Monday, 20 December 2010

Don Van Vliet, 1941 - 2010

Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart) died on 17th December, 2010.

Captain Beefheart, Mojave Desert, 1980; photograph by Anton Corbijn.

Musician and painter, Van Vliet was a true artist: original, eccentric and uncompromising. With The Magic Band he produced a series of extraordinary albums, including what is widely regarded as his masterpiece: Trout Mask Replica, 1969. Accounts of the bizarre and traumatic circumstances of the recording of this album are legendary. (Fast and Bulbous... Tapered, too.)

Trout Mask Replica
, 1969, album cover
I never saw Captain Beefheart perform, but I treasure seeing 'Captain Beefheart's Magic Band' (that is, without the Captain) at the Carling Academy in Bristol in 2004. The Magic Band, in this instance, were Mark 'Rockette Morton' Boston and John 'Drumbo' French (both contributors to Trout Mask Replica) plus Gary 'Mantis' Lucas and Denny 'Feelers Rebo' Walley (both contributors to later albums).
In 1982 Van Vliet retired from music to devote himself to painting.

Don Van Vliet, Rolled Roots Gnarled Like Rakers, 1985 (Michael Werner Gallery)
Read obituaries and appreciations by, Caroline Boucher, Alexis Petridis, Sean O'Hagan. See also The Captain Beefheart Radar Station.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Tacita Dean - Turbine Hall commission

I am very excited to learn that Tacita Dean, one of my favourite artists, has been given the daunting challenge of taking on the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall installation, next year (to be unveiled 11th October, 2011).

Tacita Dean (photo: Frith Street Gallery)
Dean has worked in a variety of media – drawing, sound, found objects, photographs - but is, perhaps, best known for her 16mm films – Laura Cumming, reviewing Dean’s recent Craneway Event (a film of Merce Cunningham rehearsing his dancers in a disused Ford assembly plant in San Francisco) called her the great poet of art film.
Brian Dillon, writing in Tate Etc identifies Dean’s characteristic attraction to objects that speak of a future that never came: Such structures seem to bypass the present, setting up instead a strange relay between past and future, between utopia and nostalgia.
Dean’s poetic meditations include: Fernsehturm, the revolving restaurant at the top of Berlin’s television tower; Sound Mirrors: the spooky 1930s pre-radar, concrete listening devices in Kent; Bubble House, the abandoned futuristic house in the Cayman Islands - discovered by Dean when researching material for another work, Teignmouth Electron, the bizarre story of Donald Crowhurst, the hopelessly ill-prepared lone yachtsman who entered the 1969 round-the-world race, faked his logbooks and disappeared.
Tacita Dean: (top) still from Bubble House, 1999 (16mm colour film, 7 mins.); (bottom) still from Sound Mirrors, 1999 (16mm black and white film, 7 mins.)
Dean’s films are typically slow, and elegiac, the static camera’s gaze lingering on her subjects; it will be interesting to see what she does in the vast space of the Turbine Hall.
Tacita Dean is represented by Frith Street Gallery
Selected bibliography
Cumming, Laura (2001) "It's All Done with Sound Mirrors", The Observer, 4th March
Dean. Tacita (2005) Berlin Works, London: Tate St Ives
Dean, Tacita (1999) Teignmouth Electron, London: Book Works
Dean, Tacita and Millar, Jeremy (2005) Place, London: Thames & Hudson
Dillon, Brian (2005) "The History of Future Technology", Tate Etc, Issue 5, Autumn
Searle, Adrian (2001) "Age and Beauty", The Guardian, 20th February

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Exhibition Roundup - December 2010

An occasional, and highly selective, pick of current and forthcoming exhibitions.

Len Lye, still from Colour Box, 1935

The Ikon Gallery is presenting the first ever UK retrospective of Len Lye (1901-1980). Lye is best known for his extraordinary hand-painted films made in the 1930s in the UK and in the 1950s in New York. Astonishingly, his early ground-breaking avant-garde films were sponsored by the General Post Office through the work of the GPO Film Unit. (In fact, the GPO Film Unit, under the leadership of John Grierson, was a major sponsor of innovative and experimental film-making). Watch Colour Box (1935) and other films on YouTube.
The Ikon exhibition, which includes Lye's film, painting, sculpture and drawing is on until 13th February, 2011. Read Laura Cumming's review.

More colourful abstraction can be seen at the National Gallery, where Bridget Riley is showing Paintings and Related Work until 22nd May, 2011. See reviews by Adrian Searle and Laura Cumming.

Bridget Riley, Red with Red, 2007

The Lisson Gallery is showing a pair of abstract painters: the recently 'discovered' Cuban, Carmen Herrera and British, Stroud based, painter Peter Joseph. Herrera, born in 1915 has been developing her abstract style since the 1940s but only sold her first painting in 2004 at the age of 89. Read Laura Cumming's review of Herrera's exhibition at the Ikon Gallery, last year.

Carmen Herrera, Blue with Orange, 1984

Peter Joseph, an admirer of Rothko and Newman, employs a methodology associated with Renaissance painters to produce precisely toned two-colour canvases.

Peter Joseph, Turquoise and Grey, 2006

Also at The Lisson Gallery is an exhibition by Ceal Floyer whose multimedia works combine conceptualism and minimalism. The current show includes "Things" which is described on the Lisson Gallery website, as follows: A cluster of plinths stand in an empty room each emitting at different intervals in real time the word "things”, the only audible section from otherwise silenced pop songs. However, apart from the plinths themselves, no ‘things’ are present in the room.

Ceal Floyer, Things, 2009

Victoria Miro is presenting a rare show of the work of Francesca Woodman. Woodman died at the age of 22 in 1981, but left a substantial portfolio of work exploring the self and the body. See Sean O'Hagan's review. The exhibition continues until 22nd January.

Francesca Woodman, Untitled, Rome, Italy, 1977-1978

The Serpentine Gallery is presenting multimedia work by the Algerian, Philippe Parreno. The Serpentine describes the installation as a scripted space in which a series of events unfolds. In his enthusiastic review Adrian Searle describes his journey through the 4 short film and video works which comprise the exhibition. See also review by Laura Cumming.

Philippe Parreno, still from Invisible Boy, 2010

Most of the exhibitions listed in the November Roundup will run through December - see below, for details.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Longstone + The Land of Nod - Xposed Club, 10th December

Poster by Mark Unsworth
Longstone, the experimental electronica duo, Mike Cross and Mike Ward, are making a welcome return to Xposed Club with a performance on Friday, 10th December. Listen to a sample of their wonderful 2009 album, Kabuki, at MySpace.
["electronic circuit bending drum programming analogue modular slide guitarring oscillatory low pass filtering junk percussion sax blowing voltage controlled glacial funk"]
The Land of Nod (another duo - Anthony Walker and David Battersby) will also be playing. This will be their first live gig for five years, when they headlined the John Peel night in Cheltenham. (In 2003 they recorded a session for John Peel’s Radio 1 show.)
Xposed Club: in the atrium, Pittville Studios, Cheltenham on Friday 10th December. £5.00 (£3.00 concs.) on the door, starts 8.00pm.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Deutsche Börse Photography Prize - shortlist

The shortlisted artists for the 2011 Deutsche Börse Photography Prize have been announced. They are:
Thomas Demand

Thomas Demand, Haltestelle, 2009

Roe Ethridge

Roe Ethridge, Thanksgiving, 1984, 2009

Jim Goldberg

Jim Goldberg, Democratic Republic of Congo, 2008

Elad Lassry

Elad Lassry, Lipstick, 2009

The artists' work will be exhibited at Ambika P3, University of Westminster, 2nd - 30th April, 2011, and the winner will be announced on the 26th April.
Read Sean O'Hagan's article, Do the Deutsche Börse Photography prize jury really get photography? His title references an article by Paul Graham in American Suburb X: Photography & Culture, in which he remarks that there [is] a sizeable part of the art world that simply does not get photography.