Sunday, 25 January 2015

Morris & Warhol - Modern Art Oxford

Andy Warhol and William Morris
Love Is Enough: William Morris & Andy Warhol, curated by Jeremy Deller is at Modern Art Oxford until 8 March 2015.
I love Andy Warhol (see below); I love William Morris; I am also a bit of a fan of Jeremy Deller (see below). So I was pretty excited by the prospect of this exhibition. (With another of my heroes, William Blake, the subject of an exhibition at the Ashmolean (see below) a visit to Oxford was irresistable.)
Broadly, the premise for this suprising pairing of artists is that they both employed printmaking processes in collaborative factory production systems as a means to extend and  distribute their art; they both employed repetition as a design principle; they both used flower imagery and made pictures of cultural heroes and myths; the show even tries to argue that Warhol's politics had some affinity with Morris' socialism.
However, I don't think it works: there are a few terrific pieces in the exhibition, but the juxtapositions are, too often, painful clashes rather than complementary contrasts. Two of Warhol's Electric Chair screenprints on a background of Morris' densely patterned wall paper does neither artist a favour. Generally, I think that Warhol is the loser in this contest: Morris' dense, highly crafted designs make Warhol's casual elegance look lightweight and thin. But it's an unfair contest - the earnest sincerity and idealism of Morris' nostalgic vision sits awkwardly with Warhol's ironic detachment. The fact that they both made wallpaper isn't enought to make them brothers in art. (In fact Morris and William Blake would make a much more sympathetic pairing;  the Blake show, incidentally, is excellent.)

Read reviews by Waldemar Januszczak, Richard Dorment (he hated it!) and Farah Nayeri. Click on images to enlarge.
William Morris, printed fabric design: Kennet, 1883
William Morris, wall paper design: Acanthus, 1879
William Morris, wall paper: Acanthus, 1879
William Morris, 'Kelmscott Chaucer', 1896
William Morris, bound pamphlet: How I Became a Socialist, 1896
Andy Warhol, Elizabeth Taylor, 1967
Andy Warhol, Electric Chair, 1971
Andy Warhol, Flowers, 1970
Andy Warhol, Cow wallpaper, 1971
Love is Enough... installation featuring Andy Warhol, Marilyn Tapestry, 1968 and photograph of Shirley Temple (1941) from Warhol's collection, on wallpaper by William Morris
Love is Enough... installation

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Adventures of the Black Square - Whitechapel Gallery

Peter Halley, Auto Zone, 1992
Adventures of the Black Square: Abstract Art and Society 1915–2015 is at Whitechapel Gallery until 6 April 2015.
Last year Tate Modern presented a fascinating show of the work of Kazimir Malevich, creator of the revolutionary Black Square in 1915 (see below). Now Whitechapel Gallery is showing an ambitious exploration of the story of abstraction as it evolved through the following 100 years in the work of some 100 artists.
The exhibition follows 4 themes: Utopia, Architectonics, Communication, and the Everyday and charts the life of geometric abstraction through painting, sculpture, photography, graphic design and textiles, from Russia to the USA, from Europe to Asia and Latin America, from revolutionary politics to corporate capitalism, from the spiritual to the material. It promises to be a rich and fascinating story. (I was fascinated to learn from Adrian Searle's review that Amalia Pica's Memorial for intersections #2 (see image, below) refers to the banning of the use of Venn Diagrams in primary schools in Argentina in the 1970s - on the grounds that they were believed to encourage subversive thought!?)
Read reviews by Adrian Searle, Laura Cumming, Waldemar Januszczak, Jackie Wullschlager, J J Charlesworth, Louisa Buck and Charley Peters and an article by Frances Spalding. See also, below, for information about the complementary exhibition: David Batchelor: Monochrome Archive, 1997-2015.
Kazimir Malevich, Black and White Suprematist Composition, 1915

El Lissitzky, Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge!, 1919–1920
Aleksandr Rodchenko, Radio Station Tower, 1929
Piet Mondrian, Composition with Yellow, Blue and Red, 1937
Hélio Oititica, Metaesquema 464, 1958
Josef Albers, Homage to the Square: Post Autumn,1963
Dan Flavin, Monument for V. Tatlin, 1966
Carl Andre, 10 x 10 Altstadt Lead Square, 1967
Daniel Buren, Seven Ballets in Manhattan, 1975
(To be restaged in London during the course of the exhibition.)
Jenny Holzer, Top Secret 32, 2010
Rosemarie Trockel, Cogito, erg sum, 1988
Amalia Pica, Memorial for intersections #2, 2013