Posts Tagged ‘Rachel Whiteread’

Blackpaint 607 – Dream Homebase, Queer Tate

October 2, 2017

Jasper Johns, RA

Unsurprisingly, the best art show in town (apart from the magical Holbeins at the NPG).  It doesn’t quite have the impact and variety of the recent Rauschenberg at TM, but maybe it suffers a bit by coming after.  I’ll be going again, probably several times, so below are just a few of the delights on display. They are mostly of one type, the splashy, multi coloured early ones.  In addition, there are (of course) the flags and targets; the metal beer cans, torches, paintbrushes, spectacles; the combinations (broom, severed, spotted arm, piece of wire); the several-panelled pieces combining paint and silkscreen, again, like Rauschenberg.  Anyway, I shall return…

 

 

Painting with Two Balls, 1960

 

No (I think); note the wire structure attached, hard to see in this photo, reminiscent of Rauschenberg.

 

Rachel Whiteread, Tate Britain

This is like a visit in a dream to Homebase; or no, more a building supplies warehouse, Jewsons maybe?  Doors and windows and little model houses made of mauve, orange or green resins; fireplaces and bathtubs and mattresses made of moulded concrete or plaster or plastics; a little group of moulded hot water bottles in pastel-shaded plaster; great piles of shuttering, is it? in white concrete; also in white concrete, a central block of upside-down stairs.  There is a block of resin in the exact shade of those cider ice lollies you used to get, that lost their colour as you sucked on them and some intriguing dark grey moulded (actually, pretty much everything is moulded) plaques made from papier-machee, “spattered” with primary colour.  A selection of her rather delicate drawings and plans down at the far end of the warehouse.

 

Queer Tate Britain

The Queer Art exhibition is still on at TB; I notice that there are now a series of toilet options, a development perhaps related to the show .  The old male and female (though indicated by picture, I think, rather than the somewhat brutal categorising terms I have used) and two “Non-gendered” options.  These last also have pictures of wheelchairs, so it may be that they have always been there and I never noticed them; I am sure the non-gender descriptions are new, though.

Also, there is a sketchbook on sale, entitled “Erotic Fantasies” or some such, by the great Keith Vaughan.  These are not stylised, Tom of Finland-type cartoons, but naturalistic depictions of  various sex acts between males.  I would say “realistic”, but the equipment on display in the drawings is rather small…  Good to see that TB isn’t afraid to sell gay porn; maybe they think the quality of the drawings is justification (maybe it is).

Victoria and Albert Museum Theatre Room

This is a brilliant, quiet bit of the museum, top of the stairs and through the darkened jewellery room; videos, miniature stage sets, posters, costumes – Fred Astaire must have been really short, judging by the tails he wore in “Shall We Dance?” – puppets, memorabilia.  Some images below, including my favourite poster for “Bartholomew Fair” and the poster that provided title and characters for “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite”, from the Sergeant Pepper album.

 

 

While there, see the fantastic tapestries next door, and the Turner and Constable oil sketches in another adjacent room – much better than many of their more elaborate “worked-up” paintings in ornate gold-leaf frames.

 

Constable

 

Sluice Biennial

This art fair is taking place at various venues (a container block tower, underneath arches) around Hackney Central.  It ends tomorrow.  I was struck by those paintings which were representational in some way – they looked to be strongly influenced by one or more of the following: George Condo, Luc Tuymans and William Sasnal.  Maybe a little bit of Ryan Mosley too.  This seems to be a common matrix of influences these days; at the Saatchi Gallery, for example.

Two new ones of mine, to finish with:

Bridge

Blackpaint

Green Split

Blackpaint

02/10/17

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 443 – Deacon, Cezanne, Fellini and Bragg

April 25, 2014

Richard Deacon at Tate Britain – until Sunday!

I was unexcited about the prospect of visiting this exhibition, since painting is more my thing than sculpture usually; that’s why it took me so long to get around to it.  I was surprised – it’s great.  Wood, metal, cement. sometimes all three together – wooden strips looping along the floor and rearing up like lassos; an oblong metal “shell”, open at both ends, with a flat metal lip overlapping and then blending with the edge of the orifice.  It just lies there on the floor, like a giant grey metal cream horn.

deacon1

A splintered and tortured steamed oak and metal structure, writhing all over the floor – how does he twist the wood like that?  I presume it’s made possible by the steaming process.

deacon2

A black “hogan” shaped thing, or maybe giant seed case called “Struck Dumb”, rather spoilt in my view by a red bow tie shape at one end;  “After”, a huge, “wickerwork” snake, curling across the gallery, stiffened by a wide silver metal band running from end to end.  A group of small, organic shapes, sculpted in various materials, like a group of sea creatures washed up by the tide.  And terrific, looping, diagramatic drawings with erasures and fuzzed lines in blue ink.

deacon 3

Great sculptures and great engineering.  It finishes this Sunday, so go this weekend.

Ruin Lust, Tate B

I thought this stretched the definition of “ruin” a bit far; there is a series of photographs by Gerard Byrne, for instance, which show hangovers or survivals of 60s design in present-day architecture and society – great photos, interesting idea, but not really “ruin”.  Unlike Waldemar Januszczak, however, I don’t really care if the concept is stretched though, as long as there’s some good art to look at in the exhibition.  And there is some; several paintings and prints of Llanthony Abbey to kick off.  I know it well and none of these look much like it (not that it matters).   The usual suspects are here; Turner, Constable, Wilson Steer.  There’s a mildly Apocalyptic John Martin, of the Pompeii eruption, which looks to me as if it’s happening in a vast underground chamber – my partner tells me he did some designs for sewers during the cholera epidemics, so maybe that influenced him. They are in Jeremy Deller’s exhibition in Nottingham, I understand.  Photos of stupendous German bunkers and gun emplacements on the Atlantic coast, by the Wilson sisters;  A couple of familiar surrealistic pictures by Paul Nash; a great Sutherland and a Piper church.

piper 1

I thought Ian Hislop’s description of Piper as “a committed Modernist, in love with the Olden Days” (The Olden Days, BBC2) was spot on.  Some war photographs from Rachel Whiteread and a Patrick Caulfield, which displays the contrast between his clean, radiantly coloured, graphic style and the ruinous subject matter.  Not one of the great exhibitions, but a good 30 minute job. if you are a Tate member and don’t have to fork out specially.

Cezanne and the Modern , Oxford Ashmolean Museum

This is just packed out with interesting things, as is the permanent collection at the museum ( I’ll write about that in next blog, along with the Matisse cut-outs).

The Cezannes are mostly watercolours; the best of these are one of a rockface or quarry, almost like an early Hamilton car fender drawing from a distance; and one called “Undergrowth”, I think, like a pen and ink and wash drawing.  Then, there is a single, large, unfinished oil painting called “Route to le Tholonet”, which has beautiful, subtle blue, brown and green hillsides behind a couple of tree trunks and a sketchy cottage – it’s oil, but it looks like watercolour, especially in the exhibition guide (good for £5).  Also pears in a bowl, a skull and a shimmering bottle still life.  Great St.Victoire, next door with the others.

Others: Great Modiglianis, one of Cocteau, pink cheeks, spidery body and features, wrists and chin and a male face, a Russian I think, with a crooked, “stuck on” nose;

A striking Degas nude, “After the bath, woman drying herself” – her bum is right in your face as you enter the gallery; she appears to be diving forwards, her arm and shoulder outlined in red, head disappearing behind divan, or whatever.  Her head’s in the wrong place, it seems to me, too far to the right…;

degas ashmolean

A Van Gogh, “the Tarrascon Stage”, the paint badged on thickly in sticky-looking squares;

A fabulous Manet, “Young Woman in a Round Hat” – on the wall above is a quotation from Manet; “There are no lines in Nature…” and yet, round the woman’s left shoulder and arm, a very visible black line.  Great painting though.

manet round hat

 

Soutine – these are a revelation; he’s much more than the sides of beef.  A thick red-lipped, crop-headed self portrait; A beautiful, sad-eyed portrait of an unknown woman in a black dress, with a dark blue background;  an awful choirboy and an awful hanging turkey BUT – three expressionist paintings of the town of Ceret, that look a little like Auerbach building sites, but with curving lines.  There’s a church spire from below looking up, recalling Delaunay’s Eiffel Tower.  Another, with two paths meeting to form a triangle, like the legs of that Boccione statuette… all done in the late 20s.

soutine 2

Fellini, “81/2”

Stunning opening and closing sequences – in the opening, Mastroianni (Fellini) floats high above, attached by the ankle to a line and to a car (it’s a dream sequence) – and the closing, the actors take part in a Dance of Fools, hand in hand, to the music of a clown band – shades of “The Seventh Seal”.

The Olden Days (BBC2)

I mention this series again, NOT because my son Nicky was a researcher on it (although he was), but because I was struck by the startling resemblance of Billy Bragg to the photograph portrait of the older William Morris…

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Heaven Only Knows (final version)

Blackpaint

25.04.14

Blackpaint 394 – Lizards and Fossils and Christopher in Cordoba

May 16, 2013

Ellen Gallagher at  Tate Modern

This got a rather sniffy review from Laura Cumming in the Observer; she found Gallagher’s frequent use of cut outs of thick African lips and “googly” eyes repetitive.  Not like loads of other artists then, who rarely repeat a trick.  There’s a lot of social and political content to her work, as you may guess from the foregoing, but I was most impressed not by the meaning but by the look of it.

She has several works made up of the lips and eyes on a parchment-like support, thick lined paper I think, and from a slight distance they look like walls of tiny bricks – reminded me of Rachel Whiteread drawings.

Others, huge canvases or linens, looked like Victor Pasmores – one plain canvas with a lizard shape writhing on it; another, with several black or inky blocks off-centre.

There were the series of yellow “wigs” on magazine ads, the faces with eyes cut out and the huge black paintings, coated with rubber.  The last room had the delicate “botanical” drawings and the embossed “fossils”, made, presumably, by pressing the image and sometimes shaving tiny leaves of the paper up with a sharp blade.  The best ones were the “Pasmores” – I ignored the deeper meanings and looked at them as if they were abstracts.  Go see it and read the booklet for the politics.

gallagher

Saloua Raouda Choucair at Tate Modern

Lebanese woman, now in her 90s, went to Paris and studied with Leger.  First thing is that the paintings are very small, maybe 18″*24″, that sort of order.  They are very colourful, semi-or completely abstract, many consisting of interlocking, or overlapping, or fitting geometric shapes.  One beautiful, singing, blue one looks very much like a Helion – th influence of Leger and of Picasso is evident in the figures.

The sculptures are mainly interlocking ceramic or polished wood structures; again, quite small; I think some are maquettes.  There are several structures made from thin wires on frames that are just like pieces by Moholy-Nagy and Gabo – since neither of these artists are mentioned anywhere in the written material on the exhibition, I have to assume that she arrived at them independently.

So – a great double at the TM; the Gallagher has much more content but the Choucair makes fewer demands on the intellect.  mind you, you could do what I did and just wander round looking; then read up later.

choucair

Seville and Cordoba

Just back after four days in blinding sunlight and 30 Cent heat – well, hot for us English.  Went to see the Zurbarans in Seville and I was surprised that they were rather mundane compared to the ones in the British Museum.  the art that impressed me most was a fabulous Madonna and child (or rather,  little man) in the Alcazar there.  I don’t think it was Spanish however – looked early Italian to me.

In the cathedral at Cordoba – the one with the hundreds of receding Islamic arches in red and white – there was a huge, dark Saint Christopher painting, half-concealed by a column, that could have been Gulliver, or maybe that picture on the cover of the Pelican edition of Hobbes’ Leviathan.  Plus the usual super realist crucifixions, still rendered in wood for modern catholic churches, I was surprised (a bit) to find.

At one point, I surveyed the cathedral from a central point and I’m convinced that the entire tourist population, apart from me, was taking one photograph after another, to be looked at later.  One old man in the museum just trudged from one painting to the next, snapping it and then getting a shot of the label.  he never looked at anything except through the camera.

In the Mood for Love

Wong Kar Wei.  saw this on TV the other night, and I loved it, without knowing quite why – maybe that violin theme, the rain, the scabby walls, the tension of unexpressed yearning, the stylish smoking – but no, it had to be the dresses and the coiffure.  she just spent the whole film swaying up and down narrow stairs, streets and corridors in those tight, high collared dresses.  Very watchable, considering no sex – overt, anyway.

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Threshold

Blackpaint

16.5.13

Blackpaint 360 – Faust, Laocoon and the Red Desert

September 27, 2012

De Kooning

I was surprised to read in the Retrospective that DK got into a fight with Clement Greenberg in 1961 (this was when DK’s drinking was “becoming a problem”; unfortunately, it doesn’t say who won, painter or critic).  Even more of a surprise was to read that the whole of Janis’ stable of Abstract Impressionists had left gallery when he showed an exhibition of “New Realists”; Dine, Warhol, Lichtenstein, etc.  Guston, Motherwell, Rothko and dK walked. Those were the days…

Sokurov

I’ve just bought his “Faust” on DVD.  It often goes into that washed-out colour that Sok. used in “Mother and Son” and also uses the elongation and tilting of figures that featured in that film.  The Margareta and Mephistopheles characters are both sinister and memorable – the Grand Guignol dissections are fun too.  I lent my video of the silent Faust – Murnau, was it? – to someone and never got it back, but I remember a scene in that where Faust swings his cloak and it shrouds the entire city – nothing in Sokurov’s to equal that but it’s still very good.

Keith Vaughan

At an art fair at the Royal College of Art in Kensington Gore last week, saw this artist’s “Laocoon Man”, which is the cover picture for the new catalogue of Vaughan’s paintings.  I loved it for the combination of that singing blue background and the rough, cream/grey chevrons within the central figure.  Very beautiful paintings.

I was interested to see that a great, dark Albert Irvin from 63 I think, nothing like the brightness of his later and current work, was going for £14,000 – compared to over £50,000 average for dead British painters of, I guess, similar or lesser fame.  Presumably, at this level, the massive price hike happens  once you are dead.  I wonder how soon after?

Another painter new to me was William Brooker.  A great still life on a beige tablecloth, the folds opening towards the viewer with trompe l’oeil effect.  The precision and lines much like Euan Uglow, though Brooker earlier, I think.

Rachel Whiteread

When writing about Saatchi recently, should have mentioned the chess sets in separate gallery upstairs.  Whiteread’s has 60’s period doll’s house furniture as pieces; lamps, cabinets, a radiogram, I think.  Carpet and lino squares form the chess board.  Sounds twee, but quite funny.  Also, Matthew Roney’s; a picnic laid out on a tablecloth, picnickers having fled something that came out of the woods.  Bits of food and mustard, ketchup for the pieces – four erect penises at each corner for the rooks (maybe salt and pepper pots it occurs to me) –  but definitely penis shaped.

Red Desert

Watched this visually staggering film on TV the other day (sorry about the “staggering”, but it really is).  Monica Vitti fretting and smouldering throughout and Richard Harris thoroughly wooden – “doltish”, as the Encyclopedia of Film describes him.  Ridiculous portentous dialogue, of the kind sent up by Woody Allen, but extraordinary shipyard and quayside scenes in saturated greens and reds; ships looming through fog, pylons, derelict, polluted countryside – fantastic.

Saw” Bronzes” at the Royal Academy last Sunday – next blog.  WordPress appears to be breaking down – can’t do tags or insert more pictures!  Hope it works next time.  If not, I’ll be closing down.

Cap Frehel

Blackpaint

27.09.12

Blackpaint 336 – Tree of Life and the Leaking Pupae

April 10, 2012

Deep End

No wonder it sounded like a foreign film dubbed (see last blog); apart from main actors, most were German and it was filmed in Munich!  I wonder if that goes for the baths – I always thought in was an old public baths in the East End of London, Hackney or Tower Hamlets.

Jonathan Jones in the Guardian

Last week, this critic was saying that, with the Lucian Freud, Hockney and now the Damien Hirst exhibitions, women artists weren’t getting a fair share of showings in London.  Hard to sustain this argument, I would have thought; in the last couple of years or so, we’ve been to Roni Horn, Susan Hiller, Rachel Whiteread, Kusama,  Tracey Emin, Joan Mitchell, Lygia Pape, Mary Heilmann, Nancy Spero, Isa Genzken, Pipilotti Rist, Vaida Caivanho, Cecily Brown, Rose Hilton…  OK, the three blockbusters were all men – but Freud just died, Hockney has done a whole body of new stuff in his 70’s and Hirst is the world’s priceyest living artist.

Damien Hirst

At the Tate Modern.  All the expected stuff is there; the swirl paintings (impressive, I thought);  the shelves of packaged drugs (I was surprised how many of them I know by name – it’s part of modern life); the sharks, looking pretty shrivelled now, like flesh under water too long; the beef head with the blood puddle and the fat black flies dying in droves on the insectocutor; the cows and calves sawn in half (spine and gut street maps, if you queue to walk between the two halves);  the crematoria of stinking fag ends; the anatomical models and variations on same; but the butterflies were new.  That is to say, I’ve seen the wings before and the “stained glass window” type patterns assembled from them – but not the butterfly room.

This was overheated, of course, and painted white or hung with white canvases.  The walls were studded with a variety of strange pupae or chrysalises, which appeared to have exuded vertical streaks of coloured fluid down the walls.  The mature butterflies tended to the huge, and the highly coloured, iridescent blues predominating, I think.  On a table in the middle of the room, bowls of fruit, pineapple, melons, etc. were studded with insects, drunk on the fermented juices.  The experience was faintly nauseating, like the stink of rotting flesh and fag ends from the other exhibits.

We didn’t bother queueing to see the diamond-crusted skull, since images of it abounded – and to queue reminded me of lining up to see the saints’ relics in Santiago di Compostella and other Catholic shrines.  And the Crown Jewels in the Tower, of course.

Is it worth a visit?  It’s conceptual art; in this case, seen it once, no point going again – you probably won’t get anything new.  You don’t look at these things and think that’s great, I didn’t see it like that before.

Tree of Life

Terrence Mallick, just watched it.  First thought – he’s been watching Tarkovsky.  Next – when is all this religiosity going to stop?  The choirs, the heavenly music. the wafting white linen, the chubby babies…  Then, it’s “2001”; we’re in the galaxies, there’s the sea from Solaris, back on Earth, origins of life, Disney, Blue Planet, Imax, Jurassic Park….  Then, it suddenly gets better – we’re back in Texas in the 50s with Brad Pitt and the kids.   Then, 10 minutes from the end it becomes indescribably bad again.  Ditch the crap at the beginning and the end and it would have been fantastic.

Blackpaint

Easter Monday 2012

Blackpaint 316 – Rudders and Shark’s Fins at the Serpentine

December 31, 2011

Helen Frankenthaler

The news of the death of the great Helen Frankenthaler – great painter, beautiful woman ( judging by the Guardian photograph) made me realise how easy it is to overlook people if they haven’t had a retrospective or show recently.  I think I’ve only seen two or three of her works together as part of a package at the Guggenheim, Bilbao maybe 7 or 8 years ago.  Then, a few paintings in Ab-Ex books and art histories (Autumn Farm, Spring Blizzard, the much later and fantastic Lavender Mirror) but no easy- to- find book to herself.  But she was a pioneer; the pouring of thinned paint onto unprimed canvas, leaving tracts unstained, was her “invention”, later adopted by Morris Louis, notably.

Joan Mitchell has had a bit of well-deserved attention lately, with a lovely book and a small exhibition in Edinburgh; now we should see the same for Frankenthaler… and Krasner, Hartigan, Jay DeFeo….

Lygia Pape

“Magnetized Space” at the Serpentine Gallery, free. lovely exhibition.  She was a Brazilian artist who died, aged 77, in 2003 – a Neo-Concretist (no, I didn’t know either).  The Neo – Concretist movement was “dedicated to the inclusion of art into everyday life”, so the booklet says.  Anyway, there are several videos on show that we didn’t have time to watch, beautiful, careful drawings of close parallel lines on white paper, with sections tilted to look as if collaged on – very similar to Rachel Whiteread’s stuff at Tate Britain, I thought – but the most beautiful woodcuts on paper; minimalist, geometrical shapes cleanly cut against each other, both black and white and in three or four colours.  There are three in particular, in which the grain of the wood has been imprinted onto Japanese paper.  One resembles the rudder of a boat, another a shark’s fin, the third an abstract swirling pattern.  They are great, don’t miss them.

The Roberts

Colquhoun and MacBryde, about whom Roger Bristow has written a book entitled “The Last Bohemians” (2010).  I knew of them vaguely from the writings of Julian Maclaren-Ross and Daniel Farson but I’d only scene one picture by Colquhoun, the one that Grayson Perry included in his Hastings exhibition a while back.  the first illustration on the book is “Bitch and Pup”, which Colquhoun did in 1958; it’s very striking and no doubt I’ll be returning to them, as I read more.

The Artist

I’ll have to see it, the critics having unanimously praised it – but it all sounds a bit “Cinema Paradiso” to me.  That’s enough, signing off to get drunk (er).  Happy New Year, to those of you for whom it is.

Blackpaint

31.12.11

Blackpaint 290

August 26, 2011

More from the Guggenheim Bilbao

Kenneth Noland – “April Time”; a huge yellow ochre colour field with pastel green, orange and toothpaste borders.  Also “Time Shift”; equally huge blue and green chevron on white field.

Frank Stella – Orange and pink, airbrushed ? half wheels, in fluorescent paint, cut to shape.  Check out Stella in the 60s in the DVD Painters on Painting – he’s like a young Woody Allen, with a strong sense of grievance.

Morris Louis – “Saraband”; acrylic resin on canvas.  Stripes of dulled colour, oranges,  crimson, greens,  dulled by layering over darker pigment.

Helen Frankenthaler -” Canal”; poured acrylic on unbleached canvas, blue/orange, staining to blue  , then to grey.

I think I’m right in saying that there are only three women painters amongst the abstractionists on show: Frankenthaler, da Silva and Elaine de Kooning (a lovely painting like a sheaf of highly coloured leaves).  There are more female sculptors and conceptualists, however, in the sections entitled (for some non-luminous reason) “The Luminous Interval”:

Kiki Smith –   a group of body sculptures; body with scarf “entrails” dangling; pile of heads, legs, arms linked by a chain; severed, bloody forearms, palms up, on a cushion “bed”; a leaden man bent double as if touching toes, a great scab of slag enclosing his backside; tiny black bacon rasher-like things, on tiny tables; a man-thing crouching half way up a wall with a long strip of black shit emerging from the anus – title: “Shitbody”.  So, some fairly physical items there.

Annette Messager – An enormous exhibit of dolls, gloves, stockings and a multitude of other fabric-based bits and pieces, hanging from red threads to make a sort of tree thing.

Louise Bourgeois – hands and forearms entwined on a stone block, in a cage, surrounded by large circular mirrors.

Mona Hatoum – room-sized, open “crate” made of shelving, containing light bulbs going on and off.

Rachel Whiteread – Flat-bottomed, amber coloured wax bath mould; white bookshelves with whited-out books and white boxes on platforms.

Marina Abramovic – her strangely sexy – maybe it’s just me – video of her scrubbing the skeleton (sounds like an Australian metaphor), previously described at the Whitechapel Gallery.

Wanguchi Muti – Darkened room with a wall of fox(?) pelts at one end, scores of upside-down wine bottles dripping onto a long table.  Strong smell of stale wine.

Common elements – use of whole rooms, body parts, hanging things, bodily functions, cages. 

Last word on Gug next blog.

Alexander Nevsky

You can see that Olivier saw Eisenstein’s film before making Henry V; there’s the baggage train, the shower of arrows, the charge (across ice instead of green fields), even the single combat between Alexander (Henry) and the Grandmaster of the Teutonic Knights (Constable of France).  Branagh’s 1991 remake of Henry V owes more to Welles’  “Chimes at Midnight” than Olivier’s Henry – especially the mud and blood and  slow motion in the battle scenes, as well as Robbie Coltrane’s brief turn as Falstaff.  One place where Olivier’s version still stands way above Branagh’s is the speech before the battle; Olivier didn’t see fit to ruin it by having “stirring” music swelling behind Shakespeare’s words. 

Conversations with Fellini, edited by Costanzo Costantini (Harvest,1995)

A fascinating book, in the sense that the questions are shaped to appear tricky, demanding, sometimes aggressive – but which Fellini fields with self-deprecation, humour and beautifully turned metaphors.  The book is fraudulent, therefore, but the fraud is clearly  part of the Fellini package, so it rings true to the man.  Mastroianni was clearly born to play Fellini’s alter ego.

Blackpaint

25/08/11

Blackpaint 195

September 18, 2010

Rachel Whiteread

At the Tate Britain, only a fiver.  These are mainly drawings and were described as “unnerving” in one of the weekend broadsheets, the Telegraph I think; who do they get to write this stuff?  A hooded figure coming towards you in an alley with a knife is unnerving – a picture of a light green door on slightly darker graph paper is not.

Many of the drawings are on graph paper (see Blackpaint 194); sometimes Whiteread has used the grids to plot the drawings, sometimes she’s ignored them and drawn freehand.  The first section shows tables and chairs; executed in caramel coloured varnish which has run at the edges.  According to the leaflet, “thick drops of condensed varnish recall bodily fluids and emanate a visceral materiality”.  If the writer were discussing the beds and mattresses section, fair enough; in fact, there is a stain on the biscuit-shaped mattress which definitely recalls bodily fluids – but tables?

Floors

She broadens the media used – pencil, oil crayon, correction fluid, ink  and varnish.  Interlocking parquet floors, a bit monochrome Sean Scully, uneven, wobbly, one in black with tippex, a couple of white ones.  The black one looks like a snakeskin.

Beds and Mattresses

The drawing described by Laura Cumming as like a Tuc biscuit, this is the one with the stain.  Could be tea, I suppose, rather than “bodily fluid”.

Baths and Slabs

I have a note, mysteriously titled “Lib and Hole”(??) which says “ink on card – a proper drawing!  coffin shaped.”  By “proper drawing”, I mean one with shading to indicate depth and volume – not being dismissive, it’s just that the others have none.  I think this must be in this section, because the leaflet refers to the cast of a mortuary slab.

House, Room, Stairs

Photographs of the site of Whiteread’s “ghost house”, with the house blocked in in white.  A drawing in Tippex on black paper of a flight of steps, endlessly ascending and descending.

Doors, Windows, Switches

The door, which does not look like an exclamation mark (see 194), and “Twenty four Switches Both on and off”, in silver leaf and ink.  The switches are only really visible from the sides, when the light catches them.

There are various drawings of and from Whiteread’s other sculptural projects, the Holocaust memorial (some bright, sharp reds and yellows here surprisingly), the Water Tower and Plinth; the section Torso and Heads, which are picked out in circles of raised white on white paper, like long, embossed worms. 

That’s about it, apart from a vitrine containing her collection of stimulus articles, spoons, shoes, wooden feet (lasts, presumably) bone- like bits of wood or wood-like bits of bone, skulls, a toy taxi.. cuddly toy..

Unlike Cumming, I think that her brilliant sculptures are her real contribution and this material is arid on its own.  It’s the sort of stuff that you would get to back up an exhibition of sculpture which, because of  the nature of the work she does, would be impossible to mount.  Laura Cumming, the booklet, and whoever called this work “unnerving” are massively overstating the case.

Turner

Upstairs in the Romantics exhibition, looked into that room with all his airy, foggy, shimmering, light suffused canvases done in the 1830’s and 40’s, contrasting with the immense, ornate set pieces he did in more formal mode – I pictured the Academicians in their top  hats and waistcoats and wondered just what they made of them back then.  They may even have been genuinely unnerving – although I imagine incomprehension would be more likely. There were people looking at them yesterday and shaking their heads in bafflement, before fleeing to the reassuring history paintings like the Battle of Trafalgar.

The Beanfield by Blackpaint

18.09.10

Blackpaint 192

September 13, 2010

Rachel Cooke on Ed Ruscha

Rachel Cooke seems to be pioneering a new form (or rediscovering an old form) of art criticism.  Some time ago, she referred to the artist Conrad Shawcross as “adorable”;  in the Observer yesterday, she writes about Ruscha in the following terms: “at 72, Ruscha .. is a devastatingly attractive man …. He has a gravelly voice – the kind that invites you both to move your head closer to his and to keep your eyes firmly on his lips ….  The luxuriant grey hair, the flinty eyes, the soft blue shirt… sitting with him is like sitting with an old-school American movie star…” 

 Actually, to be fair, it’s billed as an interview – but  I can’t help thinking a male reporter on the Observer wouldn’t get away with this stuff any more, if he was interviewing a woman artist.  Or maybe he would if she was 72 – is that it?  You can drool on about their physical attractions as long as they’re old; they’ll probably be pleased, rather than annoyed at being patronised.

Later in the article, she makes some reference to his art and his “trademark” use of words: “Ruscha used words as linguistic readymades; he painted them not because he liked what they meant, but because he liked the way they looked..”  This is an intriguing idea, but I think it can only work fully if the words are in a foreign language, better still a foreign alphabet.  I’m thinking of Malevich, Goncharova, was it, Rodchenko, who put Russian words or letters in their paintings sometimes, which work purely visually for non – Russian speakers.  when Ruscha paints “Standard” or “Boss”, you can’t  – or its really difficult to – look at it just as shapes or colours.  Interesting idea, though and I suppose it doesn’t matter if you can’t carry it through completely.

Rachel Whiteread drawings

This is reviewed in the Observer as well, by Laura Cumming.  It’s not an interview, so we don’t find out how attractive Whiteread is, or what she is wearing, but we do get a pretty good idea of what the drawings look like and what Cumming thinks of them (good, better than the sculptures, which labour the “one big idea”).  And she’s right; the “Untitled (Double Mattress Yellow)” does look “like a stale yellow cracker flat on its back, its buttons forming Tuc biscuit holes”. 

I wonder what the attraction is with graph paper?  I was writing about Eva Hesse at Tate St. Ives last week and now here are several more drawings on graph paper in a major exhibition.  Ready- made background, handy for straight lines, cheap, giving an air of spontaneity… Cumming says “the images mutiny” against it, stand out  better – a door “looks as abrupt as the exclamation mark it strangely resembles”.  Doesn’t to me, but I’m going by the photograph in the paper; maybe it does from across the room.  Find out when I go.

Elizabeth Neel

I’ve been looking again at “New Abstraction”, the Phaidon book by Bob Nickas  (it’s orange with a big white circle on the front – buy it).   This artist’s stuff is highly uplifting.  She does paintings that look like AbExes, but teeter on the edge, really; they’re full of thick, mud colours, scrawls and swirls, scratches and squirts and dribbles, blood smears, hanging flesh, glimpses of human forms.  She looks for photographs and images on the Net, of  “accidents, violence, decay” (sounds like Bacon).  Fantastic paintings – google her and you’ll see.  She’s Alice Neel’s granddaughter.

Skinningrove by Blackpaint