Tag Archives: readymade

From Bermondsey to Victoria and all places in between…

14 Apr

I don’t make it over to White Cube Bermondsey as often I’d like. I know it’s not really that far away but it’s just not somewhere I amble past on a very regular basis. So when I found myself with a meeting on Bermondsey Street it was too good an opportunity to miss.

Their primary exhibition is Chuck Close Prints: Process and Collaboration which explores the artist’s graphic oeuvre from when he made his first print in 1972. This isn’t the side of Close with which most of us will be familiar – we’re more au fait with his large-scale ‘heads’ – but this is a side that definitely deserves attention. Close’s experimentation with the media of printmaking is endless and fascinating; he is able to bring it to life, even turning mistakes or problems to his advantage. Alex/Reduction Block from 1992 was never intended to be end up like this which highlights the flexibility and ingenuity of both Close and his collaborators. The work was planned as a block reduction print but when the original linoleum cracked in the cold, they had to substitute it with an inferior material. More problems followed. They continued to cut the replacement linoleum despite knowing it was never going to work as a block reduction and documented the progressive stages by printing them in black on Mylar which resulted in a project perfect for silkscreen printing. The various shades of grey give Alex Katz’s face a shimmering metallic quality.

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Alex/Reduction Block in the distance at White Cube. Image via www.distortedarts.com.

Process has always been of the utmost importance to Close. If he has tried one method of printmaking he’s tried them all over the past forty years and it is his perseverance (he now works from the confines of a wheelchair after a spinal artery collapse) with his artworks and interrogatory use of materials that creates such wonderful qualities.

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Moving through the exhibition. Image via www.whitecube.com.

Close also breaks down the methods of printmaking, revealing the various stages involved through his reworking of the same subjects. Rather than diluting his intention this often enhances it, encouraging us to study a face in the same way that he must. This is a truly excellent, explorative and engaging exhibition and one that caught me rather by surprise – especially as it hadn’t been in my schedule for last week or even on my current list of things to try to see.

I would have liked more time in the gallery but I did manage to stop to see Eddie Peake’s installation – I just couldn’t walk past the naked figure in a see-through costume on roller-skates without seeing what was going on. It was all part of Peake’s Adjective Machine Gun, a major sculptural installation closely based around the old penguin enclosure at London Zoo – an iconic and easily recognisable structure. The walls act as an enclosing amphitheatre that both reveal and conceal the performer and the other works that form part of this. This is the first time Peake has married the two parts of his practice as he previously kept his sculpture and painting separate to his performance. I felt that this combination didn’t quite gel and the static works lacked some of the coherence of the performance elements.

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Eddie Peake, Adjective Machine Gun. Image via www.whitecube.com.

As is so often the case with performance, it was fascinating to watch the reactions of others: one man seemed quite affronted as the performer sped past him – I don’t think he’d anticipated being quite that close; one girl seemed embarrassed; while someone else was revelling in the intentional voyeuristic qualities of the piece. And I became so caught up with people-watching that after about five minutes I started to wonder where the skater had gone. He had crept up behind me and seemed to be leaning against the wall watching me. Is he meant to be oblivious to the audience and just contemplating the static works or is part of the wonder of the piece the duality of the voyeurism as we watch him watching us?

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Eddie Peake, Adjective Machine Gun. Image via www.contempoaryartsociety.org.

The following evening I decided to crack on with the shows I had intended to see. It had been a while since I last went on a private view evening but Wednesday promised some exciting openings and so we set off with a route in mind and a beady eye on the clock, determined to fit everything in.

First up was Art First – I have spent a few days in a quandary over this exhibition as I was drawn to the works but found they presented quite a bland group. Get up close and sometimes they are individually remarkable. On discovering Thomas Shelton’s 17th century system of shorthand, Simon Lewty found the perfect written code with which to experiment. His fascination was further heightened when he learnt that Samuel Pepys had used the very same method in his diary. Lewty taught himself Tachygraphy – no easy challenge – and has used this script to tell his own narratives. How often do people sit and write now? For so many, handwriting is becoming a thing of the past yet Lewty uses this time-honoured method to take us on a journey. So what was missing? I truly don’t know and maybe I need to return to reflect on the works in the gallery at a quieter time.

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Simon Lewty’s language. Image via www.artlyst.co.uk.

One of the shows I had been most excited to see was Tell Me Whom You Haunt at Blain Southern but I left disappointed – the show seeks to place works by ten contemporary artists in conversation with Marcel Duchamp but at times it feels irrelevant, confusing and bland. So many artists can relate their ideas and concerns back to Duchamp that I don’t think anything ground-breaking is going on between these walls. The first room is stronger and also aesthetically more pleasing but the second rooms loses its life. The exhibition title stems from an age-old French proverb referring to the idea that readymades spatially relinquish their previous significance and assume a shifting identity when they are re-contextualised. They cease to become the objects that they were intended to be and, instead, become something of the artist’s own making. The ideas behind some of the individual works are lost here and would have been far stronger seen in a different form of exhibition at the gallery. Maybe their connection to Duchamp needn’t have been articulated in such an explicit way. Any exhibition revolving around Duchamp sets its bar high and, for me, Blain Southern didn’t quite vault to greatness this time.

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Sislej Xhafa, Rocket Ship, 2011. Image via www.blainsouthern.com.

Next I made a flying visit to Hannah Barry to see Nathan Cash Davidson’s new drawings. Unusually, the drawings are executed on board which does present a weightier texture than we might expect from the delicacy of some of these works but I remained unexcited. Then onto Orion Contemporary’s celebration of print-making; there is a diverse range of works on display from Swedish Kent Karlsson to Pablo Picasso. Although this is a small show, it is one that must be praised for its brilliant lighting; the works were so well-displayed and the sensitivity of the hang really allows for close study.

The drizzle turned into heavy rain and my shoes weren’t cut out for puddles. Luckily we needed a cab to get to our last venue and we headed to Victoria to Edel Assanti.

Edel Assanti have now been in their new space for over a year and I feel awful to admit that this is the first time I have made it through the doors. However, the gallery is stunning and really shifts Edel Assanti to a whole new level from their previous project space just a few doors down the same road. Their current exhibition of works by Jodie Carey is very striking: seven plaster slabs have been arranged within the gallery, connecting and conversing with one another despite their differing formats. The backs of the slabs are intentionally exposed, revealing the wire and timber used to reinforce the plaster and the hessian sandbags weighting the sculptures down. Carey doesn’t want to hide these elements, instead she reduces these monuments back to their bare bones, challenging the reverence that public commemorations traditionally command. The type of monument that they evoke is left ambiguous and to different people Carey’s slabs will have different resonances.

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Jodie Carey, Untitled (Slabs), 2012. Image via www.edelassanti.com.

The works have a real presence in the gallery – fragile yet monumental, they rose with impressive dominance above the people crowding into the space. Closer inspection reveals that the hand-cast slabs have been painstakingly coloured in pencil crayon by the artist again providing a contrast from the usual industrial mechanics of large-scale monuments. The pastel colouring conflicts with the apparent strength and verticality of the forms presenting another inherent contradiction on which Carey leaves us to ponder. But the fragility and vulnerability of these works is what makes them arresting and, in fact, it is this fragility that makes a seemingly simple abstract form somewhat inescapable.

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Jodie Carey, Untitled (Slabs), 2012. Image via www.edelassanti.com.

I was so impressed by the exhibition that I have no doubt I will be visiting far more regularly. After all Victoria is only ten minutes from Fitzrovia in a taxi and we know I’m good at hailing those.

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Chuck Close Prints: Process and Collaboration and Eddie Peake: Adjective Machine Gun are at White Cube Bermondsey until 21st April 2013, www.whitecute.com.  Simon Lewty: Absorption is at Art First until 11th May 2013, www.artfirst.co.ukTell Me Whom You Haunt: Marcel Duchamp and the Contemporary Readymade is at Blain Southern until 18th May 2013, www.blainsouthern.com.  Nathan Cash Davidson: Your’e French Gerdarmes with Me is at Hannah Barry Gallery until 8th May 2013, www.hannahbarry.com.  A Celebration of Printmaking is at Orion Contemporary until 20th April 2013, www.orioncontemporary.com.  Jodie Carey: Untitled (Slabs) is at Edel Assanti until 11th May 2013, www.edelassanti.com.

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Ooops, I love it again! Peacock Trousers at Josh Lilley

1 Jul

There is an exception to every rule.  My rule is not to write about each show a commercial gallery puts on but the Josh Lilley Gallery is my exception.  This is now my third Artista post on their exhibitions and I’m still smitten.   As long as they keep curating shows of this calibre, I feel I have to keep sharing.

Peacock Trousers is a joint show of works by the artists Gabriel Hartley and Appau Junior  Boakye-Yiadom.

The exhibition opens in the upstairs gallery with a solitary sculpture by Hartley, a 2005 graduate from the Royal Academy Schools who is already developing an international reputation.  Instead of being tempted to overcrowd the room by displaying more works, this beautiful piece has cleverly been given the space it deserves.

Gabriel Hartley, Split Piece, 2011. Own photograph.

More of Hartley’s works are to be seen downstairs – delicate  sculptures with fascinating texture and colour; the works appear momentarily frozen in the act of collapse -they are so light that an attendant was hovering nearby to prevent people from walking into them.  They look very tactile but don’t get any clever ideas about touching them while you’re down there.  Hartley builds and abstracts the works; an inherent contradiction is present in each sculpture as the subject seems in flux – is this raw form a figure or what does the abstract mass represent?   These aesthetically simple works have a powerful emotional resonance.  The sprayed and tarnished surfaces of the works tease, confuse and intrigue the viewer, presenting a mysterious conundrum.

Own photograph.

Hartley’s sculptures look heavy, as though carved from marble whereas, in fact, they are sheets of crumbled and folded paper, covered in fibreglass and resin and then carved away or smoothed over.  The resulting effect resembles metal or stone.  Coloured wallpaper, made of collaged A1 drawings (the same paper used to construct the sculptures), forms a backdrop for the sculptures.  The basic elements evoke the wall paintings made by Paleolithic cave-dwellers to protect themselves from supernatural forces and to act as a magical guard – the mystery of Hartley’s sculpture is almost magical in form.  It is possible that the aesthetic value of cave painting was unintended, but became evident as tool working moved beyond the strictly utilitarian into something more aesthetically pleasing.  Although Hartley’s drawings are aesthetically pleasing, as a backdrop, they become purely decorative, enhancing and dramatising the sculpture.

Gabriel Hartley, Heel, 2010. Own photograph.

The Josh Lilley Gallery magically transforms itself for every exhibition.  Although my stilettoes have grown accustomed to tottering down the steep staircase, I never know what will await me.  They’ve done it again; it couldn’t be more different than the set-up for the Fabian Seiz show.  There is a feeling of a wonderful and exciting contrast, creating a distinct divide, as the exhibition passes onto Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom, an artist who uses the readymade, or everyday object, as his starting point to instigate a performance.  He enjoys transforming objects into absurd sculptures, filled with humour.

Own photograph. 

These works aren’t so much ‘my thing’ but they are very successful.  Peacock is a series of eight rainbow-coloured photographs, each showing a low-lying lampshade (perhaps the reason why the works themselves are hung so low) with an increasing number of lightbulbs underneath.

Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom, Peacock, 2011. Image via www.joshlilleygallery.com.

These works recall historic still life where the light source is external to the composition.  Here, the whole subject is the light source, as Boakye-Yiadom breaks with tradition and moulds convention into his own stylistic motif.  For me, Peacock lacks the excitement of some of the artist’s earlier works.

Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom, Peacock, 2011.  Own photograph.

Boakye-Yiadom’s video installation, Golden Underground, is, however, superb; it shows him playing a piano with a paintbrush.  The film stops and starts, leaving the viewer in pitch darkness listening to a rendition of Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag.  The video exposes the vulnerability and banality within the artist’s practice, focusing our awareness on the role of the artist and also on the artist’s self-awareness.  It is very easy to become immersed in this piece and love it.  Whether for its more complex undertones or for its jovial styling, it made me smile.

Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom, Golden Underground, 2011. Image via www.joshlilleygallery.com.

One of the things that makes these two bodies of work successfully alongside one another is their contrast and, somewhat different but equally experimental, use of practice – Hartley’s use of paper as a medium for sculpture and Boakye-Yiadom’s playful treatment of the everyday.

I don’t know what made me fall for this gallery. It’s not just me as other visitors I spoke to at the exhibition seemed equally enamoured.  Regular readers will know I’m not generally slow to criticise but I haven’t yet seen anything here I would want to criticise. Josh Lilley’s exhibitions hit the nail right on the head.

After the exhibition, we headed for dinner at Elysée on Percy Street, a wonderful little Greek restaurant, only 5 minutes away, where we were treated like gods and fed delicious food until we were ready to explode.  All in all, a great evening.

If you haven’t been to the Josh Lilley Gallery yet then shame on you – you’re missing some excellent exhibitions.  Hurry along!

Peacock Trousers: Gabriel Hartley and Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom is at the Josh Lilley Gallery until 13th August 2011, http://www.joshlilleygallery.com.

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