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Tag Archives: Whitechapel Gallery

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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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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Constructing Photography Now

14 Feb

Chu YinHua‘s slides on exhibition at The Mews Project Space provide an interesting critique of the built environment and the way the artist feels nomadic, without a home base, which is perhaps in essence critical of a negative impact upon artists caused by immigration laws.  Presented on a small-scale in a row of slide viewers, it is difficult to gage reality.  We see out of windows from a series of rooms with a very retro style of wallpaper, 1950s perhaps.

It is only by creating a miniature room which she can carry around with her, that Chu is able to feel at home anywhere.  In essence this is alike the boxes Georgian servants had as their only private space (mentioned by Amanda Vickers in BBC series At Home with the Georgians).

Whilst the rooms in Chu’s work are miniature, the views are real and include Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square and locations around South London in which Chu feels she would be happy to live.  They too are mediated however, through being images on a laptop screen behind the model, some at least extracted from Google Street View.  Such mediation allows us to now digitally travel to anywhere of our choosing simply at the click of a mouse.  Hence Chu chooses to make her home a virtual place.  She could have a party on social networking and chat room websites and even offer someone a slice of cake and a cup of tea.  The freedoms of consuming digital travel, however, might be said to lead us to exist in a box and never leave it.  Well, we can work from home, order in groceries and takeaway, or even go for a stroll around one of the world’s major art museums with the latest Google project.

Pair IV (2007) by John Stezaker, Collage, Private Collection, © The Artist

Nearby at the Whitechapel Gallery a retrospective of John Stezaker‘s work demonstrates a similar yet different kind of photographic construction.  Where Chu constructs the subject scene of her images, Stezaker constructs his images by physically collaging prints of found images, film stills and landscape postcards to create humourous and provocative works.

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