Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Joseph Cornell: Wanderlust at the Royal Academy

Cathy Lomax takes her Cornell with a side order of Stezaker and Bracewell.

Still from Angel (Joseph Cornell and  Rudy Burckhardt, 1953)

I find Joseph Cornell’s fan-like obsessions with film and ballet stars and his collecting and ordering of found objects fascinating and inspiring. I haven’t seen much of his work in the flesh, so a retrospective at the Royal Academy was an exciting prospect. Before going in to see the exhibition I listened to an ‘in conversation’ between the writer Michael Bracewell, a Cornell dissenter who finds his work ‘morbid and dotty’ and the artist John Stezaker, a Cornell admirer.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Peter Doig at Palazzetto Tito

Peter Doig's show at Palazzetto Tito is either the best thing at this year's Venice Biennale or it's an irretrievable, living relic.

Rain in the Port of Spain (White Oak), 2015

Peter Doig’s show at Palazzetto Tito is a neat, clean and sublime experience. The work is sparsely hung, a delight to walk around; the paintings vary in scale but not in intensity. Each one functions as a window into a world where dreamscapes are elevated, the painter within his palace embalmed in a vivid palette.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Some Girls

A visual chronicle of Lucian Freud's relationship with Caroline Blackwood (on display at Ordovas) causes Michael Ajerman to recall the ever-true words – it sucks when it's over.

Girl In Bed (1952)

It has been a little more than four years to the day since the passing of Lucian Freud. Articles continue to gossip (how many kids?!) and curators squint and crunch. Refreshingly, Ordovas provides an antidote and presents the highly focused show, Girl. Visually chronicling the relationship between Freud and his second wife, Caroline BlackwoodAs viewers we plunge into their lives and world within the four paintings on display.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Supersymmetry - Illuminating Art in the Digital Age

Sarah Moor visits Ryoji Ikeda's Supersymmetry at Brewer Street Car Park and finds it just a touch overwhelming.

Japanese electronic composer and visual artist Ryoji Ikeda first came onto my radar last summer thanks to Spectra, his light and sound installation which lit up Victoria Tower Gardens in August. Spectra bore some resemblance to the United Visual Artists Barbican exhibition Momentum of the same year, which used pendulums to choreograph light, sound and movement, distorting the visitors' experience of space. Similarly Umbrellium, part of last years Digital Revolution exhibition at the Barbican, allowed participants to shape, manipulate and interact with luminous forms. Preceding the examples above, the 2013 Light Show at the Hayward Gallery showcased the experiential and phenomenal aspects of light like never before, remaining to date one of my favourite exhibitions.

The power of light and sound to create atmosphere and shape spaces is clearly not new – it dates back to the 1960s in fact – however Ikeda brings the immersive, sensory experience to the public in unusual ways.

Spectra, August 4th-11th 2014

Friday, 24 April 2015

The Trouble With Nostalgia: An Account of Two Collections

Alicia Rodriguez scouts two very different manikin-themed museum displays.

Box Back Terrace (unknown artist) England, 1990s

‘Something you can play with/ something you can cuddle/ but nothing that’ll hurt you/ or get you into trouble’ assures the piece of card to which a tiny peg wooden doll is fastened. Placed amongst some hundred antique manikins of varying descriptions as part of Ydessa Hendeles’ From her wooden sleep, these dolls do not recall memories of ‘play’ however, with their slim, hard bodies and fragile wooden points in place of hands and feet. They appear to whisper conspiratorially, uncanny and cruel. 

Completely unintentionally, I see From her wooden sleep fresh from a trip to the current exhibition at the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, Small Stories: at home in a dolls’ house. It is a kind of nightmarish descent.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Salt Licked Gummy Bears

Benjamin Bridges visits Michael O'Reilly's exhibition at Cabin Gallery and imagines what it would be like to be a giant gummy bear.

From left to right: VAMOOSE, TAR and SWASHING FEVER (2014)

On a Saturday when I was a wee lad my parents would take us to the sweet shop behind our house. A wall of little treasures not sold by weight but collected individually in off-white paper bags. I remember looking at their intense hues, thinking these translucent fruits and rubbery eggs could be mine for merely a penny a piece. I would ponder over which ones to get with my allotted 20p fretting as to whether I should invest a quarter of my capital into a big sugary dummy.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Machines to Crystallize Time

In amongst CJ Mahony and Georgie Grace's futuristic sounding installation at Smiths Row, Alicia Rodriguez finds the work is more about capturing the past than the sci-fi future.

A crystal carries the particular essence of a petrified movement, an exquisite object in the course of being formed. The apparent hardness of the stone and the softness of its changeability offer a complex set of properties that can form the basis of a speculative, theoretical study concerning time, space and inter-dimensional travel.

CJ Mahony and Georgie Grace, in a collaborative project drawn from a diverse range of sources and disassembled pieces of previous work, use ideas surrounding the process of crystallization in an attempt to become closer to some kind of real representation of ‘the past’. They exploit the immersive, time-based nature of film and installation to mimic the faceted refractions and subtle manipulations of crystalline forms.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Témoins oculaires: Isabelle Cornaro

Isabelle Cornaro presents a series of film set-like tableaux at Spike Island, but the stages are filled with trinkets and tools rather than thespians.

At Isabelle Cornaro’s exhibition Témoins oculaires (translation: eyewitness) on display at Spike Island I find myself standing in front of a self-contained, miniature film set. Its base is raised above the gallery’s concrete floor and is painted and elegant deep blue to match the back wall of the stage, which, although it stands about 7ft tall, is dwarfed by the warehouse-like ceiling in the Spike Island gallery space (Scenes # 4, 2015).

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Elvis at the O2

From Memphis to Greenwich.

This exhibition of Elvis memorabilia from the Presley family’s Graceland archive is the biggest ever staged in Europe with many of the objects leaving Graceland for the very first time. There is however one very big problem, the O2 is not in Memphis, Tennessee.

Visiting Graceland, the home that Elvis very proudly bought in 1957, is an awe-inspiring experience for any Elvis fan. The house is as it was the day Elvis died in 1978, giving it a uniquely melancholic aura. Its location on the edge of the once prosperous, hard-edged, city of Memphis with its musical history of blues, rock’n’roll and soul infuses the experience with authenticity. The O2 on the other hand is a corporate hulk of a place in southeast London, housing soulless restaurant chains and reunions of past-their-sell-by-date bands. You might think that the ‘give us your money’ aesthetic of the O2 is completely in line with the money making machine that is Elvis Presley Enterprises. Elvis is worth much more dead than he ever was alive and Graceland itself is actually encased in a shopping mall that sells every conceivable shape of Elvis merchandise. But there is a difference. The idea of ‘Elvis’ and his huge appeal to young people was fundamental to the mass commercialisation of pop in the 1950s – the story of Elvis is the story of exploitation. Elvis’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, spotted the financial rewards of merchandise very early on and issued a multitude of licences to allow the use of the Presley name and image. Some of these charm bracelets, lipsticks and bubble gum cards can be seen inside a glass case at the O2.