons to me and he was a big fan (obviously) of the stupendous Robert Crumb.

There is a Nixon Phlebitis and a picture in which he lays out his motifs – bloodshot eyeballs, lit fags, various detritus – as if preparing to stick them into a picture.

The paint actually is worth a mention; it’s oily and thick and greasy in places, looking still wet and viscous – and dirty.  Lovely.

Deadwood, the box set

Saving the last episode for tomorrow night.  They could never make this series now, could they?  I think it was made 2005 – 6.  Non-stop obscene language, constant racial epithets – there’s a character called the Nigger General –  casual sex and sexual violence, heroic drinking, drug use, throat cutting, eye gouging…  I’ve enjoyed every episode immensely and the music over the end credits is stunning – Bukka White, Memphis Slim,  Keb Mo’.  Ian McShane as Al Swearengen certainly laid Lovejoy to rest.

Three of mine to finish-

 

amanda in red and black

Amanda in Black and Red

sonia blurred

Sonia, Blurred (the model was pissed when I did this one)

red and blue canals1

Seagulls over Sorrento

Blackpaint

28.06.15

 

Blackpaint 442 – Barlow’s Faulty Towers, That Ad, Adrian and George

April 15, 2014

Phyllida Barlow; “Dock” at Tate Britain

There seems to be a lot of destruction about at Tate Britain lately; “Ruin Lust”, the present exhibition, for example, and the recent one on iconoclasm, ranging from Reformation church smashing to the Suffragettes, the IRA and Action artists.

barlow1

At first sight, Barlow’s work seems to fit in with this; as you come into the hall, the first thing you see is a collapsed heap of planks, beams and general rubble which looks as if it has just crashed to the ground.  In fact, the work seems to me to consist of 7 or 8 “units”, one of which is the collapsed heap; the others are:

  • a tower of beams from which a giant cardboard (?) roll or drum hangs;
  • another tower, topped by a bulging, squirming mass of ropes, stuffed bin bags, trunking and debris, threatening to topple over;
  • a sort of pyramidal  structure of interlocking, wooden or metal bench-like forms, one face of which is covered with painted panels in Guston colours (these panels face you through the arch from Caro’s red metal sculpture and are really effective from this view – try it);

barlow2

  • a tubular tower, a sort of Trajan’s Column of cardboard rolls, stuck together with brightly coloured crime-scene tape (shades of Isa Gensken);
  • another big erection of beams from which are suspended a number of huge boxes or trunks, great holes smashed in them, round the mouths of which, a polystyrene foam bubbles;
  • hanging from the ceiling, a strange, white, branching, basket-like structure a bit like Sarah Lucas’s stuffed sculptures or maybe a giant representation of a cell structure, like something that might hang above the escalator in the Science Museum.  Hanging from this, I think, three giant, unvarnished, wooden shield shapes.  I find these, the basket and the shields, to be a false note, not fitting with the rest of the installation.

So at second sight, not about destruction at all; more about things in flux, a process of becoming rather than being “complete” like the other works in the gallery.

I wondered about how she built it; she’s in her 70s, after all.  Obviously there was a team and machinery, but you somehow think things on this scale require a young, vigorous, ambitious, (reckless?) mind.  Did she do drawings?  Maybe it was more general idea and materials and then standing watching, shouting instructions: sort of “Bit more to left – hold it there, that’s good…. Now, tumble those ropes out a bit more…”   And how are these things commissioned?  does Tate have a list of artists it goes to, or do the artists approach the galleries with ideas?  This would apply to the Turbine Hall at TM too, of course.

Next time, “Ruin Lust” and the fantastic Richard Deacon exhibition.

Doreen Lawrence in the M&S advert

I think the presence of Baroness Lawrence in the M&S advert is problematic.  The company benefits from the association with someone like her, who has justly acquired a sort of proto-Mandela status, beyond criticism; there’s probably no payment involved, or she will be donating the money to a worthy cause – still, M&S is in the business of flogging clothes and will get increased profits, I expect.  Is it no different from Olympians advertising banks, or the Royals granting charters to private firms?  as far as I can see, there has been no criticism in the press of the ad, so maybe I’m out of step.  Those people who want the Baroness to stand as Labour candidate for Mayor of London will be wanting some of the same magic; someone beyond criticism to carry the flag.  What a coup that would be.

Sue Townsend

townsend

Adrian Mole is one of the great comic characters of English literature, alongside Pooter, another noted diarist; I was surprised, however, to come across, in Sunday’s Observer, an extract from Townsend’s book “Mr.Bevan’s Dream”, about trying to get an emergency benefit payment.  What surprised me was how gripping it was, how angry it made me and yet how fair and even-handed were her comments.  Who did it remind me of?  Ah yes, Orwell – and unlike George –  no criticism intended – Townsend wasn’t down there on a visit.

 Orwell, the Musical

orwell

Just been reading that Orwell’s newly published “Road to Wigan Pier” was delivered to him in the trenches where he was fighting with the Trotskyist POUM militia in the Spanish Civil War; surely it’s time somebody wrote “Orwell, the Musical” – Eton, Burma, the Hanging, Shooting an Elephant, dish-washing in Paris, tramping in London and the hopfields of Kent, Wigan Pier, fighting, wounded and fleeing for his life in Spain, the war commentaries and diary, Animal Farm, Jura, nearly drowning in the whirlpool, Nineteen Eighty-Four- must be enough here for loads of great stage-sets and les Mis-type anthems.  Come on, Lloyd-Webber and Cameron Mackintosh!

??????????

 Heaven Only Knows

Blackpaint

15.04.14

Blackpaint 355 – Shark Penis of the Fish God

August 16, 2012

The Tanks at Tate Modern

The cement walls alternate in texture, smooth and rough, and colour, white, grey, honey – like walking through chambers cut from hard cheese.  Along with the massive black, bolted girders the tanks are an artwork in themselves.  You could take photos of corners and crannies, bung them in frames and flog them at craft fairs.

The first “room”, The Crystal Quilt by Suzanne Lacy, shows a speeded-up top shot of figures flicking in and out of a seated area in a church or concert hall with a red polygonal centre.  On the wall is a tapestry of the same pattern.  I thought the film was of Tate Modern itself but it was made in 1987.  Turns out it was Mother’s Day in Minneapolis; 430 women over 60 gathered in a shopping centre around a giant quilting pattern.

Next “room”, Temper Clay by Sung Hwan Kim; massive, lots going on in corners, against wall; videos on several TVs, sound (some intriguing harmonies and rhythms, Korean presumably, narratives and poetry on different screens, misty white park scenes, skyscrapers in sharp focus, prostrate youth looking soulful…  An exhibit to wander into again and again, I suspect something different every time – very satisfying, so long as you don’t look for joined-up intellectual meaning…  “Temper Clay” is a quote from King Lear and there is a long article in the Tanks programme notes explaining – can’t be bothered, I’d rather just enjoy what’s there without having to read what it all means.

Upstairs to the AbEx room again – that Guston “Head” with the tangled grey brushstrokes sort of thatched around it.  The Alan Davie “Image of the Fish God”.

Always gives me a shiver, this one; I think its the shark-like shape on the left, rising out of the black figure like a penis.  A while ago, there was a documentary on the Discovery Channel about one of those mad Americans who messes about with Great White Sharks.  He was towing a seal-shaped dinghy in waters frequented by Great Whites, in order to find out if…WHAM!! A huge, columnar, penis shape, with a lemon slice mouth full of teeth just hurtled straight up, gushing sea water, sending the dinghy skywards (probably with a great bite out of it) and sank straight back to the depths, leaving the shark botherer whimpering with shock.  Anyway, the Davie picture gives me just the slightest sliver of that sensation.

Campbells, near Tate Modern

Flogs old catalogues for two quid a throw – have recommended it before – got Sotheby’s for 2004 today, with three pictures that justify a love for abstraction and demand no figurative associations to get a response – from me anyway.

First, Diebenkorn, a little Ocean Park picture on paper from 1952, sky blue and terracotta, yellow and red in the geometric “frame”:

Next, Joan Mitchell, Untitled 1960, great clots of midnight and Prussian Blue shot through with red and thin white lightning strikes emanating from it:

Lastly, Guston, another “Untitled” from 1952, rusty brown, red and yellow streaks and worms, on grey, texture like a metal plate.  Couldn’t find these online, and batteries in camera dead, so will include photos next blog.

Blackpaint

Blue on Ochre Rose

16.08.12

Blackpaint 75

February 23, 2010

Richard Diebenkorn

Yes, it’s  addictive once you start, the game of making connections (see Bl. 74); yesterday, I was on about Keith Vaughan and Nicolas de Stael – today, I’m thinking of Diebenkorn and the tenuous connection to de Stael.

It’s landscape that is the link.  De Stael did those highly coloured landscapes made out of colour blocks sculpted onto the canvas with a knife.  Diebenkorn did those fantastic “abstract landscapes”, tawny like a lion’s pelt,and white and blue, crossed with black “roads”.  When I first saw them in that great, grey and orange-covered book by Jane Livingston, I  was struck by their beauty.  The later “Ocean Park” series are much cleaner, more geometric, more green and blue – but a logical development.

Then, I came to the figurative paintings; golden/orange and dark blues, greys and flesh tones, that were equally beautiful.  Diebenkorn was unusual, in that he kicked off as an abstract painter in the late 40’s and developed in Albuquerque (see Urbana series, for instance) and then switched to figurative between 1955 and 67, returning to abstract thereafter.  Guston, of course, also switched from abstract to figurative – but never made the return journey.

Lanyon

And of course, the “abstract landscape” thing brings me back to Peter Lanyon, because that’s a good deal of what he did too.  Many of his pictures are named after particular places in Cornwall and USA and are sort of total landscapes, giving all possible perspectives and sometimes impossible ones – from within the earth, say.  After taking up gliding, his paintings were increasingly “top shots”, to borrow a film-making term -and this is  another link to Diebenkorn, whose pictures sometimes look like aerial photographs (the opening sequence of aerial shots in “Up in the Air” comes to mind).

I’d had an idea that Lanyon had been killed in a glider accident in 1964; it turns out, though, that he sustained only a minor leg injury in a rough landing – it later developed into thrombosis, which actually led to his death days later.  Nevertheless, it is the 4th violent demise of an artist in this blog in three or four days, albeit accidental  – the others were Christopher Wood, suicide under a train; Keith Vaughan, suicide by drug overdose (ill with cancer); and de Stael, threw himself from a building. 

Listening (as promised) to Lonnie Donegan, “the Grand Coolie Dam”

“Now the world holds seven wonders, that travellers always tell,

Some gardens and some towers, well, I guess you know them well;

But now the greatest wonder is in Uncle Sam’s fair land,

It’s the big Columbia river, and the big Grand Coolie Dam.”

Blackpaint

23.02.10