Posts Tagged ‘Ron Kitaj’

Blackpaint 588 – Fundamental! Wolfie and Hockers at the Tates

February 27, 2017

Wolfgang Tillmans, Tate Modern

Huge blown-up photos on the walls, but also desktops full of his “snaps” (and pro-Remain, anti-Brexit propaganda posters/leaflets he presumably produced).  He calls each room an “installation”, the nature of which he expounds in the booklet, to avoid explanations on the walls.  My favourite below:

 

tillmans-1

Try to see that right arm and hand as a leg and foot and you get a totally different image…

Additionally, you can see –

A drainpipe and drainhole, with water running down through soggy litter; an amazing starscape over a dark hillside; a male bumhole close-up; a close-up of a vagina which appears to be that of a transsexual, judging by the hairy legs (echo of the famous Courbet picture); several large, beautiful colour field abstracts, red and ochre mainly, recalling Hoyland or more, Diebenkorn’s desert colours combined with his Ocean Park structures; crystalline car headlight; that strange shape of the swimmer picking his foot; enormous, rather touching blow-ups of delicate weeds sprouting in his backyard – and a simple image of a man in a blue T shirt, that is startlingly clear and 3D, when looked back on through the arch, from a short distance – try it.  And, of course, those great ones of pigment threads, slowly floating and whirling in fluid.  Great exhibition; Tillmans can find beauty in strange places – drains, for example.  Not sure about the other apertures.

Hockney, Tate Britain

After the big RA Hockney exhibition of 2012, I was expecting a bit of deja-vu; there was a bit, but I was surprised at how informative and enjoyable the Tate show is.  I’ve been twice, on a Saturday and a Thursday, and both times, the Tate was rammed with white-haired, retired schoolteacher types, along with the tourists and students.  Hockney is definitely a Treasure of Middle England, comparable, I guess, to Alan Bennett in his fanbase.

I reckon there are about ten or twelve different “sections”, some of them being distinct phases in his painting, others different areas of activity; here’s my breakdown of the show:

  • The earliest real Hockneys from the early 60s – textured, splashy paint, cartoon boys, areas of raw linen, words and letters (cf.Johns), jokey content – Boys Together, Typhoo Tea, toothpaste, the boys speeding towards Italy (see below).  I can’t get away from seeing a similarity to Bacon in the brushwork, splatters and bare surfaces here, if not the content (although one of the shower ones could be).

hockney-italy

Flight to Italy

  • Next, the Kitaj-like ones, where Hockney makes well-drawn, naturalistic figures, often alongside flat cartoon characters (see below).  Various palm tree and pyramid pieces, chaps in pants on bed or in shower.

Hockney, David; Man in a Museum (or You're in the Wrong Movie); British Council Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/man-in-a-museum-or-youre-in-the-wrong-movie-176794

Man in a Museum (You’re in the Wrong Movie)

  • Swimming pools, snakey surface reflections, Bigger Splash of course.
  • A roomful of drawings, from early “cartoons” through beautifully, sparingly executed portraits, Kitaj, Kasmin etc.
  • Raw red USA desert canyons and Yorkshire Dales – hills and winding roads, flattened against invisible glass of the surface, shining with vivid colours, which I thought were a bit much in 2012, but I see from a TV film on Hockney last night are pretty accurate.  That one of hawthorn trees with maggot blossoms and the Van Gogh pink and grey sky..
  • A room of beautifully drawn but underwhelming drawings of woodland scenes.
  • The static portraits of Ossie Clark, Celia Birtwell, Henry Geldzahler, Hockney’s parents  et al; they recall della Francesca in the respect that the characters appear self-absorbed, or at least, uninvolved with each other.  There is a della Francesca on the wall behind Geldzahler, Baptism of Christ, I think.
  • Piercingly psychedelic verandahs, blue with red flowerpots, overlooking fiercely green lawns.  Those flowerpots really cut through.
  • A roomful of his composite videos of wood and meadowland in different seasons, taken by a battery of cameras from a moving car.
  • Ipad drawings and pictures he has worked up from them.
  • The psychedelic woods and landscapes from the 2012 exhibition.

I like the early stuff best, but it’s an impressive body of work, to understate the case.

To finish, a series of quick life drawings done with a brush and black acrylic.  Picasso at Barcelona next time.

 

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Woman with Fan, 1 – 6

Blackpaint

26/2/17

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 488 – Ingrid and Ingmar, Liz and Phil and Eleanor at the Tates

March 29, 2015

Marlene Dumas

OK, I know I’ve done this twice already, but I’ve got a member’s card for Tates Brit and Mod, so it feels like free when I go.  Anyway, two things – no, three – to say in addition to previous: first, the picture of the woman in tears, entitled “For Whom the Bell Tolls”; it’s not Dumas herself, as I’d thought, but Ingrid Bergman (of course, because she stars in the film, but it got past me); secondly, the paintings of her daughter Helene – the facial portrait titled “Helene’s Dream”, in which the lips, the nose and the closed eyes seem to be floating on a somehow convex surface of smooth coffee and the full-length picture of her wrapped in a bath towel, looking irritated (girl, not towel).

dumas helene's dream

dumas helene

 

I like the way she’s painted the hair in the top one; single, square-edged strokes of a drying brush.  And in the second one, it’s the knees – it looks rough at first, but it’s precise and subtle.  There’s a lot of “looks rough at first” in this exhibition, but it’s mostly (not always!) subtle underneath, so to speak.

And third thing is the little, quick, brush drawings; the one on the far left of that little group opposite the full-length prone body drawings – can’t find a picture of it, so go and look.

Sculpture Victorious, Tate Britain

This is interesting and funny, rather than jam-packed with great art.  The pieces on show suggested novelties turned out for Great Exhibitions, which they were in some cases.  There are miniature busts of the young queen, turned out by Chevenor’s Reducing Machine – you put a big one in and a sort of pantograph affair carves a perfect small version out of a soft -ish medium.  Ivory was good, unfortunately for “up to 6000 elephants a year”.

There’s a statue of some baron, Winchester possibly, who was at Runnymede for Magna Carta, which was coated with copper by an electro-plating process (the statue, not Magna Carta – or Runnymede); an Eleanor of Aquitaine, lying comfortably on her back, atop her tomb presumably, reading a prayer book or bible, as if she was reading “Gone Girl” on the beach; and there’s a life size piece of Elizabeth I playing naval chess – the pieces are galleons – with Philip II of Spain.

sculpture victorious

 

It looks like one of those clockwork – or maybe magic – pieces you get in a necromancer’s workshop in a Polish film, where the players “come to life” with a lot of clicking and whirring…  I’m thinking “Saragossa Manuscript” or maybe Bergman’s “Nicholas and Alexander”.

There are two slave women in chains; one white, one black.  The white woman, a captive of the Turks in the War of Greek Independence, is beautiful of course, with a very shapely bottom and downcast eyes and is completely naked.  The black woman, also beautiful, but with slightly odd features, the eyes I think, wears a sort of skirt.  I find this interesting, in that it is a reversal of the old National Geographic racialism; in the 1950s and before, magazines would show “native peoples”, male and female, naked, whereas white people had to be clothed, except in pornography, which was illegal anyway.  Maybe because the white slave resembles a classical Graeco-Roman statue in pose, Hiram Power thought he could get away with it.  The black woman, or American Slave, was done by John Bell in answer to Abolitionist demand; apparently, the white slave was interpreted as an attack on slavery too.  Surprising to me; it strikes me more as an opportunity for the sculptor to do a provocatively naked woman in a submissive pose and dress it up with a moral message – then, that could be said of a lot of sculpture, Victorian and earlier…

sculpture victorious white girl

 

White Slave

sculpture victorious black girl

 

 

Black (American) Slave

Some of the other sculpture on show – big muscles, heroic poses, firing arrows, struggling with snakes, gazing fiercely into distances – looked distinctly pre-Nazi to me; would have fitted in at Goering’s hunting lodge.

Worth a visit then, despite Richard Dorment’s blistering Telegraph review, which I recommend, online.  Dorment roundly berates the curators for lack of focus, stating the obvious and getting major things wrong; for instance, the reason why Alfred Gilbert  resigned from the Royal Academy.  He knows, because he’s written a book on Gilbert, and  catalogue notes for the RA.  it’s a pity Tate didn’t ask him to advise, before rashly going ahead with the show.  He does describe the black slave as a nude statue, however.

Other things new at the Tate, in the permanent galleries:  Phoebe Unwin, “Man with Heavy Legs” or something;  Vicken Parsons, tiny room paintings; a huge Rose Wylie pattern painting; and a new Kitaj, a man as a cat…

Next blog – two more Tate Britain shows, Salt and Silver and the Waplington/McQueen show.

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Vanessa, standing and stooping

Blackpaint

29.03.15

 

Blackpaint 467 – Mr.Turner, Marxist Ballet and Richter’s Postcards

November 1, 2014

Mr. Turner, Mike Leigh

Timothy Spall is great, the film looks terrific – but it’s got the usual biopic problem in that it’s episodic.  The boxes are checked, I presume in correct date order – visits to Petworth, Margate, famous paintings – the slaves in the sea, Rain, Steam and Speed, the Fighting Temeraire, lashed to the mast in the storm, Norham Castle, the red blob turned into a buoy, Victoria repelled by Sea Monsters – they missed out Turner in a boat sketching the great fire at Westminster, probably too difficult to simulate convincingly; but there is no story arc; it bumps along from one scenario to the next.  And there’s the dialogue – too Dickensy for me, too many periodisms.  And there are those scenes – the Royal Academy Varnishing Days and the boat trip out to the Temeraire – where famous characters and events are identified by theatrical introductions or grand statements.

There is a great fiddler in one sequence, on a ferry boat; he is Dave Holland.  As far as I could see, he got no credit at the end.  Every bit as good as Swarbrick in “Madding Crowd”.

Turner Prize – Duncan Campbell

There are two Campbell films; the first is “Sigmar”, based on Polke works (?); points form lines and intersections, dots are joined up to a soundtrack of barked commands in funny German accents.  Brings to mind those Czech cartoons you used to get on TVin the 60’s when there was a break in schedules.

Second film starts with an academic treatment of the role of tribal art in Western culture, of the construct of “negritude”, and ponders how black people should view it and take it forward.  It shows a number of examples of mostly African art.  This is followed by a Michael Clark ballet (below) based on Marx’s equations in “Kapital”.  Then a set of scenes involving hands, table, cloth, cup, soup, pan, sugar, lighted cig, ashtray – and a commentary that sounds like a diary and notes on the development of a film about capitalism.  Then, hands shuffling photographs – station, bear, Parisian streets, a bizarre street accident, Eiffel tower struck by lightning – with a commentary of letters from Allen to Freda.  I guessed Ginsburg, but couldn’t find anything to back that up.  Then a section on the death of Joe McCann in 1970 in Northern Ireland, his funeral and his image in a poster, and how the meaning of an image changes over time…

OK, right at the end is an image that stayed with me; voice drones on about the economics of the art market and the camera pans down over the cracked, green leather spine of an old-fashioned book and it’s suddenly like woodland trees in a misty evening, like that Seurat in the Kenneth Clarke exhibition at Tate Britain.

 

duncan campbell

Beckmann – Kitaj – Chagall

Watching the  BBC1 programme “The Art the Hitler Hated” the other night, I was struck by the Beckmann painting that turned up in the Munich flat of Cornelius Gurlitt and how similar it is to one of Ron Kitaj’s styles (see Cecil Court; the Refugees, below).  Not an original observation; Andrew Graham – Dixon remarked that Kitaj had done a bit of “fake” Beckmann and a bit of “fake” Picasso – “but mostly just fake” – in a hostile review at the time of Kitaj’s retrospective in 1994.

Actually, while writing this, another comparison occurred to me; Chagall.  I think it’s the positioning of figures in Kitaj’s obscure narrative pictures – they lie horizontal, lean, sprawl, do odd things (although I don’t think any fly)…..

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kitaj cecil

 

Gerhard Richter at Marian Goodman Gallery

Just visited this in Lower John Street, Soho.  Fabulous, huge white space.  There are several like the one below; done with lacquer, I think he places glass or perspex on top and shifts it to get the patterns – pretty much like  what Oscar Dominguez or Max Ernst – or both – called “Decalcomania”.  There are also huge linear pictures made with needle thin, dead straight, ink jet lines randomly selected by colour.  They’re novelties really; he’s playing about.  But then, a lot of art is famous artists playing about….  Best thing is a series of photos of landscapes altered by paint smudges and smears; a rockface nearly obscured and a farmer on a tractor stand out.

 

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Shark 

Why does Will Self keep italicising phrases in the text?  It reminds me of Krasnahorkai’s habit of randomly putting phrases in speech marks.

 

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DK Back

Blackpaint

01.11.14

 

 

Blackpaint 128

May 6, 2010

Abstract and Figurative

In the Tate Modern yesterday, I wandered into the Futurist gallery, killing time more than anything else.  Not that the paintings (or some of them) aren’t good, but I’m sort of familiar with them – or I thought I was.  There was David Bomberg, a picture very much like “The Mud Bath” in form – zigzag solid forms that turn out on close inspection to be people.

Then, at the end of the gallery, I looked at the other Bomberg; a giant picture of soldiers at work under a light blue sky, it’s called something like “Canadian sappers mining Hill 60, in the St.Eloi sector” and it was painted in 1919-20.  It’s a strange picture, a sketch apparently, and it reminded me a little of a Spencer/Kitaj cross.  The soldiers appear to have slightly wobbly arms.  It is, however, conventional in its depiction of the human figure, compared to “The Mud Bath” paintied four or five years earlier.

What had happened in between, of course, was the Western Front and Bomberg’s participation in it.  Perhaps it seemed somehow inappropriate (strange word to apply to painting – who would want to paint “appropriate” pictures?) to render the troops in his abstract style.  After the industrial-scale slaughter, perhaps it seemed right to one who had been there to paint them as individual people rather than anonymous, semi-geometric shapes. 

After the war, there were the Palestine  landscapes, then Spain and Cornwall.  I think these paintings were more conventional than the pre – war paintings; my partner says no – the Vorticist stuff was faddy and superficial, a sort of blind alley; the landscapes more exciting in the use of paint and structure.

Either way, I was interested in this apparent abandonment of abstraction by one who had been so “radical”.  An obvious parallel – on the face of it, anyway – is Philip Guston and I’ll look at him tomorrow as I have urgent business to attend to at the polling station.

Interesting that Susan Philipsz’ entry for the Turner Prize is a recording of her singing “Lowlands” under a Scottish bridge (sorry – unclear.  She’s not singing under a bridge – The recording is played under a  bridge).

The Cock Crew by Blackpaint

“I dreamed a dream the other night;

Lowlands, lowlands away my John;

I dreamed a dream the other night;

My lowlands away.

I dreamed I saw my own true love;

Lowlands, lowlands  away, etc.

He was green and wet with weeds so cold,

Lowlands, lowlands away,” etc.

Blackpaint

06.05.10