wed 24/07/2024

Visual Arts Reviews

Hana Vojackova, Chernobyl: Red Balloon 86, 11 Mansfield St

sue Steward An abandoned classroom in a school in Chernobyl

A 1986 documentary about the USSR’s new modernist city, Chernobyl, featured a five-year-old boy kicking a football through landscaped gardens, past blocks of clean, elegant flats and inside the soon-to-be opened funfair in the workers' town of Pripyat. A brilliant propaganda tool for the new status symbol Nuclear Power Plant, the film was intended to convey the message around the Soviet empire that the nuclear age implied a safe, happy future. The film was never shown; three weeks later, the...

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English Journey Revisited, AV Festival, Newcastle

Alice Vincent Alan Moore performing at the Southbank Centre, London 2007

The description of the AV Festival’s closing event was vague in the promotional material. Going only by the promise of “music/performance,” and the undeniably odd combination of Alan Moore and Iain Sinclair with performance musicians including the guitarist from drone doom band Sunn O))), expectations were hard to form. The organisers must have realised the mystery - four sheets of A4 were thrust into our hands last night by ushers upon entry as a means of explanation, although the...

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Billy Childish: Unknowable but Certain, ICA

Fisun Güner Billy Childish: honouring the tradition of the outsider artist

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Irving Penn: Small Trades, Hamiltons Gallery/ Portraits, NPG

sue Steward Irving Penn's Le Chevrier 'holds his box as proudly as an artist with his paints'

This week I discovered Irving Penn’s little-known portraits of anonymous street traders, taken in Paris, London and New York between 1950 and 1951. Previously unseen in the UK, they are now appearing at Hamiltons’ Mayfair gallery: 33 examples from a series of almost 252 full-length portraits collectively titled Small Trades. While they lack the instant glamour of the celebrity Portraits currently showing at the National Portrait Gallery, these sensitive depictions of skilled...

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Henry Moore, Tate Britain

Mark Hudson

Who gives a **** about Henry Moore? The standing of the craggy-faced Yorkshire miner’s son who dominated British art for half a century has declined massively since his death in 1986. Where once Moore was British art, most people in this country have now probably never heard of him.

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Ron Arad: Restless, Barbican Gallery

Fisun Güner The Rover Chair: made its television debut on Top Gear

Like Philippe Starck, whose Alessi tripod lemon squeezer is a bit like an evil-looking Louise Bourgeois spider, Ron Arad emerged in the Eighties as something of a “rock‘n’roll” designer. It’s a label that’s stuck, as has its sexy variant “post-punk”.  The latter came about after his break-through Rover Chair (1981; main picture) found its first customer in Jean-Paul Gaultier.

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Ana Mendieta, Alison Jacques Gallery

Josh Spero Still from Untitled (Creek #2), San Felipe, Mexico 1974

Works of art are usually quite easily recognisable: they’re in a frame, or on a pedestal, or (if it’s a particularly expensive one) there’s a security guard nearby. You’ll probably be in an art gallery or a smart private house too. But what about when the art is in the land? And moreover, when that art is almost too subtle to be noticed?

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Paul Nash, The Elements, Dulwich Picture Gallery

howard Male

In the mid 1940s when the Queen Mother purchased Paul Nash’s Landscape of the Vernal Equinox (1943) Princess Margaret remembers saying, “Poor Mummy’s gone mad. Look what she’s brought back.” But though this painting is one of the undoubted masterpieces of 20th-century British art, it’s easy to see why the Princess responded as she did.

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Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective, Tate Modern

Fisun Güner

Arshile Gorky found it almost impossible to finish a painting. Something would always call him back. So he would go back and would add and retouch and tinker around over several years - sometimes over the course of a decade or two. “When something is finished,” he once said, “that means it’s dead, doesn’t it? I never finish a painting, I just stop working on it for a while. The thing to do is... never finish a painting.”

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Van Doesburg and the International Avant-Garde: Constructing a New World, Tate Modern

Fisun Güner

Modernist art movements are a lot like totalitarian regimes. They produce their declaratory manifestos, send forth their declamatory edicts, and, before you know it, a Year Zero mentality prevails: the past must be declared null and void.

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