Posts Tagged ‘Tate Modern’

Blackpaint 597 – Striders and Chariots and Modern Art in Madrid

May 22, 2017

Giacometti at Tate Modern

Well I know he’s great and the creator of unmistakeable, iconic figures that define stillness and movement and contain both humour and pathos – but he is a little repetitive.  You say that the repetition is a mark  of his obsessive drive to attain the unattainable,  a heroic, almost tragic striving for perfection…but he is a little same-y.  Maybe I’ve seen too much Giacometti (NPG a while back, Sainsbury Centre in Norwich more recently); but this is a big exhibition with lots of rooms.  Maybe it’s the breathless hero-worship he seems to inspire in the women art lovers of my generation, that I suspect has as much to do with the brooding, rugged, Italian peasant features as the art.

Anyway, the good things:

  • The dancing, or falling figure on the posters.

  • The Chariot figure on wheels.
  • The flint axe-head sculptures, cut off below the shoulders, several of which, to me, seem to resemble the Duke of Edinburgh, Her Majesty the Queen,  Princess Margaret and Charles de Gaulle.

  • The pictures on board or canvas that he has blackened so that they resemble sheets of lead, from which the even darker features of his sitters loom; a change from his usual ochre, orange, grey and black, with thin, ink-like lines.
  • The outsize figures, including the strider in the last room (a ringer for Prince Phillip, if he’d had his hands behind his back); a welcome change from the usual size.  It’s a good exhibition, essential probably, so don’t be put off by my jaded comments.

 

Reina Sofia Museum (of 20th Century Art), Madrid

I’ve just spent four days in Madrid, three of them in art museums, so pretty much enough for three blogs.  The first of these we entered at 4.00pm, “fresh” off the plane – and emerged at closing time, 9.00pm, hungry and dehydrated.  Not because we couldn’t find the exit, but because there was so much excellent art to see.  I’m just going to put up our photos with, here and there, my perceptive and witty comments to add to your visual enjoyment.

Schwitters

Behind glass, so my partner’s form can be made out in the centre, taking the photo and enhancing the quality of the artwork.

Ortiz

Lovely little cubist picture.

Oscar Dominguez

He of Decalcomania fame – lots of Dominguez in this museum.

 

Another Dominguez – The Thrower.

It’s rather hard to make out, but it’s a legless, headless and handless black torso, with a thick shard of glass chopping into it at the top.  Compare these two little assemblages as Surrealist images with the Dali painting below:

Dali, The Invisible Man

It seems to me that the Dominguez pieces express in each case a clear idea, or at most a couple of ideas, succinctly, rather as Magritte does.  They are surrealistic, that is to say contradictory or paradoxical (to be “properly” Surrealist, I think they should also be dreamlike – not sure they are); but they also have clarity.  That, I think, is not the case with the Dali, despite the facility of depiction and the multiple images detract from the painting.   Then again, I don’t like Dali – but then, I’m not that keen on Magritte either, so moving on –

Picasso – no comment necessary.

Picasso again – just to point out the roughness (or texture, or painterliness) of the grey, orange and red areas in the lower picture; unusual, I think, in Picasso’s work and  the better for it – not that the untextured stuff isn’t stupendous…

 

Angeles Santos, The Gathering (1929)

There were several paintings by Santos and another painter, whose name escapes me, f.rom the 20s and 30s, in this style – I include them because they remind me rather strongly of Paula Rego’s work (although I much prefer Rego’s execution).

And then, a roomful of CoBrA stuff, to my surprise:

 

Corneille – I like the yellow with the red line.

Appel, Figures

And then,  rooms of abstract expressionism, Tachisme and pop Art:

Yves Klein, his version of Nike

Tapies, Blue with four Red Bars.  Does what it says on the can.

 

Guerrero – It’s a (huge) matchbook with a few missing.

There’s a lot more to see (Bruce Connor, Bay Area and LA artist, and the making of “Guernica” – both special exhibitions, so NO PHOTO, por favor!) so you’ll need to go to Madrid forthwith.  Next time, the Prado.

Here are a couple of mine:

Seated Back, pastel blue

 

Seated Front, pastel green

Blackpaint

21/05/17

 

Blackpaint 578 – Rauschenberg, Johns, John and Schvendel

December 13, 2016

Rauschenberg at Tate Modern

Have now visited this three times; it is FANTASTIC (sorry to shout).  There is one beautiful room with a huge Combine called “Ace”, which I wrote about last week; see below.  you have to visit though, because the photo doesn’t do it justice.  Blues, yellows, rose red swatches and swags of paint; a wooden plaque with the title stuck at the top. a screwed-up rag rather like a dragon crouching on its surface.

ace

Ace, Rauschenberg (1962)

In the same room, a pair of panels in red and white, one  with a pair of electric fans attached on opposite sides of the painting, a swirling mass of silver, cream and pink brushstrokes enclosed between; the other (below), with wire coils, a watch and a piece of metal bolted on.

 

rob-combine

Also in this room, see and marvel at “Gold Standard”, the gold screen with an HMV dog attached (also an old boot).  “Black Market” and the one in the corner with the two panels divided by a short ladder – they are all great.  This room alone is a breathtaking exhibition, but there is much more:

The silkscreens with paint on, best of which is “Estate” –

rob-estate

Estate 

The cardboard sculptures, like the one below, with the “exploded” section:

rob-cardboard

The “Gluts”, metal scrapyard pieces (see below):

rob-sunset-glut

Sunset Glut

rob-stop-sign-early-winter-glut

Stop Side Early Winter Glut, 1987

And the “Jammers” (flag/banner pieces), “Oracle”, a five-piece sculpture made from stripped-down car door, air conditioning unit et al, all mounted on little wheels, several landmark pieces, such as the erased de Kooning drawing, the “crime scene” bed, “Monogram” (the goat in the tyre, which Alistair Sooke described as a metaphor for homosexual intercourse – a suggestion which visibly shocked a woman curator on an excellent BBC2 documentary on Rauschenberg the other day) – and loads more (dance videos, old socks, parasols and parachutes, bubbling mud, a ladder to a porthole to the wall, a sketchy toothbrush…).

What I like about Rauschenberg is the colour – and the texture, of course, but the colour is beautiful.  He uses that yellow over and over again, the one on the bent fenders in “Sunset Glut”.  They are sort of industrial, but beautiful.

Interesting to see his clear influence on Johns – not surprising, really – who was hanging brooms on his pictures and inserting balls into crevices within pictures, and painting in those big swatches too; maybe he was the influence, but my money is on Rausch, given his later diversity.  Also, there was an Appel abstract, with a bucket dangling from it, which I wrote about some time back; must look it up.

johns-according

According to What, Jasper Johns (1964)

Schvendel

I have to mention “Schwendel” again; in the film “Painters Painting”, Rauschenberg is interviewed about his Red Paintings and speaking about how red has a lot of black in it, he says something like “..it’s the abundance of colour in the painting, rather than the schvendel of the painting…”??  I can’t find the word anywhere; does anyone know what schvendel is?

Elton John’s photo collection, Tate Modern

Rather gone over the top on Rauschenberg, and will be going back there, so only a quick superficial mention of this exhibition in the Switch Room.  Several Penns, mostly, like Stravinsky, celebrities squashed into a corner of a bare room…

penn-stravinsky

Igor Stravinsky, Irving Penn

John seems to have Hoovered up a set of the most well-known images from the USA, USSR (Rodchenko) and elsewhere;

1936 --- Florence Owens Thompson, 32, a poverty-stricken migrant mother with three young children, gazes off into the distance. This photograph, commissioned by the FSA, came to symbolize the Great Depression for many Americans. --- Image by © CORBIS

Dorothea Lange

Also, several of those Man Ray photos with the thin black line round the image, like that of Sir Kenneth Clark’s wife.

The Godfather 

At my eldest son’s wedding on Saturday, speeches over, sitting waiting for the food, on my fourth (or fifth) prosecco refill; looking around –  radiant bride in white, no.1 son, lovely wife, the other two “boys” in sharp suits with cream ties, deep in conversation with their neighbours at table, I had that slow-motion film cliche moment again: a huge, tongue-tied minion, uncomfortable and sweating in his tight suit, approaches me deferentially, hands me an envelope stuffed with banknotes and addressing me as Don Chich, assures me of his everlasting loyalty on the occasion of the marriage of my son….and then I woke up, prosecco coming round again..

lvg1

First of a set of ten paintings on theme of time and place, this is November Lisbon.

Blackpaint

13/12/16

Blackpaint 569 – Vikings, Toby and Wifredo Lam

September 23, 2016

Oslo –  Astrup Fearnley Museum

Why was Blackpaint in Norway?  For the Oslo Marathon, of course.  Since you ask, it was hot, hilly like Helsinki last year and there are roadworks everywhere.  At one point, the route went over a cinder track through a huge building site and into and round a container park – and then back again for another interesting visit, later in the run.

Anyway, the Astrup Fearnley is a private museum on the quayside. very swish area, big sports cars around; two floors of stuff, downstairs Hirst’s bisected cow and calf under glass – made me think of Skip James’ Little Cow and Calf Blues – an Emin tapestry with words, a Rachel Whiteread, a blue Malcolm Morley poster painting, a great, smeary grey Christopher Wool, a Kitaj and a couple of Helen Martins and a Sibony as a reminder of the Venice Biennale.

Upstairs,  80’s German Expressionists, as below:

 

kippenberger

Martin Kippenberger – Sick Egg Boy

 

sigmar-polke

Sigmar Polke – 3 Apparitions.  These are huge, whole wall size.  There are others by Lupertz, Eichendorff and especially Kiefer – a shelf of huge, grey leaden “books” and one of those lead plaques with little girl’s dress and shoes embedded.

 

mystery1

Knut Rose – I Kulturlandskap

 

mystery2

Bjorn Carlsen – Suicide.

Locals, I guess, from the names; I just like the colours, really.  The Carlsen strikes me as a cross between Matisse and Kitaj’s cartoon style.   Great modern building, an hour’s visit to see the lot.

Toby Young 

For some reason, a large number of (male) Oslo residents strongly resemble the Tory “free school” activist; not, perhaps, the stereotype which springs to mind when we think of the Norse Sagas…

young

Young

viking

Viking

 

Wifredo Lam, the EY Exhibition, Tate Modern

Yes, I always thought it was Wilfredo – and so it should have been, but it was misspelt when his birth was registered, it appears.

lam

I found the Lam to be a disappointment.  Very strong Picasso influence, especially Minotaur and Guernica; very colourless – where colour used to any extent, sort of all colours, as if random and pastel-y; almost an anthroposophical look, in loose, slanting strokes.  Overwhelmingly black, white, beige; spiky (like Sutherland), fork tines, wheels, swords, knives, ploughshares, small round heads/faces, physical discombobulation.  Lots of ritual figures, Santoria, Yoruba.  It livened up for me a bit when he stayed with Jorn at Albissola – I liked “The Brush” – totally uncharacteristic, spatters all over it.  A setof smaller framed works, on paper I think, figures in which recall Bruegel and Bosch.

In the first room, a couple of peasant portraits and a self portrait show what a fabulous draughstman he was.  So, influences and resemblances: Picasso overwhelmingly, Sutherland, Picabia maybe, Bruegel, Jorn…

yellow one 2

Yellow Runner

I know, it’s an old one.

Blackpaint

23.9.16

Blackpaint 498 – Ice Cream at Tate Modern, Breasts at the RA

June 7, 2015

Agnes Martin (Tate Modern)

Happy Holiday 1999 Agnes Martin 1912-2004 ARTIST ROOMS  Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/AR00179

Happy Holiday

This is the new exhibition at Tate Modern – those familiar with Martin’s work will know what to expect: the palest “ice cream” pastels (Neapolitan) , vanishing into near invisibility, stripes, huge grids done in faint graphite with tiny squares, a roomful of a dozen white canvases, occasionally, background fields varied by tiny, pale, differently coloured blobs…  Her early work, influenced to a degree by other abstractionists, resembles Pasmore somewhat.  Strangely, her later work appears, to a dissenter like me, to have more going on – a coloured stripe through the centre, a blue square, two black triangles with the tops snipped off.  This seems the “wrong” way round, somehow.  Still, if you emptied out your pictures early on, I suppose you start putting things in again, if you live long enough.

Like Rothko’s Seagram pictures, this is art that I think requires a contemplative attitude in the viewer that I am unable to sustain.  I hope one day to be able to appreciate them more fully.

My Blake Calendar

Below is the picture for June.  It shows Oberon, Titania and Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  I find it enormously encouraging that even artists of William Blake’s taste and ability are capable of turning out crappy pictures occasionally.

Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing circa 1786 William Blake 1757-1827 Presented by Alfred A. de Pass in memory of his wife Ethel 1910 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N02686

National Portrait Gallery

I wrote about this beautiful little portrait of Hardy a few months ago.

hardy strang

 Thomas Hardy, William Strang

A little while later, I bought a 70s Penguin paperback of EM Forster’s “The Longest Journey”; on the cover was this picture, also by Strang, called “Bank Holiday”.

Bank Holiday 1912 William Strang 1859-1921 Presented by F. Howard through the National Loan Exhibitions Committee 1922 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N03036

I think it’s great – totally unlike the Hardy; for some reason, it makes me think of Norman Rockwell.

Forster and Woolf

While I’m on the subject of Forster and the above novel, I found it interesting that he, like Virginia Woolf (Lighthouse, Jacob’s Room, The Voyage Out), occasionally kills his characters off with quite brutal suddenness.  He does in this, anyway; I wonder if there was any influence, and if so, in which direction?

 Back to the NPG

Below are two more arresting paintings, both by John Collier.  The first is, of course, Charles Darwin; the second, the Labour and later, Liberal, politician, John Burns.  I suppose it’s partly the full square stance of both subjects and Burns’ hands on hips – defiance? frankness?  I have to say that Darwin’s picture reminds me faintly of an orang utan – in a good way – but I think that may be because it was parodied in a cartoon and I “see” the parody…

collier darwin

Darwin, John Collier 

by John Collier, oil on canvas, 1889

 

John Burns, John Collier

RA Summer Exhibition 

Proper review of this next week, but in the meantime, here is by far the best painting in the exhibition – the fact that Marion Jones is my partner has no bearing, obviously, on my opinion.

marion RA

 

Bars and Triangles, Marion Jones

Diebenkorn, RA

I made my third visit to the brilliant Diebenkorn exhibition after the RA Summer Show – I started seeing great little paintings within paintings in the earlier abstracts, Albuquerque and Urbana series; little sections that would make paintings in themselves.  I started to see slight parallels with some of Nicolas de Stael’s landscapes, especially “Sea Wall”.  But most startlingly, I saw breasts everywhere.  In “Albuquerque 57”  (below) for instance, there is a very clear sketch of a pair of breasts that I hadn’t noticed before.  After that, I saw them everywhere in these abstracts, mostly in the shape of the lobes.

diebenkorn berkeley 57

 

Just above the green and yellow rectangular shapes.

To finish, here is a minimalist work of mine, in homage to Agnes Martin:

Close of a long day

Close of a Long Day

Blackpaint

6.6.15

Blackpaint 466 – Sigmar’s Laundry, Egon’s frogs, Will’s Erection

October 26, 2014

Sigmar Polke at Tate Modern;

Some small paintings and collages, but a lot of huge ones.  Generally, dull but intense colours; sounds like a contradiction, but what I mean is that the colours are deep but they don’t glow – they’re deadened, somehow and many are on browning paper or newsprint.  Deep blues, reds and greens, several deep dark violet/indigo paintings that change as you move in relation to them (Chris Ofili maybe saw them).  The dots are there, as you can see below, often splotchy and uneven, intentionally so, of course.

sigmar polke 1

Several of the collages are composed of pretty tame cut-outs from old soft porn magazines and there are a couple of big “sex” paintings – two women wringing out a huge, towel – like, limp penis and another of a man giving rear action to a face- down woman in a laundry room.

There is  a room of Auschwitz/Berlin Wall watchtowers against banal, wallpaper backgrounds; this one against a flock of geese.

 

sigmar polke 2

There is a big print-like painting with a horned devil, amongst many other things; and some Richter-y  “Nazi family” type photoprints with the dots – and the old resin covered pictures… and much more.  Somehow, not as playful as previous Polke shows I remember…

Schiele at the Courtauld

William Boyd was right about the quality of these drawings and paintings.  They are all pretty small, mostly A2 or less, I think.   However, they are staggeringly assured, varied in execution and full of little presentational devices like the white border around the picture below and the strange positions of the figures on the page.  Some of them lie forming an inner frame to the picture, or are tucked in a corner, or have feet or head cut off by the edge of the page.  You get the impression that he drew fast and aggressively, making no errors (bet that’s wrong).  The first couple, of a young girl and a small child look like Marlene Dumas without the blurring.  The child is podgy – but there’s not much podge around in the rest of the exhibition.  The males, particularly, are stick-thin and flayed, with thick bristles on their legs and around their penises – they brought to my mind frogs, pinned out on a dissection table.  the legs look sort of crunchy…

Euan Uglow and maybe Jenny Savile were the other artists that occurred to me, from the purple, brown and green colours used on the torsos and limbs; like maps, sometimes.  Fabulous, strange, explicit drawings – I wonder what he would have gone on to do if he hadn’t been killed by the flu epidemic.

schiele2.

Also at the Courtauld – 

In the Medieval Room, a predella by Borghese di Piero, one of which see below; glowing reds, orange and carmine maybe – I’m hopeless on colours – used in a strange representation of the trial of Sts. Julitta and Quiricus.  Up there with Duccio, we think.

 

borghese

 

Shark, Will Self 

I’m starting to like the challenge; Self has just brought Ulysses in, in the form of an erection he characterises as stately, plump Buck Mulligan (not his own erection, by the way, but one of his character’s).  You don’t get that in Proust – or not so far (10% now).

 

 

010

 

Target for Tonight

Blackpaint

26.10.14

Blackpaint 205

October 12, 2010

Has to be Ai Weiwei again today – his installation is now open it the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern.

Ai Weiwei – Sunflower Seeds

150 million porcelain seeds, each hand-painted, made by population of Jingdezhen, centre of historical porcelain industry in China, deposited in a huge slough on the floor of the hall.

In the Guardian photograph, it looks like a vast grey gravel or cinder bed – something in a builders or railway yard, laid down as a bed for sleepers.  Is it like a beach?

What does it mean?

Obvious meaning is crystallised labour.  According to the Marxist theory of value, a commodity is a lump of the worker’s labour in physical form.  It also represents the de-skilling involved in mass production.  Although the seeds are painted by hand, each one bears only a few strokes – this from an industry in which hand painting was highly skilled and beautiful.

The use of sunflower seeds has a resonance for China, in that they are widely regarded and consumed as a snack food there.

Ai himself says they can be seen as a metaphor for Twitter, each representing a single tweet.

I’ve been to see it this afternoon, but no time to write properly now – minor family crisis – so please treat this as a tweet.  Proper blog tomorrow.

Old one, a bit like a seed I thought.

Blackpaint

12.10.10

Blackpaint 141

May 26, 2010

Tate Modern’s  10th anniversary

Saw the programme fronted by Matthew Collings on the above last night and had the pleasure of hearing Joan Mitchell described as a “lady abstract expressionist”;  Collings also offered the opinion that she was “not on the same level” as Pollock or Rothko.  Whilst this is arguably the case with Pollock, at least for those few years that he was producing the incomparable drip paintings, I have to ask, why Rothko?  Because he always insisted on the importance of his paintings, and conducted himself with almost insane self-importance, surrounded himself, or was surrounded by, an air of religiosity?  Joan Mitchell, I submit (members  of the jury), was “not on the same level” because she was a woman in a mad, macho bunch of egotists and because she chose to go to live and work in France.  I think Collings has been influenced (unconsciously,no doubt) by the misogyny of the movement, and I think her work stands comparison with the best of the ab exes.

Rothko

The thing about Rothko, though, is this: maybe, when you find that thing that you paint, there really is no point in painting anything else.  Just about everything he did, after discovering the panels of colour, was variations on that same theme.  Some of them are very beautiful and provoke profound reactions in the viewer, some are just the variations.  Ingots with slots or panels of different, shimmering colours; archways of light or darkness.  He hit it and stuck with it, and that obsessiveness has a power in itself, creates its own beauty (or horror) – neither the right word; validity maybe, but that’s a bloodless term to use.

Lorenzo Monaco

Should have mentioned the beautiful virgin and child by the above at Edinburgh; a rather well-developed baby (actually, could have been up to 10 years old) with a mop of curls rather like Titian’s Joseph.  Also, several small Duccio- like panels with that dusty pink that he does – but it was someone else, whose name escapes me.

Photographs really “glamourise” pictures sometimes; those snotty remarks I made about Titian’s surfaces seem nonsense when you look at the photos in the Companion.

Blackpaint

26.05.10

Blackpaint 121

April 26, 2010

Tate Modern

Dropped my partner’s paintings in to the Bankside Gallery for an exhibition today, so after, visited the  little round Jorn heads swimming like fish and the black Pollock and the Kline “black bridgehead” (Meryon, is it? sounds like St.Ives) and the huge, scraped, shimmering Richters and the pink and pearl grey Mitchell, to make sure they were still there – they were.

Motherwell, Picasso

In the Surrealist bit, was struck again by how boring the surfaces of most surrealist works are.  Makes sense I suppose, because the “message” is in the images, not the texture.  But I’m over familiar with most of them, so again, the painting that captured my attention was the Motherwell “Ulysses” on cardboard and wood, with that fleecy lump of white and the black triangular shape. 

Also, a Klee, black line drawing on white ground, “The Burdened Children” – looked a bit like a Brice Marden. 

These, and of course, the Picasso in that startling light  green, with the chunky woman staring out at you from her prone pose, resting on her elbow.  He, Picasso that is, always captures your eye.

To me, it always looks as if he’s just walked up to the canvas, slapped on the background, executed the figure in a few decisive (almost contemptuous) strokes, filled in a few details, looked at his watch and moved on to bash out another painting before the paint dries.  It’s a feeling I get from nearly every Picasso canvas – no errors, no overpainting, slip-slap, masterpiece done, move on.  The colours are piercing, the images arresting, the surfaces OK, but he’s not really interested in texture, is he?  No time.

In the bookshop after, a woman picked up the Taschen Picasso and leafing through, said to her friend, “He wasn’t bad at the beginning, you know – before he started to go all weird.”

Sarmanto

A new name to me, and a roomful of works, by Julao Sarmento, Portuguese, born 1948; one with a surface resemblance to Rauschenberg, rather disturbing collection of images in one of which, a man appears to be throttling a woman… Others in which the images are part erased or faded out – to do with memory.

Carrington, Tanning and Carrington

I realise today that I have been confusing two, and sometimes three different women painters.  For the similarly afflicted (I’m sure there are some), Leonora Carrington (British) and Dorothea Tanning (American) are both surrealist painters with a somewhat similar style, both with a connection to Max Ernst (Carrington was his lover until his arrest in WW2 by the Gestapo and his subsequent marriage to Peggy Guggenheim.  Tanning married him after Guggenheim). Dora Carrington, a little earlier than the other two, 1893 – 1932, was not a surrealist but a portraitist.  She was married to Lytton Strachey and committed suicide after his death.

Unforgiveable, this confusion – I’ll look at the work of the two surrealists more closely to establish the differences more firmly and stop this mental blurring (but their names and work are similar – and then there’s the Ernst connection…).

White Worm (fragment)

Listening to Ian Dury, Jack Shit George.

“What did you learn in school today? Jack shit.

Soon as the teacher moves away – that’s it.”

Blackpaint

26.04.10