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Tag Archives: Barbican Centre

When Does Minimalism Become Too Minimal?

8 Oct

It was recently pointed out to me that there has been a lot of minimal art produced recently, and the exhibitions this article discusses feature minimal and monochromatic works, but can minimalism go too far?

Florian Pumhösl’s part of the current exhibition at Raven Row consists of two floors filled with a series of minimal works on glass.  This choice of unframed medium seems to reflect upon Joseph Kosuth‘s works including Clear Square Glass Leaning (1965) and No Number #1 (+216, After Augustine’s Confessions) (1989), and to the latter of these there also seems to be a link in David Batchelor‘s Shelf-like No. 5 (Green) (1999), currently on display at the Whitechapel Gallery in their latest exhibition of the Government Art Collection.  However, where Kosuth applied text to the medium using Letraset and later silkscreen, Pumhösl has composed and painted a series of abstract black lines, numbering between two and six on each piece.  These lines might describe journeys, lines of communication, horizons, or statistical graphs, but there is no information within the work for viewers to read the artist’s intention or act.  To the viewer these are simply random lines, some arranged so they create intersections and others vaguely parallel, floating in the liquid plane of the glass, sometimes alike part of paintings by Wassily Kandinsky.

Whilst Pumhösl’s work fits within the broad nature of minimalism and perhaps Abstract Expressionism, The Mews Project Space is hosting an exhibition of monochromatic works, which critically address minimalism and its practices from within.  In the first room of Dark Matter Jonathan Lewis has set out to recreate the installation conditions of Kasimir Malevich‘s seminal Suprematist exhibition, The Last Futurist Exhibition (1915), but Lewis uses only a series of prints of Black Square on White in different size and style frames and digital printing means and materials.  However the focus of The End (2011) is on the pixelation of the image, which unlike Lewis’s previous work is due to the prints being taken from a very low-resolution image found online.  This includes a rather bizarre square of different shade off-white pixels in each corner like an unreadable QR code or the tags within a graphic design software package for manipulating the dimensions of a selected image.  Then a greyish line of pixels forms a border between the two areas, as though the image could be of a black surface over layered with a white mount board casting a slight shadow.  Such is the case that online information, particularly that resourced from search engines that pick up any text on a page, can be confused between original pieces and things inspired by a master, hence it is possible that this may not be an image of the original.  Consequently the work questions the capability of communication of knowledge and ideas through the internet and the actual minimalism of artworks including Malevich’s.  Do they conform to machine-accurate straight lines or is the presence of human nature visible in brushstrokes and minor imperfections?

The End (2011) by Jonathan Lewis at The Mews Project Space

Opposite, Andreas Schmidt’s Free Porn critiques censorship on Google Images suggesting that there is either too much censorship or that the pornographic images obscured in this work are too easily accessible and without payment to the models and photographer.  Furthermore Schmidt may be critiquing several layers of censorship; that of the images, the power of Google and other search providers to control what you can find on the internet, and also that within the art world.

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Artists Making a Mark with their Bodies

19 May

Following on from the article The Gallery as a Dance Hall, it appears there is also a resurging interest in performative mark making.  In Trisha Brown‘s Walking on the Walls a group of performers climb into suits harnessed to girders suspended from the gallery balcony, which act like the track of a rollercoaster.  This enables them to walk horizontally along the gallery wall in a performance that at times becomes like a cat’s cradle as they approach each other and seem to pass on momentum.  Essentially fixed on a straight line, the performers are generally only able to see and approach their neighbours, as described by Edwin A. Abbott in Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, however they do occasionally cross each other’s path in a slightly awkward fashion akin to when a cat’s cradle gets tied up.

Trisha Brown - Walking on the Walls. Barbican Art Gallery, 2011. Photograph by Felix Clay

The performers leave slight marks and traces of their performance in the form of footprints on the white gallery walls.  Whilst their impact is minimal, this could be read in a painterly fashion outside the performance.  What remains is the essence of movement, like the ghostly remains of fossilised dinosaur footprints in the rock.  As these footprints will clearly not last that long, being painted over for the next exhibition, if the wall hasn’t already been re-coated, it consequently  draws allusion with the work of Richard Long.  In his work A Line Made By Walking (1967) Long created a visible mark on the landscape through movement, but similarly the grass will have soon grown back.

Meanwhile, Brown’s Homemade (1966) resembles Stating the Real Sublime by Rosa Barba, mentioned in the article Still, through its use of movement of a film projector.  Where Barba’s work is sculptural in creating movement of a projection by the rotation of the film in suspension, Brown wore a film projector like a backpack, projecting a film of her dancing on varying surfaces of the theatre as she repeats the filmed performance in person.

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A Comparative Study in Space and Sound

5 May

What is perhaps most interesting about Ruth Proctor and João Ferro Martins‘ show at The Mews Project Space is the way their work is so similar yet has subtle differences when neither had met until they hung the exhibition.

João Ferro Martins & Ruth Proctor From L to L and Back Again

Following a set of outline instructions for sculpture combining found or ready-made materials, striking similarities occur in the choice of orientation of objects whilst differences appear in the choice of object design; straight edges versus curves, material, dimensions, volume, weight, colour, etc., which combine to give Martins work an austere, solid and workerly feel, whereas Proctor’s has a sunnier, more vibrant and perhaps feminine outlook.  With a bass ‘E’ guitar string stretched across each chair as if to create a rudimentary instrument, a vinyl record is similarly placed behind the back of the chair so about 60% visible from the front, but one is an album and other incorporates a single.  Meanwhile, at the Barbican, Laurie Anderson is pictured playing her musical invention/sculpture, the Viophonograph, with a record mounted upon a violin body and a pickup in the bow.

Laurie Anderson Viophonograph, 1976 Black-and-white photograph Photograph: Bob Bielecki Courtesy the artist and Sean Kelly Gallery, New York. © Laurie Anderson

Perhaps it might also be relevant to mention Christian Marclay’s Recycled Records (1980-86), at this point, as another example of an artist using this sonic yet visual form, combining cut records to create a new sound.  Meanwhile Martins’ further experiments with record media include Cymbal Scratching (2010), which seems to be the inverse of Anderson’s work in that a traditional instrument is being played by a twentieth century one, whereas Anderson plays the record with the violin bow.

Cymbal Scratching (2010) by João Ferro Martins. Turntable, amplifier, pre amplifier, two speakers, cymbal. Dimensions variable. Sound reproduction of the texture of the cymbal.

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