thu 22/02/2024

Visual Arts Reviews

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals, Modern Art Oxford and Pitt Rivers Museum review - transcendence lite

Sarah Kent

I have powerful memories of performances by Marina Abramović. Back in 1977 at Documenta in Kassel, Germany, she and her then partner Ulay stood either side of a doorway, facing one another. There was only enough room to squeeze through sideways and, since both were naked, choosing whom to face was an interesting challenge.

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Winslow Homer: Force of Nature, National Gallery review - dump the symbolism and enjoy the drama

Sarah Kent

Across the pond Winslow Homer is a household name; in his day, he was regarded as the greatest living American painter. He was renowned especially for his seascapes and his most famous painting, The Gulf Stream, 1899/1906 (main picture) features in the National Gallery’s retrospective.

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Carolee Schneeman: Body Politics, Barbican review - challenging, in-your-face and messy

Sarah Kent

Life is messy and so is Carolee Schneeman’s work. She wanted it that way. Breaking down the barriers between art and life, between inhabiting a woman’s body and using it as primal material, was a key objective.

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Germany / The 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander, Centre Pompidou review - expansive and thought-provoking

Juliette Bretan

The businessman in Heinrich Maria Davringhausen’s Der Schieber (The Profiteer), 1920-1921 sits several floors above the city streets, pencil in hand; the high-rise buildings pressing at the windows around him. Not in Germany. In France.

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Gustav Metzger: Earth Minus Environment, Kestle Barton review - an illuminating glimpse of a visionary activist-artist

Mark Hudson

In later life Gustav Metzger appeared a marginal, eccentric figure. The diminutive, white-bearded artist, was often to be seen round London’s galleries in the early to mid-2010s, dropping off piles of hand-produced fliers urging his fellow artists to “remember nature”.

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Milton Avery: American Colourist, Royal Academy review - from backward-looking impressionist to forward looking-colourist

Sarah Kent

I’ve always been bemused by the American painter, Milton Avery. Not having seen enough of his paintings together, I couldn’t gauge if they are quirkily naive – lodged in a cul de sac aside from the mainstream – or hyper-sophisticated harbingers of things to come.

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Eric Ravilious: Drawn to War review - a lovingly crafted documentary portrait

Saskia Baron

There’s a sharp observation, delivered in Alan Bennett’s soft tones, that sums up the reputation of the painter Eric Ravilious: “Because his paintings are so accessible, I don’t think he’s thought to be a great artist. It’s because of his charm. He’s so easy to like and things have to be hard, if they’re not hard, then they’re not great."

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Vivian Maier: Anthology, MK Gallery review - what an amazing eye!

Sarah Kent

The story is riveting. A nanny living in New York and Chicago spent her spare time wandering the streets taking photographs. She learned to develop and print, but her plan to publish the images as postcards fell through and, as time passed, she stopped bothering even to develop the negatives let alone print them.

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Venice Biennale 2022 review - The Milk of Dreams Part 2: The Arsenale

Mark Hudson

Part two of The Milk of Dreams, the central International Exhibition at the 2022 Venice Biennale, housed in the Arsenale shipyard, starts with the kind of massive, grandstanding gesture that’s necessary in a venue of this scale: a colossal bronze bust of a Black woman by American artist Simone Leigh.

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In the Air, Wellcome Collection review - art in an emergency

Mark Sheerin

Air is a weighty subject, and in both senses; if we did not contain its gases in our bodies, the air would crush us. Ninety-nine per cent of the world’s population breathe polluted air daily. There was a time on this planet, 3.5 billion years ago, before oxygen. Startling facts like these are perhaps to be expected from an exhibition at the scientific Wellcome Collection.

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