Posts Tagged ‘British contemporary art

01
Nov
16

Exhibition: ‘London Calling: Bacon, Freud, Kossoff, Andrews, Auerbach, and Kitaj’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Centre, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 26th July – 13th November 2016

Curators: Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum; Julian Brooks, curator of Drawings at the Getty Museum; and Elena Crippa , curator, Modern and Contemporary British Art at Tate.

 

 

While there are a selection of non-figurative paintings in this exhibition, I decided to focus this posting on the figurative work. It seemed a logical and strong thematic choice.

I love these British artists. They get to the essence of contemporary life and portray it in an embodied, emboldened way. As curator Julian Brooks observes, “By pursuing painting as an activity that records and revitalizes an intense sensory experience, these artists rendered the frailty and vitality of the human condition, translating life into art and reinventing the way in which their surroundings could be represented.”

For me, the fluidity and gravitas of the Bacon drawings are a standout, as are the distended faces of the early Freud paintings. It’s almost as if the artist had a fish eye lens to observe his sitters; apparently his approach to them at this time had distinct psychological and spatial aspects, as most of the work in this exhibition does. “The artist admits his early portraits emerged from his ‘visual aggression’ with sitters. He claimed, ‘I would sit very close and stare. It could be uncomfortable for both of us’.” Photography and film have a distinctive influence upon these artists.

Nearly all of the works radiate an evocative psychological intensity. These are feelings about life and the world that come from deep within and… erupt and explode into life. Whether controlled realism (Freud) or molten accretions (Auerbach) these essential works challenge how we inhabit the world and how we see that in/habit-ation. Demons, refugees, murder, rape, suicide (George Dyer), illness, building sites, fascist grotesque bather, surreal-automatic women, nude, self-portrait are all grist to the mill – helping portray certain philosophical or fundamental truths extant to the human condition. The body is destablised in space and destabilized in the landscape of human existence. Anything is possible as long as the artist (and we) recognise it and represent it as such.

These palimpsestic paintings superimpose a new rendition on earlier writings of the body (Velázquez, Titian, Muybridge, Durer etc…). They contain within them the very DNA of our being, now effaced, reused and altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form. These are deep and timeless paintings which upset our apparently secure equilibrium through the representation of a fundamental understanding of life in this very moment. Ego. Self. Other. Culture. Existence. They hold up a mirror to things that we would rather not see, an outsiders (mis)recognition of all that has gone before and all that is to come.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

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Many thankx to the J. Paul Getty Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“From the 1940s through the 1980s, a prominent group of London-based artists developed new styles and approaches to depicting the human figure and the landscape. These painters resisted the abstraction, minimalism, and conceptualism that dominated contemporary art at the time, instead focusing on depicting contemporary life through innovative figurative works.

On view at the J. Paul Getty Museum from July 26 to November 13, 2016, London Calling: Bacon, Freud, Kossoff, Andrews, Auerbach, and Kitaj represents the first major American museum exhibition to explore the leaders of this movement, often called the “School of London,” as central to a richer and more complex understanding of 20th century painting. The exhibition includes 80 paintings, drawings, and prints by Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Leon Kossoff, Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach, and R.B. Kitaj.

“The majority of paintings and drawings in the Getty Museum’s collection are fundamentally concerned with the rendition of the human figure and landscape up to 1900,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum and one of the exhibition curators. “This significant exhibition shows an important part of ‘what happened next’, highlighting an innovative group of figurative artists at a time when abstraction dominated avant-garde discourse in the U.S. and much of Europe. Working with our partners at Tate in London, we have brought together a fabulous group of pictures that exemplify the radical approaches to figure and landscape pioneered by this influential coterie of artists, illuminating their crucial place in modern art history.”

London Calling is a collaboration between Tate and the J. Paul Getty Museum and is curated by Julian Brooks, curator of Drawings at the Getty Museum, Timothy Potts, and Elena Crippa , curator, Modern and Contemporary British Art at Tate. Drawn largely from the unrivaled holdings of Tate, the exhibition has been enriched by a number of loans from other museums and private collectors.

“By pursuing painting as an activity that records and revitalizes an intense sensory experience, these artists rendered the frailty and vitality of the human condition, translating life into art and reinventing the way in which their surroundings could be represented,” said Brooks. “The ‘School of London’ artists doggedly pursued forms of figurative painting at a time when it was considered outmoded. In recent decades the work of these artists has rightly been reassessed. It is timely to look at them as a group and deepen our appreciation of their contribution.”

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)

Francis Bacon was born in Dublin in 1909 to English parents. After traveling to Germany and France he settled in London. He received guidance from an older friend, the Australian artist Roy de Maistre, but was otherwise largely self-taught. In 1945, the showing of a number of his paintings at London’s Lefevre Gallery established his critical reputation, and he became central to an artistic milieu in Soho that included Lucian Freud and Michael Andrews. From the mid-1940s, he began taking as a starting point for his work reproductions of paintings, sculpture, photographs, and film stills, mostly relating to the imagery of angst that resonated with both historical and personal circumstances. From 1962 he expanded the range of his photographic sources by commissioning particular shots of models, mostly friends and lovers. For example, Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne, 1966, on view in the exhibition, was based on a photo of his friend and regular subject, the artist Isabel Rawsthorne (1912-1992).

A highlight of the exhibition, Triptych – August 1972 forms part of a series of so-called “Black Triptychs,” which followed the suicide of Bacon’s longtime lover, George Dyer, in 1971. In the composition, Dyer appears on the left and Bacon himself is on the right. The image on the central panel is derived from a photograph of wrestlers by Eadweard Muybridge.

Bacon’s well-known Figure with Meat, 1954 belongs to a large series of works based on reproductions of Diego Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X. In this version, Bacon depicts the Pope between two halves of a hanging animal carcass, a motif relating to the first portrait of Bacon taken by the photographer John Deakin, in 1952, in which the painter is stripped to the waist and holds a split carcass. In establishing a connection between the raw, butchered meat and human flesh, Bacon expresses a sense of emotional turmoil and reminds the viewer of the vulnerability of the human body.

 

Francis Bacon (British, born Ireland, 1909-1992) 'Triptych August 1972' 1972

 

Francis Bacon (British, born Ireland, 1909-1992)
Triptych August 1972
1972
Oil and sand on three canvases
Each 198.1 × 147.3 cm (78 × 58 in.)
Tate: Purchased 1980 ©
The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. / DACS, London / ARS, NY 2016
Photo © Tate, London 2016

 

 

This work is generally considered one in a series of Black Triptychs which followed the suicide of Bacon’s lover, George Dyer. Dyer appears on the left and Bacon is on the right. The central group is derived from a photograph of wrestlers by Edward Muybridge, but also suggests a more sexual encounter. The seated figures and their coupling are set against black voids and the central flurry has been seen as ‘a life-and death struggle’. The artist’s biographer wrote: ‘What death has not already consumed seeps incontinently out of the figures as their shadows.’

September 2016

 

Francis Bacon (British, born Ireland, 1909-1992) 'Collapsed Figure' c. 1957-1961

 

Francis Bacon (British, born Ireland, 1909-1992)
Collapsed Figure
c. 1957-1961
Oil on paper
34 × 27 cm (13 3/8 × 10 5/8 in.)
Tate: Purchased with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund and a group of anonymous donors in memory of Mario Tazzoli 1998
© The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. / DACS, London / ARS, NY 2015
Photo © Tate, London 2016

 

 

Although no source has been identified it is likely that Collapsed Figure derived from sports photographs which, in a 1974 interview, Bacon specified as a valued stimulus: ‘I look all the time at photographs in magazines of footballers and boxers and all that kind of thing – especially boxers.’ He noted that he trawled them in the same way that he used Eadweard Muybridge’s stills of figures in motion.

 

Francis Bacon (British, born Ireland, 1909-1992) 'Blue Crawling Figure, No. 1' c. 1957-1961

 

Francis Bacon (British, born Ireland, 1909-1992)
Blue Crawling Figure, No. 1
c. 1957-1961
Oil on paper
34 × 27 cm (13 3/8 × 10 5/8 in.)
Tate: Purchased with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund and a group of anonymous donors in memory of Mario Tazzoli 1998
© The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. / DACS, London / ARS, NY 2015
Photo © Tate, London 2016

 

 

These pages almost certainly came at the end of the dismembered sketchbook. They represent the most coherent programme of drawing through which Bacon explored compositional possibilities in a succession of images. The sense of structure of the body, as well as the degree of abstraction of  form, are progressively modified across the ‘Crawling Figure’ images. They were probably achieved by tracing from one to the other. Although no related oil painting is known to survive, the extent to which the possibilities are explored testifies to the significant role of sketches within Bacon’s working process.

September 2004

 

Francis Bacon (British, born Ireland, 1909-1992) 'Figure with Left Arm Raised, No. 2' c. 1957-1961

 

Francis Bacon (British, born Ireland, 1909-1992)
Figure with Left Arm Raised, No. 2
c. 1957-1961
Oil on paper
34 × 27 cm (13 3/8 × 10 5/8 in.)
Tate: Purchased with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund and a group of anonymous donors in memory of Mario Tazzoli 1998
© The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. / DACS, London / ARS, NY 2015
Photo © Tate, London 2016

 

Francis Bacon (British, born Ireland, 1909-1992) 'Figure in a Landscape' c. 1952

 

Francis Bacon (British, born Ireland, 1909-1992)
Figure in a Landscape
c. 1952
Oil on paper
33.9 × 26.3 cm (13 3/8 × 10 3/8 in.)
Tate: Purchased with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund and a group of anonymous donors in memory of Mario Tazzoli 1998
© The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. / DACS, London / ARS, NY 2016
Photo © Tate, London 2016

 

Francis Bacon (British, born Ireland, 1909-1992) 'Reclining Figure, No. 1' c. 1961

 

 

Francis Bacon (British, born Ireland, 1909-1992)
Reclining Figure, No. 1
c. 1961
Oil and ink on paper
23.8 × 15.6 cm (9 3/8 × 6 1/8 in.)
Tate: Purchased with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund and a group of anonymous donors in memory of Mario Tazzoli 1998
© The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. / DACS, London / ARS, NY 2015
Photo © Tate, London 2016

 

 

These two works on paper by Bacon are the only ones in the display in which the page has been filled. As the pose remains the same, they may have served as colour studies and may even be a response to Mark Rothko’s contemporary work (seen in London in 1959). The male nude, and the horizontal bands (derived from a sofa against a wall) are common to a series of Bacon’s oil  paintings from 1959 and 1961. The sketches appear to be later, as an impression of writing from another sheet but visible on ‘Reclining Figure, no.1’ gives his address as ‘7 Reece Mews’, the studio which he occupied in the autumn of 1961.

September 2004

 

Francis Bacon (British, born Ireland, 1909-1992) 'Portrait of George Dyer Riding a Bicycle' 1966

 

Francis Bacon (British, born Ireland, 1909-1992)
Portrait of George Dyer Riding a Bicycle
1966
Oil on canvas
198 x 147.5 cm (77 15/16 x 58 1/16 in.)
Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, Beyeler Collection
© The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. / DACS, London / ARS, NY 2016
Photo: Peter Schibli, Basel

 

Francis Bacon (British, born Ireland, 1909-1992) 'Figure with Meat' 1954

 

Francis Bacon (British, born Ireland, 1909-1992)
Figure with Meat
1954
Oil on canvas
129.9 × 121.9 cm (51 1/8 × 48 in.)
The Art Institute of Chicago, Harriott A. Fox Fund
© The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. / DACS, London / ARS, NY 2016
Photography © The Art Institute of Chicago

 

Francis Bacon (British, born Ireland, 1909-1992) 'Study for Portrait II (after the Life Mask of William Blake)' 1955

 

Francis Bacon (British, born Ireland, 1909-1992)
Study for Portrait II (after the Life Mask of William Blake)
1955
Oil on canvas 61 × 50.8 cm (24 × 20 in.)
Tate: Purchased 1979
© The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. / DACS, London / ARS, NY 2015
Photo © Tate, London 2016

 

 

This is one of a series based on the life mask of poet and painter William Blake. Bacon first saw the mask at the National Portrait Gallery in London, but he also used photographs and, at some point, he even acquired a cast of it. His response to the source is typical of his preference for a mediated image of the body. The painting is more complex than it seems: it is built up with delicate layers of paint against a rich black ground. One commentator wrote, ‘broad strokes of pink and mauve, with which Bacon establishes an equivocation between waxen mask and human flesh, drag pain and loneliness and imperturbable spirit in their wake’.

May 2007

 

Francis Bacon (British, born Ireland, 1909-1992) 'Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne' 1966

 

Francis Bacon (British, born Ireland, 1909-1992)
Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne
1966
Oil on canvas
81.3 × 68.6 cm (32 × 27 in.)
Tate: Purchased 1966
© The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. / DACS, London / ARS, NY 2016
Photo © Tate, London 2016

 

 

Lucian Freud (1922-2011)

Grandson of the creator of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), Lucian Freud was born in Berlin in 1922 and moved with his family to London in 1933 to escape Nazism. He trained at the Central School of Art in London and at the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing in Dedham. Freud had his first solo exhibition in 1944 at London’s Lefevre Gallery. Throughout his career he focused on the human figure, rendered in a realist manner and imbued with a stark and evocative psychological intensity. He described his work as autobiographical, most of his work taking his surroundings and people he knew intimately as his subjects, as in the case of friends, lovers, and family members.

Between 1947 and 1951 Freud made eight portraits of his first wife Kathleen (“Kitty”) Garman (1926-2011). On view in the exhibition, Girl with a Kitten, 1947 is a psychologically charged composition featuring Garman holding a kitten by its neck in a tense grip, her white knuckles especially prominent. The precision in this work is achieved through the use of fine sable brushes on finely woven canvas.

One of Freud’s frequent subjects was the performance artist, designer, and nightclub personality Leigh Bowery (1961-1994). In an intimate and vulnerable small portrait from 1991 Freud depicts Bowery sleeping. In contrast, the monumental Leigh under the Skylight, 1994 renders his starkly naked form as theatrically statuesque.

 

Lucian Freud (British, born Germany, 1922-2011) 'Man with a Thistle (Self-Portrait)' 1946

 

Lucian Freud (British, born Germany, 1922-2011)
Man with a Thistle (Self-Portrait)
1946
Oil on canvas
61 × 50.2 cm (24 × 19 3/4 in.)
Tate: Purchased 1961
© Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Copyright Service
Photo © Tate, London 2016

 

 

This is one of a number of self-portraits painted by Freud during the 1940s. Freud has used a realistic, but emblematic, style which derives from Old Master paintings of the Northern Renaissance. The artist shows himself looking through a window at a spiky thistle resting on a ledge in the foreground. At the same time, the thistle may also be read as an emblem occupying flattened space at the bottom of the painting. This ambiguity allows the thistle to be interpreted as a real object, but also as a device which suggests the mood of the painting and Freud’s own psychological state. 

September 2004

 

Lucian Freud (British, born Germany, 1922-2011) 'Girl with a Kitten' 1947

 

Lucian Freud (British, born Germany, 1922-2011)
Girl with a Kitten
1947
Oil on canvas
41 × 30.7 × 1.8 cm (16 1/8 × 12 1/16 × 11/16 in.)
Tate: Bequeathed by Simon Sainsbury 2006, accessioned 2008
© Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Copyright Service
Photo © Tate, London 2016

 

 

In 1946-7 Freud traveled to Paris and Greece, returning to London in February 1947. Here he began a relationship with Kitty Garman, the eldest daughter of the sculptor Jacob Epstein and the model and collector Kathleen Garman. The subsequent marriage between Freud and Kitty was short-lived – they wed in the spring of 1948 and divorced in 1952 after having two daughters. Freud’s portraits of Kitty include four oil paintings – beginning with Girl in a Dark Jacket 1947 and finishing with Girl with a White Dog 1950-1 (Tate N06039) – as well as two etchings, a work in pastel, and a drawing in ink and crayon.

The portraits of Kitty Garman mark the culmination of Freud’s early portrait style, which evoked the tradition of Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) – a form of realist painting that emerged in Germany in the early 1920s, and was characterised by its sharp and unsentimental style. (Freud, grandson of the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, was born in Berlin in 1922 and came to Britain in 1933, and studied at a number of art schools during the war.) The intensity of Girl with a Kitten, and especially the manner in which Garman dominates the pictorial frame, might also stem from Freud’s approach to his sitters at this time, which had distinct psychological and spatial aspects. The artist admits his early portraits emerged from his ‘visual aggression’ with sitters. He claimed, ‘I would sit very close and stare. It could be uncomfortable for both of us.’ (Quoted in Michael Auping, ‘Freud from America’, in Howgate, Auping and Richardson 2012, p.41.) By the mid-1950s Freud had abandoned the highly controlled style of portraiture seen in this work, and he began to paint in a looser and more viscous style.

Text from the Tate website

 

Lucian Freud (British, born Germany, 1922-2011) 'Narcissus' 1948

 

Lucian Freud (British, born Germany, 1922-2011)
Narcissus
1948
Ink on paper
Image: 21 × 13.7 cm (8 1/4 × 5 3/8 in.) Framed: 36 × 28.9 × 2.9 cm (14 3/16 × 11 3/8 × 1 1/8 in.)
Tate: Bequeathed by Pauline Vogelpoel, Director of the Contemporary Art Society, 2002, accessioned 2004
© Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Copyright Service Photo
© Tate, London 2016

 

 

In the late 1940s the publishers MacGibbon & Kee commissioned Freud to illustrate Rex Warner’s book Men and Gods on classical mythology. He produced four drawings for the book, of which Narcissus is one. The others are Man of Hyacinths (Colin St John Wilson Collection), Hercules (private collection) and Actaeon (private collection). The figures in all the drawings are in modern dress. The publishing house rejected the drawings because they did not illustrate the stories sufficiently, and instead chose Elizabeth Corsellis’s drawings for the book, which was published in 1950. Freud made illustrations for several other books during the 1940s, though few were ever selected for publication.

The close-up view and tight framing of Narcissus are typical of Freud’s many portraits of this early period, which frequently emphasize the subjects’ large, almond-shaped eyes. These are depicted in a meditative mood looking down, as in Narcissus, or looking upwards and away from the viewer. Reflection and mirroring were to become recurring themes in Freud’s work, particularly in his many self-portraits. The pose portrayed in Narcissus is later echoed in the painting Man’s Head (Self-Portrait I) 1963 (Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester) in which the artist’s head, propped with one arm cutting aggressively into the frame, looks down at a mirror not included in the work. Another self-portrait, Interior with Hand Mirror (Self-Portrait) 1967 (private collection), shows the artist’s face isolated in a hand mirror propped between two sections of window. His expression is contorted in a winking grimace as though he is attempting to see, a reminder that viewing is central to Freud’s process as a painter. In this image the mirror’s cropping has cut off the viewing part of him from his body. In a similar manner, Narcissus shows the subject cut off from the viewer by the exclusion of his viewing eyes, omitted from the bottom of the image. A more recent image, the print Self-Portrait: Reflection 1996 (Tate P11509), again refers to this circular process of mirroring and interior looking which is emphasised in its title.

Text from the Tate website

 

Lucian Freud (British, born Germany, 1922-2011) 'Boy Smoking' 1950-1951

 

Lucian Freud (British, born Germany, 1922-2011)
Boy Smoking
1950-1951
Oil on copper
15.5 × 11.5 × 0.2 cm (6 1/8 × 4 1/2 × 1/16 in.)
Tate: Bequeathed by Simon Sainsbury 2006, accessioned 2008
© Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Copyright Service
Photo © Tate, London 2016

 

 

The painting was made by the British artist Lucian Freud in his studio in London in 1950. To create this work Freud took a used copper etching plate and prepared it with a thick layer of white primer. He then employed sable paintbrushes (as opposed to hogshair, which he would use almost exclusively from 1956 onwards) to apply a smoothly blended mixture of oil paint and tempera to the copper plate in fine, even brushstrokes. The white primer was left exposed by Freud to produce the lighter areas of the painting, except for the very brightest parts, which he created using a fresh application of white paint. Freud used thin washes of grey and brown underpaint to create areas of shadow around the boy’s eyes and hair. Each section of the painting has been given equal focus by Freud, establishing a uniformity of detail and flatness, characteristics not present in many of the artist’s later portraits.

The oversized almond shaped eyes and the plump mouth in Boy Smoking are features that recur in the portraits Freud made early in his career, as can be seen in Girl with a Kitten 1947 (Tate T12617), Narcissus 1948 (Tate T11793) and Francis Bacon 1952 (Tate N06040). Furthermore, the subjects of these early head-and-shoulder portraits are all presented in isolation, divorced from any context, with no indication of their personal history or social status. In this sense, they evoke the tradition of Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity), a form of realist painting that emerged in the early 1920s in Germany and was characterised by its unsentimental style. (Freud was born in Berlin in 1922 and moved to Britain in 1933, and studied at a number of art schools during the war.) According to the art historian and Freud biographer William Feaver, Freud painted portraits such as Boy Smoking by sitting uncomfortably near to his subjects, often knee-to-knee, staring at them intently for periods of up to eight hours at a time during multiple sittings that extended over a period of several months (Feaver 2002, p.26).

The boy in the painting has been identified as Charlie Lumley, a neighbour and friend of Freud’s whom the artist painted regularly while occupying a studio in Delamere Terrace near Paddington during the 1950s. The inhabitants of this part of London at the time have been characterised by curator Catherine Lampert as ‘costermongers, villains and thieves’ (Lampert 1993, p.15), a description that could be applied to Lumley, whom Freud first encountered when Lumley and his brother were attempting to break into Freud’s studio (see Wilson 2008, p.112).

Text from the Tate website

 

Lucian Freud (British, born Germany, 1922-2011) 'Girl with a White Dog' 1950-1951

 

Lucian Freud (British, born Germany, 1922-2011)
Girl with a White Dog
1950-1951
Oil on canvas
76.2 × 101.6 cm (30 × 40 in.)
Tate: Purchased 1952
Photo © Tate, London 2016

 

 

This picture shows the artist’s first wife when she was pregnant. The style of the painting has roots in the smooth and linear portraiture of the great nineteenth-century French neoclassical painter, Ingres. This, together with the particular psychological atmosphere of Freud’s early work, led the critic Herbert Read to make his celebrated remark that Freud was ‘the Ingres of Existentialism’. The sense that Freud gives of human existence as essentially lonely, and spiritually if not physically painful, is something shared by his great contemporaries, Francis Bacon and the sculptor Alberto Giacometti.

April 2005

 

Lucian Freud (British, born Germany, 1922-2011) 'Man Posing' 1985

 

Lucian Freud (British, born Germany, 1922-2011)
Man Posing
1985
Etching on paper
Image: 69.5 × 54.3 cm (27 3/8 × 21 3/8 in.) Framed: 99 × 84 × 4 cm (39 × 33 1/16 × 1 9/16 in.)
Tate: Purchased 1987
© Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Copyright Service
Photo © Tate, London 2016

 

Lucian Freud (British, born Germany, 1922-2011) 'Leigh Bowery' 1991

 

Lucian Freud (British, born Germany, 1922-2011)
Leigh Bowery
1991
Oil on canvas
51 × 40.9 cm (20 1/16 × 16 1/8 in.)
Tate: Presented anonymously 1994
© Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Copyright Service
Photo © Tate, London 2016

 

 

This is a small portrait of the maverick gay performer and nightclub personality Leigh Bowery (1961-94). It portrays Bowery’s head and naked upper torso framed against dark red upholstery. His bald head rests against his raised left shoulder, his eyes are closed and his cheeks and mouth hang loosely as though he is asleep. Freud’s manner of painting emphasises the fleshiness of Bowery’s face. This is achieved through the application of paint in different textures – in some areas relatively smooth, in others thickly but delicately built up. Apparently unconscious of the artist’s gaze, Bowery has a vulnerable appearance which belies the bulk of his physical form.

Freud was introduced to Bowery by their mutual friend, the artist Cerith Wyn Evans (born 1958), in 1988. He had recently seen Bowery’s performance at Anthony d’Offay Gallery, London. In his first public appearance in a fine art context, Bowery posed behind a one way mirror in the gallery for two hours a day over the period of a week. He was dressed in the flamboyant outfits he usually wore in the London nightclubs where he had become a leading figure in the underground scene, known for his outrageous and frequently offensive performances. Born and bred in Australia, he had come to London in 1980 in search of glamour. The extraordinary costumes he created for himself played on fashion, fetishism and carnival aesthetics and transformed his sixteen stones of flesh into an androgynous spectacle. Bowery used his body to construct an identity through which he could express aspects of his personality. This involved moulding and taping his torso, often quite masochistically, as though it were his sculptural material and masking his face or covering it with outlandish makeup. Holes in his cheeks, visible in Freud’s portrait, were pierced for the insertion of large safety-pins which would attach fake smiling lips to his face. Freud said of Bowery ‘I found him perfectly beautiful’ (quoted in Bernard, p.19). He also commented ‘the way he edits his body is amazingly aware and amazingly abandoned’ (quoted in Feaver, p.43). Bowery said of Freud: ‘I love the psychological aspect of his work – in fact I sometimes felt as if I had been undergoing psychoanalysis with him … His work is full of tension. Like me he is interested in the underbelly of things.’ (Quoted in Sue Tilley, Leigh Bowery: The Life and Times of an Icon, London 1997, p.220.) …

Freud frames his subjects in the manner of a photographer; they are often viewed close-up and cropped dramatically. His treatment of bodies emphasises the tactile attributes of flesh almost to the point of viscerality. From his earliest paintings, his treatment of nudes was unorthodox and frequently viewed as shocking at the time of their making. At the age of fourteen he had painted a bearded, naked male figure Old Man Running 1936 (collection unknown), an irreverent representation of the patriarch whose nakedness is considered taboo in Western cultures. Man with Rat 1977 (Art Gallery of Western Australia) depicts a red-haired man lounging naked, legs splayed on a sofa and genitals almost painfully exposed, holding a black rat, the tail of which is draped sensuously over his thigh. Freud considers his paintings of nudes to be as much portraits as they refer to the traditional genre of the nude and it is significant that he chose to paint Bowery naked rather than in the costumes through which Bowery expressed his public identity. Rather than glorifying the body, Freud’s ‘realistic’ representation presents it in all the vulnerability of nakedness, emphasising his subject’s humanity.

Text from the Tate website

 

Lucian Freud (British, born Germany, 1922-2011) 'Leigh under the Skylight' 1994

 

Lucian Freud (British, born Germany, 1922-2011)
Leigh under the Skylight
1994
Oil on canvas
270.5 × 119.4 cm (106 1/2 × 47 in.)
Private Collection
© Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Copyright Service
Image: Bridgeman Images

 

 

Bowery posed regularly for Freud over a four year period. Freud’s first painting of him was Leigh Bowery (Seated) 1990 (private collection). To accommodate and emphasise Bowery’s enormous scale, it was one of the largest paintings Freud had ever made (2437 x 1830mm). In an even larger painting of Bowery, Leigh Under the Skylight 1994 (2972 x 1207mm, collection unknown), the model stands on a draped table towering over the artist and viewer as though he is a monumental sculpture. This contrasts markedly with the majority of Freud’s portraits and nudes which are almost exclusively painted looking down at his subject.

 

Lucian Freud (British, born Germany, 1922-2011) 'Woman Sleeping' 1995

 

Lucian Freud (British, born Germany, 1922-2011)
Woman Sleeping
1995
Etching on paper
Image: 73 × 59.4 cm (28 3/4 × 23 3/8 in.) Framed: 89.8 × 124.5 × 3 cm (35 3/8 × 49 × 1 3/16 in.)
Tate: Presented anonymously 1997
© Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Copyright Service
Photo © Tate, London 2016

 

Lucian Freud (British, born Germany, 1922-2011) 'Naked Portrait' 2001

 

Lucian Freud (British, born Germany, 1922-2011)
Naked Portrait
2001
Oil on canvas
167.6 × 132.1 cm (66 × 52 in.)
Michael Moritz and Harriet Heyman
© Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Copyright Service

 

 

Leon Kossoff (born 1926)

Leon Kossoff was born in London, where he still resides and works, to first-generation immigrants of Russian Jewish ancestry. He studied at Saint Martin’s (where he and Frank Auerbach became close friends), at Borough Polytechnic, and at the Royal College of Art. He had his first exhibition at London’s Beaux Arts Gallery in 1957. From the early 1950s, Kossoff began painting a close circle of family and friends, producing pictures in which they acquired a solid, material presence, similar to that of the buildings and streets of London that he knew intimately and to which he also constantly returned. He developed a painterly style with thickly applied, constantly reworked layers of paint in characteristic earth tones.

In the early 1950s, Kossoff and Auerbach were fascinated by building sites, abundant in London at the time as the bomb-damaged city was being rebuilt after the war. For these artists, they were places where the earth beneath the city was revealed, and ladders and scaffolding offered ready-made linear structures. Early drawings such as Building Site, Oxford Street, 1952 were intensively worked, as Kossoff constantly erased and restarted the image.

Children’s Swimming Pool, Autumn Afternoon, 1971, depicts a newly built swimming pool near the artist’s North London studio where he took his son to learn to swim. Kossoff made five large paintings of the pool and its light-filled space from 1969-1972, each distinguished by an expansive treatment of space and vibrant sense of energy.

 

Leon Kossoff (born 1926) 'Building Site, Oxford Street' 1952

 

Leon Kossoff (born 1926)
Building Site, Oxford Street
1952
Crayon, charcoal and gouache on paper
112 × 133.5 cm (44 1/8 × 52 9/16 in.)
Tate: Purchased 1996
© Leon Kossoff Photo
© Tate, London 2016

 

 

Like his close friend Frank Auerbach Kossoff was fascinated by building sites during the 1950s. These abounded in London as its bomb-damaged fabric was rebuilt after the war. Perhaps they stood for the transient and ever-changing nature of the modern city. They were also places where the earth beneath the city was revealed. This drawing, like Auerbach’s painting on the same theme, shows how they also offered a  ready-made linear structure for the artist’s picture. 

September 2004

 

Leon Kossoff (born 1926) 'Man in a Wheelchair' 1959-1962

 

Leon Kossoff (born 1926)
Man in a Wheelchair
1959-1962
Oil on masonite attached to auxiliary wooden framework
213.4 × 123.2 cm (84 × 48 1/2 in.)
Tate: Purchased 1963
© Leon Kossoff Photo
© Tate, London 2016

 

 

Kossoff developed a manner of painting with exceptionally thick paint which is deposited on the board in places almost untouched, giving a sense of three-dimensional form. The model for this painting was the painter John Lessore, who sat for Kossoff once or twice a week for three years. For most of that time, Kossoff recalled, he concentrated on developing the subject through drawings. The discipline of drawing every day is at the heart of Kossoff’s practice.

July 2012

 

Leon Kossoff (born 1926) 'Woman III in Bed, Surrounded by Family' 1965

 

Leon Kossoff (born 1926)
Woman III in Bed, Surrounded by Family
1965
Oil on masonite attached to auxiliary wooden framework
185.4 × 124.5 cm (73 × 49 in.)
Tate: Purchased 1981
© Leon Kossoff
Photo © Tate, London 2016

 

 

‘Woman Ill in Bed, Surrounded by Family’ was painted at a time when there was illness in the artist’s family. In common with all his work Kossoff worked on the painting in his studio, basing it on drawings made from life. However, it departs from Kossoff’s usual practices in that the composition was based, not on preliminary sketches, but on an engraving of the Virgin in bed by Albrecht Durer. The sombre colours and great density of paint evoke vividly a sense of human suffering and the tragic nature of human existence, themes which are at the heart of Kossoff’s work.

September 2004

 

Leon Kossoff (born 1926) 'Children's Swimming Pool, Autumn Afternoon' 1971

 

Leon Kossoff (born 1926)
Children’s Swimming Pool, Autumn Afternoon
1971
Oil on masonite attached to auxiliary wooden framework
168 × 214 × 5.6 cm (66 1/8 × 84 1/4 × 2 3/16 in.)
Tate: Purchased 1981
© Leon Kossoff Photo
© Tate, London 2016

 

 

Kossoff’s principal subjects are his immediate family and friends and the parts of London which he knows best. In the 1960s he set up a studio in Willesden, north London and in 1967 a swimming pool opened close by. He began taking his son there to teach him to swim, and the pool and its space provided him with a new subject. He made four large paintings of the pool between 1969 and 1972 of which this is one. All are distinguished by a lightness of touch and a sense of movement, noise and space.

August 2004

 

Leon Kossoff (born 1926) 'Two Seated Figures No. 2' 1980

 

Leon Kossoff (born 1926)
Two Seated Figures No. 2
1980
Oil on masonite attached to auxiliary wooden framework
243.8 × 182.8 cm (96 × 71 15/16 in.)
Tate: Purchased 1983
© Leon Kossoff
Photo © Tate, London 2016

 

 

This painting is a unique departure from Kossoff’s usual methods. Normally he works on paintings for months and even years, continually scraping back and repainting the image. Instead, Kossoff completed this work ‘in two or three hours. There are no other attempts on this board’. He sees it as ‘a direct urgent extension’ of two drawings made earlier the same day. The thread-like traces of paint resulted from the brush dripping onto the painting’s surface while it was in a horizontal position. Its subject is Kossoff’s parents – Jewish immigrants from Russia – who arrived in England as children early this century. Kossoff has painted his parents ‘all my painting life’.

September 2004

 

Leon Kossoff (born 1926) 'Booking Hall, Kilburn Underground' 1987

 

Leon Kossoff (born 1926)
Booking Hall, Kilburn Underground
1987
Oil on masonite attached to auxiliary wooden framework
198.2 × 182.7 cm (78 1/16 × 71 15/16 in.)
Tate: Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery and the Mail on Sunday through the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1989
© Leon Kossoff
Photo © Tate, London 2016

 

 

This large and imposing oil painting belongs to a series of works – which began in 1976 and continued until the late 1980s – by the British painter Leon Kossoff depicting Kilburn Underground station in north-west London. In the foreground of this work, two men and three women walk through the station’s booking hall, and more shadowy human forms can be glimpsed on the staircase leading up to the platforms in the background and on the right-hand side of the painting. With the exception of the brighter clothing worn by some of the figures in the foreground, the palette is distinguished by cloudy blues, pinks and whites, and the painting seems filled with a distinct gloom, perhaps reflecting the drudgery of the daily commute. The figures are locked into a loose structure of vertical and diagonal lines formed by the booking hall’s roof and tilted-up floor.

Kossoff has said that, when painting public scenes such as Booking Hall, Kilburn Underground 1987, portraits of people close to him begin to appear within the crowds (see Rose 2013, p.18). Without exactly specifying the figures, curator Paul Moorhouse has identified the group in the foreground of this painting as comprising Kossoff’s wife, Peggy, his brothers, and his long-time model and friend Fidelma (Moorhouse 1996, p.24).

Text from the Tate website

 

Leon Kossoff (born 1926) 'Christ Church, Spitalfields, Morning' 1990

 

Leon Kossoff (born 1926)
Christ Church, Spitalfields, Morning
1990
Oil on masonite attached to auxiliary wooden framework
198.6 × 189.2 cm (78 3/16 × 74 1/2 in.)
Tate: Purchased 1994
© Leon Kossoff Photo
© Tate, London 2016

 

 

Michael Andrews (1928-1995)

Andrews studied painting under William Coldstream at the Slade School of Art between 1949 and 1953. Lucian Freud, who also taught at the school, was an important example and offered encouragement, while Francis Bacon visited to talk about his work, also making a memorable impression. His first solo exhibition was presented at London’s Beaux Arts Gallery in 1958. From the early 1950s photographs became important sources in the creation of his work. During this early period Andrews concentrated on portraits of his friends and contemporaries as well as party scenes, developing his characteristic combination of meticulous observation with imaginative elements and implied narrative. From the mid-1970s the landscape he encountered while traveling became the subject of many paintings. In the 1990s, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, he chose the river Thames as his final, major subject.

The Deer Park, 1962 was inspired by Norman Mailer’s 1955 novel of the same title. For Andrews, the novel seemed to describe the world of the Soho clubs and bars he frequented. Rather than illustrating the text, however, the painting creates a new, imaginary situation involving a cast of different characters exhibiting various social behaviors and interactions. The figures are all based on photographs and film images of people from the entertainment and literary worlds, past and contemporary. They include Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot, and the poet Rimbaud. The background landscape is based on Diego Velasquez’s Philip IV Hunting Wild Boar (about 1632-37) in the National Gallery, London.

Melanie and Me Swimming, 1978-79 is a painting of Andrews and his daughter, then aged six, swimming together in a rock pool, based on a color photograph taken by a friend while they were on holiday at Glenartney Lodge, in Scotland, in the summer of 1976. As with many of his paintings, this one is a combination of real elements and his own memories of the event.

 

Michael Andrews (1928-1995) 'A Man Who Suddenly Fell Over' 1952

 

Michael Andrews (1928-1995)
A Man Who Suddenly Fell Over
1952
Oil on hardboard
120.6 × 172.7 cm (47 1/2 × 68 in.)
Tate: Purchased 1958
© the Estate of Michael Andrews, courtesy James Hyman Gallery, London
Photo © Tate, London 2016

 

 

In common with much of Andrews’s work this picture is partly autobiographical. It was painted for his Diploma Examination shortly before leaving the Slade School of Art to face a period of uncertainty. He later commented that this painting was ‘about the complete upsetting of someone’s apparently secure equilibrium and about their most immediate efforts at recovery and their attempt to conceal that they have perhaps been badly hurt or upset’. This might explain why the man seems to grin instead of crying out in shock. The image of the body destablised in space was of interest to a number of artists in the 1950s, including Francis Bacon and Anthony Caro.

September 2004

 

Michael Andrews (1928-1995) 'Study for a Man in a Landscape (Digswell)' 1959

 

Michael Andrews (1928-1995)
Study for a Man in a Landscape (Digswell)
1959
Oil on canvas
40.6 × 35.9 cm (16 × 14 1/8 in.)
Tate: Presented by the executors of the estate of David Wilkie 1993
© the Estate of Michael Andrews, courtesy James Hyman Gallery, London Photo
© Tate, London 2016

 

 

Many of the works owned by Wilkie held a particular, often personal, significance for him. He was interested in philosophy and he saw the art he admired as expressing certain philosophical or fundamental truths. This painting by Michael Andrews demonstrates this principle. It portrays a tramp whom the artist sometimes saw when he occupied a communal studio in Digswell, Hertfordshire, in the late 1950s. Wilkie’s attitude to such social outcasts – outsiders looking in on society – was compassionate and respectful. He observed that characters like Digswell Man, as Andrews called him, ‘possess a true knowledge of human life… through their fundamental life’.

September 2004

 

Michael Andrews (1928-1995) 'The Deer Park' 1962

 

Michael Andrews (1928-1995)
The Deer Park
1962
Oil on board
214 × 244.5 cm (84 1/4 × 96 1/4 in.)
Tate: Purchased 1974
© the Estate of Michael Andrews, courtesy James Hyman Gallery, London
Photo © Tate, London 2016

 

 

‘The Deer Park’ was inspired by Norman Mailer’s novel of the same title. For Andrews, the novel seemed to describe ‘the world of Soho’ whose clubs and bars he had frequented. Rather than illustrating the text, however, the painting creates a new, imaginary situation involving a cast of different characters. Its subject is social behaviour ‘where people are relaxed and project images close to themselves’. The figures are all based on photographs of people from show business and literary worlds, past and present. They include Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot and the poet Rimbaud. The background is based on ‘The Boar Hunt’ by Velasquez in the National Gallery, London.

August 2004

 

Michael Andrews (1928-1995) 'Melanie and Me Swimming' 1978-1979

 

Michael Andrews (1928-1995)
Melanie and Me Swimming
1978-1979
Acrylic on canvas
182.9 × 182.9 cm (72 × 72 in.)
Tate: Purchased 1979
© the Estate of Michael Andrews, courtesy James Hyman Gallery, London
Photo © Tate, London 2016

 

 

Frank Auerbach (born 1931)

Born in Berlin in 1931, Auerbach was sent to Kent, England at age seven to escape Nazism. In 1947 he moved to London, where he continues to live and work. After the war, he performed in small London theaters and studied painting at the Borough Polytechnic at Saint Martin’s School of Art and at the Royal College of Art. Auerbach’s early work focused on the human figure and numerous building sites in the British capital scarred by the war and undergoing reconstruction. In 1956 he had his first solo exhibition at the Beaux Arts Gallery. He quickly became known for his thick application of paint. In the 1960s he began employing brighter colors and scraping down entire canvases rather than working on top of previous attempts, often spending months or years on a single painting. Recurring subjects are regular portrait sitters, Primrose Hill (a part of Regent’s Park in north London), and the streets of Camden Town, where he has been living and working since 1954. He still draws and paints 365 days a year.

Mornington Crescent with the Statue of Sickert’s Father-in-Law, 1966, depicts the area of North London in which Auerbach works, an area that has long captivated other artists such as Walter Sickert and the Camden Town Group. While Auerbach acknowledges this, he has stated that he doesn’t paint this area to ally himself with such history, rather that he simply sees London as a raw unpainted city. A streetlight can be seen at upper right, and the multitude of railings and lampposts in this view give the composition an almost grid-like formal structure, animated by the bright, bold pigments that Auerbach began to favor during the 1960s.

One of the most recent paintings in the exhibition, Mornington Crescent – Summer Morning, 2004 refers to the same location and captures the intense process of its making, with the use of large brushes to apply the paint energetically and rapidly. Elements of the composition – such as the windows and edges of buildings, rooftops, cars, and passersby – are highlighted with thick strokes. These straight marks contrast with the gestural quality of the marks that build up the large areas of the sky, road, and buildings.

 

Frank Auerbach (born 1931) 'E. O. W. Nude' 1953-1954

 

Frank Auerbach (born 1931)
E. O. W. Nude
1953-1954
Oil on masonite attached to auxiliary wooden framework
50.8 × 76.8 cm (20 × 30 1/4 in.)
Tate: Purchased 1959
© Frank Auerbach, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art
Photo © Tate, London 2016

 

 

Auerbach studied with Bomberg longer than anyone else. He started at Borough Polytechnic in January 1947 and went to evening classes there until 1953, while officially attending St Martin’s School of Art and the Royal College of Art. Auerbach said he learnt from Bomberg not technique but ‘a sense of the grand standards of painting.’ He developed a distinctive manner of painting in which thick paint is given an independent reality of its own, as well as being used as a means of representing a physical object.

September 2004

 

Frank Auerbach (born 1931) 'Self-Portrait' 1958

 

Frank Auerbach (born 1931)
Self-Portrait
1958
Charcoal and paper collage
77.2 × 56.5 cm (30 3/8 × 22 1/4 in.)
Courtesy of the Daniel Katz Gallery, London
© Frank Auerbach, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art

 

Frank Auerbach (born 1931) 'Study after Titian II' 196

 

Frank Auerbach (born 1931)
Study after Titian II
1965
Oil on canvas
67.3 × 62.2 cm (26 1/2 × 24 1/2 in.)
Tate: Presented by the executors of the estate of David Wilkie 1993
© Frank Auerbach, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art
Photo © Tate, London 2016

 

 

Both this painting and the related work, ‘Study after Titian I’, shown nearby, were inspired by Titian’s ‘Tarquin and Lucretia’. Although the original work exists in two versions, one being in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, Wilkie specified that the version in question was the one in the Akademie der Bildenden Künst in Vienna. Titian’s subject is Tarquin’s rape of Lucretia. Auerbach created his versions of that image by working from a reclining female model who adopted the pose of Lucretia, and from a drawing made from a reproduction of the original work. In both works a gash in the paint surface forcefully conveys a sense of violence and violation.

September 2004

 

Frank Auerbach (born 1931) 'J. Y. M. Seated No. 1' 1981

 

Frank Auerbach (born 1931)
J. Y. M. Seated No. 1
1981
Oil on masonite attached to auxiliary wooden framework
71.1 × 61 cm (28 × 24 in.)
Tate: Purchased 1981
© Frank Auerbach, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art
Photo © Tate, London 2016

 

 

The subject of this painting is Juliet Yardley Mills (JYM), Auerbach’s principal model since 1963. Auerbach has completed over seventy portraits and studies of Mills. This, the first of three paintings of her executed in 1981, was completed in about twenty sittings. As in nearly all his studies of her, Mills is shown looking out of the picture and is seen slightly from below. In contrast to Auerbach’s earlier paintings, in which the paint surface is built up to a thick accretion, this portrait demonstrates the freedom of drawing and fluid movement of paint which characterise his later style.

August 2004

 

Frank Auerbach (born 1931) 'Self-Portrait II' 2010

 

Frank Auerbach (born 1931)
Self-Portrait II
2010
Graphite on paper
76.5 × 57.5 cm (30 1/8 × 22 5/8 in.)
Private Collection
© Frank Auerbach, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art

 

 

R. B. Kitaj (1932-2007)

R. B. Kitaj was born in Cleveland. After high school Kitaj sailed extensively as a merchant seaman and served in the U.S. Army in Europe. Between those assignments he studied painting at Cooper Union and the Academy of Fine Art, Vienna. Following his army stint, he moved to England to attend the Ruskin School, Oxford, and the Royal College of Art, London. His first exhibition was held at Marlborough Fine Art in 1963. It was around this time that Kitaj met Andrews, Auerbach, Bacon, Freud, and Kossoff, who were also with the gallery. During the early 1960s Kitaj concentrated on combining figurative imagery with abstraction and began to incorporate collage into his paintings, drawing on photography and cinema and referring to historical events and political circumstances. In the mid-1970s he began to work increasingly from life, moving away from complex compositions to more straightforward figure studies. During the late 1980s he continued to read widely in Jewish culture – studying Walter Benjamin, Sigmund Freud, and Franz Kafka – and positioned himself more explicitly as a Jewish artist. In 1989 he published his First Diasporist Manifesto, analyzing the Jewish dimension in his art and his role as an outsider. In 1997 he left London and moved to Los Angeles, where he died in 2007.

Cecil Court, London W.C.2. (The Refugees), 1983-84 is set in the London thoroughfare famous for its secondhand bookshops and a favorite haunt of Kitaj. The artist is shown reclining on a sofa in the foreground, while figures from his life jump out in the background. Kitaj has explained that this theatrical composition was inspired by the peripatetic troupes of the Yiddisher Theatre in Central Europe, which he had learned about from his grandparents and from Kafka’s diaries.

The Wedding 1989-93 is a major work by Kitaj that brings together crucial themes in his practice – including his Jewish identity and his friendships and associations as a School of London artist. Depicting Kitaj’s wedding to the American artist Sandra Fisher (1947-94), which took place in 1983, the painting prominently depicts School of London artists Freud, Kossoff, and David Hockney, painters who were linked by both friendship and shared artistic concerns.

 

R. B. Kitaj (1932-2007) 'Erasmus Variations' 1958

 

R. B. Kitaj (1932-2007)
Erasmus Variations
1958
Oil on canvas
104.9 × 84.2 cm (41 5/16 × 33 1/8 in.)
Tate: Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to Tate 2007
© R.B. Kitaj Estate, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art Photo
© Tate, London 2016

 

 

The work’s title refers to the initial source for the image, a series of doodles the Dutch humanist scholar Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) made in the margins of a manuscript he was annotating. Kitaj encountered Erasmus’s scribbled faces in one of the first books he read while in Oxford, the biography of the scholar by the historian Johan Huizinga (1872-1945). Kitaj’s composition follows the grid-like arrangement imposed on Erasmus’s doodles in the reproduction in Huizinga’s book, and his faces have broadly the same exaggerated features as those drawn by Erasmus.

To Kitaj, Erasmus’s absent-minded doodles suggested a prefiguration of the method of automatic drawing (that is, drawing made without the intervention of reason) that would later be favoured by the surrealists. In Erasmus Variations, the artist employs a loose and gestural method of painting evocative of abstract expressionism. The work thus links the surrealist belief that automatic drawing provides an insight into the workings of the mind with a similar idea implied in gestural abstraction: that the artwork reveals the personality of the artist (Livingstone, 2010, pp.16-7).

Kitaj derived the style and technique of painting that he used in Erasmus Variations specifically from the Dutch-born abstract expressionist painter Willem de Kooning (1904-97), in particular the images of female nudes de Kooning made in the late 1940s. Kitaj explained: ‘De Kooning’s surreal-automatic ‘Women’ were my favourite action paintings of the School of New York, a recalcitrant or truant of which I had been during my Manhattan years, and so I adapted something of that mode here; Double Dutch (Erasmus and De Kooning, both of Rotterdam).’ (Quoted in Livingstone, 2010, p. 232.)

Text from the Tate website

 

R. B. Kitaj (1932-2007) 'The Murder of Rosa Luxemburg' 1960

 

R. B. Kitaj (1932-2007)
The Murder of Rosa Luxemburg
1960
Oil, ink, graphite and paper on canvas
153 × 152.4 cm (60 1/4 × 60 in.)
Tate: Purchased 1980
© R.B. Kitaj Estate, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art
Photo © Tate, London 2016

 

 

This is an early example of Kitaj’s many paintings on the theme of the unjust infliction of human suffering. Its ostensible subject is the murder in 1919 of the Jewish agitator and theoretician Rosa Luxemburg, who was killed by troops opposed to the revolutionary movement that swept Germany in the wake of the First World War. In the centre of this painting a figure holds Luxemburg’s corpse, while at top right is a collaged transcription of an account of the murder. Kitaj associated Luxemburg with his grandmother Helene, who was forced to flee Vienna in the 1930s. The veiled figure at top left represents his maternal grandmother, who fled Russia as a result of earlier pogroms of the Jewish people.

September 2004

 

R. B. Kitaj (1932-2007) 'Boys and Girls!' 1964

 

R. B. Kitaj (1932-2007)
Boys and Girls!
1964
Screen print on paper
Image: 52.7 × 41.3 cm (20 3/4 × 16 1/4 in.) Framed: 87 × 62.5 × 3 cm (34 1/4 × 24 5/8 × 1 3/16 in.)
Tate: Presented by Rose and Chris Prater through the Institute of Contemporary Prints 1975
© R.B. Kitaj Estate, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art Photo
© Tate, London 2016

 

R. B. Kitaj (1932-2007) 'The Rise of Fascism' 1975-1979

 

R. B. Kitaj (1932-2007)
The Rise of Fascism
1975-1979
Oil, charcoal and pastel on paper
85.1 × 158.4 cm (33 1/2 × 62 3/8 in.)
Tate: Purchased 1980
© R.B. Kitaj Estate, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art
Photo © Tate, London 2016

 

 

‘The central grotesque bather is the fascist. The bather at the left is the beautiful victim. The righthand bather is the ordinary European watching it all happen. A bomber appears in the upper left corner which will cross the English Channel and bring an end to it all one day.

‘The three figures were originally drawn on separate sheets of paper from women who posed for me in New York and London. Later, between 1975 and 1979, when I took it into my head to make a composition, I asked a few other women to assume the poses that would represent the bathers in fascist Europe. After the drawings were glued together, the images began to change many times.

Much of the drawing was ultimately invented but the pose of the righthand figure is based on a picture by the Cordoban painter Romero de Torres (d. 1930).’ ~ R. B. Kitaj

The method of fusing together drawings done on separate pieces of paper to produce a single image, which can be seen in several other pastels of this period … contributes to the ambiguous relationship, both physical and psychological, between the three figures… While one effect of this cutting and joining is to emphasise the fragmentary nature of the composition, Kitaj also makes use of the edges of the paper to reinforce contour and volume. When questioned about the extreme anatomical foreshortening in the torso of the left-hand bather the artist replied that it was in fact possible and that a source existed for it in a pornographic magazine. ‘The often unlikely joining’, Kitaj added, ‘of limbs and postures in Cézanne’s Bather compositions are also entrenched in one’s memory … but the pose was taken from the life.’

Text from the Tate website

 

R. B. Kitaj (1932-2007) 'Cecil Court, London W. C. 2. (The Refugees)' 1983-1984

 

R. B. Kitaj (1932-2007)
Cecil Court, London W. C. 2. (The Refugees)
1983-1984
Oil on canvas 183 × 183 cm (72 1/16 × 72 1/16 in.)
Tate: Purchased 1985
© R.B. Kitaj Estate, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art
Photo © Tate, London 2016

 

 

This painting is set in Cecil Court, a street famous for its second-hand bookshops and a favourite haunt of the artist. It is one of many paintings made by Kitaj arising out of an increasing awareness of his own Jewishness. He wrote, ‘I have a lot of experience of refugees from Germany and that’s how this painting came about. My dad and grandmother … just barely escaped.’ The work shows the artist reclining on a sofa while figures from his life pop out of the street behind him. Kitaj has explained that this theatrical composition was inspired by the peripatetic troupes of the Yiddisher Theatre in Central Europe, which he had learned about from his grandparents and from in the diaries of the writer Franz Kafka.

September 2004

 

R. B. Kitaj (1932-2007) 'The Wedding' 1989-1993

 

R. B. Kitaj (1932-2007)
The Wedding
1989-1993
Oil on canvas
182.9 × 182.9 cm (72 × 72 in.)
Tate: Presented by the artist 1993
© R.B. Kitaj Estate, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art
Photo © Tate, London 2016

 

 

This painting depicts the wedding of Kitaj and the American artist Sandra Fisher (1947-94) which took place in 1983, some six years before this painting was begun. The couple first met in Los Angeles, where Kitaj was teaching. Upon his return to London in 1972, they became reacquainted. Kitaj wrote the following text to accompany the painting’s exhibition in the 1994 Tate Gallery retrospective:
.

Sandra and I were married in the beautiful old Sephardic Synagogue founded in London by Rembrandt’s friend, Menasseh ben Israel. Under the chupa (canopy), aside from my children and the Rabbi in top hat, Freud is on the left, Auerbach in the middle, then Sandra and me, and Hockney (best man) is to the right of us. Kossoff appears at the far right, transcribed from a drawing by John Lessore. I worked on the painting for years and never learned how to finish it even though painter friends, including most of those in the picture, gave me good advice about it which I took up and changed things all the time. In the end, instead of finishing it, I finished with it and gave it away to a deserving old friend.

.
Kitaj has described Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon as ‘the most important influence’ on this picture, ‘not a source but a hovering presence’ (unpublished Board note presented to Tate Gallery Trustees, July 1993). The Wedding brings together several crucial themes in Kitaj’s art and thought, including his increasing awareness of his identity as a Jew. The prominent depiction of several of the so-called ‘School of London‘ artists relates to Kitaj’s identification of these artists as part of a group of painters who were linked by friendship, their response to great masters, their emphasis on drawing and their concern with the human subject.

Text from the Tate website

 

R. B. Kitaj (1932-2007) 'My Cities (An Experimental Drama)' 1990-1993

 

R. B. Kitaj (1932-2007)
My Cities (An Experimental Drama)
1990-1993
Oil on canvas
183.2 × 183.2 cm (72 1/8 × 72 1/8 in.)
Tate: Purchased 1997
© R.B. Kitaj Estate, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art
Photo © Tate, London 2016

 

 

For his 1994 Tate Gallery retrospective exhibition, Kitaj wrote the following text to accompany this picture:
.

The three main actors represent myself in youth, middle age and old age. Behind them is a drop-curtain inscribed with historiated capital letters of cities where I’ve lived or loved. Over the course of a few years these capital letters (inspired by William Blake and the paintings of Victor Hugo) have been sublimated by white paint for the most part because they got too emphatic, so not they’re not too easy to read or even see, some of them representing faded (whitened) memories anyway. The idea for the painting comes from a page I’ve kept as long as I can remember, torn from a copy of the old American magazine Theater Arts, showing a scene from what is described as ‘an experimental drama’, ‘A Happy Journey to Trenton and Camden’ by Thornton Wilder. The catwalk stage upon which the figures tread and stumble through life becomes the roof of a baseball dugout in which I’ve tried half-heartedly to draw some of my demons (Don’t Ask!), colourless spectres only thinly isolated from the three leading players above as in a predella.

.
The painting develops an idea in Kitaj’s 1960 A Reconstitution (private collection), whereby the map of the Americas is presented in a radically distorted form. In the earlier work, the map was prominent. In My Cities, however, it is virtually buried, running down the left side of the painting. The contour of the east coast of South America can be seen between the left and central figures. Although My Cities celebrates various places that were of special significance in Kitaj’s life, only the Americas are represented in map form…

Kitaj combines painting and drawing in a manner which recalls the techniques of Cézanne, Degas, Matisse and Giacometti. The lower or predella section of the picture relates to the theme of American baseball, which the artist views as a compelling human drama. The players sit in a limbo-like dugout, awaiting a call which may not come, or which, if it does, may lead to heaven or hell. Combined with the upper section, the predella contributes to a reading of the painting as an allegory of life.

Text from the Tate website

 

 

The J. Paul Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049

Opening hours:
Tues – Friday 10 am – 5.30 pm
Saturday 10 am – 9 pm
Sunday 10 am – 5.30 pm
Monday closed

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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25
Jun
13

Exhibition: ‘Gilbert & George – London Pictures’ at MKM Museum Küppersmühle für Moderne Kunst, Duisburg

Exhibition dates: 20th March 20 – 30th June 2013

 

Gilbert & George. 'Dog' 2011

 

Gilbert & George
Dog
2011
© Gilbert & George / Courtesy of the Artist and White Cube Gallery

 

 

I used to think that Gilbert & George’s work was inventive and relevant, that it had something important to say about contemporary culture. These days I am not so sure. It seems all to easy to rip headlines from the tabloid newspapers. Who cares about dog, death, money, school, cute kids, etc… as commented on by these pulp editions. Gilbert & George seem to have become a pastiche of themselves, cartoon cut-outs hovering in contextless backgrounds with staring eyes and gormless faces. “I am contextless, unhappily spinning in the vacuum of my own indolence,” the work seems to be saying. We already know that we are becoming a society of shortened, fractured words and sentences on mobile phones and in newspaper headlines, of absence/presence where people absent themselves from their surroundings while on mobile devices, we know that already… I don’t think it takes mediocre art to point it out. It’s not very insightful (as Gilbert & George used to be).

I think they need a good boot up the bum to get them back to making work that takes the viewer somewhere, that actually challenges people’s belief systems, not some pulp driven comment on contemporary culture. Take a look at their early work if you don’t believe what I am saying: look at how alive the pictures were, how much vitality and energy they had, and how challenging the work was!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Museum Küppersmühle für Moderne Kunst for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Gilbert & George. 'Lick' 1977

 

Gilbert & George
Lick
1977

 

1977-queer

 

Gilbert & George
Queer
1977

 

Gilbert & George. 'Money' 2011

 

Gilbert & George
Money
2011
© Gilbert & George

 

Gilbert & George. 'School Straight' 2011

 

Gilbert & George
School Straight
2011
© Gilbert & George / Courtesy of the Artist and White Cube Gallery

 

Gilbert & George. 'Death' 2011

 

Gilbert & George
Death
2011
© Gilbert & George

 

 

Completed in 2011, “London Pictures” is the title of the cycle created by the London-based artists Gilbert & George, to which the eponymous exhibition in the MKM from March 20, 2013, is dedicated. Taking as their theme the countless newsagent posters collected by the artists themselves over a period of six years, the artists compile a detailed inventory of quotidian human behaviour, which they then submit to their hallmark humanistic gaze, and in so doing, furnish their own perspective on the psycho-social condition of our Western societies. What emerges is an extensive series of images from which the MKM is, for the first time, showcasing 70 individual pictures and affording visitors the opportunity to intensively explore this new phase from the oeuvre of Gilbert & George.

In their “London Pictures” Gilbert & George have collated the newspaper posters, which, not only in London, but across England, garnish the sales stands of the newspaper dealers. Their explicit allusions to the most titillating, violent and bizarre stories of the day are designed to entice potential customers to buy the newspapers. These simple statements of facts promise tales of love and sex, violence and death, wealth and power -themes, which have fascinated humanity since time immemorial, and which expose our endless appetite for sensation, disaster and excess. Gilbert & George have taken 3712 images of these advertising posters, processed the material, arranged it according to themes and fashioned it into 292 carefully-created pictures. Not only are the artists documenting a commonly-used device within the marketing strategies of the Western press, they are also exploring its impact on both the individual and society as a whole, and applying artistic means to articulate their own response to, and perception of, this social phenomenon. “The “London Pictures” should not in the first instance be read as a critique of the media, but perhaps as a critique of ourselves”, explains MKM Director Walter Smerling, adding that: “Gilbert & George borrow the language of the media, place it in a different context and in so doing transform these newspapers posters into a new entity vested with an entirely new content. The careful collation and arrangement of hundreds of headlines (…) forges a platform for reflection which casts the spotlight on to our own complicity, intrigues and problems of existence.”

“The artists of course feature in their pictures: in the background as a pair of quizzical, piercing eyes or as a ubiquitous, immaculately besuited presence, appearing” (…) “as though the artists were psychic manifestations of the city itself, its sense of place and history. The “London Pictures” comprise both a directory of quotidian urban human behaviour – revealing and shocking and violent, in all its sluggish or volatile momentum – and as such the city’s moral portrait: an unflinching audit of modern western society’s relationship to itself, stripped of rhetoric or intellectual disguise.” (Michael Bracewell, author of the catalogue). Yet beyond focussing on the city of London itself, Gilbert & George also cast themselves directly as integral constituents of our society’s media landscape and its psychic condition. Their unrelenting gaze interrogates not only the message of the posters, but is trained at the observer who also becomes an essential part of each and every picture.

Gilbert & George are seeking to portray the “grandeur, mystery and drama” of our Western world. From competitions to find the cutest child to gruesome tales of murder and mayhem – the whole gamut of human experience is represented here and exercises an equally ineluctable fascination on readers in Germany: For as the artists themselves remark, the “London Pictures” and “London Problems” could just as easily be “Duisburg Pictures” and “Duisburg Problems”.

 

Biography

Gilbert (born in 1943 in St. Martin in Thurn, Italy) studied at the Wolkenstein School of Art in South Tyrol, the Hallein School of Art in Austria, and the Munich Academy of Fine Arts, before attending St. Martin’s School of Art in London. There, in 1967, he met George (born in 1942 in Plymouth, UK), who had previously been a student at Dartington Hall College of Art and Oxford Art School. During the 1960s, Gilbert & George expanded the concept of sculpture by making themselves the materials for their art, as Living Sculptures. They declared everyday activities to be art, and provoked opposition by using faeces, urine and sperm as principal motifs in their picture series. They were awarded the 1986 Turner Prize, exhibited in the British Pavilion at the 2005 Venice Biennale, and has held exhibitions in venues ranging from the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (1971 and 1996) to Guggenheim Museum, New York (1985), Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville, Paris (1997) and London’s Tate Modern (2007). Other major public exhibitions have been mounted in Russia (1990) and China (1993).

Press release from the MKM Museum Küppersmühle für Moderne Kunst website

 

Gilbert & George. 'Kills' 2011

 

Gilbert & George
Kills
2011
© Gilbert & George

 

Gilbert & George. 'Woman' 2011

 

Gilbert & George
Woman
2011
© Gilbert & George

 

Gilbert & George. 'Cute Kids' 2011

 

Gilbert & George
Cute Kids
2011
© Gilbert & George

 

Gilbert & George. 'Stabbings' 2011

 

Gilbert & George
Stabbings
2011
© Gilbert & George

 

Gilbert & George. 'Sex Pest' 2011

 

Gilbert & George
Sex Pest
2011
151 x 127 cm
© Gilbert & George / Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Salzburg, Paris

 

The British artists George Passmore (L) and Gilbert Prousch (R) pass in front of one of their art work 'London Pictures'

 

The British artists George Passmore (L) and Gilbert Prousch (R) pass in front of one of their art work ‘London Pictures’ as they arrive for a press conference at the museum Kueppersmuehle in Duisburg, western Germany, on March 14, 2013. AFP PHOTO / CAROLINE SEIDEL

 

 

MKM Museum Küppersmühle für Moderne Kunst
Philosophenweg 55, 47051 Duisburg
Germany
Phone: +49 (0)203 30 19 48 -10/-11

Opening hours:
Wed 2.00pm – 6.00pm
Thu – Sun 11.00am – 6.00pm
Bank Holidays 11.00am – 6.00pm

MKM Museum Küppersmühle für Moderne Kunst website

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15
May
11

Exhibition: ‘Gilbert & George: Jack Freak Pictures’ at Deichtorhallen Hamburg

Exhibition dates: 25th February – 22nd May 2011

 

Gilbert & George standing in front of ‘Metal Jack’ (2008) from the series ‘Jack Freak Pictures’ on show at Deichtorhallen Hamburg

 

Gilbert & George standing in front of Metal Jack (2008) from the series Jack Freak Pictures on show at Deichtorhallen Hamburg
Photo: Fred Dott © Deichtorhallen Hamburg/Fred Dott

 

 

“We are unhealthy, middle-aged, dirty-minded, depressed, cynical, empty, tired-brained, seedy, rotten, dreaming, badly-behaved, ill-mannered, arrogant, intellectual, self-pitying, honest, successful, hard-working, thoughtful, artistic, religious, fascistic, blood-thirsty, teasing, destructive, ambitious, colourful, damned, stubborn, perverted and good. We are artists.”

.
Gilbert & George, 1980

 

 

More from the Jack Freak picture show!

Marcus

.
Many thankx to Deichtorhallen Hamburg for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Installation view of ‘Jack Freak Pictures’ by Gilbert & George at Deichtorhallen Hamburg

Installation view of ‘Jack Freak Pictures’ by Gilbert & George at Deichtorhallen Hamburg

 

Installation views of Jack Freak Pictures by Gilbert & George at Deichtorhallen Hamburg
Photos: Fred Dott © Deichtorhallen Hamburg/Fred Dott

 

 

According to the writer Michael Bracewell, “the Jack Freak Pictures are among the most iconic, philosophically astute and visually violent works that Gilbert & George have ever created.” The dominant pictorial element is the Union Jack, itself an internationally familiar, abstract, geometric pattern and a socially and politically charged symbol whose significance spans the cultural spectrum from contemporary fashion to aggressive national pride. Equally prominent, and linking the Jack Freak Pictures to almost every work previously created by the artists, are Gilbert & George themselves in a variety of guises: dancing, gurning, howling, watching, waiting. Sometimes their bodies seem complete; other times they have been fragmented or contorted. Invariably they feature as both subject and object, artwork and artist; they are players in the epic and complex pictorial drama they have created.

Set in the East End of London where Gilbert & George have lived and worked for over forty years, the Jack Freak Pictures bring numerous aspects of the modern world to life. Medals, flags, maps, street-signs, graffiti and other less immediately obvious motifs jostle for attention with the brickwork, buildings and even foliage of the contemporary urban environment in works that are densely layered and complexly nuanced to evoke (and sometimes conflate) a sense of past, present and future. They raise fundamental and rudimentary questions about religion, identity, politics, economics, sexuality and death. The Jack Freak Pictures reaffirm Gilbert & George’s status as pre-eminent Modernists and underline Robert Rosenblum’s observation that “of the singularity of their duality in life as art, there is little doubt.” Michael Bracewell’s view that they are “visionary artists in the lineage of William Blake” rings truer now than ever before.

Text from the White Cube website [Online] Cited 12/05/2011 no longer available online

 

Gilbert & George. ‘Christian England’ from the series ‘Jack Freak Pictures’ 2008

 

Gilbert & George
Christian England from the series Jack Freak Pictures
2008
254 x 528 cm
© Gilbert & George

 

Gilbert & George. ‘Frigidarium’ from the series ‘Jack Freak Pictures’ 2008

 

Gilbert & George
Frigidarium from the series Jack Freak Pictures
2008
381 x 604 cm
© Gilbert & George

 

Gilbert & George. ‘Street Party’ from the series ‘Jack Freak Pictures’ 2008

 

Gilbert & George
Street Party from the series Jack Freak Pictures
2008
381 x 604 cm
© Gilbert & George

 

 

With its major spring show, Deichtorhallen Hamburg is once again bringing stars of the international art world to Hamburg. Gilbert & George (born 1943 and 1942) have long since been acknowledged icons of contemporary art.

The exhibition will present the latest, wide-ranging group of pictures they have ever created. Called the “Jack Freak Pictures”. They will be on display in the cathedral-like setting of the large Deichtorhalle from February 25 to May 22, 2011 for the first time more or less in its entirety – some 120 pictures will be on view.

Gilbert & George’s large-format pictures present decidedly sacred and secular themes. In this case, Gilbert & George have created a group around the British national symbol, the Union Jack, with all its different connotations, from symbol of national pride through to the cult symbol of the British Pop Music world and countercultures. Surrounded by medals and amulets, the streets of London and the red, blue and white design of the British flag, as in their previous art here Gilbert & George are not only the creators of their own world of images, but also act as protagonists in it.

The “Jack Freak Pictures” are among the most symbolic, philosophically most elaborate and visually striking art Gilbert & George have ever created. Within Gilbert & George’s oeuvre as a whole they constitute the powerful concentration of the themes and emotions that the artists have now been exploring in their art for more than 40 years. In these pictures, the artists play the roles of both victim and monster, puppets of a cosmic revue, sleepless guardians of empty big-city streets and crazy-looking talking heads, as Michael Bracewell outlines in his essay in the exhibition catalog. The large pictures, do not address the individual constitution of the two artists but instead point up states of human existence and can be read as a description of the modern world from the artists’ point of view.

The exhibition is being organised by Deichtorhallen Hamburg and the British Council and will move on from Hamburg, albeit it on a smaller scale, to Lentos Kunstmuseum, Linz, Austria. Hatje Cantz Verlag has brought out a catalog with an essay by Michael Bracewell and colour illustrations of all 153 works in the series.

Text from the Deichtorhallen Hamburg website

 

Gilbert & George. ‘War Dance’ from the series ‘Jack Freak Pictures’ 2008

 

Gilbert & George
War Dance from the series Jack Freak Pictures
2008
151 x 190 cm
© Gilbert & George

 

Gilbert & George. ‘Britainers’ from the series ‘Jack Freak Pictures’ 2008

 

Gilbert & George
Britainers from the series Jack Freak Pictures
2008
254 x 302 cm
© Gilbert & George

 

Gilbert & George. ‘Stuff Religion’ from the series ‘Jack Freak Pictures’ 2008

 

Gilbert & George
Stuff Religion from the series Jack Freak Pictures
2008
317 x 302 cm
© Gilbert & George

 

Gilbert & George. ‘Union Dance’ from the series ‘Jack Freak Pictures’ 2008

 

Gilbert & George
Union Dance from the series Jack Freak Pictures
2008
© Gilbert & George

 

Gilbert & George. ‘Brits’ from the series ‘Jack Freak Pictures’ 2008

 

Gilbert & George
Brits from the series Jack Freak Pictures
2008
226 x 190 cm
© Gilbert & George

 

 

Deichtorhallen Hamburg
Deichtorstrasse 1-2
20095 HAMBURG
Tel. +49 (0)40 32103-0

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 11 am – 6 pm
Closed Mondays

Deichtorhallen Hamburg website

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08
Apr
11

Review: ‘Antony Gormley: MEMES’ at Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 17th March – 23rd April 2011

 

Anthony Gormley. 'MEMES' 2011 installation view, Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne Photograph by Tim Griffith. Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery Melbourne and Sydney

 

Antony Gormley (British, b. 1950)
MEMES installation view, Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne
2011
Photograph by Tim Griffith
Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery Melbourne and Sydney

 

 

The size of the figures surprises the viewer on entering the gallery.

Then observe the figures engagement with the gallery space.

The tensioning points between figures, wall and floor are fantastic.

“Placed directly on the floor they become acupuncture points within the volume of the space, allowing the viewer to become conscious, through the disparity of scale, of his/her own mass and spatial displacement as s/he moves around and amongst the works.” (Antony Gormley text, see below)

The figures lean, are lopsided, collapse, pose, are reordered and reconfigured.

They teeter on the edge of cracks in the gallery floor (perhaps a metaphor for humans standing before the abyss).

They form yoga poses.

They are Transformers (some of them remind me of the Star Wars ‘AT-AT’ Storm Troop Carrier, the ones that look like deadly mechanical elephants).

The figures self-replicate 27 communal blocks in different assemblages.

There seems to be a (metaphyiscal?) connection between the figures, through gesture, across space.

“A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes, in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures.” (Wikipedia)

They mutate, much as the human is mutating into the posthuman.

“The randomness to which mutation testifies is implicit in the very idea of pattern, for only against the background of nonpattern can pattern emerge. Randomness is the contrasting term that allows pattern to be understood as such.” (see below)

.
PS. We were down on our hands and knees looking at the figures (just like some of their configurations) and this gave a whole new perspective to the work.

 

“What happens in the case of mutation? Consider the example of the genetic code. Mutation normally occurs when some random event (for example, a burst of radiation or a coding error) disrupts an existing pattern and something else is put in its place instead. Although mutation disrupts pattern, it also presupposes a morphological standard against which it can be measured and understood as mutation. We have seen that in electronic textuality, the possibility for mutation within the text are enhanced and heightened by long coding chains. We can now understand mutation in more fundamental terms. Mutation is critical because it names the bifurcation point at which the interplay between pattern and randomness causes the system to evolve in a new direction. It reveals the productive potential of randomness that is also recognized within information theory when uncertainty is seen as both antagonistic and intrinsic to information.

We are now in a position to understand mutation as a decisive event in the psycholinguistics of information. Mutation is the catastrophe in the pattern/randomness dialectic analogous to castration in the presence / absence dialectic. It marks a rupture of pattern so extreme that the expectation of continuous replication can in longer be sustained. But as with castration, this only appears to be a disruption located at a specific moment. The randomness to which mutation testifies is implicit in the very idea of pattern, for only against the background of nonpattern can pattern emerge. Randomness is the contrasting term that allows pattern to be understood as such.”

.
Hayles
, Katherine. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999, pp. 30-33

 

Many thankx to the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All images courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery Melbourne and Sydney.

 

Antony Gormley. 'MEME CXXVII' 2011

 

Antony Gormley (British, b. 1950)
MEME CXXVII
2011
Cast iron
37.3 x 9.3 x 7.8 cm
Photograph by Stephen White
Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery Melbourne and Sydney

 

 

A Meme is a cultural analogue to a gene. Forms that are transmitted in thought or behaviour from one body to another, responding to conditional environments, self-replicating and capable of mutation.

The miniature or the model allows the totality of a body to be seen at once. These small solid iron works use the formal language of architecture to replace anatomy and construct volumes to articulate a range of 32 body postures. The ambition is to make intelligible forms that form an abstract lexicon of body-posture but which nevertheless carry the invitation of empathy and the transmission of states of mind.

Displayed widely spaced within the architecture of Anna Schwartz Gallery in Melbourne, the works interface with the architecture of the gallery. Placed directly on the floor they become acupuncture points within the volume of the space, allowing the viewer to become conscious, through the disparity of scale, of his/her own mass and spatial displacement as s/he moves around and amongst the works.

This will be the first time that the Memes series, begun in 2007, will be shown together. The space of art as a reflexive test ground in which the direct experience of the viewer becomes the ground of meaning is a continual quest in this artist’s work and continues the exploration of scale seen in the expanded dimensions of FIRMAMENT at Anna Schwartz Gallery Sydney in February 2010, and the miniature scale of ASIAN FIELD, seen in the Sydney Biennale of 2008.

Antony Gormley

Text from the Anna Schwartz website

 

Antony Gormley. 'MEME CXLI' 2011

 

Antony Gormley (British, b. 1950)
MEME CXLI
2011
Cast iron
4.5 x 9.5 x 36.4 cm
Photograph by Stephen White
Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery Melbourne and Sydney

 

Antony Gormley. 'MEME CXXIX' 2011

 

Antony Gormley (British, b. 1950)
MEME CXXIX
2011
Cast iron
10 x 7.7 x 29
Photograph by Stephen White
Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery Melbourne and Sydney

 

 

Anna Schwartz Gallery
185 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, Victoria 3000

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 12 – 5 pm
Saturday 1 – 5 pm

Anna Schwartz Gallery website

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18
Nov
10

Exhibition: ‘We English’ by Simon Roberts at Robert Morat Galerie, Berlin

Exhibition dates: 2nd October – 4th December 2010

 

Simon Roberts. 'Skegness Beach, Lincolnshire, 12th August 2007' from the series 'We English'

 

Simon Roberts (British, b. 1974)
Skegness Beach, Lincolnshire, 12th August 2007 from the series We English
2007

 

 

Being an ex-pat English these photographs have a very special resonance for me. They are beautifully visualised and resolved photographs that do not rely too heavily on the artist’s conceptualisation of landscape (the ever present hand of the artist) in the construction of narrative within the picture plane. In other words the artist allows the image to speak for itself, “a sensitive, resolved response to scenes of ordinary people and how they inhabit and utilise the spaces around them,” with the layering of meaning, the back stories (boundaries, sites of contestation, notions of identity and colonisation of spaces amongst others) kept in balance with the sublime elements of the constructed landscape. The photographs work all the better for this restraint and offer the viewer sensual images that are open and receptive, spaces that are invigorating and enlightening, Roberts has created a magical series of photographs that poignantly capture the essence of what it is to be English.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to Simon Roberts for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. The permission is much appreciated. Please click on the photographs to view a larger version of the image.

 

Simon Roberts. 'South Downs Way, West Sussex, 8th October 2007' from the series 'We English'

 

Simon Roberts (British, b. 1974)
South Downs Way, West Sussex, 8th October 2007 from the series We English
2007

 

Simon Roberts. 'Heberdens Farm, Finchdean, Hampshire, 20th December 2007' from the series 'We English'

 

Simon Roberts (British, b. 1974)
Heberdens Farm, Finchdean, Hampshire, 20th December 2007 from the series We English
2007

 

Simon Roberts. 'Rushey Hill Caravan Park, Peacehaven, East Sussex, 21st December 2007' from the series 'We English'

 

Simon Roberts (British, b. 1974)
Rushey Hill Caravan Park, Peacehaven, East Sussex, 21st December 2007 from the series We English
2007

 

Simon Roberts. 'Fantasy Island, Ingoldmells, Lincolnshire, 28th December 2007' from the series 'We English'

 

Simon Roberts (British, b. 1974)
Fantasy Island, Ingoldmells, Lincolnshire, 28th December 2007 from the series We English
2007

 

Simon Roberts. 'Mad Maldon Mud Race, River Blackwater, Maldon, Essex, 30th December 2007' from the series 'We English'

 

Simon Roberts (British, b. 1974)
Mad Maldon Mud Race, River Blackwater, Maldon, Essex, 30th December 2007 from the series We English
2007

 

Simon Roberts 'The Haxey Hood, Haxey, North Lincolnshire, 5th January 2008' from the series 'We English' 2008

 

Simon Roberts (British, b. 1974)
The Haxey Hood, Haxey, North Lincolnshire, 5th January 2008 from the series We English
2008

 

 

“We English is the result of a year’s travel around England by Roberts, in a motorhome, documenting its landscape on a large format 5 x 4 camera. Informed by the photography of his predecessors Tony Ray Jones, John Davies and Martin Parr, and by the romantic tradition of English landscape painting, Roberts depicts the English at leisure within pastoral landscapes in a manner that is entirely his own. The work is beautiful, accessible and often heart-warming. This is the most significant contribution to the photography of England since John Davies’s ‘The British Landscape’.”

Chris Boot, Publisher, 2009

 

Artist statement

Initially, I was simply thinking about Englishness and how my upbringing had been quintessentially English. How much of this was an intrinsic part of my identity? In what ways was my idea of what constitutes an ‘English life’ or English pastimes (if there are such things) different to those of others’? My own memories of holidays, for example, were infused with very particular landscapes; the lush green-ness around Derwent Water or the flinty grey skies – and pebbles – of Angmering’s beaches. It seemed to me that these landscapes formed an important part of my consciousness of who I am and how I ‘remember’ England.

Seeking out ordinary people engaged in diverse pastimes, I aim to show a populace with a profound attachment to its’ local environments and homeland. We English explores the notion that nationhood – that what it means to be English – is to be found on the surface of contemporary life, encapsulated by banal everyday rituals and activities.

My first major body of work, Motherland, was a study about Russian identity. The images are not clichéd representations of a Russia ground down by poverty and despair, rather, photographs of a land of dignified people empowered by a growing optimism and a deep rooted sense of national esteem.

The same themes of identity, memory, history and attachment to place – of belonging – resonate throughout We English. To access these abstractions, I’ve produced a series of colour landscape photographs, which record places where groups of people congregate for a common purpose and shared experience. Since landscape has long been used as a commodity to be consumed, I focus on leisure activities as a way of looking at England’s shifting cultural and aesthetic identity. The photographs are rooted in a consciousness of my own attachment to my homeland and are an intentionally lyrical rendering of everyday English landscapes. They draw on issues of cultural geography and contemporary landscape theory, together with vestiges of English romanticism.

We English is not just a mode of social and anthropological commentary, although there are important elements of this in the work; more, it aims to constitute a sensitive, resolved response to scenes of ordinary people and how they inhabit and utilise the spaces around them. The photographs also explore the way in which landscapes can become a site of conflict or unease, where perceived notions of nationhood and quintessential Englishness are challenged, as diverse social groups seek to colonise shared public spaces. Notions of limits and boundaries re-appear throughout the work, reflected in the rivers, trees and hedges that create physical divisions, delineating and defining the limits of human interaction. Indeed, leisure activities often occur at boundary points: the edge of towns and cities, next to lakes and reservoirs, alongside footpaths and mountain ridges.

The project derives its title from the suggestion that photographer and subjects – we ‘English’ – are complicit in the act of representation. (During the five months that I travelled around England in a motorhome, people were invited to post their ideas about events I could photograph on a dedicated website and to share their experiences of living in their particular locality).

The project has been supported by Arts Council England, the National Media Museum and the John Kobal Foundation. A monograph of the photographs will be published in September 2009 by Chris Boot Ltd.

 

Simon Roberts 'Grantchester Meadows, Cambridgeshire, 23rd January 2008' from the series 'We English' 2008

 

Simon Roberts (British, b. 1974)
Grantchester Meadows, Cambridgeshire, 23rd January 2008 from the series We English
2008

 

Simon Roberts 'Cotswold Water Park, Shornecote, Gloucestershire, 11th May 2008' from the series 'We English' 2008

 

Simon Roberts (British, b. 1974)
Cotswold Water Park, Shornecote, Gloucestershire, 11th May 2008 from the series We English
2008

 

Simon Roberts 'Paul Herrington's 50th Birthday, Grantchester, Cambridgeshire, 15th June 2008' from the series 'We English' 2008

 

Simon Roberts (British, b. 1974)
Paul Herrington’s 50th Birthday, Grantchester, Cambridgeshire, 15th June 2008 from the series We English
2008

 

Simon Roberts 'Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station, Nottinghamshire, 16th June 2008' from the series 'We English' 2008

 

Simon Roberts (British, b. 1974)
Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station, Nottinghamshire, 16th June 2008 from the series We English
2008

 

Simon Roberts 'Blackpool Promenade, Lancashire, 24th July 2008' from the series 'We English' 2008

 

Simon Roberts (British, b. 1974)
Blackpool Promenade, Lancashire, 24th July 2008 from the series We English
2008

 

Simon Roberts 'Chatsworth House, Bakewell, Derbyshire, 7th August 2008' from the series 'We English' 2008

 

Simon Roberts (British, b. 1974)
Chatsworth House, Bakewell, Derbyshire, 7th August 2008 from the series We English
2008

 

Simon Roberts 'Bradford Bandits BMX Club, Peel Park, Bradford, West Yorkshire, 17th October 2009' from the series 'We English' 2008

 

Simon Roberts (British, b. 1974)
Bradford Bandits BMX Club, Peel Park, Bradford, West Yorkshire, 17th October 2009 from the series We English
2008

 

 

Robert Morat Galerie
Linienstraße 107
10115 Berlin, Germany
Phone: +49 30 25209358

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Saturday 12 – 6 pm

Robert Morat Galerie website

Simon Roberts website

We English website

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13
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10

Sculpture: ‘Harrier and Jaguar’ (2010) by Fiona Banner: Tate Britain Duveens Commission 2010

28th June 2010 – 3rd January 2011

 

Fiona Banner 'Harrier and Jaguar' (Jaguar detail) 2010

 

Fiona Banner (British, b. 1966)
Harrier and Jaguar (Jaguar detail)
2010
© Fiona Banner
Photo: John Billan, a friend, on his visit to Tate Britain

 

 

Love it, love it, love it!

The suspension, the feathers, the monumental scale of both of the forms, the shiny surface of the Jaguar, the beauty and the subversion of the values and purpose of the war machine: bringing the body and the machine into close physical proximity. Light the blue touch paper and step well back … (my English heritage coming in there, on Guy Fawkes night lighting the fireworks)

Marcus

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Many thankx to Susannah Lally at The Tate for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Fiona Banner. 'Harrier' 2010 (Harrier detail, front and back views)

 

Fiona Banner (British, b. 1966)
Harrier and Jaguar (Harrier detail front view)
2010
© Fiona Banner
Photo: Tate

 

 

Tate Britain today unveils its new Duveens Commission, Harrier and Jaguar, by Fiona Banner. Banner’s largest work to date, Harrier and Jaguar brings the highly-charged physicality of two real fighter jets, both previously in active military service, into the unexpected setting of the neoclassical Duveen Galleries. Harrier and Jaguar has been specially devised for the Tate Britain Duveens Commission 2010, supported by Sotheby’s.

In the South Duveens, a Sea Harrier jet is suspended vertically, its bulk spanning floor to ceiling, wall to wall. Mimicking its namesake the harrier hawk, the aircraft’s surface has been reworked with handpainted graphic feather markings – the cockpit, the eyes, the nose cone, the beak – and hung nose pointing towards the floor, bringing to mind a trussed bird.

In the North Duveens, a Sepecat Jaguar lies belly-up on the floor, its elegant, elongated body traces the length the gallery. Stripped of paint and polished to reveal a metallic surface, the aircraft becomes a mirror that reflects back its surroundings and exposes the audience to its own reactions. Harrier and Jaguar achieves a powerful presence loaded with the seductive and yet troubling qualities of these objects of war.

Here, Banner places recently decommissioned fighter planes in the incongruous setting of the Duveen Galleries. For Banner these objects represent the ‘opposite of language’, used when communication fails. In bringing body and machine into close proximity she explores the tension between the intellectual perception of the fighter plane and physical experience of the object. The suspended Sea Harrier transforms machine into captive bird, the markings tattooing its surface evoking its namesake the Harrier Hawk. A Jaguar lies belly up on the floor, its posture suggestive of a submissive animal. Stripped and polished, its surface functions as a shifting mirror, exposing the audience to its own reactions. Harrier and Jaguar remain ambiguous objects implying both captured beast and fallen trophy.

“I remember long sublime walks in the Welsh mountains with my father, when suddenly a fighter plane would rip through the sky, and shatter everything. It was so exciting, loud and overwhelming; it would literally take our breath away. The sound would arrive from nowhere, all you would see was a shadow and then the plane was gone.

At the time harrier jump jets were at the cutting edge of technology but to me they were like dinosaurs, prehistoric, from a time before words.”

Fiona Banner said: “It’s hard to believe that these planes are designed for function, because they are beautiful. But they are absolutely designed for function, as a bird or prey is, and that function is to kill. That we find them beautiful brings into question the very notion of beauty, but also our own intellectual and moral position. I am interested in that clash between what we feel and what we think.”

Penelope Curtis, Director of Tate Britain, said: “The power of Banner’s project lies in its simple but unlikely juxtaposition: two fighter jets in a suite of neo-classical galleries.”

A fascination with language and signs is central to Fiona Banner’s practice. The emblem of the fighter jet recurs throughout her work, part of an ongoing enquiry into how signs translate experience. They appeared in pencil drawings she made at art college and then later in her first ‘wordscape’ in 1994 which transcribed the film Top Gun into a frame-by-frame written account. Aircraft are also present in more recent work where the artist has created Airfix models of all the war planes currently in service throughout the world and a taxonomy of fighter-plane nicknames. Harrier and Jaguar extends the artist’s exploration of these themes whilst constituting a dramatic new departure in terms of its monumental scale and the use of actual fighter jets.

Deputy Chairman, Sotheby’s Europe, Lord Poltimore, commented: “Tate Britain’s Duveens Commission is among the art scene’s most celebrated events and Sotheby’s is extremely proud to once again be supporting it, and Tate, one of the world’s leading public art institutions.”

Banner’s Harrier and Jaguar is the latest in a series of sculpture displays in the Duveen Galleries at Tate Britain. The contemporary sculpture commissions have been an annual event for three years since 2008, through the generous support of Sotheby’s. Artists who have previously undertaken the Commission include Eva Rothschild (2009), Martin Creed (2008), Mark Wallinger (2007), Michael Landy (2004), Anya Gallaccio (2002) and Mona Hatoum (2000). The series builds on a long tradition of exhibitions in the Duveen Galleries, which has included memorable installations by Richard Long, Richard Serra and Luciano Fabro.”

Press release from the Tate Britain website

 

Fiona Banner. 'Harrier and Jaguar' (Jaguar detail back view) 2010

 

Fiona Banner (British, b. 1966)
Harrier and Jaguar (Jaguar detail front view)
2010
© Fiona Banner
Photo: Tate

 

Fiona Banner. 'Harrier and Jaguar' (Harrier detail back view) 2010

 

Fiona Banner (British, b. 1966)
Harrier and Jaguar (Harrier detail back view)
2010
© Fiona Banner
Photo: Tate

 

 

Tate Britain
Millbank
London SW1P 4RG

Opening hours:
Open every day 10.00 – 18.00

Tate Britain website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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