Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Ben Nicholson at Connaught Brown

Ben Nicholson: Landscape into Abstraction  Connaught Brown 21 May - 18 June

Brissago and Hampstead 1960
Ben Nicholson (1894–1982) was one of the most radical British artists of the twentieth century. Over the last few years there has been a dramatic rise in the appreciation for modernist abstraction, in particular the work of the Italian informal artists and the Zero Group from Holland and Germany. 
Vertical Landscape 1977
This exhibition will consider Nicholson’s importance in the context of these international abstract movements. With 10 works, including drawings and paintings, it will trace his development from the 1930s to the late 1970s. As Nicholson travelled widely throughout Europe, living in London, Cornwall and Switzerland, he brought a fresh approach to the language of abstraction. 
Menalon 1970
Nicholson began his career as a painter of still lifes and landscapes. However, during frequent trips to Paris in the 1930s, where he met Mondrian, Braque, Brancusi, and other leading artists, he turned increasingly towards abstraction. He joined the group Abstraction-Création in 1933, alongside Helion, Mondrian, Herbin and Arp, and in the following years became the principal link between abstraction in mainland Europe and the UK. Working in neighbouring studios in London, Nicholson and Mondrian explored the interplay between abstraction and representation. 
White Relief 1934
In 1958 Nicholson moved to Switzerland, settling near Lake Maggiore. His painted hardboard reliefs from this period show Nicholson responding directly to the landscape as he used razor blades and chisels to carve into the surface. In 1964 he made a concrete wall relief for Documenta III in Kassel, Germany, an exhibition which showcases the most radical contemporary art of the time. Nicholson’s work was included alongside that of Afro, Burri and the Zero Group’s Heinz Mack, amongst others. His work had a strong dialogue with these artists whose work called for simplified forms and colours, and the use of everyday materials. 
Dolphin 1977
By 1971 Nicholson returned to Hampstead, England and continued to assimilate ideas from the movements he had engaged with across Europe. At this time, his friend and neighbour Herbert Read, who championed Nicholson’s work, demanded that it be understood in the context of international abstraction. In his reliefs of the 1970s Nicholson incorporated curved forms which suggested movement beyond the edge of the art work. Whilst abstracting the surrounding British landscape, Nicholson’s late works show, above all, his desire to create what he termed “a powerful, unlimited and universal language". 
Anne 1960

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Don Voisine at McKenzie Fine Art

Don Voisine at McKenzie Fine Art May 10 - June 14, 2015


Don Voisine has long worked with a reductive vocabulary of hard-edged, geometric abstraction painted in oil on wood. For years he has explored the seemingly limitless compositional possibilities of overlapping geometric forms rendered in glossy and matte black paint against light-coloured grounds. The central black shapes are further defined by directional brushwork which captures the light, setting one form off from another. Sometimes symmetrical, sometimes irregular, these geometries engage in shifting spatial interactions within a confined format, bordered top and bottom or left and right by uniform bands of brighter colours.

Two new developments in Voisine’s use of colour distinguish works in this exhibition. Some works are executed almost entirely in varying tones of black, appearing nearly monochromatic. Here, Voisine’s forms emerge from a mysterious space, enlivened by a single contrasting color. In other works, black is abandoned altogether in favor of contrasting reds in the central area, or with opposing tonalities of light cream, white and grey. In addition, the grounds in some paintings are more muted and less contrastingly light, and the geometric forms do not necessarily overlap. Instead, they about one another with a sharp diagonal edge or crease. In these light-colored works, the space reads as a distinctly sculptural or architectural environment; the illusion of a bend within the central compositional area is remarkable. In other paintings, rectilinear forms set one within another recall the architectural drawings which were the initial inspiration for Voisine’s abstract compositions. When the geometric forms are set side by side rather than overlapped, a rhythmic back and forth movement, or a sense of infinite expansion, is created. No matter the scale, Voisine’s paintings feel taut, elegant, and unswervingly sensuous in their severity.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

For all hard edged systematic reductionists

If you are engaged in hard edged systematic reductions the Saturation Point website edited by Patrick Morrisey and Hanz Hancock might be of interest.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Charles Pollock, Jackson's elder brother at the Guggenheim, Venice

Charles Pollock at the Venice Guggenheim April 23 - September 14
Charles Pollock New Mexico 1956 photo Sylvia Winter © Charles Pollock Archives
 Charles Jackson © Charles Pollock Archives

The first exhibition in Italy and the first full retrospective of the painting of Charles Pollock, oldest brother of Jackson Pollock. The majority of the more than 120 paintings, sketches, drawings, photographs, and documents, some never before exhibited, are loaned by the Charles Pollock Archives, Paris, thanks to the artist’s widow and daughter, Sylvia Winter Pollock and Francesca Pollock. A small number of works by Jackson Pollock, Thomas Hart Benton and two works by Sanford McCoy complement Charles’s early years in New York and Washington, shedding light on what amounted to a family enterprise— studying to be artists—of the Pollock family before World War II. Additional loans come from other members of the Pollock family, from the Archives of American Art/Smithsonian Institution, the Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, the O'Brien American Art Collection, Sewickley, the American Contemporary Art Gallery, Munich and several private collections. 
Fireworks 1950 © Charles Pollock Archives

 Homage to Mexico 1955 © Charles Pollock Archives

The story of Charles Pollock (b. Denver, Colorado, 1902; d. Paris, France, 1988) is extremely interesting, exemplifying what has been called ‘the American Century’. The oldest of the five sons of LeRoy and Stella Pollock, he moved to New York in 1926, where he studied art under Thomas Hart Benton. In 1930, he and his brother Frank persuaded their youngest brother, Jackson, to join them there. Charles’s studies at the Art Students League, his social commitment, Regionalist content, and mural work for the Works Progress Administration – the largest and most ambitious American New Deal agency employing millions of unemployed people to carry out public works projects – make his biography prototypical of artists’ experiences in the decade of the 1930s. In 1935-36 he left New York for Washington, DC to work for the Resettlement Administration, a New Deal U.S. federal agency, alongside Ben Shahn, moving in 1937 to Detroit where he worked on the weekly newspaper of the Union of Automobile Workers. These choices disconnected him from the emerging group of avant-garde painters in New York, the same that was eventually to engender Jackson Pollock’s ‘breakthrough’ to a new art in the late 1940s. No less characteristic of American art of the time was Charles’s crisis of confidence in Regionalist painting in 1944, following the completion of a mural at Michigan State University, East Lansing, and his transfer to abstraction (reversing Benton’s rejection of Synchromist abstraction around 1919). After a period of teaching design and typography in Michigan in the late 1940s, he made his first major abstract painting (Fireworks, 1950). In 1956, he produced his first substantial body of abstract work, the Chapala series, inspired by a protracted stay on Lake Chapala in Mexico. In 1962-63, on a sabbatical year from his teaching commitments he traveled to Europe—the first of the Pollock brothers to do so. Settling in Rome, he traveled extensively to see the Italian old masters and met American Palazzo Venier dei Leoni Dorsoduro 701 30123 Venezia (39) 041 2405 415 and Italian artists such as Piero Dorazio, Giulio Turcato, the Pomodoro brothers, James Brooks and Giorgio Cavallon, He produced another substantial group of color abstractions, the Rome series. In the mid 1960s, Charles and his wife Sylvia, now befriended by Clement Greenberg, brought artists such as Dorazio, Tony Caro, and Barnett Newman to Michigan. Henceforth, with regular exhibitions, a growing body of accomplished paintings, and a widening circle of colleagues, Charles connected to avant-garde art, that of color-field, post-painterly abstraction, from which he had broken a generation earlier. He continued to make superb color abstractions after his move to Paris in 1971.

 Collage 1959 © Charles Pollock Archives

The catalogue (Italian and English, 212 pp. Marsilio Editore, Venice) republishes an exhaustive essay by Terence Maloon (first published in The Art of Charles Pollock, Sweet Reason, Ball State University Art Museum, Muncie, Indiana, 2002), leading authority on the art of Charles Pollock, and includes an anthology and commentary of Pollock family letters selected by Kirstin Hübner from American Letters 1927-1947, Jackson Pollock and Family, Cambridge (UK), Polity Press, 2011. Charles Pollock: A Retrospective is one of three exhibitions promoted by the Peggy Guggenheim Collection to celebrate both Jackson and Charles Pollock. From February 14 through April 6 the museum presented Alchemy by Jackson Pollock. Discovering the Artist at Work, and from April 23 through November 9, the museum hosts also Jackson Pollock’s Mural: Energy Made Visible. All three exhibitions enjoy the patronage of the U.S. Mission to Italy and the support of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, New York.
 Black and Grey 7 1960 © Charles Pollock Archives
 Untitled Black 1961© Charles Pollock Archives
 Rome Eight 1962 © Charles Pollock Archives
 Untitled Post Rome Blue Green Black 1964 © Charles Pollock Archives
Delta 1967 © Charles Pollock Archives

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Peter Randall Page at Millennium Gallery

Between Melting and Freezing 1.5.15 - 2.6.15 at the Millennium Gallery St Ives
Iron Out II
Ink Flow
"Peter Randall Page's work has become increasingly concerned with the underlying principles determining growth and the forms it produces. In his words "geometry is the theme on which nature plays her infinite variations, fundamental mathematical principle become a kind of pattern book from which nature constructs the most complex and sophisticated structures."
"The objective, reductive, Platonic approach enables us to understand the themes that underpin reality as experienced. But subjectivity is not nonsense. The things that the mind produces: literature, art, music etc. can tell us something about ourselves that any number of brain scans could never reveal. Myths, fables and traditional stories have all evolved in an oral tradition through a kind of cultural natural selection, where only the very fit or apt ideas survive. We use metaphor and analogy in our everyday speech. In short, by definition, all art forms pertain to the human condition. "

Warp and Woof, granite
"For me, as an artist, the idea of play is vitally important. The unselfconscious pursuit of unformulated desire through making and drawing is more interesting and ultimately more enlightening to me than the illustration of ideas. In order to play satisfactorily, however, one needs a playground or at least a few rules. To be meaningful (and fun) any game needs some structure. Ironically, expressive freedom only has meaning in the context of constraints (one only has to imagine football without a finite pitch and a rule book). "
Stone Maquette III
"In nature, theme only exists as an ideal exemplar of manifest variations and variation can only exist within the context of theme. They seem to be mutually dependent, locked in an eternal but fertile struggle."

Vein Study I


Friday, 1 May 2015

Ontology at Arthouse

Ontology, Celia CookVanessa JacksonBrandon Taylor with Sonia Delaunay and Sol LeWitt at Arthouse 45 Grange Rd, London SE1 3B 1 - 30 MAY 

Rhanjo Celia Cook

"Ontology is the philosophical study of the nature of being, becoming, existence, or reality, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations."

Irregular Curves Sol LeWitt

"Heidegger's best known book, Being and Time (1927), is considered one of the most important philosophical works of the 20th century.[7] In it and later works, Heidegger maintained that our way of questioning defines our nature. He argued that Western thinking had lost sight of being. Finding ourselves as "always already" moving within ontological presuppositions, we lose touch with our grasp of being and its truth becomes "muddled".[8] 

Grande Composition Sonia Delaunay Courtesy Adams gallery

"Here are three painters with an interest in the intention-patterns that rhyme and articulate the substances of their work. In the work of one artist (Cook) we find turning, billowing forms that bulge and die away in accordance with principles that stem from the fact of the square format of the picture itself: here seem to be energies replicating those of galaxies that spiral together in dialogue, each curvature bound by the disposition of every other, now appearing as the combined effects of painted areas and densities on a scale at which cosmic evolution and studio practice can make a claim to be the same thing. 'Finding an order out of nothing' is how she describes a process in which the making of a painting functions like the mutual accommodation of liquids in a container, perpetually seeking balance while never fully achieving a state of rest. Even the smallest work of painting, she would say, needs the 'esemplastic power' that Coleridge believed brought opposite forces together in the interests of the whole entity thus formed. A second artist (Jackson) likes flat bands that are sized somewhere between thin lines that define the edge of something and the broader planes whose very edges those same lines might almost be: bands that hook larger planes together as in crocheting; hiding or masking others, while revealing or announcing yet more. She looks closely at arches, and upwards at cupolas. She likes dancing. And she thinks a lot about Heidegger. Each painting shows a rhythm of some sort, premised upon kinds of musical architecture having irregular thematic shapes, not unlike the sonata. 'Studio perceptions are not the appearance of the world reported on', she tells us, 'or sketched in, but the slow revelation, the unfolding, the unconcealment, of being present now'. 'I travel a lot in books', she adds in provocation. A third artist (Taylor) is drawn to ostensibly primitive shapes, here mostly triangles, organised in a manner that tries to mimic processes of growth, real as well as imagined, upon surfaces that are perhaps microbial, or whose miniature scale has been dramatically enlarged with an instrument of visual inspection. At such a range of magnification nature has no surfaces, of course; only forms colonising other forms, substances attempting to coalesce with other substances in given fractal dimensions, and where inscrutable rules of self-organisation are a guiding and governing key. He likes to recall the phrasing of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, reflecting on the Cubist painters of his acquaintance who used to tell him that a painting was a tableau-objet or picture-thing, each with a personality and a being for others - un être pour autrui as the existentialists came to say."

Riff II Vamessa Jackson 

Untitles Brandon Taylor
It is always a curiosity and a marvel that with similar ambitions and asking the same questions, that the expressions of our enquiries have such different outcomes. It would appear that we don't hear our own voices and that we construct our realities. One woman's nature is another's art.