Rodchenko and His Circle – Constructing the Future Through Photography, Art: Sensus, London


Curated by John Milner

I’ ve been interested by the Russian Constructivist painter, graphic designer and photographer, Aleksander Rodchenko. The exhibition I had in mind to view was Art: Sensus, London, and even if I had a hard time in finding this gallery, it was worth viewing it.

This large and fascinating exhibition of black-and-white vintage prints in London, many acquired from the families of the photographers, and therefore unseen in public before, explores that aspirational afterlife of Rodchenko and other like-minded Soviet photographers.

The whole exhibition seemed like a maze, where he want to lead the viewer, like a chronological path of photographs. The images were hanging along the whole perimeter of the art pace. They were disposed on the walls making the viewer walk in a circle, to end where the starting point was. The display is highly successful, because without imposing, the viewer is still following the artist’s choice of how to read the artworks.

The peculiar way of arranging the photographs wasn’t the only catchy characteristic of Rodchenko’s exhibition. Mixing photographs, text and quotes, directly on the wall and ceiling, in my opinion, created an even stronger atmosphere.

The actual photograph occupies a small portion in the black thin frame, leaving a large section of white space all around it. I believe this emphasizes the subjects and composition even more, because as I did, the viewer has to go closes to catch all the details.

“It is time for art to merge with life in an organized chaos”

“Art is one of the branches of mathematics, like every other science”

“A constructive life is the art of the future”

“Remarks of colour” Julião Sarmento – Pilar Corriar Gallery

Through the development of paintings, architecture, their fusion, and colours, Julião Sarmento evolves his unique practice. The artist, taking inspiration from Ludwig Wittengstein’s philosophical notes, expands the study of the perception of colours naming the exhibition “Remarks of colour”. Sarmento is considered one of the most important artists of his generation and he has been exhibiting since 1974. However Pilar Corriar in London had the pleasure to launch his new work in his first solo exhibition with the gallery. Pilar Corriar, located in Eastcastle Street near the popular Oxford Circus area, displays the exhibition from the 15th of February to the 19th of March with free admission.

In this exhibition Sarmento focuses on the origin of the colour itself and our sensory perception of it. He created four canvases of approximately 2 metres by 2 metres combining polyvinyl, acetate, pigments, acrylic gesso, ink, inkjet print, tape, collage on paper, photocopy, graphite and finally silkscreen print on unprinted cotton canvas.

The artist implements the canvases with multiple layers of the three primaries red, blue and yellow and with silkscreen photographic images. The collage adds contradicting meaning, emphasizing the empty white impasto surface and yet charging it with higher power. In addition, the white space, which occupies the major part of the canvases, was studied to optically expand and contract at the same time. Sarmento establishes a net of connections between each work that goes beyond medium’s boundaries floating without a logic grid. However what links the pieces are the recurring motifs are hand gestures either in photographs or drawn, body parts and architectural structures.

Once the viewer enters the gallery space, he/she suddenly notices the constructed, artificial and controlled montage of elements, which have no coherent or linear narrative that the viewer could follow. Therefore the space embraces the spectator to flow through the canvases trying to formulate a subjective story out of the diverse mediums. What the artist wants to reach is a sense of confusion where the viewer is left in a limbo-like psychological state neither in connection nor attached to the works.

To focus more on the sense of disorientation Sarmento includes a new sculptural piece “White Exit”, made of painted steel, bronze, stainless steel, wood and glass. Here, he represents a real size sculpture of a female figure in the last moment of exiting a room through a door, leaving a glass of milk on a tray on the floor behind her. The entire scenario is white, the glass, the door, the walls and the heel, which is the only visible part of the woman’s body.

The viewer is thrown into an indeterminate domestic interior, observing the protagonist of the action exiting the scene. The spectator is left with the curiosity to see her face, to know where she is going and what is behind the door. By allowing the subject of the work to be absent, Sarmento emphasizes the importance of the negative space. This concept refers to what is not part of the scene but surrounds the viewer. He emphasizes the significance of the space and elements outside the frame transforming them into active components.

The two parts of the exhibitions are highly related by their absence in the effective scene or canvas. The confusion given by the sculpture leaving its own scene and the emptiness of the paintings confer a dynamic significance to the environment. The space surrounding the viewer becomes an active component related to each piece, in which the frame is not locking the work, but is extending it. The exhibition could be mainly addressed to an audience interested in illustrations, graphic design, collage, sculpture, visual art, photography and innovative painting as well as fascinating colours.

Pilar Corriar’s space is divided into three sections. The first is the entrance corridor, in front of the wide window that faces the street. Here the viewer sees one canvas as if the artist wanted to introduce his artwork gradually. The major four canvases are exposed in the main gallery on wide white walls. Each canvas has the space to be observed in its integrity allowing the white component outside the frame to be a continuation of the piece. Moreover this effect is implemented by the display of the paintings; in fact they have no physical frame or glass separating the viewer from the art, there is no creation of barriers. The final part is the alcove occupied by the sculpture, where the small space creates a sense of intrusion into someone’s house whilst watching the subjects leave. The room, in which the sculpture in positioned, is perfectly fitted to the piece of art, making impossible for the spectator to walk around it or to try and look behind the door, hence creating a more active surrounding.

The exhibition expresses the sense of space and confusion, successfully directing the attention onto colors and materials. Sarmento designed the display in a way that every piece has the right importance and allows the viewer to notice each technique and medium he used. What I expected was to view more paintings instead of just four, but most probably that was the most appropriate choice because of the limited amount of space.

British Art Show 7 – Hayward Gallery

My first thought?!? Impressive.. huge and organized..

The British Art Show is the most influential and ambitious exhibition of contemporary British Art, organized by Hayward Touring every five years. The British Art Show 7 included the work of 39 artists that highly contributed to the contemporary art scene since 2005. All the art pieces have a specific narrative and highly relate to society’s issues. When I was going through the exhibition I felt lost in the variety and multitude of pieces.

I was attracted by Wolfgang Tillman’s projects, Truth Study Centre, a display of mixed media, wood and glass… that to me it seemed a collage of hypocritical events happened in the last years. He created this piece just for this exhibition, a table op installation displaying a collection of newspaper and magazine cuttings, pamphlets and advertisements. This in fact is an exhibition of scrapbooks of printed sections that he collection since childhood. The materials regard current issues that are related to him personally. What I perceived of his work is his intention to express truth and perception. I have always been fascinated by the artist’s way of displaying his pieces, highly controlled and built up. His other piece, which didn’t really impress me, is titled Freischwimmer 155, where he subjected photographic paper to various forms of light and exposures. Here he detached from his constant challenge ofphotographic conventions.

Truth Study Center

Maaike Schoorel, exhibiting next to him, displayed 6 paintings, which I found very interesting because at a first sight the figures are not revealing but once I focused they appear. These paintings seem abstract, white on white canvasses but as I said looking carefully the images emerge. I believe that looking at them from far helps to distinguish the figures more clearly; the eye has to adapt. The concept behind is about how people’s memory is very fragile in fixing other people faces or images in the mind. Some appear to our memory exactly as these paintings, light, blurry and indefinite shapes. Moreover all the portraits reference previous paintings and poses from historical art.

The piece that literally bothered me, the one where I felt wanting to stop viewing it is Nathaniel Mellors’. He exposed a new film and a sculptural installation in the same room for the BAS7. This video represents an odd, wealthy and bohemian family that consider a man living I their same house as “the Object” eating pieces of books during the night. Watching the film the “daddy” who is the main character plays different roles representing different personalities, white the rest of the family don’t change. The film is characterized by random and non-logical actions mixed with bits of “wise” words by the father. The one that impressed me was “Books are experiences prostituted” which I find quite expressive and true, if considering that books are just exposition of facts already existing in the world.

The daddy show

Nathaniel Mellors - "The Object (Ourhouse)"

I left the dark room where Mellors presented his pieces, and the bench that was in the middle of the space wasn’t empty anymore. A naked young man was sitting on it staring at a fire lighted from below the same bench. The artist displaying this project, Roger Hiorns, analyzes metaphysical mutations of ideas, actions and materials mostly involving surprise and risk factors. The artist allows the naked figure to interact with the piece at certain times and for a specific amount of time. The presence of the man “activates” the flames, which turns of once the young man leaves.

Roger Hiorns's "Untitled," 2005-2010

Roger Hiorns's "Untitled," 2005-2010

On a different floor, the upper one, I was suddenly attracted by the installation in the middle of the room. This piece “Nudes” is composed by the artist Sarah Lucas, she analyzes the human body and the way in which sexual identity is referenced in everyday objects. At first I thought they were some sorts of intestine parts, curling on plinth. Pairs on nylon tights stuffed with white wool creating biomorphic forms compose this series. The series evokes knots, nodes and nudes however they don’t have a set meaning.

Sarah Lucas - "Nudes" 2009-10

Sarah Lucas - "Nudes" 2009-10

I was surprised to see that I knew some of the pieces from previeus exhibitions I viewed such as Christian Marclay‘s video “The Clock” and Haroon Mirza‘s audio-visual instrallations “Regaining a Degree of Control”.

Christian Marclay - “The Clock”

Haroon Mirza - “Regaining a Degree of Control”

Finally the piece that attracted me the most is “An Exhibition for Modern Living” by Matthew Darbyshire. This is a display of contemporary pick’n’mix kitsch, showcasing the “modern taste”. He explores the mass availability of design classics and focuses on today’s design and look in relation to economy, where shopping become a whole retail experience rather then just buying things. The artist investigates the conventions of display in commerce, property development and the leisure shepre.

Matthew Darbyshire - "An Exhibition for Modern Living," 2010

Inside the White Cube – The ideology of the Galley Space

by Brian O’Doherty

1. In his description of the white cube, O’Doherty observes that ‘the outside world must not come in’ (p15). Explain why this might be the case.

The gallery is described as a “lightened cell” that gives the possibility to the piece to be properly exhibited, creating some soft of “an in between world”. This space is considered crucial for a right presentation, which is interprets by the viewers according to their own experiences. In this article the space is about rules having sealed windows, white walls, lightened ceiling and wood or carpeted floor. When a piece of art is in an empty space there is nothing that would catch the attention; therefore the space gives the possibility to the object to “express” itself and allow “art to be free to take on its own life” (p. 15). However once an external presence is included in the pure space the dynamic of laws breaks, as if an intruder is damaging the connection between the artwork and the space. As the author said, the eyes and mind could have access while “space-occupying bodies” don’t belong to the place hence are superfluous. Their relation is vital; they complement each other, one being the frame of the other. I believe that the gallery space gives timeless meaning to the piece. Here an artificial and planned space is linked to the piece creating that same space through it for the audience. The audience, in a different world, adds meaning without any superfluous and external element that contaminates the experience of art.

In opposition with Gordon MattaClark, whom had to organize a gallery in a space that was connected to a real estate project. Which meant to use art to advertise a private property, so the artist decided to shoot at the windows on the building, as the piece of art. In this particular case Matta-Clark, brought the outside world in the gallery contradicting the “specialness” of art that Brian O’Doherty claims.

Gordon Matta-ClarkWindow Blowout 1976

2. In his discussion of the shift that photography brought to an understanding of the exhibition space O’Doherty states. ‘The edge as a firm convention locking in the subject had become fragile’ (p20). What does he mean?

The steps that led to photography start from mural directly painted on the walls to paintings hanging on it and to easel pictures. This passage establishes and frames limits however, having a “piece of portable wall” increase the illusion of a deeper space. Moreover directs the viewer to the position where the piece should be looked at. The frame, which assigns a grid, guides the viewer through the picture. Photography is the new method where the subject is exported from his original context transforming the surrounding. Therefore since framing means to select a certain section from the whole and exclude the rest makes the space around not take into consideration. The position of the edge in photography is essential because it composes the whole meaning of the picture. Part of the photograph is about limits given by framing, editing and cropping. During the 19th century, photography revisited the concept of edge allowing the subject to compose itself, not focusing on the edges but on the subject. While the 20th century was characterized by the study of the limits in order to be able to extend them. The main difference between the centuries is about the sense of edge and depth and of the limits and definitions. Photography evolved by moving away from strict frames to being mount on bards. This passage meant the transition to a less rigid concept of limits considering it more flexible and less absolutist. The subject of the image switched from being stuck in grids and conventions of the edges to having more “freedom” and meanings where the audience could add more interpretation. An example of an artist that, in his paintings, hardly includes edges and framing is Mark Rothko. His large pieces are self-sufficient, where the centre and the edges complement each other instead of being in opposition. Moreover he creates a perfect combination between lateral extension and containment, between the actual piece and the surrounding and between vertical and horizontal lines. The paintings follow the geometrical structure of the surrounding becoming part of the world.

3. O’Doherty suggests that Courbet’s one-man Salon des Refusees outside the Exposition of 1855 was the first time a modern artist had to ‘construct the context of his work’ (p24). Explain the meaning of this phrase and its significance.

When O’ Doherty affirms that “it was the first time a modern artist had to construct the context of his work”. Referring to Coubert’s one-man Salon des Refusés in the Exposition of 1855he means that the artist himself designed the exhibition conferring an additional force. Organizing the surrounding of the work means to design where the pictures are displayed, hung, in which sequence, their relationship between each other, the disposition on the walls or lighting system. According to Coubert, creating the context, the design and the environment where the pieces are exhibited adds more of the artist therefore meaning. The disposition, arranged according to the taste, fashion and cultural background of the artist, influences the viewer’s experience. Therefore it is possible to link the internal value of a painting with the external exposition of it.

4. How well does O’Doherty’s account of the modernist space relate to your own experience of exhibition spaces? Provide examples of exhibitions you have seen or curatorial decisions you have made to illustrate your point.

Modernist concept of space is about the art piece being in deep relation with the gallery space. Is this space that makes the piece express its art values. Once objects occupy different display or disposition their whole message changes because of the viewer’s different interpretation. What modern artists want to achieve is the creation of a “raw” piece in order to move the attention on its environment. Flexing the passive space, which is out of the frame, into active. This becomes the most important element, which mutates according to the position of the artwork. The viewer has the freedom to move through it becoming part of the work. One among the many exhibitions, in my opinion, Surface/Tension by Kitty Kraus Dan Shaw-Town and Gedi Sibony and Haroon Mirza’s galleries have a deep sense of space. Both in the Lisson Gallery have an accurate and controlled space organization. Their intention is to emphasize one the raw material and the other sound and technology, by having an empty space where the viewer can walk thought and interact with the pieces. Once the artwork is analyzed, the audience is “forced” to interact with the space.

Surface/Tension

by Kitty Kraus Dan Shaw-Town and Gedi Sibony

Haroon Mirza

His audio-visual installations are assembled out od domaestic furniture, electronics equipment and lights.

Elliott Erwitt

On the 21 of February I went to attend Elliott Erwitt’s talk at Chochque Theatre, and I loved it.. I found it extremely interesting. Listening to a world wide famous Magnum photographer was very revealing… he was so spontaneous and humble. His answers were sincere and ironic.

From 1946 he took pictures of door, all over the world, saying to have particular interest in French dogs because they are “more intellectual”.

The entire talk was highly humoristic in fact when the one that interviewed him asked why dogs he simply answered: “ I like them, I had one but mainly they are everywhere, they don’t mind being photographed and you don’t have to worry about being sued”

Bulldogs, New York City, 1988

New York City, 1946

He took pictures to sea places mainly beach scenarios of Brighton, Brazil, Uruguay, Japan, Tahiti and Ireland. All the pictures are in black and white and have random subjects.

Her took self-portrait pictures as well saying, “ when there is nothing else to take pictures of”

“ I take picture at whatever interests me… using all my equipments…”

Marilyn Monroe, New York City, 1956

Grace Kelly

“The decisive moment” is what the photographer is known for and what his pictures are all about. Capturing “that” moment, the one that makes the image work perfectly.

Springer, Paris, 1989

He was there as well when decisive politic events were happening. In his pictures he freezes the focal moment in history that most of the times happens to be very intimate as well.

“… there are good and bed experiences that photographers are supposed to have …”

Che Guevara in Cuba, 1964

Khrushchev and Nixon in Moscow, 1959

Jacqueline Kennedy Arlington 1963.

He unplans the narrative capturing the particular moment when the situation happens, where mostly represents funny pictures.

USA. New York. Dance School. 1977

USA, 1962

Couple Kissing - Santa Monica, California 1955.

“… first it has to be good picture, then it can be anything else.”

All his pictures are amazingly ingenuous and genuinely ironic, that’s what makes them great.

“Either get married or reimbursed”

Russia, Siberia, Bratsk, 1967

“… finding something amazing without setups is great!”

He went through problematics like injustice, sexual discrimination and ratial discrimination.

North Carolina, 1950

USA. Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh. 1950

He talked also about his movie director carrier, where he took still from, which were mainly from nude scene.

Bakersfield, California, 1983

He started using colors in 2009 where he started working for Andrè S. Solidor, in the magazine titled “Hollywood”.

André S. Solidor

Camden arts centre – Never The Same River (Possible Futures, Probable Past)

Simon Starling, a British artist, engaged in a cross profile through history for the exhibition in Camden arts centre, named Never The Same River. This is composed by pieces of 30 artists and designers that were already in space and exposed. His intention is to show the temporal difference “revisiting the rich history of the Centre by showing fragments of exhibitions from the past 50 years”. Every work has different meaning because they are exposed in a completely different time, however everyone is sighted exactly as it was in the previous exhibition.

Simultaneity, that is the striking point. He combines works from different times in the same space changing their connotation.

Erno Goldfinger - Chair, 1974.

William Morris / Liberty & Co – High Backed Chair in the Egyptian Style,1884.

Keith Coventry - Burgess Park, SE5, bronze, 1983.

Isokon / Marcel Breuer - Nesting Tables, Hat Box, Long Chair, 1936/37.

The artist puts the time apart reinstalling according to space. The exposition doesn’t have a liner time concept, as a matter of fact the viewer doesn’t really know where the exhibition begins: fictional spaces.

Mike Nelson - Trash Bin

The piece is “comprising a corridor, a workshop, a chicken coop and a list of assorted items of junk too long to go into. Crackling with static from a recessed portable radio, this piece is very much alive in the present.”

 

Robert Mapplethorpe

Alison Jacques Gallery

Curated by the Scissor Sisters, expect plenty of beauty and eroticism in this latest dedication to the iconic photographer.

Exhibition at Alison Jacques Gallery

Robert Mapplethorpe - Mirror, c. 1971

Robert Mapplethorpe - Star (Gold), 1983

Tom Burr - Black Folding Screen, (or, Blue Movie, 1969, aka Fuck), 2010

Robert Mapplethorpe - Amaryllis, 1985