Tag Archives: Gerhard Richter

What a Year! A Summary of 2011…

24 Dec

Trying to pick my favourite exhibitions from this year has been quite a difficult task.  I’ve seen some rubbish but I’ve also seen an awful lot of amazing shows – 2011 has been a strong year for the art calendar.  In fact, reading back through Artista, I wonder how I have I managed to totter to so many galleries in the last few months.  But, there’s always so much to see…

My favourite exhibitions really left their mark, those I can still immediately recall that still delight me.  I’ve chosen the shows that weren’t just aesthetically pleasing but were also well-curated and academically interesting.  These are the ones that tick all the boxes.

Towering at Tate – The Gerhard Richter exhibition that is still on show at Tate Modern is breath-taking, looking at Richter’s diverse oeuvre as an unbroken panorama.  At Tate Britain, Vorticists win the prize – charting a short-lived movement, Tate aimed to place Vorticism in an international context, studying the impact of World War I on these artists.

Detail of one of Gerhard Richter’s Cage Paintings, 2006. Own photograph.

Rocking at the Royal Academy  – The Royal Academy’s upstairs gallery has to have one of the strongest exhibition programmes in London.  It’s a tie for the best show there this year between the recent Soviet Art and Architecture and Eyewitness: Hungarian Photography.

Martin Munkácsi, Four Boys at Lake Tanganyika, c. 1930.  Image via www.bbc.co.uk.

Knockout at the National Gallery – For me, Drenched in Devotion stole the show this year.  Looking at altarpieces in their context, the NG examined their structure and relationship to the surrounding architecture, following the formal, stylistic and typological developments across the period of focus.  One room was even turned into a chapel.

Room two in Devotion by Design. Image via www.independent.co.uk.

Leaving LondonRevealed: Turner Contemporary Opens was an extremely strong exhibition to launch another new public art gallery designed, of course, by David Chipperfield.  Highlights were from Daniel Buren and Conrad Shawcross.

Daniel Buren, Borrowing and Multiplying the Landscape, 2011. Own photograph.

Also with podium finishes were:

Going for Gold – Haunch’s Mystery of Appearance with some of Britain’s most important painters – Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach, Francis Bacon, Patrick Caulfield, William Coldstream, Lucian Freud, Richard Hamilton, David Hockney, Leon Kossoff and Euan Uglow.  Need I say more…

Upstairs at Haunch with David Hockney, The Room Tarzana, 1967. Own photograph.

Striking SilverThe Cult of Beauty at the V&A looked at art, from 1860-1900, created purely for its own sake to provide pleasure and beauty.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Bocca Baciata, 1859.  Image via www.vam.ac.uk.

Bright Bronze – Future Tense’s Spectra I focused on colour – a simple concept but one that was wonderfully addressed with some of the best lighting I’ve seen this year.

Lee Baker, Refractive Monolith, 2011. Own photograph. 

and last but by no means least – Runner Up  – the brilliant Anthony McCall taking over Ambika P3 with his entrancing light works that combined cinema, drawing and sculpture.

Anthony McCall, Vertical Works, 2011. Image via http://www.dontpaniconline.com. 

Aaah… but there was also the shoes exhibition, Rembrandt and Bacon at Ordovas, Nicola Hicks and Mona Kuhn at Flowers, the many brilliant shows at Josh Lilley and the poignant timing of Lisson’s Ai Weiwei show.  What a year!  To look back at these exhibitions, use the categories or tags on the right hand side of the screen to make scrolling that bit easier.

Carla Busuttil at the Josh Lilley Galley.  Image via www.joshlilleygallery.com

Let’s hope that 2012 can move on from the success of these shows and be bigger, better and braver than ever before.  I’ll be there, in my stilettos, doing the rounds.

In the meantime, thank you for reading Artista.  A Merry Christmas and a Happy Shoe Year to you all.

(Check back next week for a look at The Courtauld’s current drawing exhibition.)

Haunch of Excellence: ten British post-war greats…plus Sprüth and Bischoff/Weiss

7 Dec

It seems impossible to walk down a street in Mayfair without bumping into a familiar art face. As a consequence, due to all the chatting, a five minute walk often takes fifteen minutes.

I did finally make my way up Dover Street and get to Sprüth Magers who are showing a series of new works by Louise Lawler.  Lawler’s photographs seek to explore the presentation of artworks and the context in which they are viewed – whether in private homes or in galleries.  Her work forces us to look at art out of its normal context, making us consider how we view, and idealise, these artworks, and questioning how our opinions are modified by the manner of display.

Louise Lawler at Sprüth. Own photograph.

The current exhibition sees Lawler photographing two works by Richter – his Mustang-Staffel and Schädel – during their installation in Dresden. Through her manipulation of the original dimensions, she questions how the art world distorts artworks.  These two new sets of work lack her usual charisma but the concept is fascinating and it is a concise, playful show.

I also popped into Bischoff Weiss’ Chain Chain Chain. I found this to be a strange show and one where it is important to understand the conceptual rationale before visiting.  Curator, Glenn Adamson, who is also co-curator of Postmodernism at the V&A, has wanted to explore this project for a long time.  Looking at art as a commodity, and the commercial status of both artists and artworks, he examines commodity fetishisation and how artists can slow down the commodity chain that flows so readily around us.

Zoe Sheehan Saldana, Adult Life-Jacket, 2008-09. Own photograph.

As well as physically referencing chain as a material (which crops up frequently in the show), the title also evokes the commodity chain itself by mimicking and underpinning it; Gyan Panchal and Nicole Cherubini’s work evokes shipping containers or packing materials through highly aestheticised objects.

The best way to understand the complex chain of Adamson’s thoughts is to hear (or rather, to read) it from the horse’s mouth and this is best done by picking up the small pamphlet that accompanies the show.

Onwards, as I headed up Bond Street in the freezing cold to Haunch of Venison for the Mystery of Appearance – the show I had been looking forward to all day. Who could not be excited by the list of post-war British artists involved?  The list of ten artists includes some of Britain’s most important painters – Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach, Francis Bacon, Patrick Caulfield, William Coldstream, Lucian Freud, Richard Hamilton, David Hockney, Leon Kossoff and Euan Uglow.  The new front entrance to Haunch was only unveiled two days ago.  What used to be a shoe shop (how apt for me) has been transformed to become such a beautiful extension of Haunch that I can’t even pretend the loss of the shoe shop is tragic.  In fact, I can’t even now remember what shoe shop once stood here.

The new Haunch entrance on New Bond Street. Own photograph.

The title of the exhibition comes from Francis Bacon who said ‘To me, the mystery of painting today is how appearance can be made. I know it can be illustrated, I know it can be photographed. But how can this thing be made so that you catch the mystery of appearance within the mystery of making? …one knows that by some accidental brush-marks suddenly appearance comes in with a vividness that no accepted way of doing it would have brought about.’  Bacon himself here acknowledges the mystery of these artists’ genii – their ambition and the effect of their work is often mind-blowing.

Francis Bacon, Pope I – Study after Pope Innocent X by Velázquez, 1951. Image via www.haunchofvenison.com.   

The exhibition retains the artists’ individualities while introducing an enlivening conversation between them.  Yes, such conversations have taken place many times before (often in our auction houses) but, with art this great, this dialogue will never become staid.   The influence these artists still exert is sensational.   The exhibition also examines the personal relationships between the artists themselves some of which began in the late forties.

Upstairs at Haunch with David Hockney, The Room Tarzana, 1967. Own photograph.

Several of the works have come from major public galleries while some of the pieces from private collections have not been on display in years.  With the recent sad deaths of Freud and Hamilton this show is timely and poignant.  The exhibition does not pretend to be an overview – more of a personal selection by the curator.

Richard Hamilton, Respective, 1951. Own photograph.

Opening with a selection of nudes, in the second gallery the exhibition moves onto landscapes and portraits.  These are followed by a focus on the special significance of the Old Masters to the artists, concluding with a focus on their interpretation of space and lens-based imagery.  What this exhibition does is highlight quality and excellence, re-evaluating this group of incredible artists – their motives, their stories and, most importantly here, their conversations.  Hours after the PV, I’m still struggling to pick a favourite – the sheer power of the Bacon, the textured dynamism of the Auerbach, the delicacy of the Freud portraits or the sensitivity of the Hamilton drawings…  All the works are sublime.

Leon Kossoff, Seated Woman No. 2, 1959. Own photograph.

The catalogue with essays by Catherine Lampert and Tom Hunt is equally stunning and the perfect companion to the show.  Although some of the relationships or conversations remain elusive, the paintings are all brought together by a sense of timeliness and a commitment to their medium through which the study of the human condition is touching and powerful.

Mystery of Appearance at Haunch of Venison. Own photograph.

Mystery of Appearance is a beautiful exhibition and one that I will certainly return to during the daytime when I can further appreciate the works flooded by natural light from the Haunch skylights.  But, in the meantime, wow!

Louise Lawler: No Drones is at Sprüth Magers until 23rd December 2011, www.spruethmagers.comChain Chain Chain is at Bischoff/Weiss until 28th January 2012, www.bischoffweiss.comMystery of Appearance: Conversations between ten British post-war painters is at Haunch of Venison until 18th February 2012, www.haunchofvenison.com.

Tate Triumph as Serota Leads the Way – Gerhard Richter’s incredible Panorama

5 Oct

The last large-scale Gerhard Richter exhibition was held at Tate in 1991.  Although we have seen his works in many other exhibitions since, and he is considered as the world’s most important living artist, this exhibition looks at his whole career, presenting his oeuvre as an unbroken panorama.

Richter is an artist who examines reality from a very particular point of view, using different languages (whether that is expressed through painting, 3D works on works on paper) for different moments in his career.  The exhibition, curated in part by Nicholas Serota, is a collaboration with the artist and maybe this is one of the reasons why it is so wonderful.

Gerhard Richter’s Panorama at Tate Modern. Own photograph.

Broadly speaking this exhibition is a chronological hang, although each of the 14 rooms has a specific concern or theme so this isn’t always strict.  The curators had two ambitions: to rethink Richter’s abstraction versus figuration and to bring together his wide-ranging media including amazing new glass sculptures that lose and transform our reflections, in a similar way to his figures that become lost in veils of paint.  Richter never wished to differentiate between abstract and image or figure-based paintings and we frequently see these two, supposedly opposite, practices coming together in harmony.

Gerhard Richter’s Panorama at Tate Modern.  Own photograph.

Gerhard Richter is amazing – I was able to hear him speak yesterday (if you can term his extremely brief replies as conversation) and he was wonderful (there are going to be a lot of superlative adjectives in this post as I’m smitten with him and the exhibition).  For an artist of his calibre, fame and renown, he comes across as completely down-to-earth, ordinary and, dare I say, loveable.  When questioned on an upcoming auction estimate for one his works, predicted to sell for several million pounds, he said he finds it absurd.  He seems so well-grounded.

Gerhard Richter in conversation with Nicholas Serota and Mark Godfrey. Own photograph.

The exhibition curators, as ever, were reading far more into Richter’s work than he does himself, but that is the way he likes it.  Richter believes that his most successful paintings are the ones that remain incomprehensible which is, perhaps, why he is so reluctant to talk about the works – he doesn’t want to ruin them.  He said that he wants to leave the explaining up to experts, his job is to create them. It is not that Richter has nothing to say but that he says it through his paintings.  There is no need for him to speak and explain the works to us.  That is our job.

Well, Tate has explained it perfectly and this exhibition is sensational.  A brilliantly lit show (on white walls!!) that is cleverly devised and presents some incredible works – Tate has hit the nail on the head.

It is hard to pick individual exhibition highlights as I’d say the entire exhibition is the highlight of the year.  Room 2 looks at Richter’s conversation with the works of Marcel Duchamp – most engagingly, his painting of a toilet roll in dialogue with Duchamp’s Fountain and his 4 Panes of Glass, his first glass sculpture, which empties Duchamp’s The Large Glass of imagery, instead focusing on purity and the importance of media in its own right.

Gerhard Richter, 4 Panes of Glass, 1967. Own photograph.

Richter was one of the first German artists to reflect on the history of National Socialism, creating works of family members who had been members, as well as victims, of the Nazi party.  In room 3, we find Richter’s Townscape Works, a series of paintings documenting the reconstruction of an area damaged by bombing during the war.  Townscape Paris shows densely packed buildings, presented in a claustrophobic way with thick, abstracted paint.  The colours smear into each other but Richter does not attempt to blend and unify these.  Instead, he leaves the contrast, working with strokes of different widths.  From varied distances, the images look different – sometimes a recognisable city, sometimes a devastated mess, like the rubble after a bomb has hit.  His paintings often confront disastrous events in history such as his September 11th work.

Gerhard Richter, Townscape Paris, 1968. Own photograph.

Room 5 explores Richter’s interest in chance and randomness – one of the motifs that led him to depict clouds.  The clouds are all painted in varying shades of grey through which it is sometimes possible to see the ordered countryside below.  It is impossible to pin down the cloud as it is a constantly changing entity and it is this that captures Richter’s imagination.

Room 5 at the Gerhard Richter exhibition. Own photograph.

In contrast to the greyness of these works, his squeegee abstractions present an amazing array of colour with deep layers of paint revealing the history of the works’ creation.  Richter has never been shy of dominant colours, often working boldly with only the primaries.

Richter has always had a unique relationship with photography and is known for his paintings based on photographs, scrutinising their use and place in today’s culture.  Room 11 shows War Cut where the artist combined close-ups of a 1987 painting with texts derived from German newspapers about the Iraq war.  Here, Richter is reversing his usual relationship with photography in a fascinating and unorthodox way.  The smaller-scale works in this room are more intimate – his style just keeps on changing like an ever-rotating cog.

Room 11 at the Gerhard Richter exhibition showing War Cut, 2004. Own photograph.

The final room is, regrettably, on the other side of the espresso bar but there was little alternative with a show of this size.  This, room 14, shows his Cage Paintings from 2006.  Painted while listening to the music of John Cage, Richter has used several layers of painting and erasure to create more of his animated, textured surfaces.

Detail of one of Gerhard Richter’s Cage Paintings, 2006. Own photograph.

Richter’s works are diverse, but there is continuity across his whole career, and this diversity is to be celebrated as Tate does here.  His works can be found on opposite ends of the spectrum, his practice defined by a series of contradictions and oppositions which present the poignant versus the banal in a very moving way.  His practice is better outlined in the beautiful catalogue that accompanies the show, which no doubt will become the definitive Richter book for many years to come.

I don’t seek to tell you about every room in the exhibition or discuss his work in detail as this is a show you must see for yourself.  His works are absorbing.  This exhibition and, for me, Richter’s works are beyond criticism.

Gerhard Richter’s Panorama at Tate Modern. Own photograph.

Over the years Richter feels that art has turned into just another form of entertainment.  There is no doubt that some art is entertaining but Richter’s surpasses anything of this ilk – his paintings can provoke passion or sadness and, often, joy.  He once said that “art is the highest form of hope” – a comment that he still believes to this day.  Certainly, we felt hopeful as we left the exhibition.  The exhibition coincides with Richter’s 80th birthday and is the most wonderful birthday gift to him from Tate (and from him to us), showcasing decades of excellence and genius.

Gerhard Richter: Panorama opens tomorrow, 6th October 2011, until 8th January 2012 at Tate Modern, www.tate.org.uk.

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