27 Oct 2011

Abstract paintings of Beatriz Milhazes, Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin..

There is something appealling about the work of Beatriz Milhazes, something on the edage of textile design yet with a traditional collage quality, symetrical shapes and interplay with the surface...last week at Galerie Max Helzler, Berlin

 'Milhazes plays cultural cliché and tropicalist kitsch against the unyielding rationalism of hard lines, surrounding chaos with cool areas of unfettered colour. It’s an approach which lends her paintings a tension and dynamism that steers familiar iconography into less obviously charted territory. Geometric abstraction lurks behind flourishes of an unfettered brightness'  wrote Jennifer Higgie, Frieze Magazine.

'Beatriz Milhazes’ work calls to mind cross-cultural references ranging from local flora, Rio's urban verve or Brazilian Baroque. Equally present are echoes of Henri Matisse's papiers découpés, Bridget Riley's early paintings or Brazilian Modernism established by artists such as Tarsila do Amaral in the late 1920s, which reworked and renewed external stimuli by incorporating them into the context of local history and culture.'

21 Oct 2011

Ann Edholm, 'Where is the sky, where?', new Minimalist paintings, Galerie Nordenhake, Stockholm

Galerie Nordenhake, Stockholm, 'Where is the sky? Where?' Installation view
A new Malevich?...Ann Edholm 'Where is the sky? Where?' Galerie Nordenhake, Stockholm. 'Here are a new body of paintings by recent Carnegie Art Award recipient, Ann Edholm. Working in extended series Edholm stages large, occasionally even monumental, paintings that straddle both geometric abstraction and subtle expressionism. The latter reveals itself in barely perceptible marks made by the brush or, more often, the palette knife, thus destabilizing the seemingly solid compositional patterns of basic geometric shapes.

Ann Edholm, 
'Var är himlen? Var?' Oil and wax on canvas, 200 x 200 cm
With an elaborate network of cultural, religious and symbolic references Edholm meticulously merges classical painting with elemental geometric shapes and slight painterly gestures. The size of the canvases and the relationship between form, scale and colour in the compositions subtly define the meeting between viewer and painting.

Over recent years Edholm’s work has become increasingly autobiographical, tying in her mother’s experience of living through the bombings of Berlin at the end of World War II. The exhibition at Galerie Nordenhake is titled after a line in one of Paul Celan’s Romanian poems, the night before the deportations began. Here Edholm presents a group of paintings of varying sizes and proportions that take on the theme of psychologically and historically loaded site. The paintings are not narrative but deal more with a physical sense of presence in which site can be place, city, or the location of transfer or deportation.'

28 Sep 2011

New paintings, Elizabeth Neel at Pillars Corrias, London

'When I was three years old, a fox raided the chicken coop on my parent’s farm. The site of the massacre was strewn with evidence of its swift violence. One particular bird had only been partially consumed - almost perfectly bisected in such a way that it’s entire reproductive system was revealed. I could see a series of stages beginning with a yolk and ending with a perfect, shelled egg within that body - fixed at the moment of death in pristine order. This visual experience represented a turning point in my relationship to the world. I now see it as my first clear instantiation that life, and nature underneath it, is a baroque, mysterious thing that hangs precariously on a framework of elegant reason.' 
                                                               Elizabeth Neel (Deitch)

Elizabeth Neel, 'Almanac' (2011, detail).
Photograph: Elizabeth Neel/Pilar Corrias Gallery/AP
Some intriguing works are on show at the Pillars Corrias Gallery, by the American artist Elizabeth Nee (and grandaughter of Alice Neel). There is a certain naivety to the paintings that are refreshing, what I mean by this is that there are some classic 'no-no's' from art school being totally ignored here, like using masking tape and to make it look like you are using masking tape. But there are some good exploratory works here that push paint around and produce interesting surfaces and juxtapositions of the picture plain's push and pull. Even though much of them are abstract paintings, there are also some that explore everyday domestic settings. 
Elizabeth Neel, 'The Grounds', 2011, Acrylic on Paper72.4 x 59.7 cm,  (c) Pillars Corrias
In these paintings there is an attempt at gravitas, at suggesting death, to me there remains a nihilistic quality, some of the paintings are based on real life disasters, there are the traces of Romanticism, of Abstract Expressionism and yet the Minimalism of Frank Stella and Ad Reinhardt..Already making a splash in New York, I think we have a future great artist here....

13 Sep 2011

Black paintings, 'Antumbra', Daniel Lergon, Galerie Christian Lethart, Koln, Germany

It's time to 'darken the glim' with the fascinating black paintings of Daniel Lergon, 'Antumbra'  at Gallerie Christian Lethart. These are reminiscent of the classic minimalist paintings of Frank Stella, Ad Reinhardt or Rauschenberg's painterly abstractions some 40 years ago now. However these have a slick contemporary feel to them, especially the yellow green paintings (see below) for more retrospective paintings click on Daniel Lergon link above.

Daniel Lergon 'Antumbra' oil on canvas, 2011
From the press release: 'For this year’s 'DC OPEN', the Galerie Christian Lethert is presenting a fourth solo exhibition of works by Daniel Lergon (born in 1978). Since beginning his studies at the Universität der Künste (UdK) in Berlin with Professor Lothar Baumgarten, in his painting, Daniel Lergon has been dealing with the correlative interplay between light and surface, and the optical effects and perceptions that result from this. Whereas in his early works, Lergon used color pigments within the range of the color spectrum, applying them to all kinds of transparent, reflecting, and absorptive material surfaces, he later also included colors at the very extremes of the spectrum into his work. His intensive study of the colors was thus always tied to the materiality of the painting’s ground and the question regarding this influence this would have on the viewer’s perception.

Since 2007, Lergon has been working without using color pigments directly, painting instead with colorless, clear lacquer on technical grounds. These initially grey, later white, retro reflexive materials behave unusually concerning how they reflect the light. By using them, Lergon creates a painting that dispenses with color pigments, and which essentially comes about in the special reflection of the light upon the varnish and painting’s ground.'

Daniel Lergon, 'cold fire', 2008, Aerea, Stockholm (not in the show)

'Antumbra'. Here, the theme of light has been linked to the notion of shadows. In his new, black works, instead of using bright, light, reflecting materials Lergon paints on a black ground, which, due to its consistency, reflects the light less intensively. The varyingly dense traces of the transparent painting lacquer yield extremely different intensities of darkness. Hence, the title of the exhibition, 'Antumbra' - a technical term that comes from astronomy and geometric optics and describes the area of a shining surface located behind the occluding shadow of an object.'

7 Sep 2011

Robert Rauschenberg, 'Botanical Vaudaville' Inverleith House, Edinburgh

Robert Rauschenberg 'Eco-Echo IV', 1992-3 (detail)
courtesy Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh/Gagosian Gallery.
Robert Rauschenberg is such an accessible and versatile artist, always surprising you with his juxtapositions of materials and ideas, questioning your thinking and approach to art and life. This show at Inverleith House, Edinburgh, is yet another example of quality curating in Scotland, especially after their Joan Mitchell exhibition. How great it would be to see such a show 'South of the Border' especially in London, can't believe it's the first show of his in the UK for 30 years, ho hum...Part of the press release for the show goes like this:  
'The American artist Jasper Johns (b.1935) once said of Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) that he had invented more than any artist since Picasso. Rauschenberg has altered the cultural landscape and continues to exert a profound influence on contemporary artists. Robert Rauschenberg 'Botanical Vaudeville' is the first museum exhibition devoted to the artist to take place in the UK in thirty years – and it features thirty seven works made between 1982 and 1998.
Robert Rauschenberg 'Tropical Mill Glut' 1989.
 courtesy Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh/Gagosian Gallery
During this time, Rauschenberg was exploring the reflective, textural, sculptural and thematic effects of metal, glass and other reflective surfaces in several series of works. All are represented here, and the paintings and sculptures on display vary from the highly polished glamorous metallic works from the 'Shiner' and 'Borealis' series that celebrate energy and motion, to the Kabal American 'Zephyr' and 'Gluts' series which represent Rauschenberg’s; fascination with the discarded object.  He once stated: 'I think painting is more like the real world when it is made out of the real world. These works in particular benefit from being shown in natural light which is such a feature of exhibitions at Inverleith House, revealing their true colour - enhanced by multiple reflections of the viewer and garden which become part of the work.''

There are none of the big works like 'Monogram' (see below) or 'Bed' and the 'Combines', you have to go to Moma for them, however this looks like a an interesting exhibition because they are small, intimate and poetic works, in the way only Rauschenberg can make detritus look poetic..    Click below for that great interview where he discusses buying the goat for the 'Monogram' piece at the Guggenheim show back in the 1990's.

Robert Rauschenberg interview about 'Monogram' Guggenheim retrospective, 1990's

31 Aug 2011

A re-interpretation of Rodin and the figure, Rodin Museum, Paris

I love the Rodin Museum, but I must admit, I have'nt been for years..However, this is the last few days of a very interesting exhibition of works by a variety of artists entitled 'Work in Progress, Rodin and the Ambassadors' this exhibition is until 4th September.

Jean Arp, Marcel Duchamp, Joan Miro, Jean Fautrier, Lucio Fontana, Jean Dubuffet, Alberto Giacometti, Willem De Kooning, Joseph Beuys, Marcel Broodthaers, Eduardo Paolozzi, Anthony Caro, Cy Twombly, Eric Cameron, Richard Serra, Bruce Nauman, Haim Steinbach, Sophie Ristelhueber, Ugo Rondinone, Douglas Gordon, Urs Fischer...

Auguste Rodin, 'Etude de robe de chambre pour Balzac'
© Musée Rodin. Photo: Christian Baraja
'Works in Progress, Rodin and the Ambassadors' examines the way in which Rodin’s work is perceived and strives to show not only how his sculpture developed but also how it was and continues to be reinterpreted. The exhibition compares 100 or so works by Rodin (1840-1917) with about 30 post-1945, modern and contemporary works.'

Joseph Beuys, 'Infiltration homogène pour piano à queue; La Peau'
© Adagp, Paris 2011. Photo: CNAC/MNAM Dist.RMN
'This re-appraisal of Rodin’s work also owes something to art, eg. the production of several artists from the postwar period to the present day. Their preoccupations, not only with material and modelling but also with highlighting fragments or combining different components, have had repercussions on the manner in which Rodin is considered and contemporary art is viewed. From Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) to Urs Fischer (born 1973), each of these artists has become an “ambassador” for a certain way of looking at the world, at art, at present and past works.'...

27 Aug 2011

Mondrian I I Nicholson: In Parrellel, Courtauld Gallery, London

Ben Nicholson, June, 1937

An exciting exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery, London, shall be taking place early next year (from February to May 2012), exploring the relationship between two enigmatic modernist abstract painters of the early 20th Century...

'The story of the creative relationship between the artists Piet Mondrian and Ben Nicholson is largely untold. Yet during the 1930s they were leading forces of avant-garde art in Europe.

This exhibition will be the first to offer a comprehensive account of the parallel artistic paths charted by Mondrian and Nicholson during this remarkable decade. It will bring together an extraordinary group of paintings and reliefs to show how each artist was driven by a profound belief in the potential of abstract art to attain the highest aesthetic and spiritual power.' 

I'll keep you posted of developments...

22 Aug 2011

Exhibition of early abstractions by Kandinsky at Guggenheim Museum, New York

Wassily Kandinsky, ‘Painting with White Border’, May 1913 and ‘Sketch I’ for ‘Painting with White Border' (Moscow) Guggenheim Museum’s conservation lab © 2011 Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

I am not a huge fan of Kandinsky, but I understand his significance as an artist and what he brought to early modernist thinking. This exhibition at the Guggenheim, New York, from 21st October until 15th January 2012 reunites the key early works Kandinsky painted. This particular painting above, entitled 'Painting with White Boarder', was completed nearly 100 years ago. Inspired by a trip the artist took to Moscow at the end of 1912. When he returned to Munich, hanging out with artists who would form 'Der Blaue Reiter' group and where he had been living intermittently since 1896, Kandinsky searched for a way to visually record the “extremely powerful impressions” of his native Russia that lingered in his memory. Over a period of five months, he explored various motifs and compositions in study after study, moving freely between pencil, pen and ink, watercolor, and oil. After he produced at least sixteen studies, Kandinsky finally arrived at the pictorial solution to the painting: the white border.

From the Guggenheim: 'This exhibition, co-organized with the Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., will reunite for the first time the Guggenheim’s final version of the painting from May 1913 with twelve related drawings and watercolors and one major oil sketch and will feature the results of an extensive conservation study of the Guggenheim and Phillips paintings. This study revealed a previously unknown painting beneath the surface of the Phillips’s 'Sketch I' for 'Painting with White Border' (Moscow). A rare glimpse into Kandinsky’s creative process, this presentation reveals the gradual and deliberate way the artist sought to translate his ideas into a bold new language of abstraction.

Tracing Kandinsky’s working method through a roughly chronological display of twelve drawings and watercolors and one major oil sketch related to 'Painting with White Border'. According to a May 1913 essay Kandinsky wrote about the picture, later published in an album entitled Kandinsky 1901–1913 (1913), the artist executed the first oil sketch (owned by the Phillips Collection) “immediately upon my return from Moscow in December 1912.” The orientation of his preliminary studies evolved from a vertical to a horizontal format, and he used pencil, pen and ink, and watercolor throughout the many iterations.

Kandinsky explored key motifs reminiscent of his native Russia, including 'the troika' (a three-horse sled) and 'Saint George'. Ultimately the artist executed more studies than he had for any of his previous paintings before resolving the composition with a soft, undulating white border that he compared to a white wave. In his seminal 1911 treatise ('On the Spiritual in Art: And Painting in Particular'), Kandinsky wrote that the color white expresses a “harmony of silence. . .pregnant with possibilities.”

The conservation study supports interpretations of Kandinsky’s working method. For example, the direct application of the brush to canvas of 'Sketch I' implies a more spontaneous technique as compared to the more methodical treatment of the final work, 'Painting with White Border', in which Kandinsky used a graphite pencil to lay out compositional elements before painting. Studies of microscopic samples of paint from both works show that Kandinsky created his own palette out of combinations of as many as ten different pigments per hue.

The conservation team also discovered a previously unknown painting beneath the surface of 'Sketch I' for 'Painting with White Border' (Moscow). The underpainting, a representational landscape with figures, has been attributed to the German artist Gabriele Münter, Kandinsky’s companion from 1903 to 1916, based on its similarity to Münter’s gouache, Garden Concert on view in this exhibition, and a canvas on the same subject in a private collection. While there are few known instances of Kandinsky painting over an existing canvas and no other known instance of him painting over a work by Münter, limited study has been done of Kandinsky’s canvases to date. Future research and conservation analysis may better clarify the attribution of the underpainting.'

26 Jun 2011

Picasso painting 'Buste de Femme' in Palestine

For the first time a Picasso painting entitled 'Buste de Femme' from 1943 has come to Palestine to be shown at the International Art Academy. It's a cubist deconstruction of a woman's face, dominated in grey. This exhibition was two years in the making and is a very exciting opportunity to build a new cultural international cultural dialogue in the occupied territory of Ramallah in Palestine. The Picasso painting costs £4.5 million and is on loan from the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven. Only three people at a time will be able to see it to ensure the humidity, in the purpose-built viewing room, does not get damaged. 

Van Abbe museum's employees hang Pablo Picasso's "Buste de Femme" on a wall at the International Academy of Art Palestine in Ramallah.
What is also interesting is how Picasso can still stir the waters. Why does a Picasso, who died in 1973, still have such resonance in 2011? Also, perhaps art can play a more central role in difficult world zones where conflict has become the norm and cultural life is in limbo. Could we see other paintings being loaned from other prestigious galleries and what works would they be?..

At a cost of £50,000 in insurance and transport, the project began when Khaled Hourani, the director of the International Art Academy in Ramallah, visited the museum in 2008 and suggested a loan. "This started off as a crazy idea to bring a European masterpiece to a war-zone but I was only half-joking, " he said.

Detail of Picasso's, 'Buste de Femme' (1943) , oil-on-canvas work. Photograph: Peter Cox for the Guardian
From the Guardian Newspaper UK: "I want this to appeal to people like my mother and art students. Picasso remains inspirational because his work is related to war, peace and freedom."

Hourani hopes that 'Buste de Femme' will not be the last masterpiece to be exhibited in the territory. "We want this to become a normality but it is the last time I will do it. It has taken two years to bring one painting but the taboo has been broken and it will be easier for someone else to do it," he said. "The journey here adds meaning to the painting. It highlights issues of the freedom of movement and political agreement."

Read more on Van Abbemuseum here and AL Arabiya News

23 Jun 2011

Kurt Schwitters/MERZ updates, exhibitions and Merzbarn UK

I have always been influenced by the work of Schwitters, since my first few days at art school. In the UK his influence is everywhere, in fact it is hard to 'sweat it out' as Hoffman, once said about Cubism. In British art, it seems a default setting in fine art practice..this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but his influence runs deep. So I thought I'd put a post together of the diverse 'Schwitteresque' goings on out there.

It is the last few days of the 'Kurt Schwitters: Colour and Collage' exhibition at Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey. This is an excellent exhibitions of small scale collage works and a recreation of the Merzbau, see below, runs until 26th June.

Kurt Schwitters, 'The Cherry Picture' 1921, hear an excellent audio guide from MOMA here.
'From now through, 2011, the Princeton University Art Museum this is the first survey of this pioneering artist's work in the United States since his retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1985. The exhibition will provide an unparalleled opportunity to view Schwitters's experiments in depth, including a full-scale reconstruction of his groundbreaking Merzbau, which has never before been seen in this region.'

Born in Hannover, Germany, Schwitters (1887-1948) is one of the most influential artists from the interwar avant-garde. During a period of social and economic turmoil, he developed a unique practice, one that merged art and life, embraced disparate media and utilized found objects and printed materials, most of them the discarded remnants of everyday life. 'Kurt Schwitters: Color and Collage' was organized by the Menil Collection in Houston, see my earlier Schwitters post on this. It's about time, there was show like this in the UK.

A recording of Schwitters performing his phonetic poem (1922-32), will also be highlighted at the exhibition, Ursonate listen to a version by the artists himself here. 
There is a reconstruction of Schwitters's first Merzbau, destroyed by Allied bombs in 1943. In the UK,  there has been an extensive project to restore the Merzbarn, in  Elterwater, near Ambleside, in the Lake District. He was working on this before his death, see it here. Also there is Merzman, this an ongoing series of projects based in the UK that explores the infliuence of Schwitters, and is well worth looking at.

Kurt Schwitters, 'MZ 371' collage, 1922 (C) Menil Collection

Some background on Schwitters: In 1919, Schwitters named this body of work Merz-a neologism derived from the German kommerz (commerce)-which culminated in a series of collages, assemblages, experimental poems, prints and sculptures; the most famous being the Merzbau, a three-dimensional environment the artist began in the 1920s. Schwitters's work bridges some of the period's most important artistic movements, including Expressionism, Dada, Constructivism and Abstraction. Schwitters exerted a profound influence on artistic developments after World War II; Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, among others, considered him a source of inspiration, and contemporary installation art is inconceivable without the Merzbau. Schwitters was trained as a painter, and despite his experiments with other media, he never ceased painting. Indeed, painting informs almost all of his work, as witnessed by the passages of gouache, chalk, oils, paste and watercolor in his collages and assemblages-additions that transform the materials they cover. 

Merzbau Reconstruction, see Tate Research Papers here.

17 Jun 2011

'Cy Twombly & Nicholas Poussin: Arcadian Painters', Dulwich Picture Gallery, London

This is a great opportunity to consider the work of Cy Twombly with one of his hero's Poussin at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in South London from 29th June until 25th September.

Cy Twombly, 'Hero and Leander' (To Christopher Marlowe) Rome , 1985
This is a fascinating insight into the different approaches both artists have to their work with  over two centuries dividing them. Both artists have explored a sensibility to their work that retains a romanticism, mystic and enigmatic quality through the use of materials and paint.

'I would've liked to have been Poussin, if I'd had a choice, in another time.' Cy Twombly

Nicolas Poussin, 'Rinaldo and Armida', oil on canvas, c.1760
This exhibition will look at these two figures side by side for the first time, though they are separated by three centuries, the two artists nonetheless share remarkable similarities. The connections are highlighted through the key themes of Arcadia and the pastoral, Venus and Eros, anxiety and theatricality and mythological figures that are central to both artists' work.

As part of the exhibition, the Gallery is also extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to display Poussin's 'Sacrements' painted between 1637 and 1642 for his Roman friend and patron Cassiano dal Pozzo. As a set, Poussins 'Sacrements' represent a high point in Western European art.

A Conversation with Sir Nicholas Serota, July 19th 6-9PM
Sir Nicholas Serota, Director of Tate, talks to Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Curator of International Modern Art at Tate Modern and of the exhibition Twombly and Poussin 'Arcadian Painters' about his long involvement curating Cy Twombly’s work and the exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery.

Eva Rothschild at The Hepworth, Yorkshire

This is a powerful exhibition of an artist at the top of her game, Eva Rothschil, creates enigmatic three dimensional abstractions and is the first artist to be shown at the UK's new premier artspace in Yorkshire, The Hepworth... Celebrating the legacy of sculptor Barbara Hepworth.

Eva Rothschild, (c) The Hepworth, Wakefield
 ' 'Hot Touch' is a group of new and recent sculptures and photographs by Eva Rothschild. Her sculptures are made from a range of materials including fabric, leather and wood, bringing together the hand-made and the industrially produced. The works often combine the forms and strategies of modernist art; squares, triangles, holes and repetition, with an array of visual associations and symbols, such as totemic columns of piled heads and draped snakes.

This exploration of the power and meaning of objects produces an encounter between the minimal and the magical. Leaning against walls, suspended in mid-air, or balancing impossibly, Rothschild’s sculptures have an ambiguous and powerful presence, exploring universally recognised forms and symbols.'

The Hepworth, Wakefield, Yorkshire, England
The exhibition is accompanied by a new publication with an essay by Prof. Anne Wagner, author 'Mother Stone: The vitality of modern British Sculpture' (Yale University Press, 2005).

10 Jun 2011

Egon Schiele: 'Women' unseen paintings and drawings at Richard Nagy, London

Egon Schiele, painting on paper, gouache. c.1910. Richard Nagy Ltd.
Another powerful exhibition, not seen in London for some time, is currently on show at the Richard Nagy Gallery. Check out Jonathan Jones's article in the Guardian here, there are also more slides of the works on show. The work continues until 30th July.

For many, Schiele is still a controversial painter and his lifestyle still provocative. In my view, there are few painters from the twentieth century that are not controversial, from Schiele's contemporary Kilmt, to Picasso. Jonathan, states in his article: 

'There is a definite sense of discovering secrets, trespassing on hidden private lives, at the Schiele show,...The exhibition collects nearly 50 masterpieces – fragile works on paper – that dealer Richard Nagy has sold throughout his career and has borrowed back from private collectors to mount one of the most spectacular Schiele shows ever seen in the UK.'

This exhibition exhibits drawings on paper in watercolour and gouache. He creates poses that are intimate and yet for public consumption, many of these poses reflect the wider feelings explored by German Expressionism and New Objectivity movements across Germany and Europe in the 1920's and 30's. In my ways he predicted the voyeuristic desire that is so prevalent in society since WWI. He died at 28 of influenza in 1918. There are some self-portraits in the exhibition, including the infamous 'Eros'...
Egon Schiele, Reclining Female Nude with Violet Stockings, 1910. Gouache, watercolour and black crayon on paper, 31.6 x 44.9 cm (12 ½ x 17 5/8 in). Private Collection, Courtesy of Richard Nagy Ltd, London.

4 Jun 2011

Picasso, Miro, Dali-Angry Young Men: The Birth of Modernity

This is a fascinating exhibition on the relationships between the Picasso, Dali and Miro, currently exhibited at the Foundation Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, Italy until 17th July. This exhibition documents the influences each artist had on each other, the wider painting scene in Spain, and in turn, the legacy they left on the culture of the early Twentieth Century and the development of modernism. What is also interesting about this exhibition is how the strong political convictions are explored especially with regard to the early Picasso and Miro pieces, many not exhibited before. there is also some strong abstract, semi-abstract works by both artists. There is a walk through each room here. The show is curated by Eugenio Carmona, Christoph Vitali.

Pablo Picasso 'Harlequin and his Girlfriend' 1901, Pushkin Museum
'The exhibition is dedicated to the early work of Picasso, Miró and Dalí, which played a decisive role in the beginning of modern art in Spain. The exhibition concentrates on Picasso's pre-cubist period 1900 - 1905, whilst Juan Miró's works of 1915-1920 are presented along with Salvador Dali's from 1920-1925, both artists painting in the period before the discovery of surrealism. Each artist will be represented by 25 - 30 masterpieces selected to show aspects of the three artists in their earliest periods, works that are rarely shown in mainstream catalogues and exhibitions. For instance, Picasso's early work was often coloured by his strong political convictions.

Joan Miro 'Poem Painting' c.1925
In Madrid in 1901, Picasso and his anarchist friend Francisco de Asís Soler founded the magazine Arte Joven (Young Art), which published five issues. Picasso illustrated the journal, mostly contributing grim cartoons depicting and sympathizing with the state of the poor. Miró too understood art as political, and Miró's oft-quoted assassination of painting is derived from a dislike of bourgeois art of any kind, especially when used as a way to promote cultural identity among the wealthy. Specifically, Miró saw Cubism in this way, and he is quoted as saying I will break their guitars, referring to Picasso and Braque's early Cubist paintings. Much younger than Picasso and Miró, Dalí was expelled from the Academia in 1926 shortly before his final exams when he stated that no one on the faculty was competent enough to examine him. His mastery of painting skills is well documented in his early works, such as the flawlessly realistic Girl at the window, which was painted in 1926. That same year he made his first visit to Paris where he met with Pablo Picasso, whom young Dalí revered - Picasso had already heard favourable things about Dalí from Joan Miró.'

1 Jun 2011

'Zig Zag: Deliberations on construction, sequence and colour' @ Charlie Dutton Gallery, London


This is an innovative and diverse exhibition of new developments in abstraction. The exhibition which is opening this week at Charlie Dutton Gallery (Holborn Tube) Princeton Street, London from this Friday (Private View) 9th June-2nd July, 2011.

These artists have developed an understanding for the possibility of an ‘internal logic’ in their work; an idea which artists such as Mary and Kenneth Martin talked about in their teaching in the 1950s, as well as explore ideas of ‘colour interaction’ and ‘colour juxtaposition’. 

Isha Bohling

'In her essay, ‘The Writings of Mary Martin’ 1990, Hilary Lane discusses Mary Martin’s idea that all ‘words’ or information needed to describe the artworks should be embedded in the work itself; that written language cannot always express or explain the processes and decisions made during their construction. Mary Martin wanted the story of how her work was made to be clear to the person when looking at it. And although proportion, rhythm and measurement were key she wanted to emphasise the unexpected and a need to remain inventive. Of the process of construction itself Martin wrote that it is: ‘a thinking making process, not necessarily in three dimensions. Internal logic is the key. The success of such a process is wholly dependent on a right choice of symbols. The choice is based on intuition and experience.’

Jost Munster, similar works in 'Zig Zag'
The work in this show examines how artists are still discovering new visual ideas, through the complex and technically challenging process of applying paint and other materials onto a ‘blank canvas’. It is hoped that through the process of contrasting and comparing an opportunity is provided for debate and discussion with regard to visual language: a small critical forum for artists and audience to consider these works and the concepts, methods or systems behind their construction.'

Otto Dix at the Institute of Foreign Affairs Gallery, Berlin

There is an interesting exhibition of the works of Otto Dix, the fascinating German artist who worked in both Expressionism and Dada at the Institute of Foreign Affairs Gallery in Berlin, Germany. The exhibition Otto Dix : Social Criticism Prints 1920-1924, 'Der Kreig (war) Etching Set 1924 runs until 7th August.

Otto Dix, etching, circa 1920
'With more than 600 drawings from the years 1914 to 1918 were done at various theatre's of war in Belgium, France and Russia, in the course of his military service. These protocols of war, created on the spot and of high artistic value, together with his own memories of the horrors of World War I, also formed the basis of a later grandiose serial work entitled "The War", published in 1924 by Karl Nierendorf in Berlin.

The cycle, consisting of fifty separate drawings and often compared to Goya's 'Desastres de la Guerra', (Disasters of War) does not only give an authentic and horrifying portrayal of the terrible trench fighting that took place in the great battles of this first world war-it also unmasks the 'moloch' of war for what it truly is. This series of etchings, which ranks particularly highly among the main works of Dix's oeuvre, forms the center of attention of this exhibition. 

Otto Dix, etching, c.1920
Dix never imagined that he could change people, i.e. humanity as such, by means of his works. But for these works, paintings and prints against war, he drew the rage and the hate, up to and including defamation, of the Nazi regime, which, after coming to power in 1933, removed him from his chair, as one of the first Academy professors to suffer this, and forbade him to exhibit.

The truth was important for Dix, also in his focus upon marginalized social groups of the postwar era, such as war veterans who had lost limbs, etc. and prostitutes; the collection included in this exhibition shows characteristic examples of such unfortunates. This inexorable drive to show the truth was already a source of agitation and protest among his contemporaries before the Nazis were in power. 

'I will either be famous or infamous', he once said as a young man. He has become both.'

Abstraction: Thomas Muller @ Fruehsorge|contemporary drawings, Berlin

Thomas Müller, 'Untitled' 2010, pencil chalk and ink on handmade paper, 160 x 115 cm
It's the last couple of days of Thomas Müller at Fruehsorge | contemporary drawings, Heidestrasse, Berlin, next to the contemporary art museum Hamburger Bahnhof.  This exhibition will run until 3rd June 2011. 

Muller is an artist who works in abstraction and only uses the medium of drawing, and I can't think of a better place for an exhibition than the Fruehsorge. He has shown at the New York Drawing Centre and in the exhibition “Linea, Linie, Line” at the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations extensive drawing overview in Bonn. His work is also present among numerous German and international collections such as Kunsthalle Hamburg, Pinakothek der Moderne München, the Kupferstichkabinett Berlin and the Centre Pompidou in Paris, France. In 2010 Müller was nominated for the Fondation Guerlain’s renowned “Prix de dessin contemporain”.

Müller's work explores 'the substance and nature of drawing and the drawing process itself, which materializes as a stroke or trace on the page and means the line doesn’t depict nor describe but becomes the subject matter itself.' What is also interesting is the use of such diverse materials such as chalk, ink, oils, acrylics, ballpoint pen, colour and led pencil and yet he retains a coolness to the final image in that he doesn't make that use of the materials the main thing about it. He explored the space of the picture plain with minimal markings in a rythmn of interwoven grids and wave-like structures, that have a zen like quality. Gorgeous..