A few works at Tate Modern

After looking round the Red Star Over Russia exhibition, I spent about an hour having a wander round some of the free galleries at Tate Modern.  I’ve been to the Gallery several times recently, but it’s so big with a massive collection (of which only a fraction is on display at any one time) that I always seem to spot something I hadn’t seen before.

This poster from a collection on display from the May 68 events in Paris (50th anniversary coming up soon)  by the Atelier Populaire rather resonated with the exhibition I’d just seen

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I rather liked this 3 dimensional work by Victor Passmore

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Abstract in White, Green, Black, Blue, Red, Grey and Pink (1963)

A pleasing discovery was a number of photographs by the German photographer Werner Mantz.

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Werner Mantz began his career as a portrait and advertising photographer, later becoming known for his architectural photographs of the modernist housing projects in Cologne during the 1920s. His work is linked with the “New Objectivity” Movement in German photography before the Second World War which was concerned with using the clarity and precision of the camera to depict the everyday world in structured and organised compositions.

The photographs again linked with the Red Star Over Russia exhibition as they were similar in many ways with the photographs by Rodchenko.

I particularly liked this image dominated by the shadow of the lamppost

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Detail of Kalkerfield settlement, Cologne 1928

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LAND | SEA | LIFE at Abbot Hall

A couple of weeks ago we finally made it across to Abbot Hall to see the latest exhibition Land|Sea|Life which features works from the Ingram Collection, and which was coming towards the end of it’s run. The exhibition include 70 “Modern British” works by over 40 artists , including Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Graham Sutherland and Laura Knight.

The collection has been put together over the last decade by media entrepreneur Chris Ingram. He’s been lucky enough to indulge his passion amassing over 650 works. But he doesn’t simply display them all in his home (probably homes, being a millionaire!). The Collection is currently housed at The Lightbox – a gallery and museum in his hometown of Woking. His taste very much aligns with my own. There wasn’t a work on display at Abbot Hall I didn’t like and looking at the 2 volume catalogue from the Collection confirmed this view.

No photographs, so I’ve restricted this post to images available on the Abbot Hall website, which are only a fraction of the works displayed. This is a drawing by Barbara Hepworth and is clearly a preliminary for a work, the “plaster” of which, is in the Hepworth Gallery collection.

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The Ship by John Piper

Most of the exhibits were 2 D works –  paintings, drawings and prints. But there were a number of sculptures, including this attractive vase like bronze object by Kenneth Armitage which rather reminded me of Barbara Hepworth’s work.

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Although I was familiar with many of the artists included in the exhibition, there were some new discoveries (always good!).  One of these included John Tunnard who had several works on display. I particularly liked his tempura painting, Installation from 1942.

Another discovery was Edward Burra. One of his works Near Whitby, Yorkshire (1972)features in the video introduction to the exhibition (above) by Jo Baring, the Collection’s Director and Curator. The other works on display were probably more typical of his work; caricature like paintings of people, many of them workers. These included Figure Composition No1 (1976) which features a group of ordinary people going about their everyday business on a busy street, and Seamen Ashore, Greenock (1944) which does what it says on the tin!

A sculpture that took my eye was Ghost Boat  (2003) by the Irish artist, John Behan

Three of my favourite works in the exhibition were by an artist I had come across before, Keith Vaughan. They were ink/gouache and ink/watercolour drawings of buildings from the industrial region of the West Yorkshire Pennines – Village in the Hills (1943), Schoolhouse, Yorkshire (1945) and Industrial Landscape III, Morton Mill (1943). They rather reminded me of landscapes by John Piper.

There were plenty others I could mention, but I think that’s enough for now! Although there wasn’t one specifically for the exhibition, here were a couple of catalogues from the collection on sale at Abbot Hall which include the works on display and many more. Images can also be browsed on the Collection’s website .

New Year’s Day 2018 at the Hepworth

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I’m still far from finished writing up our trip to Australia, but I’d thought I’d take a short diversion to report on our trip to the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield on New Year’s Day. It’s become a bit of a tradition for us to drive over a quiet M62 to visit this excellent gallery. Last year we didn’t make a subsequent visit so it’s a while since we were last there – well, 12 months exactly!

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There had quite been a few changes with new exhibitions in four of the galleries and a temporary exhibition of work by the Polish artist Alina Szapocznikow which was coming to the end of it’s run.

Gallery 1 featured a range of works from the Wakefield collection, including the beautiful elm sculpture by Henry Moore shown above and works from Barbara Hepworth, and Nuam Gabo,

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The next two galleries concentrated on works by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, both born locally in Castleford and Wakefield respectively.

In the first room, works by henry Moore included this unusual (for Moore) bronze head Open Work Head No. 2 (1950)

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some of his drawings of miners from local pits during WWII

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and a series of lithographs of Stonehenge that he had personally donated to the Wakefield collection.

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The next, large room, was a comprehensive survey of Barbara Hepworth’s work including sculpture, drawings, prints and even her library of books

 

We had a brief look around the next two rooms which  explore Hepworth’s working methods and display examples from the Hepworth’s collection of her plasters as they’re on permanent display and we’ve seen them many times before. But the next two rooms had new displays – more works from the Hepworth’s collection

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and an exhibition Daughters of Necessity by British artist Serena Korda, featuring some of her own works displayed together with ceramics from the Hepworth’s collection. The Hepworth website tells us

Working with ceramics for several years, Korda combines her experimental approach to the material with her interest in the acoustic properties of objects. For The Hepworth Wakefield, Korda has created a new work, Resonators, comprising five large, richly glazed vessels with openings at each end. Visitors are invited to interact with the work by placing their ears to each vessel to hear a range of bass-like tones.

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The exhibition also features a new presentation of Korda’s ceramic sound installation Hold Fast, Stand Sure, I Scream a Revolution, which was premiered at Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art in 2016. This work is made up of 29 individual porcelain mushrooms suspended from the ceiling, which will be played as bells in public performances during the Ceramics Fair in early May 2018.

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I really liked these works which were a combination of art, science and music.

There were some beautiful ceramic pieces selected by the artist too

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The temporary exhibition Alina Szapocznikow: Human Landscapes was an extensive survey of the work of this Polish artist and

highlights how the artist’s work developed from classically figurative sculptures to her later ‘awkward objects’, which are politically charged and overlaid with Surrealist and Pop Art influences. (Hepworth Website)

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 features more than 100 works created between 1956 and 1972 including drawings, photography and sculpture, incorporating Szapocznikow’s characteristic use of cast body parts, many of which she transformed into everyday objects like lamps or ashtrays.

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Hopefully, I’ll find some time to write up more about this.

Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly Series

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I had an hour to spare before our tour of the Parliament building in Canberra so I took the opportunity to pop into the National Gallery (only a 20 minute walk from Parliament) to have a look at the iconic series of paintings by the Australian artist Sidney Nolan of the legendary bushranger, Ned Kelly.

The Gallery’s website tells us

Sidney Nolan’s 1946-47 paintings on the theme of the 19th-century bushranger Ned Kelly are one of the greatest series of Australian paintings of the 20th century. Nolan’s starkly simplified depiction of Kelly in his homemade armour has become an iconic Australian image. Highlighting these works makes the point that Australian art is part of the world, with its own stories to tell.

Ned Kelly was a controversial character; a violent criminal to some, including the establishment, but a hero to many. Nolan, who, like Kelly, had Irish roots, clearly fell into the latter category.

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There are 25 paintings, displayed in a dedicated room with some related works, which tell the story of Kelly – the events that led him to become an outlaw, his exploits as a bushranger, the battle with the police that led to his capture and trial. They’re painted in a simple, colourful, naïve style, using house paints rather than oils. Kelly is depicted in his armour, in a simplified way, but it is as if the armour is part of him. His helmet becoming his head and the eye slit going right through.

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The paintings are also noted for the way they depict the Australian landscape

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They’re fantastic paintings and I’m glad I managed to find the time to see them. The whole series can be seen on the Australian National Gallery Website.

We would come across Ned Kelly again a few more times during our holiday, while we were in Melbourne.

Keith Haring at the Stedelijk

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Although most of the first floor at the Stedelijk was closed for a changeover of exhibitions, there was one work on display. It’s a large canvas work by the American artist Keith Haring (1958-1990) suspended above the stairwell and under the large skylight.

It was created especially for the artist’s solo exhibition at the Gallery in 1986. He painted the design onto a large piece of vellum, measuring almost 40 x 66 feet, using spray paint, in a single day. The pattern is actually a single thick, white line. “A kind of happy dinosaur with an elongated neck”.

A visit to the Stedelijk Museum

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Our flight home to Liverpool at the end of  our short trip to Amsterdam didn’t leave until 8 in the evening, so we had a full day left in the city. We decided we’d visit the Stedelijk Museum  Amsterdam’s Modern Art Gallery. It turned out to be a good plan as it was a grey, chilly, damp day, so not so great for exploring the streets. (I pinched the photo above from the Amsterdam Info website, and it was taken on a much nicer day!)

The Stedelijk is on the Museumplein, next door to the Van Gogh Museum we’d visited during our first stay in Amsterdam.

The Stedelijk building is rather schitzophrenic. The original building was built in the 19th century in  the Dutch Neo-Renaissance style. It was extended in the early 21st Century, reopening on 23 September 2012. The extension, which was designed by Benthem Crouwel Architects., couldn’t be more different that the original building. Constructed of refinforced fibre with a smooth finish and a roof jutting out over the entrance into the square, it’s been compared to a bathtub and I think they certainly have a point. Inside, however, the exhibition space is well designed and roomy.

I liked this “cartoon” on the wall in the central gallery space, drawn by Jan Rothuizen

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The Museum was between exhibitions so the first floor galleries were closed. But there was plenty to see on the ground floor to occupy the morning. There were exhibitions about the De Stijl movement, a two-part installation of videos and objects by New York-based, Colombian artist Carlos Motta and “I am a Native Foreigner” which explores the issue of immigration using works from the Museum’s collection.

Here’s a few of the works I particularly liked from the Highlights of the Collection that occupied a number of the galleries.

A painting of a windmill (very Dutch!) by Mondrian. Not exactly what you expect from him! (There were some more typical works by him included in the De Stijl exhibition).

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(Windmolen c 1917)

One by Van Gogh

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(Augustine Roulin , la Barceuse 1889)

Two by Kandinsky – and probably my favourites from the display

The provenance of this one is currently under investigation as it was bought in (allegedly) dubious circumstances during WWII

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(Painting with houses 1909)

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A Matisse

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(La Odalisque 1920-21)

One by Rothko

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(Untitled Umber, Blue, Umber Brown 1962)

and one by Willem de Kooning

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(North Atlantic Light 1972)

Clocking in

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A little before we clocked in and joined the production line in Tate Exchange we’d seen a series of 8,627 photographs and a film showing someone clocking in on the hour, every hour,  24 hours a day for a full 12 months during 1980-1981. One Year Perormance was undertaken by Taiwanese artist Tehching Hsieh in his studio in New York.

Marking the occasion by taking a self-portrait on a single frame of 16mm film, the resulting reel documents a year in his life at approximately one second per day – a pace that is polar opposite of the enduring length of the original performance

At the beginning of the project he shaved off his hair and we can see it gradually grow back in the series of photographs and the film.

It seemed such an odd thing to do. It meant that he was unable to sleep properly for a full year. He missed 133 clock-ins, and the reasons are documented on a note which is displayed amongst the contextual materials included in the exhibition along with letters, statements, uniforms, photographs, the punch clock itself and a time card. The main reason given was, not surprisingly,  sleeping through.

According to an interview in the Guardian the artist, the work

recalls the labours of Sisyphus, who, in Greek mythology, was forced to roll a rock repeatedly up a mountain, only to watch it fall down again

while it may seem to convey a message about the tedium and conformity of industrial labour, he tells Guardian Australia he is “not a political artist, although people are at liberty to interpret my work from a political standpoint … I’m interested in the universal circumstances of human life”.

Although clearly a crazy thing to do, there was something rather fascinating about the project and, personally, I can certainly see a political message about the alienation of work and how people are enslaved by work that is certainly relevant in this day of zero hour contracts and so-called self employed status workers employed by the likes of Uber and courier services.