Friday, 22 November 2013

Hidden in Plain Sight , Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery

Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery 
Saturday 26 October 2013 to Saturday 11 January 2014

An insight into the exhibition from curator and artist Adam Milford:

What motivated you to create the exhibition?
The main motivation behind this exhibition was to curate a show from the collection that could be researched and delivered relatively quickly, and on a very limited budget. The exhibition is running in parallel with Artists Make Faces, a large scale, externally curated show (by Monika Kinley), that is on a different level in terms of budget and loans. The expectation was that I would work on both exhibitions simultaneously, acting as curator for Hidden in Plain Sight, and Learning Officer (my usual position) for Artists Make Faces.

Post-war painting is a particularly strong area of our fine art collection, especially from artists based in the South West, so my goal was to bring works out that hadn’t been on display from a long time for our visitors to experience. Some of the works have been out in the last five years, while others haven’t been in over 20 years, and there is a possibility of that one hasn’t been out since it was purchased in 1967, though unfortunately our records can neither prove nor disprove that claim.

Another goal was to select work solely from our collection, though I broke my own rule by loaning a Barbara Hepworth sculpture from the Hepworth Estate, by including a live recording of Keith Rowe’s extraordinary guitar abstractions, and an unseen film of Patrick Heron at work in his studio from 1959.

How was the work acquired and by whom?
The majority of the work was purchased by Alex Cumming, the City Curator of the City Art Gallery, Plymouth (our title changed to Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery in the 80s, I believe). Cumming was appointed in the late 1930s, and excluding his time serving in WWII, was City Curator until 1976. During his tenure, he added a collection of Camden Town work, A Fish Sale on a Cornish Beach by Stanhope Forbes, material relating to Sir Francis Drake, and the majority of our modern collections. In his time here, we presented (amongst other things) the first public gallery solo exhibition by Peter Lanyon in 1955, exhibitions by the Plymouth Society of Artists, a major retrospective of Barbara Hepworth’s work in 1970, along with other solo shows, and national touring shows. We had a particular reputation in the late 60s/ early 70s for our exhibitions of sculpture.

The work was often purchased directly from artists. For example, Justin Knowles’ painting Three Reds with White was purchased direct from the artist, along with Patrick Heron’s Rectilinear Reds and Blues, also from Knowles’ collection. Other works were bought from the important art societies of the region – Plymouth Society of Artists, St Ives Society of Artists, Newlyn Society of Artists, and probably the most well-known, the Penwith Society of Arts. Work by lecturers and students from Plymouth College of Art were also collected. Cumming was an early advocate for the educational importance of children being exposed to art at an early age, encouraging visits to the galleries, and he also organised exhibitions of children’s work

Which is the most recent work to be bought?
Sadly, the ability for us to purchase works for the collection has become more difficult. When Cumming collected these works we were lucky enough to have been given a grant, I believe from the Gulbenkian Foundation, which allowed their purchase. The most recent work to come into our collection that is included in the exhibition is Julian Lethbridge’s Untitled, 1991-1992, which was given to us in 1996 through the Contemporary Art Society. CAS have also recently allowed us the opportunity to purchase a work by Turner Prize 2013 nominee Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, which is currently at the Venice Biennale. We’ve also had a very generous donation from Cornwall-based painter David Whittaker of a work currently on display in Artists Make Faces. We can’t compete with current market prices unfortunately.

What difficulties did you have?
Some of the works I would have like to have shown have not stood the test of time. I’d fully intended to show a sculptural piece by Harry White, an artist working in Liverpool in the late 60s, but after bringing it out from storage it was obvious that it had corroded and deteriorated in areas of the work that couldn’t be conserved in the short time we had. Other than small things, the process was remarkably smooth.

How does the work stand up against current practice and are there any connections that have become evident?  
Well, it seems sensible to start by saying that a number of the artists included are still working today. Painting seems to be in the ascendency once again, and the inevitability of questions of influence or precedent arise when discussing this work. I wouldn’t want to suggest that artists at work today are particularly influenced by the work of the artists included in this exhibition, however the legacy of their practice is echoed somehow in the work of artists today. Take an artist like Justin Knowles, from his decision to become an artist in 1965, to his solo shows in Milan, New York, London, and here in Plymouth in 1967. His work progresses from hard-edge, shaped painted canvases to systems-based wall pieces and three dimensional work, echoes of which I believe can be seen in the work of artists such as Andrew Bick. I’m sure there are other echoes – again maybe filtered through others – in the work of artists such as Katrina Blannin, Onya MacCausland, or Richard Nott.

The work I selected for the exhibition, certainly the paintings, all share a sense of the picture plane being flattened or modulated to offer a more shallow depth of field. This is something I’m dealing with in my own painting practice, no doubt influenced in part by my critical thinking around this show. I didn’t want to just curate an exhibition that looked at St Ives modernism, though a number of the artists included are first or second generation St Ives artists. It was perhaps an attempt to reframe them in a broader context, post-Situation. This is why I allowed myself to include much later work by Ian Davenport and Julian Lethbridge, whose works both share a sense of a flattened or shallow surface.

What are you expecting the audience response to be?
I expect that most people will be challenged by the work, to be honest. Most of the work is over 40 years old, and yet many people still feel they cannot relate to or ‘understand’ the work. One thing I hear is that people don’t ‘get it’, or it’s not ‘their cup of tea’, but through talking about the work with them that fear subsides. I deliberately chose the title Hidden in Plain Sight to reflect a kind of paranoia – that they’re ‘out to get you’ – when in reality they’re no more challenging than a Renaissance allegorical painting or Victorian narrative painting might be. We might not instantly recognise the content or context, but there is nothing wrong with that. I’ve already given a half-hour talk about the progression of artists work in the region from ‘St Ives’ to hard-edge, and will be giving another to talk about painting as ‘object’. These, plus the interpretation in the gallery should soften the blow in many ways, without detracting from the intention of the artist.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Nick Mauss, Bergen Kunsthalle, Germany


Interesting artist, Nick Mauss from 303 Gallery, at Bergen Kunstalle Opens on Friday the 15th of November at 8 pm. Curated by Steinar Sekkingstad, Mauss is like an interesting and more articulate Warhol...

'In recent years the American/German artist Nick Mauss has formed his work through a finely tuned sensory register, with drawing at the centre of a praxis which otherwise eludes all simple categorizations.

“Mauss’ work is work in progress,” the critic Dan Fox has stated, with reference to the fragile, suggestive and tentative quality inherent in most of Mauss’s works. The sketch-like temporality of the drawing medium, and the paper as a locus for testing and projection, seem to influence his whole exhibition practice. A drawing never looks ‘finished’ but exists rather in a constant state of intrinsic potential. This quality of the drawing as a draft, or a preliminary medium, recurs throughout Mauss’s production, whether as sculpture, ceramics, photography, video, or curatorial processes. The works look as if they have been captured in an instant of becoming.

With technical brilliance and an almost total absence of large gestures, Mauss’s work speaks through a controlled caution where the suggestive and indefinable constitutes the tension in the work. Forms and fragments are often repeated in several variants in several places in the same exhibition. Each work, or series of works, communicates with the surrounding works and forms a dense constellation of connections, where the viewer has to find his or her own readings and negotiate the blank spaces.

Mauss adheres to a formalism that many people think belongs to a different epoch from our own, mis-recognized as a patina of the past. However, Mauss’ works never become nostalgic; rather, they express a highly self-aware attitude to the possibilities inherent in a craft-based practice on the present-day art scene. Mauss may well be viewed as a counter-force to referentialism-oriented and neo-conceptual contemporary art — where the idea is ‘read out’ of the artwork, often in a causal, direct way. In these works it is rather the form itself that materializes an idea: tentatively and ambivalently. Mauss strives for a shimmering illegibility, and balances on a razor edge between form and syntax, between what can be read out of and read into the work by the viewer.

Nick Mauss (b. 1980) was born in New York. He lives and works in Berlin and New '

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Brice Marden 'Graphite Drawings' Matthew Marks Gallery, New York

 An interesting little show of Brice Marden's 'Graphite Drawings' is currently on at Matthew Marks, until 21st December, looks great, what do you mean they look too much like Malevich, outrageous...

Untitled   1971
Graphite and beeswax on Arches 300lb Fin
(Medium) Natural White paper
30 1/2 x 22 1/2 inches; 78 x 57 cm

Untitled 1964 - 65
Charcoal and graphite on white wove paper
19 3/4 x 22 1/4 inches; 50 x 57 cm

'This exhibition includes twenty-two of Brice Marden’s seminal early works on paper and is the first exhibition devoted solely to this body of work. The drawings, made between 1962 and 1981, feature luxurious surfaces of graphite and beeswax worked into dense, reflective planes of blacks, whites, and grays. Within these surfaces, Marden reveals the underlying geometries of the rectangle and the grid, a formal strategy that has characterized his work from the 1960s to the present.'

The gallery also has some great classics of Marden's:

Second Letter (Zen Spring)
2006-2009, Oil on linen
96 x 144 inches; 244 x 366 cm

Epitaph Painting 5
1997-2001, Oil on linen
108 1/2 x 104 inches; 275.5 x 264 cm

'De Kooning: Ten Paintings' at Gagosian, New York

This will be an intriguing exhibition of ten selected works between 1983-85 is at Gagosian Gallery, New York. De Kooning often discussed the idea of being a 'slipping glimpser', capturing that moment between the idea and the moment of action, of contact with pigment on canvas, which when De Kooning developed Alzheimer's, became a reality. Curated by the eminent John Elderfield, whose book on Matisse, is still a great book, all these years later. The show is on until 21st December, looks great..
This is what Gagosian say: 'Gagosian Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of ten paintings by Willem de Kooning, created between 1983 and 1985. The exhibition highlights the critical three-year period in the last decade of de Kooning’s long career, during which he radically transformed his style. Organized in close collaboration with The Willem de Kooning Foundation, it is curated by John Elderfield, Chief Curator Emeritus of Painting and Sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and a consultant at Gagosian Gallery.'

John Elderfield has observed: “These were very highly regarded when they were first exhibited in the 1980s, and they resonate even more today. De Kooning truly reinvented himself in these extraordinary canvases. He had the confidence to give up the lush painterliness and visibly reworked appearance of his earlier works in favour of something more reductive; but they remain not only spatially complex, but also extremely physical pictures, both visually open and densely embodied.”