Thursday, 5 January 2012

Go Robson Go!

Robson Cezar, who I worked with for the Eat, Use, Destroy ;) exhibition, has just appeared on the front page of the Internationl Herald Tribune.

The image shows Robson holding one of his bottle-top pieces, featuring the word 'strike'. He was at the time curating an outdoor exhibition in support of the Occupy London protests, despite previous insistence that his work itself is not politically concerned. The open air show was entitled 'everyone is an artist', in homage to Joseph Beuys. Participation meant that you had to hold or wear your artwork. During the event Robson also spent time creating bottle top pictures with participants.

In terms of Cezar's practice, this front page is a gift - an artwork engaging with the strikes has been absorbed into the main medium through which the strikes are perceived, the media. Is it opportunistic however, a jump onto the Occupy bandwagon? I'm under the impression that some see polite protest as an affront to 'real' protest - the angry protest that gets things changed in truly dire situations. I think Cezar's project was earnest, and characteristicly playful, touched as ever with his Brazilian identity. I'd like to think there's a place for polite, as well as more radical, protest.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Art Gallery 'X'mas Cards

Several galleries sent me e-cards or messages this Christmas, via their mailing lists. There was a mad one from aas (an ephemeral performance art collective, see see below. Charlie Smith (the London gallery) included an image of Christ by painter Gavin Nolan (see bottom). I believe the painting features in the book The Face of Jesus by Edward Lucie-Smith, which I might try to take a look at. The thing that strikes me is that it's ugly. The geometric lines are interesting, part of it almost suggests a star of David. I could also see the lines as drawing a visual bridge between the portrait and the viewer.

Edward Lucie-Smith - small art is polemical!

I didn't see this show (California's a bit of a way) but heard about it through Charlie Smith, the London gallery. An exhibition of small artworks, claiming reaction against 'huge art' - born as abstract expressionism in the USA during the 1940s. Images and text available at the link below.

Masien and Mehra, Museum Collection (Christian Laboutin), 2010

Monday, 17 October 2011

No Offence Intended

I recently saw the exhibition child's play by collective no offence intended, part of the Manchester Free For Arts Festival 2011. It was brilliantly curated, large individual works coming together to a huge room from the perspective of a child. I don't currently have the time to describe the whole show, but here's a few points:

- the entire floor was covered in (polystyrene?) balls, which made you slide around the floor, relatively safely

- there was a plastic traffic bollard with a light inside it, which took on the air of a child's night light

- there were large sweet jars, which when you approached them, set off a 'burglar alarm'

- there were alcoholic slush puppies

I'm gutted I didn't make this earlier show by the same group, on the topic of religion:

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Factory Factory

Factory Factory is a solo exhibition by artist Daniel Curtis, comprising of site-specific sculpture made in response to the Utrophia project space.

I saw Daniel Curtis' show Factory Factory this summer in London. It featured his usual raw material constructions, assembled with a level of care that redirects the possible conclusion that they're just junk. Some of the work has an industrial edge (see the piece made from huge sheets of sandpaper, centre) which I assume references the venue's previous existence as a factory. Other pieces (see top) seem ordered like a city or organism. The piece which seems to have involved the most process, in terms of actually fixing different materials together, is a large plastic sheet on a timber frame (bottom). This hint of potential function (it could be a shelter, a wall or a wing) has an element of excitement to it.

Eat, Use, Destroy :) / American Bodies

This is an overview of the exhibitions Eat, Use, Destroy :) and American Bodies, both at Islington Mill, Salford in October 2011. Eat, Use, Destroy :) was a group show which I curated as part of Free For Arts Festival. It's focus was described as follows:

An exhibition looking at how we form consumer relationships with objects, images and people. But not always to negative effect. Featuring fine art as well as graphic design and documentary photography by artists from Manchester, London and Dundee.

Micah Purnell, Desire, 2011

Micah Purnell's work is independently motivated propaganda, which often attacks consumerist values. One of his posters both hung in the exhibition space and was pasted to the outside of the building (above), which is the natural habitat for his work.

Jenny Evans, In The Night I, 2011

Jenny Evans' beautiful, painstaking paintings are counterpoised to work such as Purnell's. Indistinct objects are endowed with human connotations, treading a line between respect for a fragile humanity and the objectivity of contempt. In the night 1 presents as a screwed up pair of knickers for example, which could denote any element of human physicality ranging from the fully fulfilled to the awkward or broken.

Clockwise from top left, work by Celina Teague, Robson Cezar and Josh Young.

American Bodies is an exhibition of the work of by David Wojtowycz. Ink drawings portray men posing, their apparently naked lower halves blacked out with gloss black paint. The show is very slickly curated. The usual glass doors of the gallery are replaced with wooden walling, the internal surface of which is painted gloss black. This creates a formal relationship between the whole gallery space and the paper works featuring blacked out squares.

David descibed the show to me as being about the 'death of desire'. This statement alone makes for an interesting relationship between the two shows. The subject matter draws on 70's gay pornography. The crux is that that imagery can no longer be presented in the way he fondly remembers it, due to the historical knowledge relating to the emergence of AIDS.

The show seems to be very personal, and honest about the ambivalencies felt for the imagery alluded to. The 'self-censorship' and context related issues surrounding some of the works seems to relate closely to some of my own work included in Eat, Use, Destroy :) (below). The paintings are actually photographs of genuine adverts, traced over in paint. The personal ambivalence in this case is that both the adverts' subjects are people very close to me.

Josh Young, Acrylic paint on photographs, 2011.

American Bodies is still on throughout October - see Islington Mill website below for visiting details.
Eat, Use, Destroy :) also featured work by Cully, Matthew Randle and David Shamiri.
All images - copyright of the artists.

Goblin Market

I haven't read a huge amount of poetry, but having stumbled across 'Goblin Market' by Christina Rossetti, I wanted to write down my ideas about it.

Read or listen to the poem first: link

In overview it's about two sisters. Laura falls to some sort of sickness/melancholy as a result of eating the fruit of 'goblin men'. Lizzie goes to the goblin men to try to get some more of the fruit, to ease her sister's illness. When she refuses to eat the fruit herself, wanting only to buy some, Lizzie is essentially roughed up by the goblin men. As a result shes ends up covered in squashed fruit. She escapes home where Laura kisses her to get some of the fruit juices. The result is initially to send Laura closer to death, but then she is healed.

There are a lot of sexual and possibly feminist type themes in there. But to me it sounded like an insane explanation of the gospel. The fruit is desire. Slavoj Zizek has said (somewhere on the Zizek! DVD) that freedom is to escape desire (desire for enjoyment). Laura is beaten by it, she desires. But Lizzie, her sister, goes through the same temptation and escapes without giving in to desire. Her refusal first leads to suffering:

They trod and hustled her,
Elbowed and jostled her, 
Clawed with their nails,

As she withstands the temptation and suffering, she is portrayed as heavenly:

White and golden Lizzie stood,

When Lizzie returns home she shouts at her sister to come and eat the fruit juices from her, which will presumably save her. Although it's highly sensual, this has to reflect something of Christian communion/eucharist:

Eat me, drink me, love me;

Laura's eventual recovery after eating the crushed fruit juices from her sister is described as:

Life out of death. 

It is a remarkable recovery, she is renewed:

Laura awoke as from a dream,[...]
Her gleaming locks showed not one thread of grey,[...]
And light danced in her eyes.

I think all the observations I've made are pretty obvious, I haven't gone into a lot of depth and I've ignored all the sexual/feminist themes. As far as the sexual themes, I think that many Christians think of relationships (and sex) as a pattern, a picture of the communion between man and God. The bible says that there will be no marriage in heaven, maybe because people will be fully relating to God. The conclusion of the poem is this:

'For there is no friend like a sister
In calm or stormy weather;
To cheer one on the tedious way,
To fetch one if one goes astray,
To lift one if one totters down,
To strengthen whilst one stands.'

This last part says that family is important. I think the fact that it focuses on sisters, together with the earlier eroticism, is what may appeal to queer or feminist theorists. To follow the reading that Lizzie is a Christ like figure, it might help to consider what the bible says about Christians being part of God's family:

For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother

Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.

Link: Poem audio and text at