March 7, 2014 § Leave a comment
Richard Hamilton is the first artist that tends to come to mind when they think about British Pop. Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing? His collage from 1957 is probably just as well known as Warhol’s prints and Lichtenstein’s graphic comic like images from 1960s New York. Now, his work is on display at three locations across London: ICA, Alan Cristea and Tate, two of which I went down to see.
I first went along to the ICA show which could not have been more different to what I was expecting. When I think of Hamilton I think bold colour however I was faced with grey. The display is a restating of Hamilton’s installations at the ICA from two shows: Man, Machine and Motion, 1955 and an Exhibit, 1957. Two shows which appeared just before the collage which he is now most famous for. Hamilton was a member of the Independent Group, who met regularly at the ICA to discuss ideas, so it seems fitting that his early shows have been rehung here. This display is full of images of machines, diagrams and a maze of coloured perspex. The two installations are presented alongside archival material from Hamilton’s involvement with the gallery.
I subsequently went to the Alan Cristea Gallery which was a little more of what I was expecting. Alan Cristea had a working relationship with Hamilton, so it is not surprising that the show spans more than 40 years of prints. Here the show covered much of Hamilton’s career, including reproductions of his 1960s prints to some more modern work, similar to that which was on display at National Gallery in 2012, where he put his own twist on old master paintings, which he did again at Alan Cristea with works by Picasso and Velazquez. On display are also more political works including images of members of the Rolling Stones in handcuffs after being arrested for drug abuse and investigations into the IRA and conflicts in the Middle East.
These shows demonstrate that Hamilton was more than one infamous collage. The artist worked right up until his death and with shows all over London, there is no excuse for anyone to not see just one!
Richard Hamilton is on display at ICA until 6 April
Richard Hamilton is on display at Alan Cristea until 22 March
Richard Hamilton is on display at Tate Modern until 26 May
February 28, 2014 § Leave a comment
I am a huge fan of Maurizio Cattelan. His clever, witty, tongue-in-cheek works of art always grab my attention and his Toilet Paper Magazine is possibly my favourite magazine currently in print, so when I heard about his show with Lucio Fontana at Gagosian I just had to take a look.
The exhibition puts one work each from Cattelan and Fontana into dialogue with one another. A large, cotton candy coloured egg is displayed high up on the walls at one end of the gallery. This piece by Fontana has large slashes in it and serves as a point of focus for Cattelan’s piece. Cattelan has contributed to the exhibition with the kneeling figure of Hitler. The interaction between the two is completely bizarre. I shared a smile with the security guard as I walked between the two works as it does not seem to make sense – it is absurd, it probably should offend, but it doesn’t.
From behind, Hitler could be a young boy, mesmerised by the pink egg. He looks like he is praying to some kind of shrine and seems to be poking fun at something, though I have not figured out what.
The show is certainly different, and may not be for everyone but it is certainly memorable.
La fine de Dio: Maurizio Cattelan and Lucio Fontana is on display at Gagosian, Davies Street until 5 April
February 20, 2014 § Leave a comment
Contemporary Chinese art is very fashionable right now. Free of calligraphy and traditional motifs, 21st century Chinese art is political and has something to say. As does the work of Liu Wei, currently on display at White Cube.
The show is made up of large sculptures which appear minimalistic at first. The upper level of the gallery is comprised of iron, rectangular structures. The sculpture seem hard yet shiny, and new, perhaps reflecting some of China’s modern society.
Take a trip downstairs and this shiny metal is contrasted with an installation of pale grey shapes including pyramids, spheres and concave, three dimensional semi-circles. These forms have been made by putting multiple materials including iron, wood and books together, with the layers being visible from the exterior.
To some, this show may appear dull, boring and minimalistic. However I loved it. All I wish is that I was able to touch the pieces!
Liu Wei: Density is on display at White Cube, Mason’s Yard until 15 March
February 13, 2014 § Leave a comment
Camels. In the west they are associated with Egypt. We think of camels as magical creatures that can go days without drinking water, used as arabian horses. I automatically think of camels being used to trek through deserts with heavy loads on their humped backs. Wael Shawky however, shows the mysterious animals in a different light at the Lisson Gallery.
The opening to Shawky’s Dictum exhibition at Lisson does not begin with a video of the performance of the same name at the 2013 Sharjah Biennial (although we do get to see this later), but drawings of camels. These pencil drawings have been altered so that inside the animals outlines are drawings of civilisations, sometimes the camels humps are transformed into buildings or houses. Shawky’s camels are morphed into ethereal mythological creatures, and coloured with pale inks with marks that appear like fingerprints, in iridescent colours which resemble nail polish.
As we move through the gallery a large film projection shows prize black camels walking across the desert. These camels are likely to be entered into pageants across Arabia and are well sought after, much like a thoroughbred racehorse is to many of us.
From around the corner of the gallery eastern music can be heard which guides the viewer to a room that has been filled with aluminium decoration which strongly resembles silver filigree. These traditional motifs have been presented alongside a film of last years Dictum performance which is comprised of 30 workers of mostly Pakistani background making music and chanting together. The film is fitting as the Biennial was titled ‘Re:emerge – Towards a New Cultural Cartography’, questioning global mapping and identity, there are many Pakistani migrants in the Middle East.
For anyone who previously visited the Shawky exhibition at the Serpentine this is a must. Shawky gives an insight into the arab world that we don’t expect and is truly captivating every time.
Dictums is on display at Lisson Gallery until 8 March
February 6, 2014 § Leave a comment
When the name Andy Warhol is mentioned most people think of Campbell’s soup, bright images of Marilyn Monroe and Pop Art. A current exhibition of his photographs at the Photographer’s Gallery is a complete contrast. It is made up of black and white images are not made up of celebrity but the everyday.
Whilst a portrait of Jerry Hall is included in the show, most images are of smaller details of life. There are photographs of rubbish bags by a roadside, shop windows and signs. Many of these images are printed multiple times and then sewn together, much like his famous serial ‘pop’ images of the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis Presley and Chairman Mao. These images however, were taken towards the end of the artist’s life, so are unlikely to be a precursor to the images that most are familiar with.
These images are insightful as they are not as loud as the artist’s coloured silk-screen prints. The viewer is able to get a better sense of the man behind the art in these recordings of the artist’s everyday life.
Andy Warhol: Photographs 1976-9187 are on display at Photographer’s Gallery until 30 March
February 2, 2014 § Leave a comment
The Isabella Blow exhibition at Somerset House has everybody talking. The show which chronicles the life of Blow who died in 2007 is embellished with fashion, film and mis-matched shoes!
Somerset House introduces us to Blow with a newspaper announcement of the very first day of her life. She was born into the aristocracy, a distant world away from the flamboyant hats of Philip Treacy and the cleaning jobs she took before working for Tatler, Sunday Times Style and Vogue.
The mega-stylist is credited for discovering, Alexander Mcqueen, Hussein Chalayn, Julien Macdonald and Philip Treacy, whose designs are on display in the form of over 100 pieces from her own wardrobe, which is evident from the tiny size of the clothes. It is also clear to see that Ms Blow had a penchant for Manolo shoes. These outfits were bought as a collection by Daphne Guinness at auction to ensure they did not vanish into private collections.
Not only did the fashionista find some of our favourite designers of the moment but she also spotted and helped launch the careers of several british models including Bella Freud, Honor Fraser, Plum Sykes and Stella Tennant, who are pictured in an editorial by Steven Meisel.
Also on show are letters between Blow and various designers and editors, alongside her own personal notes, all scribbled in dazzling pink ink. Of Blow’s life after the runway show, we are told very little, only that she suffered from devastating depression and attempted suicide many times before killing herself.
The show finale is a screening of a collaboration between Alexander McQueen and Philip Treacy of La Dame Bleuse, a dedication to the life of Blow after her death in the designs which probably could not have been possible without her.
Blow exuded talent, could look good in anything and knew a thing or two about wearing hats!
Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore is on display at Somerset House until March 2
January 28, 2014 § Leave a comment
I first learnt about Akram Zaatari at last years Venice Biennial. The lebanese artist’s video installation was one of my favourite pieces of the festival so I was excited when I heard of a London show this year.
The show, which is split between two galleries in Mayfair focuses on archival images which seems fitting as Zaatari is the co-founder of the Arab Image Foundation. A 38 minute film is displayed in a cinema setting showing interviews of people associated with and descendants of those at Studio Sheherazade in Saida. It was a place where people could dress up and temporarily escape civil war. The film is extremely personal, with many of the story-tellers featured having grown up around the studio, now seated in their homes, reflecting on its history and the photographs taken there.
In the next gallery, are iPad videos and black and white photography of women with slashes thrashed into them. I am not sure why these images have been marked in such a way, yet perhaps it says something about the women in the portraits. There are also identity photographs and family images, which are much like images in my mothers photo albums of my ancestors in Beirut.
There are also black and white images of young Arab boys posing with a cut-out of a blonde western woman. I found these the most interesting as they seemed to idolise the model, putting their arms around her and kissing her cheek. Maybe Zaatari is questioning the relationship between the west and the arab world.
The show is both analogue and digital, beginning with archival images and ending with lcd screens. The photographic studio introduced in the first gallery is replaced by digital technology in the next. Perhaps Zaatari is trying to remind us what we have lost when we gained this new technology.
Akram Zaatari: On Photography, People and Modern Times is on display at Thomas Dane Gallery until 1 February