Saturday, 30 October 2010
Breon O'Casey, London
David Gledhill, Corin Sworn, Manchester
Contemporary Eye, Chichester
Rebecca Lennon, Liverpool
Rirkrit Tiravanija, London
Joan Ainley, Castle Donington
Pioneering Painters: The Glasgow Boys 1880-1900, London
Jorn Ebner, Newcastle upon Tyne
Monday, 23 August 2010
Huge series of triptychs may be sold to Dutch museum
Gilbert & George, The Paintings (With Us in the Nature)
British artist duo Gilbert & George are likely to sell a monumental early work that has remained in their personal collection since it was made in 1971—a set of six triptychs that together total nearly 30 metres in length. The Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, the Netherlands, is to borrow The Paintings (With Us in the Nature)—the only major paintings ever made by the artists—and it hopes to then raise the money to buy the work.
Kröller-Müller director Evert van Straaten told us that he first met Gilbert & George in 1971, a few months after the work was completed and while it was on show at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. “I was puzzled and intrigued, because they called themselves ‘the living sculptors’. Painting was becoming seen as obsolete,” he said. The Paintings remained in Van Straaten’s mind for nearly 40 years, and last year he contacted Gilbert & George, asking if they still owned it.
The Paintings comprises six huge triptychs, each 2.3m by 6.8m. Based on photographs, the images were then crudely transferred to canvas, overpainted and splashed with green. The youthful figures of Gilbert & George appear in the landscapes of each of the central panels. Since 1972 the work has only been exhibited very occasionally, in Edinburgh (1986), Turin (1992), Porto (1994) and Bordeaux (1990, 1997, 2001 and 2005).
The Kröller-Müller Museum is set in a national park in the eastern Netherlands, with the gallery windows framing views of the surrounding woods. This makes it a particularly appropriate place to display the Gilbert & George landscapes. After completing this work, the artists not only abandoned painting for photography, but focused on their urban surroundings, reflecting east London life.
Van Straaten is borrowing The Paintings for a temporary display (9 July-21 November), and while the work is on show he will fundraise to purchase it. Discussions on the price are currently underway, and the hope is that it will be below the market value, since Gilbert & George are keen for the work to remain at the Kröller-Müller.
The Paintings will need a very large gallery for itself, so it might be shown for three months a year. This opens the possibility that the work could be lent to other exhibitions. Van Straaten is also keen on an eventual extension to the museum building, which would provide more space for the British duo’s unique venture into painting.
That Richard Hamilton has such a relatively low profile is surely scandalous
Richard Hamilton, I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas, 1967-68
The publication of this book is evidence of a continuing historical and cultural injustice. How could it be that Richard Hamilton is identified by his publishers as “a key figure in 20th-century art” and at the same time be “still little-known in the US”? It is just as alarming that these disjunctive (but, on reflection, hardly contradictory) phrases form the first sentence for this book’s blurb, but, more surprisingly, this work is the only book (rather than an exhibition catalogue) in print on the artist.
Thus it carries quite a burden of expectation, with mixed results. How could a book that collects together texts garnered from magazines and exhibition catalogues satisfy one’s thirst in such a desert of available publications? Yet satisfy it does because of the judicious choice of texts and by the way it suggests how one might view a side of Hamilton that has been emerging since the 1980s—as a history painter engaged in the translation of personally felt moral and political issues, a development seen most recently in the exhibition earlier this year, “Richard Hamilton: Modern Moral Matters” at London’s Serpentine Gallery (a slightly altered version of “Richard Hamilton: Protest Pictures” at Inverleith House two years earlier).
This new view of the artist is signalled by the decision to reproduce Hamilton’s painting of the IRA’s “dirty protest” in the Maze prison, The Citizen, 1982-83, on the book’s front cover. It is a world away from the more commonly accepted view of Hamilton as the “Father of Pop” that might have been communicated, say, by his proto-pop collage of 1956,Just What Is it That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing?The choice of cover image is confirmed by Hal Foster’s essay “Citizen Hamilton” (reprinted from Artforum). Foster’s is the last essay in this book, and makes the identification of Hamilton as history painter most forcefully.
However, it is Mark Francis’s introductory essay from 1988, a text that brilliantly sets the work of the 1980s in context, such as the portrait of Margaret Thatcher, Treatment Room, 1983-84, and The Citizen, and not just alongside earlier works of political hue (Hugh Gaitskell as a Famous Monster of Filmland, 1964), but also with regard to enigmatic paintings such as that of Bing Crosby, I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas, 1967-68, and Hamilton’s long engagement as reader and interpreter of James Joyce.
It is Joyce, as Francis explains, that provides one way of understanding how politics, pop and Hamilton’s long held fascination with the mechanics of making and translating images (not just painting, but also, primarily, photography and other forms of printmaking) co-exist. One clear way is by reference to the Joycean notion of “epiphany”, paraphrased by Hamilton as “a crystallisation of thought that gives us an instant awareness of life’s meaning”, and also by his work of the same name from 1964—a giant-sized presentation of a button badge bearing the words “Slip It To Me”. Epiphany describes a revelation that is by definition personal, and informs all areas of Hamilton’s practice as this book starts to make clear.