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Tag Archives: Tate Modern

Are We Communicating Yet?

12 Sep

Recently a theme has emerged of artworks addressing communication modes and creating interventions in language.  In The Pool Exhibition for Goldsmiths MFA, Jin Wook Moon has created a new language using a variety of everyday objects as symbols, like a variation on sign language.  This was presented plastered across the exhibition space walls, in a newspaper and in a translated version of BBC News.  Use of passports as symbols in this language particularly juxtaposes against the background news story about planes or an airport featured on the screen.  This draws up issues of identity and highlights how important common understanding of language is to cohesion, whilst the development of a coded language enables secret transferral of information that may raise suspicion.  He adds another level of critique in that the language is meaningless, questioning whether it is important that we read text where it is used within an artwork.

The Untitled Text by Jin Wook Moon

The Untitled Text by Jin Wook Moon

The Untitled Text by Jin Wook Moon

The Untitled Text by Jin Wook Moon

Meanwhile, included in the Visual Poetry exhibition at Maddox Arts is Glenda León’s Objeto Mágico Encontrado #3 (Magical Found Object #3), where the artist has applied flower petals in a variety of vibrant shades to the keystrokes of a typewriter, whilst in Objeto Mágico Encontrado #4 we see a text potentially produced with this, validating that Objeto Mágico Encontrado #3 produces a flowery dialogue that curator Gabriela Salgado suggests in the exhibition catalogue is symptomatic of a love letter.

Objeto Mágico Encontrado #3 by Glenda León

Objeto Mágico Encontrado #3 by Glenda León

Plastique Fantastique have produced a series of posters in their post-apocalyptic installation, Your Extinction Our Future at IMT Gallery, with the vowels missing, consumed by the alien force of Neuropatheme, which can only exist by the conversion of humans into Phenome-Humans, much like the ‘upgrading’ of humans into Cybermen in Doctor Who.  These question the permanence of humanity and language in an ever-changing world where mass (media) influences can have sweeping effects upon a population.

NFRMTN WNTS T B FR (2013) by Plastique Fantastique

NFRMTN WNTS T B FR (2013) by Plastique Fantastique

This is similar to Georges Perec’s exploratory writing La disparition (1969) in which he works without the letter e, translated into English as A Void (1994) by Gilbert Adair, whilst the vowels are more directly absent in Plastique Fantastique’s work.  The text in this example also refutes there being anything to communicate both in life and art generally.

Meanwhile, at Tate Modern a few works by Ellen Gallagher on exhibition including Greasy (2011) almost recapture some of these vowels.  In these she has obliterated sheets of text from magazines with white paint except the letters e and o, rendering communication pointless or censoring information, whilst highlighting the frequency and shape of these letters.  This brings potential sexual connotations to attention in both shape and sound, whilst this may apply more generally to all the vowels.  In essence this might be viewed as sound art, a score to be performed like the instructions for a Fluxus Happening, whilst looking at León’s work may lead to imagining the noise it makes, a combination of harsh mechanical clunking and the delicate touch of the petals.  Jin Wook Moon has already verbalised his language by reading the names of the objects in english, considerably lengthening text if we view each object as a single letter.  Gallagher’s work also attracts comparison to Perec’s Les revenentes (1972), translated as The Exeter Text (1996) by Ian Monk, in which e is the only vowel used.

In relation to these works it seems relevant to discuss the use of the term character to describe the symbols of language.  Each letter has its own story to tell within a greater narrative, as is particularly the case in Jin Wook Moon’s language.  Each flower on Leon’s work has lived its own life and been lovingly preserved like the Egyptians embalmed their Pharaohs.  Meanwhile Gallager’s characters are not individuals and could therefore represent different species or genders.

Visual Poetry: Intermedia Traditions in Latin America continues at Maddox Arts, 52 Brooks Mews, London W1K 4ED until 21st September.

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Life as a Veneer

4 May

In retrospect, at a selection of exhibitions in London over the winter a number of works emerged which use veneers and discuss thin surfaces.  At the end of 2012 Henrik Schrat exhibited a series of two dimensional works at IMT Gallery made in the marquetry tradition from tessellated pieces of different woods that form scenes for a comic book, probably with reference to Roy Lichtenstein’s paintings of scenes from comic books such as All-American Men of War, but carried out in a totally different manner.  This pair have similarly transformed the disposable paper comic into something more substantial, created for longevity and monumentalising what some may describe as a trivial entertainment media, yet solid wooden board may have a longer life expectancy than a canvas.  Schrat’s Space Odyssee series (2009) makes a number of references to modernist architecture, with Space Vessel resembling Buckminster Fuller’s Geodesic Dome and Falling Water featuring a Frank Lloyd Wright house, whilst documenting the daily life of a Cyloptic science fiction character like a series of snapshot photographs that could be posted on the character’s social networking profile.

Space Vessel (2009) by Henrik Schrat

Space Vessel (2009) by Henrik Schrat

Helen Marten’s exhibition at Chisenhale Gallery included a row of low works, each with a different wooden finished, which resemble temporary covers placed over open man holes in pavement or trailing cables somewhere lots will be required like a temporary concert site.  Titled Falling very down (low pH chemist) (2012) these were ramped on two opposite sides as if to aid wheelchair access these works appear to invite the viewer to walk on them like Carl Andre‘s floors and leave the patina of their movement on the polished surfaces, yet they then had a collection of objects piled on them, like the personal effects upon a series of individuals’ bodies or a collection of detritus disposed of by a being, including a sock and a Starbucks cup of iced coffee, whilst skewed and edited wrappers invite you to consider what you consume.

Falling very down (low pH chemist) (2012)Helen Marten, Plank Salad, exhibition view, Chisenhale Gallery, 2012. Photo: Andy Keate. Commissioned by Chisenhale Gallery.

Falling very down (low pH chemist) (2012)Helen Marten, Plank Salad, exhibition view, Chisenhale Gallery, 2012. Photo: Andy Keate. Commissioned by Chisenhale Gallery.

Art13 Art Fair commissioned Peter Lemmens, also seen on the Dam Gallery stand there, to create a series of essentially plinths, entitled Proxy (2013), which appeared to be covered in a variety of wood and marble laminates as might be used on kitchen worktops and cupboards; practical elements of modernist architectural design, like the structures depicted in Schrat’s work.  Lemmens invites us to look at that which the contemporary art viewer tends to ignore, yet most continue to walk by regardless.  Indeed these innate objects seem to be typified by private view visitors using them to stand empty glasses on.  These works were juxtaposed in odd combinations, clearly defining the apparent pointlessness of the trompe l’oeil pretence of using patterned laminate, making their seemingly basic materials obvious.  However, in fact only part of each work is a trompe l’oeil, a self-adhesive veneer applied to a solid block of an opposing material, for example a block of marble has one or more surfaces covered in a wood effect plastic, confusing the brain as to what material it really is.

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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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The Gallery as a Dance Hall

27 Apr

It has been a while since the last article, however this is due to a lack of cohesion within the contemporary art world recently, but now a clear trend has appeared for visual artists making works that transform the gallery space into a site for dance and performance.  With Arts Council England redistributing funding from its new National Portfolio in favour of dance, and programmes such as Strictly Come Dancing and So You Think You Can Dance? gracing our television screens, it is likely that interest in dance is growing, and hence galleries are making curatorial decisions in favour of this kind of cross-genre art form.

It is not new for artists to engage in set design with a president set by Piet Mondrian, who designed a set for Michel Seuphor‘s L ‘Ephémère est éternel, and Liubov Popova (who was exhibited with Alexander Rodchenko at Tate Modern in 2009).

What is perhaps different is that many of these contemporary artists (and similarly video artists such as Nathaniel Mellors, showing at the ICA) are controlling the whole experience in the fashion of Richard Wagner.  In German there is the word Gesamtkunstwerk that describes this all-encompassing art form.  However it is likely many of these contemporary artists are working on a much smaller budget.

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All That Glitters Isn’t Necessarily Gold

9 Mar

Hew Locke: Starchitect. Image courtesy of the artist, ArtSway and Hales Gallery, London.

Hew Locke‘s exhibition at ArtSway consists of works made of a variety of gold and silver plastic from pound shops, the most striking of which form shields with crossed swords behind, like would belong in a mediaeval castle.  Additionally plastic pearl necklaces have been used to draw royal crests on plain white fabric squares that hang like Royal Standards, which could be attached to trumpets heralding the forthcoming royal wedding.  Locke’s work is contained in a structure something like a bedouin tent constructed inside the gallery from sheets of plywood.  Each of these is pierced by numerous large star shapes through which the gallery lighting plus some additional lights shine through, creating something closer to a planetarium.

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Drawing in space

5 Feb

Bridget Riley‘s Composition with Circles 7 (2010), installed at the National Gallery, London, makes use of circles in a similar manner to Susan Hiller‘s Magic Lantern discussed in my previous article ‘Curated to Confuse?‘.  Riley and her assistants have drawn a series of meticulously accurate, large, monochromatic circles across the entirety of a vast gallery wall.  Like Hiller’s projection, they build up layers, overlapping and forming a series of Venn diagrams.  However, where Hiller explores colour, Riley explores ways of tesselating the circles, creating a vast array of different size and shape sections of overlap and space, whilst maintaining a fairly ordered overall plane.

Adrian Searle furthers the link between the two by saying this work of Riley’s “… seems to envelop you as if one were consumed by bubbles of light.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/video/2010/dec/15/bridget-riley-national-gallery-wall-circles).  However this work feels much more rigid and defined than flowing light.

This is an installation of drawing which looms over the viewer, affecting our perception of space.  It also physically alters the gallery walls in a museum that, due to its collection, usually retains works within a frame.  Hence it is an intervention in the space, much like Doris Salcedo‘s Shibboleth (2007), a crack in the floor of Tate Modern‘s Turbine Hall.

Besides this piece, it is a small exhibition and predominantly represent’s Riley’s current work, not necessarily her most interesting.  On the other hand it is interesting to see how her modern abstract style has been inspired by some more traditional sources.  A couple of Riley’s older Op Art style works are included, and these create the optical illusion of three dimensionality.  The exhibition Common Logic at IMT Gallery, however, exhibits a series of experiments which take drawing literally into three-dimensional space.

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Gauguin, etc.

9 Jan



I finally visited the Gauguin exhibition at Tate Modern this evening after having walked away three times seeing how packed it was in there.  On one day they were open late, it was sold out until 7pm by 3pm.  It’s probably attracting potentially twice as many people as the whole of the rest of the gallery.  There might have been 500 or more visitors merely during this evening.

If you are still planning to go, don’t expect too many major works.  This exhibition is more like a biography than a retrospective, following the life of the man and his travels.  Many of the exhibits are preparatory works, sketches, prints, and further sections looking at publications and photographs which give a background view to Gauguin’s life and subject matters. 

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2011, The Year Ahead

1 Jan

Happy New Year!

At this time of year it seems appropriate to take a look at some highlight exhibitions programmed for the year ahead.

  • Riflemaker kick off 2011 with an exhibition entitled Analog paying homage to all things analogue, particularly featuring Richard Nicholson’s series of photographs of darkrooms at the point of their demise.
  • Daniel Sinsel is not an artist I have come across before but his upcoming exhibition from the end of January at Chisenhale Gallery sounds interesting.  “Sinsel’s small handcrafted paintings and sculptures explore classical themes of space, volume and illusion and combine art historical references with a personal iconography.”
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