mon 18/01/2021

Visual Arts Reviews

Jan Gossaert’s Renaissance, National Gallery

Judith Flanders Adoration of the Kings

Jan, or Janin? Gossart, or Gossaert? Or Mabuse? After a mere five centuries, we haven’t settled on a name quite yet (even for this exhibition: at the Metropolitan Museum, the same show spelt it “Gossart”). We don’t know where he was born, although Maubeuge, then in Hainault, now in France, is the best guess, hence “Mabuse”. His birth date too is a mystery: the Grove Dictionary of Art suggests 1478, while the National Gallery just shrugs and gives us “active 1503”. What is in...

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Louise Bourgeois & Tracey Emin, Do Not Abandon Me, Hauser & Wirth

Judith Flanders

Louise Bourgeois died last year at nearly 100, a revered figure: survivor of the Surrealist movement into the 21st century, a pioneer of autobiographical expression, whose fame came only late in life.

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Watercolour, Tate Britain

Fisun Güner

Does watercolour painting suffer from an image problem? Do you think of the wild, vaporous seascapes of Turner, or Victorian ladies at their sketchbooks dabbing daintily at wishy-washy flower paintings? Do you associate the medium with radical innovation or with staid tradition? And would Jackson Pollock have appeared quite so heroic flinging thin washes of watercolour around instead of viscous oils?

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Douglas Gordon: K.364

Fisun Güner 'The journey seems agonisingly slow, interspersed as it is by desultory, Impressionistic fragments'

After writing about a recent survey of French artist Philippe Parreno at the Serpentine Gallery last year, I found myself wondering about his collaboration with the Scottish artist Douglas Gordon. In 2006 the two artists made the acclaimed film Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, and while Parreno’s skills as a film-maker were pretty evident from that...

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Cory Arcangel, The Curve, Barbican

Josh Spero Cory Arcangel is firmly keeping all his balls on the ground

It is probably a worrying sign when the computer games of your youth become the historical butt of a conceptual art joke. Digital artist Cory Arcangel, who appropriates video-game technology, repurposes and redesigns it, has installed 14 10-pin bowling computer games in the Barbican's Curve gallery, and if you remember the earliest, an Atari, you're almost...

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Susan Hiller, Tate Britain

Fisun Güner 'Witness': It’s the dramatic staging of the piece that’s far more seductive than anything to do with what the work’s 'about'

Susan Hiller describes herself as a curator as well as an artist. She makes work out of objects that she’s collected over the years. She collates information, too, and personal testimonies. These all go toward making works whose primary aim is to question meanings and categories and belief systems. These belief systems are those that are often found on the outer fringes of mainstream norms – or, if you’re put off by the dry language of academe – which Hiller isn’t – the loopy stuff that’s a...

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Martin Creed, Hauser & Wirth

Judith Flanders Installation view of Martin Creed's 'Mothers' at Hauser & Wirth, Savile Row

Who could not love Martin Creed? The tweed-encased harumphers of the world adore him, because they can say, “That’s not art,” and, “My cat could do that,” and have an all-round wonderful time. Conceptualists have it easy: what could be more fun than his Turner Prize-winning Work No 227, a light going on and off in a room? And lovers of abstract art love him because his work is just there. “Take it or leave it,” it seems to say. And they love him because, well, because his work...

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Modern British Sculpture, Royal Academy

Fisun Güner Rebecca Warren's 'Helmut Crumb', 1999, conflates the names Helmut Newton and Robert Crumb and depicts female sexuality as imagined through both artist's eyes

Austere, elegant, impressive. Edwin Lutyens’s Whitehall Cenotaph is a thing of beauty, a monument that embodies permanence in the face of all that is impermanent, and solidity in the face of all that is ephemeral. It’s an inspired decision to bring it indoors, for inside a hushed gallery, away from the rush of traffic and stripped of its flags and sculpted wreathes, Lutyens’s memorial can at last be properly admired as a work of art.

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Robert Mapplethorpe, Alison Jacques Gallery

Josh Spero Peter Reed, clenching his buttocks, by Robert Mapplethorpe

The first thing to make clear is that Robert Mapplethorpe, notorious for his photograph of himself with a bullwhip up his arse, is not really a photographer: he is a sculptor who works in the medium of photography. What else can explain the marble and ebony of his chiselled subjects, or the fact that most of the works selected for this show as responses to Mapplethorpe are sculptures?

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Gabriel Orozco, Tate Modern

Judith Flanders

The show opens with his iconic 1991 piece, My Hands are My Heart, a double photograph of Orozco’s naked torso. In the first photograph his hands clutch a hidden object at chest-height; in the second the hands splay open to present to the viewer a piece of clay, now impressed with his fingermarks in the shape of a heart. In two simple images, Orozco encapsulates the artist’s act of creation, and then of offering the creation to the viewer.

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