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

Saturday, 18 March 2017

The American Dream - British Museum

Andy Warhol, Vote McGovern, 1972 - colour screenprint
The American Dream: Pop to the Present is at the British Museum until 18 June 2017.
This exhibition made me so happy! From the moment I entered to find a suite of Andy Warhol's Electric Chair prints to my left and a suite of Marilyn prints to my right I knew this was going to be a great exhibition. And it is. It is a fabulous survey of modern American printmaking with great work by a host of great artists. In addition to Warhol the exhibition features Chuck Close, Jim Dine, Jenny Holzer, Jasper Johns, Donald Judd, Sol Lewitt, Bruce Nauman, Claes Oldenburg, Ed Ruscha, Richard Serra and many, many more. The survey spans the decades since the 1960s - from the moment of Pop and contemporary events such as the assasination of J.F. Kennedy, the Apollo 11 moon landing and Vietnam - through to the more recent period marked by AIDS and the politics of race and gender.
Read reviews by Alastair Sooke, Emily Spicer, Michael Glover, Marina Vaizey
(Click on images to enlarge.)
Andy Warhol, Electric Chair, 1971 - from suite of 10 colour sceeenprints
Jasper Johns, Flags II, 1973 - screenprint
Jim Dine, Five Paintbrushes (first state), 1972 - etching
Jim Dine, Five Paintbrushes (sixth state), 1973 - etching, drypoint, soft-ground and aquatint
Claes Oldenburg, Profile Airflow, 1969 - moulded polyurethane relief over lithograph
Ed Ruscha, Standard Station, 1966 - colour screenprint
Bruce Nauman, Clear Vision, 1973 - lithograph and screenprint
Wayne Thiebaud, Bacon and Eggs, 1964 - etching
Robert Bechtle, '60 T-Bird, 1967 - etching
Richard Serra, Core, 1987 - screenprint with paintstick
Chuck Close, Phile Spitbite, 1995 - spit-bite aquatint and etching
Richard Estes, Grant's, 1972 - colour screenprint
Andy Warhol,  Jackie II, 1965 - colour screenprint
Jenny Holzer, AKA, 2006 (from AKA 1-5) - photo-etching
Mel Bochner, It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This, 2013 - etching with aquatint

Robert Rauschenberg - Tate Modern

Robert Rauschenberg, Bed, 1955 (detail)
Robert Rauschenberg is at Tate Modern until 9 April 2017.
This is a terrific show. As Laura Cumming wrote in her review, Rauschenberg is revealed as a 'ceaselessly inventive' artist, fizzing with ideas, constantly experimenting, throwing out ideas which sparked off whole careers of later artists. There is as much going on in a single 'combine' (his name for the pieces which mix painting and sculpture and incorporate all mannner of materials) as might be found in some of those artists' careers.
Thoug many of the works were familiar to me from reproductions seeing them first hand was revelatory: they are so rich in textures, imagery and association. Wonderful stuff.
Read reviews by Waldemar Januszczak, Laura Cumming, Adrian Searle, Emily Spicer, Karen Wright, Louisa Buck.
(Click on images to enlarge.)
Robert Rauschenberg, Untitled (Black Painting), c1951
Robert Rauschenberg (with Willem de Kooning and Jasper Johns), Erased de Kooning Drawing, 1953
Robert Rauschenberg, Dirt Painting (for John Cage), c1953
Robert Rauschenberg, Yoicks (Red Painting), 1954
Robert Rauschenberg, Charlene, 1954
Robert Rauschenberg, Monogram, 1955-59
Robert Rauschenberg, Black Market, 1961
Robert Rauschenberg, Retroactive II, 1964
Robert Rauschenberg, Persimmon, 1964
Robert Rauschenberg, Untitled (Cardboard), 1972
Robert Rauschenberg, Holiday Ruse (Night Shade), 1991

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Gustav Metzger, 1926 - 2017

Gustav Metzger, applying hydrochloric acid to nylon sheets - Auto-Destructive Art event, South Bank, London, 1961
Gustav Metzger died 1 March 2017.
The social history of the UK in the 1970s is largely defined by industrial disputes - the postal workers' strike (1971), 2 miners' strikes (1972 and 1974), the Grunwick dispute (1976-77) and the public sector workers' strikes remembered as the 'Winter of Discontent' (1978-79). However, no-one much remembers the Art Strike of 1977- 80 called by Gustav Metzer in 1974. The aim was the destruction of capitalism, no less (or the 'art system', at least): 
The refusal to labour is the chief weapon of workers fighting the system; artists can use the same weapon. To bring down the art system it is necessary to call for years without art, a period of three years - 1977 to 1980 - when artists will not produce work, sell work, permit work to go on exhibitions, and refuse collaboration with any part of the publicity machinery of the art world… Three years is the minimum period required to cripple the system… In place of the practice of art, people can spend time on the numerous historical, aesthetic and social issues facing art. It will be necessary to construct more equitable forms for marketing, exhibiting and publicising art in the future. As the twentieth century has progressed, capitalism has smothered art - the deep surgery of the years without art will give it a new chance. (Read the full text here.)
In truth, Metzger was probably the only artist actually to withdraw his labour. While it is easy to scoff at the impracticality of such a gesture, Metzger's 'career' (or anti-career) stands as a model of sincere and idealistic commitment.
The following notes are compiled from the writings of John A. Walker - see refs. at foot of text.
Metzger was born into a Polish-Jewish family in Nuremberg in 1926 where he was witness to the Nazi rallies. According to Walker he was both impressed by the spectacle and was left with a life-long suspicion of media manipulation of the masses. Metzger was sent with his brother to England in 1939; other members of his family perished in the Holocaust.
Metzger’s interest in art developed through the 1940s and 50s; an early interest in action Painting (especially Jackson Pollock) evolved into a practice which combined action with destruction – ‘painting’ with acid onto nylon so that the ground progressively disintegrated.  (Watch a short film of an action in 1965 here.) He wrote a manifesto ‘Auto-Destructive Art’ in 1959.
Later work experimented with liquid crystals – heat sensitive liquid crystals were placed between glass slides inserted into a projector and rotated: as the crystals heated and cooled they changed colour to produce constantly evolving patterns. (See Tate catalogue.)
Metzger’s work was consistently engaged with politics and he cared deeply about the fate of the world - haunted by Nazism, the Holocaust and the Atom bomb he tried to alert us to the dangers of excessive capitalism and threats to the environment; he would present work only in public galleries and public spaces maintaining the ideal of making meaningful work that resisted commodification.
(For a fuller account of Metzger's story read John A. Walker's GustavMetzger, the Conscience of the Artworld.
Read appreciations by Adrian Searle and Hans Ulrich Obrist.
Watch a short video featuring Metzger talking about his work, made in 2015 for the Tate.
References.
Walker, John A. (2002) Left Shift: Radical Art in Britain in 1970s Britain, London: I.B. Tauris

Gustav Metzger, Painting on Cardboard, c,1961-2

Gustav Metzger, Recreation of 1961 Auto-Destructive art event. 14 October 2006. South Bank, London. (Brian Hodgson executing work.)

Gustav Metzger, Liquid Crystal Environment, 1965 remade 2005
Gustav Metzger, Liquid Crystal Environment, 1965 remade 2005

Gustav Metzger, Historic photographs: No. 1: Liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto, April 19-28, 1943, 1995

Gustav Metzger, Historic photographs: Till we have built Jerusalem in

England’s green and pleasant land, 1998. (Twyford Down),

Gustav Metzger, Historic photographs: Terror and Oppression, 2007