Sunday, 17 September 2017

Käthe Kollwitz - Ikon

Käthe Kollwitz, Self Portrait, 1904
Portrait of the Artist: Käthe Kollwitz is at Ikon until 26 November 2017.
In his succinct and moving account of Käthe Kollwitz’s life and work, Neil McGregor makes a persuasive case for her being one of the ‘greatest German artists’. (Listen here.)
Kollwitz worked, principally, as a printmaker and took social injustice, pain and suffering as her overriding themes. Her compassionate approach achieves work of considerable pathos – evident, for example, in Woman with Dead Child, 1903. The model for the child was her own son, Peter. As McGregor points out, this proved to be tragically prophetic: his discussion focuses on her sculpture Mother with Her Dead Son, which is in the Neue Wache (New Guardhouse) on Unter den Linden in Berlin, where it serves as a memorial to ‘victims of war and dictatorship’. (See image at bottom of page.) The sculpture was her own memorial to Peter. The story is that at 18, in 1914 at the outbreak of the first World War, Peter wished to volunteer for military service but, being under 21, could only do so with parental consent. Peter’s father at first refused but was persuaded to relent by Käthe. Peter was killed in action a mere 10 days after joining up. Grief, guilt and a fervent pacifism marked the rest of Kollwitz’s life. She died in 1945.
Although her work may seem unrelenting in its representation of pain and suffering, it is also beautiful and, I think, unsentimental in its honesty. This exhibition mostly drawn from the print collection of the British Museum is a rare opportunity to see work by this major artist.
Listen to Neil McGregor’s BBC radio talk: Käthe Kollwitz: Suffering Witness; listen to a review of the exhibition on BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Review (16.9.17, starts at 27mins.)
Read a review by Skye Sherwin.
Käthe Kollwitz, Woman with Dead Child, 1903
Käthe Kollwitz, Not (Want), 1893-7
Käthe Kollwitz, Bust of a Working Woman With Blue Shaw, 1903
Käthe Kollwitz, Death and Woman, 1910
Käthe Kollwitz, Self Portrait, 1924
Käthe Kollwitz, Self Portrait, 1924
Käthe Kollwitz, Mother with her Dead Son in the Neue Wache, Berlin
Käthe Kollwitz, Mother with her Dead Son in the Neue Wache, Berlin

Friday, 15 September 2017

Rachel Whiteread - Tate Britain

Rachel Whiteread, Untitled (Clear Torso), 1993
Rachel Whiteread is at Tate Britain until 21 January 2018.
I am, generally, more drawn to the forms and textures of the everyday than to the stuff of fantasy; Rachel Whiteread’s work speaks directly and poetically about the fascination and strangeness of the often-overlooked objects and spaces of mundane reality. Her life’s work has followed a consistent and focused practice of casting ordinary objects and the spaces they define. She takes familiar objects but makes them strange, she makes the invisible visible, she makes the very air solid – in concrete, plaster, resin, rubber or metal. The strategy may be consistent but the variety of scale and character is exhilarating. From the largest works -  House (1993 – now demolished), the ‘nameless library’ that is The Judenplatz HolocaustMemorial (2000) in Vienna and the WaterTower (1998) in New York – to the smallest, the spaces beneath chairs, Untitled (One Hundred Spaces) 1997, and the form of hot water bottles, eg Untitled (Clear Torso), 1993.
This exhibition promises an exciting survey of 25 years of remarkable work.
Rachel Whiteread, Untitled (Amber Bed), 1991
Rachel Whiteread, Untitled (One Hundred Spaces), 1993 (detail)
Rachel Whiteread, Untitled (Floor), 1995
Rachel Whiteread, Untitled (Stairs), 2001
Rachel Whiteread, Untitled (Hive) I, 2007-8
Rachel Whiteread, Due Porte, 2016
 Selected larger works (obviously not in exhibition)
Rachel Whiteread, House, 1993 (demolished, 1994)
Rachel Whiteread, Water Tower, 1998
Rachel Whiteread, Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial, Vienna, 1996-2000

Sunday, 2 April 2017

James Rosenquist, 1933 - 2017

James Rosenquist, Untitled (Joan Crawford says...), 1964
James Rosenquist died 31 March 2017.
James Rosenquist's masterpiece was undoubtedly F-111 (1964-5). This 85 foot long painting (illustrated in 4 sections, below) interlaces the titular American fighter-bomber deployed in Vietnam with the iconography of mid-twentieth century consumer capitalism and technology - the 'American Dream' of material prosperity underpinned by military power and threatened by nuclear apocalypse. As Rosenquist put it himself, the bomber was “flying through the flak of consumer society to question the collusion between the Vietnam death machine, consumerism, the media, and advertising.”
Rosenquist initially earned a living as a billboard painter and turned this experience of large-scale painting of advertising images to develop his distinctive, monumental paintings of images drawn from the vocabulary of popular culture. The scale of these paintings is evident from the installation shot of Star Thief (1980), below.
Read obituaries by Martin Pengelly, Ken Johnson, and an appreciation by Jerry Saltz.
(Click on images to elarge)
James Rosenquist, President Elect, 1960-1/1964
James Rosenquist, Study for President Elect, c1960
James Rosenquist, I Love You with My Ford, 1961
James Rosenquist, F-111, 1964-5
James Rosenquist, F-111, 1964-5 (Installation views - MoMA, NY, 2012
James Rosenquist, Star Thief, 1980
James Rosenquist, installation view of Star Thief, 1980
James Rosenquist, The Swimmer in the Econo-Mist #3,  1997-8
James Rosenquist, Untitled #3,2006
Ugo Mulas, James Rosenquist in his studio, 1964

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Pop Art in Print - The Wilson, Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum

Ed Ruscha, Mocha Standard, 1969 - screenprint
Pop Art in Print is at The Wilson, Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum until 4 June 2017.
Drawn from the print collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum this is a substantial exhibition of American and British printmaking from the heyday of Pop Art, along with a few examples of more recent, Pop-inflected work. Most of the major figures of the period are represented, including, amongst the British artists - Peter Blake, Patrick Caulfield, Richard Hamilton, Allen Jones and Eduardo Paolozzi; and amongst the Americans - Robert Indiana, Roy Lichtenstein, Edward Ruscha, Wayne Thiebaud, Andy Warhol and Tom Wesselmann. Many familar and iconic images are here alongside some less well known material including examples of concert posters, wallpaper and textiles. A really interesting exhibition.
(Click on images to elarge; all images from the V&A website.)
Richard Hamilton, Adonis in Y Fronts, 1962-3 - screenprint
Peter Blake, Beach Boys, 1964 - screenprint
Roy Lichtenstein, Crak! Now Mes Petits...Pour La France, 1964 - offset lithograph
Andy Warhol, Birmingham Race Riot, 1964 - screenprint
Richard Hamilton, Interior, 1964-5 - screenprint
Richard Hamilton, My Marilyn, 1965 - screenprint
Eduard Paolozzi, [from] Moonstrips Empire News, 1967 - screenprint
Tom Wesselmann, Seascape (Tit), 1967 - screenprint
Patrick Caulfield, Cafe Sign, 1968 - screenprint
Peter Blake, Babe rainbow, 1968 - screenprint
Patrick Caulfield, Small Window, 1969 - screenprint
Julian Opie, Sara Gets Undressed (lenticular), 2004 - Lambda print overlaid with lenticular plastic

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Colour Is - Waddington Custot

Donald Judd, Untitled (DJ77-18) (meter box), 1977 - anodized aluminium
Colour Is is at Waddington Custot until 22 April 2017.
This is a joyful exhibition of painting and sculpture, from the mid 1960s to the present, which uses colour as a principal component. Resolutely abstract, the work  here, perhaps, confirms Donald Judd's observation (quoted in the exhibition text) that 'the necessities of representation inhibited the use of colour'. Colour is certainly liberated here, and to exhilerating effect. Donald Judd's own wall mounted box is a gorgeous indigo which is spectacularly complemented by David Annesly's exuberant ribbons of bright yellow steel; Ian Davenport's sensuous pool of poured paint fulfils Frank Stella's onetime ambition to make paintings that kept the paint 'as good as it was in the can'. A beautiful show.
Artists included are: Etel Adnan, Josef Albers, David Annesley, David Batchelor, Anthony Caro, Ian Davenport, Paul Feeley, Sam Gilliam, Peter Halley, John Hoyland, Donald Judd, Joseph Kosuth, Jeremy Moon, Kenneth Noland, Hélio Oiticica, Yuko Shiraishi, Frank Stella, Joe Tilson and William Tucker.
Read a review by Sam Cornish.
(Click on images to enlarge.)
Josef Albers, Study for Homage to the Square: "Persistent" (JAF:0610), 1954-60 - oil on masonite
John Hoyland, 29.8.73, 1973 - acrylic on canvas
William Tucker, Karnak, 1966 - fibreglass
David Annesley, Orinoco, 1965 - painted steel
Joseph Kosuth, II 49 (On Color / Multi #2), 1991 - multi-coloured neon
Ian Davenport, Circle Painting: Turquoise, Yellow, Turquoise, 2001 - household paint on MDF
Peter Halley, Blue Cell, 1999 - acrylic, pearlescent and metallic acrylic and Roll-a-Tex on canvas