Posts Tagged ‘Ryman’

Blackpaint 368 – Dancing with Death, Small Talk at Parties

November 22, 2012

Death at the Wellcome Centre

Yes, “Death” is the title of the exhibition.  It’s the collection of one man, Richard Harris, and it’s astonishing that he can live with all this stuff; I managed about half an hour before depression drove me outside into the rain.

Not that the exhibits themselves are depressing – many are amusing, some beautiful and all are interesting.  It’s what isn’t there that’s a downer, since you can’t get it out of your mind (I can’t anyway).

So, what is there?  As may be expected, skulls are omnipresent, Dances of (and with) Death, Deaths and Maidens, Death (i.e. skeletons) playing the fiddle.  Dancing skeletons seem to have penetrated all cultures – excellent Japanese and sub-continental examples here; simple but somehow beautiful death dolls from C19th USA.  A fantastic sort of diorama from Argentina, including miniature novels, corpses, monks, towns and villages, made in 2011 but looking archaic, if it wasn’t for the modern dustjackets on the little books…  It was only when I looked back from across the room that I saw the whole thing was in the shape of a skull.

There are 50 small etchings or prints made by Otto Dix, showing the horrors of the trenches and inevitably, some Goya etchings with his own atrocities.  A set of playing card-sized depictions of military life by Callot, I think; rapes, murders, executions all depicted.

The centrepiece is a horrible wax sculpture by John Isaacs, entitled “Are You Still Angry with Me?”; a corpse is sitting on a crate, partially flayed, great sections of flesh removed from the long bones, as if butchered for an anatomy lesson, perhaps, or, in line with the title, a victim of shellfire or bombing.

All the worms, bones and dancing skeletons, however, depict a sort of life-in-death; what’s missing is that suggested by the work of Rothko, or Ryman, or Malevich; oblivion, nothingness.  I know that’s not what Malevich intended in his black canvases, or Ryman with his white ones; that’s what they suggest to me, though – sometimes.  Best done in poetry, Larkin’s “Aubade”; “Not to be here, Not to be anywhere, And soon; Nothing so terrible, nothing so true.”

Barbaric Genius, Sky Arts

Film on last week by Paul Duane about John Healy, the author of “The Grass Arena”, about his life as a drinker, rough sleeper, criminal, writer, chess master, yoga adept; a brilliant book, episodic, filmic – it’s been filmed, starring Mark Rylance – and a Penguin Modern Classic, despite Faber, his original publishers, having junked it, following a confrontation with Healy a decade ago.  I was introduced to him at a party some time ago, the only author of a Penguin Modern Classic I’m likely ever to meet; we talked about how much he liked cheese.

A Bigger Splash

The Tate Modern has  a show about action painting that I visited briefly last week; it’s very big and packed with info.  Unfortunately, the whole point of action painting is the action, so without it, you have only the remnants and the photographs, and sometimes the commentaries.  Nevertheless, it looked really interesting, if not visually stunning and I’m looking forward to going again.  Felt unwell halfway round, not the result of the Austrian Actionist photos, and had to cut it short.  What I do remember was the photos of the Yves Klein event in Paris at which a number of stunning naked models rolled in blue paint and left impressions of their bodies on great sheets of paper – all before a seated audience of bourgeoisie in evening dress.  Klein himself in dinner jacket and black tie, being the master of ceremonies.

More on this next time.

 

My Kitchen at Home

Blackpaint

22/11/12

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Blackpaint 187

September 5, 2010

Tate St.Ives, “Grid”

The last part of this exhibition (see Blackpaint 185/6) is the minimalist bit; an area of stillness after the surfacy excitement of “Gesture” (going for Pseud’s Corner here; never know your luck).

De Stael

“Marathon”.  A surprise to find him here; I think his pictures usually fit more with the stuff next door.  Anyway, not a good one, boring for such a giant.  Blacks and greys and beige, a sort of spray of linear marks from the centre – looked like a collage on black felt.

Carl Andre

The zinc and steel plain squares, like a deficient chess board – 36, I think – which you step on accidentally and jump back, then realise you are allowed.

Naum Gabo 

A typical Gabo structure, maybe 2 ft by 2ft, delicate white thread shrouds around a central rectangle.

Mary Martin

A wall plaque with shiny metal pointed shapes studding it or stuck on.  Usually to be seen at Tate Modern.

Donald Judd

One of his signature “ladders” of flat, square, metallic platforms going up the wall.

Ryman

A completely white rectangle; this one had narrow white tape around its perimeter, securing it to the aluminium frame. 

Ben Nicolson

A small, interlocking collection of blocks, all white.

Eva Hesse

A piece of graph paper, with a central rectangle made by Hesse drawing a circle within each square and filling in the outside edges.  Since this could not be done “perfectly” – there would always be a touch of human inexactitude – this created a wobbly effect, setting up a tension with the perfection of the grid squares; or so the label said.

I was unaware of this minimalist aspect of Hesse’s work, knowing only the Riopolle-like pictures reproduced in the “Gestural Painting” book and the haunting suspended blocks clothed in linen.  Not keen on this.

Moholy – Nagy

A beautiful white and grey painting with black and red squares and lines, very Nicolsonish, that was in the Van Doesburg exhibition, I think.  No wrong, just checked  the catalogue.  Must have been in the fantastic MN/Albers exhibition at TM a couple of years ago.

Mondrian

Now, I’m sure this was in the Van Doesburg; the squares painting with grey instead of the more characteristic white.  From 1920, if I’m right.

Morellet

Never before heard of this artist.  Interlocking shapes like crosses and T shapes on the side with a line at both ends, on white.  Creates a wobbly effect, a bit like Oiticica.

There was also an Albers and a Sol LeWitt, but took no notes on them – sorry, chaps. And a “Black painting” by …….

Safe to say, I preferred the gesturals next door; but who knows, maybe I’ll suddenly get it and be converted.

Barbara Hepworth’s House

I wrote about this in last blog.  I hadn’t remembered that she died in a fire in her studio.  Some of her stuff is so like Moore’s – who copied whom, I wonder – and Gabo, the holes and strings.  I was reminded too of the great story in John Bird’s book about the St. Ives lot, where Terry Frost or maybe Dennis Mitchell, doing some menial labouring for Hepworth, were locked in a conservatory by her while she showed  round some bigwigs.  Frost, or Mitchell, was taken short and had to piss in a pot which leaked out under the door and between the feet of Hepworth and her party; They all pretended not to notice.

Listening to White Lightning, Waylon Jennings.

“A city slicker came and he said “I’m tough;

“Guess I’d like to try some of that mountain stuff”,

He took him a sip and then he drunk it right down,

And I heard him say before he hit the ground,

“Mighty, mighty pleasin’, your Daddy’s corn squeezin’s”,

Ooooorgh – White Lightnin’!” 

An old one.

Blackpaint

05.09.10