Wednesday, 18 March 2015

History is Now - Hayward Gallery

Bloodhound Mark 2 Surface-to-Air Missile and Launcher, c1965-66
History is Now: 7 Artists Take On Britain is at the Hayward Gallery until 26 April 2015.
This was potentially a wonderful exhibition - but it's got problems.
The following artists were invited to curate sections of an exhibition responding to perceptions of post-war and contemporary Britain: John Akomfrah, Simon Fujiwara, Roger Hiorns, Hannah Starkey, Richard Wentworth and Jane and Louise Wilson.
As Adrian Searle observed in his (generous) review 'artists can make good curators'; in this instance Richard Wentworth proves himself to be an outstanding one; however, unfortunately, Roger Hiorns and, to a lesser extent, John Akrofuma, prove to be disastrous ones. Hiorns has accumulated a vast, indigestible mass of information about BSE; Akomfrah has curated a very interesting selection of films from the Arts Council collection - but, he has chosen no less than 17 films requiring some 9 hours viewing time! I had allowed an afternoon for the whole show - it is simply frustrating and irritating to be confronted with so much material.
As for the other artists: Fujiwara's selection begins strongly with a massive piece of coal which neatly evokes both Britain's proud industrial heritage and the shameful trauma of Thatcher's destruction of that industry. However, the rest of his display is less compelling - and I really didn't want to watch a video of the 9 year old Fujiwara's school perfomance of Mary Poppins!
Jane and Louise Wilson's section is an interestingly idiosyncratic take on recent history, encompassing Northern Ireland, Greenham Common and the new town development of Peterlee involving artist Victor Pasmore; Hannah Starkey has raided the Arts Council photography collection and selected some great, if largely familiar, material.
The saving grace of the whole show is Richard Wentworth's characteristically witty and imaginative take on post-war Britain, responding to the 1946 'Britain Can Make It' exhibition, the founding of the National Health Service (1946), the Festival of Britain (1951), the onset of the Cold War and the burgeoning consumer society. Wentworth's selection ranges from a modest box of pebbles collected by Henry Moore to the spectacle of a 1964 Bloodhound Surface-to-Air missile, looking dissarmingly at home on the Hayward's roof terrace. Work by Hepworth, Nicholson, Moore, Nash, Paolozzi and others combine in an evocative and aesthetically engaging representation of British culture.
All the images below are from Wentworth's section.
Red reviews by Adrian Searle, Alastair Sooke, Waldemar Januszczak, Michael Prodger and Sarah Kent.
Henry Moore, Stringed Figure, 1939
Paul Nash, Battle of Britain, 1941
L.S. Lowry, July, the Seaside, 1943
War Office: briefing model - part of Juno and Sword beaches (D-Day), 1944
Barbara Hepworth, Reconstruction (Hospital Drawing), 1947
Ben Nicholson, November 11-47 (Moushole), 1947
Ben Nicholson, Festival of Britain Mural, 1951
Henry Grant, Londoners Relax on Tower Beach, 1952
Eduardo Paolozzi, from Bunk (Improved Beans), 1947-52
John Bratby, Still Life with Chip Frier, 1954
Reg Butler, Working model for The Unknown Political Prisoner, 1955-56
Nigel Henderson, Head of a Man, 1956-61
Eduardo Paolozzi, The Frog, 1958
David Hockney, Going to be a Queen for Tonight, 1960
Tony Cragg, Britain Seen from the North, 1981
Installation of Bloodhound Mark 2 Surface-to-Air Missile, c1965-66, onto Hayward Gallery roof terrace

1 comment:

  1. Hi Richard. I visited the exhibition and came to a similar conclusion. My blog post about it is here Hope you enjoy.