New Exhibition

The artwork is back for approval, it’s not looking quite how I imagined it would, but there are three parties concerned: Helen – the other artist – and Tom the overall manager of the project. All the photographs are mine, the images of the ‘print-works’ were done by a studio. I’ll think about how look as I get on with assignment five, but I feel very confident that this work will be put up at the Fusion Arts Centre and at the Artscape Gallery which I’m very pleased about.

Ways of Measuring and Seeing

Ways of Measuring and Seeing

 

 

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Art in Oxford

Art

This is a piece of Art

Last week I went to three exhibitions in Oxford. The first was to the O3 Gallery where they have an exhibition entitled ‘Fashion Stories’ – part of ‘Oxford Fashion Week’, the blurb goes on to say “An exhibition of photography that showcases fashion in an unexpected setting and which, in various ways, can challenge our conceptions about fashion.
The way we present ourselves to the world tells a story. A story about how we see ourselves, how we want others to see and how we feel. Oxford Fashion Week presents an exhibition of photography and sculpture that invites the viewer to journey into that story.

I think ten photographers, each with one print. Two of those photographers were women, none of the models were women; one of the women photographers had an image which seemed to proudly state that her model was a thirteen year old who was made to look fully sexually mature. I asked the Gallery for an explanation, I was referred to the Director of Oxford Fashion Weeks – who they felt sure would come back to me. I’m still waiting and somewhat incredulous that the Gallery had no comment to make on the subject.

Moving on to Modern Art Oxford which had two artist’s work: Hannah Rickards and Roelof Louw.

Louw has exhibited at MAO before – in 1969 – and his “Pyramid (Soul City) (1967) has been remounted for this exhibition. It consists ”  ... of 6000 oranges in a pyramid and invites viewers to take a piece of fruit, until, eventually they disappear.” The orange above is an image I made of the orange that I took from the exhibit. “He envisaged visitors participating in the work, “serially changing its order, all the time“.

I asked one of the museum staff to pose by the oranges and indicate the height she thought the pyramid of oranges had been. I was told that the oranges are periodically cycled (within the confines of the wooden base) in order that they remain fresh. I was reminded of Jason Evans whose exhibitions had ‘giveaways’, that he wanted the viewers of his work to take something of that work with them. I’m not sure that Louw had the same intention, but I shall consume the orange. It will be recycled. The work will be disseminated.

Hannah Rickards work was complex and varied. 

And whilst Louw’s work was orange tinted, colour was also very important to Rickards’ work, at least inasmuch as it seemed to anchor a good deal of it. There were six pieces of work on the gallery floor. If art relies, to a greater or lesser extent on the senses, then these pieces all seem to want to relate to those senses in a particularly singular way.  One part of the gallery space was given over to green. The skylights and windows were covered in a green gel, the prints had green ink:

green1c2

Green wallc2

Green floorc2

Green2c2This last image depicts the outer of one of the two video installations that I found particularly interesting: Inside were two large screens each with a video projection of conversations between different people on what they remembered about some images they had been invited to view and then respond to, I think, some questions unheard or unseen. These responses all seemed to discuss narrative; how the viewers, there were eight or nine of them, would try and interpret what they remembered of the images they had seen, wanting to fill in the ‘gaps’ of their comprehension – make the images make sense. These people weren’t artists, they didn’t possess the vernacular of the artist, but they were able to describe what it was they thought they remembered and tried to make sense of it. This seemed interesting to me in the work I have been doing on ‘Light‘, how narratives will be developed independently by the historical perspective of the viewer, something I’m also researching with “The Open Work” by Umberto Eco.

The work at Art Jericho was a show by Kim Shaw. Of all the work I saw on the day this set of images had the most beauty about it. Monochrome images printed with great dexterity and craft using a variety of camera mediums, but sticking with film these images were a joy to look at. However they did seem to me to be ‘pretty pictures’. I have nothing against ‘pretty pictures’ and their prices ranged from £500 up to £1500 each – though there were some smaller reproductions around £200 each. Whether these images are just a paean to the physicality of the medium of film image making I’m not sure, but they didn’t go any deeper than that for me. I was glad that these images were the last I saw and not the ‘new way to see ourselves’ that the O3 gallery was mounting. If I thought this was how I looked, if I thought this was the way we, as a society was trending towards, than I think we are plummeting in a downward spiral.

Proud of this

Memories Project with the Echoes Group

Memories Project with the Echoes Group

I had a meeting with the Artscape Manager today to discuss the next exhibition and was very proud to see this in the Artscape Gallery next to my prints which form the basis for Assignment Two. The next exhibition will likely be in the Fusion Arts Centre, Cowley Road as well as the replacement to the current exhibition. and will likely be hung towards the end of the month. The Fusion Arts piece will be for around two weeks and the Artscape one will likely be up for a few months.

Richard Hamilton at the Tate Modern

No entry

No entry

Overwhelming in many ways this huge retrospective provides as many excursions as there are rooms, and there are a lot of rooms! The exhibition catalogue is around 350 pages of images (including many not on show), sketches and essays which will provide a resource for some time to come. To take in all that was there would be a vainglorious exercise, if not impossible for one with so limited a vocabulary. What I will concentrate on is how I see Hamilton’s view of gender and the ‘other’ (female) as identity.

This image stopped me short. In it I recognise myself; I saw the institutionalised image of my desire – I wonder whether it was how Hamilton saw himself. The title ‘Fashion-plate study (a) self-portrait’ 1969 suggests that maybe he did but I haven’t found any direct reference to it as yet in the accompanying tome. I see the image of what I should expect from a societal perspective, from a female; a projection of how a beautiful sexually available female is represented: big lips, blond hair, suggestive wink, staring dilated pupil, ‘made-up and bare shouldered – she’s mine, should I desire. And of course as an object d’arts I can – just pay the man!

And here we have the ‘object’ stripped down to the bare essentials, the breasts are physical projections (providing the shadow detail on the image), she is displaying for the spectator, no expression to be concerned with, representative arms that are unlikely to fend away, stiletto shoes, stockings and the reflective glass connecting the viewer to the object. “Pin-up’ 1961 entering into the decade that suggested if you could remember it you weren’t there, the decade when sex began when for most it was still an illusion and was until the mid seventies (but that’s a different story). This image for me is a salutary lesson in the representation of the female, it seems to castigate the male for what it has done to the ‘other’ in diminishing it’s identity to a series of objects connected to perform a singular function. And talking of singular functions:

I seem to see another representation of the female, entitled ‘$he’ 1958-61, maybe this one is slightly more nuanced in that not only can she screw you but she can cook too, real dimensiality! A lot of his work around this period connected the female form to a presence within the domestic environment or to the boudoir. Looking at this through twenty twenty hindsight it appears to this viewer that Hamilton wasn’t wilfully mis-representing the female by subjugating them rather he was pointing out the frailties of the male perspective in that time, and then re-facing the present I wonder how far we have come? The Harry Callahan show that I took in on the same day as this certainly had the female in a passive role and those photographs were made in a similar period in history as these by Hamilton. The tube-ride to Marylebone had a number of men reading tabloids, the ‘page three Stunner’ is still there I noticed, the bill boards on the escalators have more explicitly sexually available women to gaze at as I rise at forty five degrees to the summit.

Un des effets des eaux de Miers

Un des effets des eaux de Miers

But I still remain confused at my reaction to this, or rather three images. This first, a study really, the title referring to an old British traditional view of the the foreign ‘other’ – don’t drink the water! has a recently formed steaming excreta purportedly on a piece of Jeyes toilet paper. Well ok.

But then this:

The study is introduced to the upper image. Is this irony? A study of confidence or a depiction of vulnerability?

It is further used in this:

‘Sunset 1975’. Well I can agree that most sunset pictures are (scatalogical references omitted) tedious and very regular in the photographers canon, but if that association is made then what association for the former images of the two young, attractive women. Not sure Richard, it’s a bit tricky Dickie for me, unless it is an equalising image? Trousers can, skirts can’t……

There were many very interesting rooms at this show; it asked a lot of questions of me as well as of the art on the walls, and on the floor. I have a very strong feeling that I shall come back to the catalogue again and again.

Harry and Eleanor

Reproduced by kind permission of the gallery

Reproduced by kind permission of the gallery

Harry Callahan is one of those ‘people’ in the history of photography, a name synonymous with the art and craft of it all and associated with the development of the medium as an art form. Teaching at the Chicago Institute before moving on to the Rhode Island school he will have met and worked with some the major luminaries of the world of photography. So it was with a sense of excitement that I ventured up to the fourth floor of the Tate Modern to see a display of his work and a sizeable selection of his work at that. This show, extracted from the relatively few images he printed, seemed somewhat eclectic, with no great theme holding them together – though as I went to the Tate primarily to view Richard Hamilton’s huge retrospective, it’s degrees of variation paled by comparison.

The first image I saw: ‘ Vogue Collage’ had me somewhat excited as I saw it as an image of representation, no doubt it was, hundreds of female portraits, culled, I presume, from the the pages of Vogue magazine and collaged for the male gaze, representing not only our (the male’s) traditional view of the other, but also perhaps questioning it; flooding the viewer’s senses with images of ‘beautiful’ women, from an archetypical purveyor of capitalism’s view of women’s own representation of women. These were passive representations of women

Reproduced by kind permission of the gallery

Vogue Collage circa 1956 printed 1990 – 9 printed on aluminium                             Reproduced by kind permission of the gallery

and I am there now in the frame as a silent observer. My initial excitement waned considerably though as I moved into the exhibition rooms. This may be in part because of what’s in my mind currently, what it is that I’m concerning myself with, in this course, and that is the representation of women, feminism and photography’s part in it all.

Callahan’s work on the white walls here disappointed me. The prints were, by and large, very beautiful, he was a more than accomplished printer and the influence of Ansel Adams was very clear to see:

Reproduced by kind permission of the gallery

Reproduced by kind permission of the gallery

Reproduced by kind permission of the gallery

Reproduced by kind permission of the gallery

There were a lot of these passive, flaccid works of nature, skilfully exposed and printed in exquisitely described warm tones of ‘nature’, the ‘great outdoors’ and I had a deal of fun re-toning them to re-present them here in similar tones. That Callahan left almost no notes of his practice or contemporaneous thoughts left me wondering why these images and not others – though what others might be included I’m not sure. I could find no sense of narrative, there seemed to be almost no contextual structuring to the show. And so to Eleanor:

Reproduced by kind permission of the gallery

Reproduced by kind permission of the gallery

There is a room dedicated to his wife, and I suppose muse, Eleanor. The portraits/studies were from a large selection that Callahan made of his wife for over twenty years; nude and clothed, inside and outside (in the world and hidden from it). Eleanor comes as part of the package, to know Harry as a photographer is to know Eleanor, she is there. And what I got from this work is that whilst she was there she was there for him; again skating on what may be the thin ice of comprehension of female representation, I found that all of the images of Eleanor were based on the premise of submissive passivity. Whilst the image above of the light touching her nude form, which spoke to me off my own recent work about light,  Eleanor seemed to be portrayed as an expression of Callahan’s position of dominance, facing away from the lens. The power equation never seemed to balance, Eleanor seemed mute in these images. I couldn’t discern any sense of the person within expressing a sense of their own person through the images. This sense of submission was there even in the fully clothed portraits. I fully accept that my ‘reading’ of these images is a product of my own concerns and prejudices. I watched ‘Bailey’s Stardust’ (was there ever such an attempt to lionise oneself by the deliberate exclusion of a name to present oneself as a name – well not until ‘Rankin’ I suppose) recently about the ‘blockbuster at the NPG where he has a wall of a couple of his wives – ‘it’s good share‘ – was how he described why he would want to display nude studies of his current and previous spouses. As Tom Hunter expressed about the ‘sexist pig’ in an interview with Robert Elms recently – ‘we can’t judge them by today’s moral compass‘. Why not? I wouldn’t bracket Callahan with Bailey as I don’t think Callahan had as many chips on his shoulders as Bailey, but I wasn’t sure about why we needed to see these images, the show was eclectic as it was without Eleanor or perhaps without Eleanor Callahan wasn’t half the person that he was with her and to describe him without her wouldn’t tell half the story.

Truth and Justice

newc2

This was an interesting, if small, exhibition at the Jam Factory in Oxford last week.

The ‘blurb’ accompanying this show was what enticed me ‘in’, not that it’s a difficult decision to make, a short detour on the way home from the Fusion Arts Centre in the Cowley Road where I volunteer for the Artscape Group….

“Art has an important role to play in helping us see the “wood from the trees”. Artists have the opportunity to stand up and point out the injustices and the lies. They can describe the parameters of where real truth exists or at least the direction in which it might be found. Art can create images that encourage people to think and can raise uncomfortable questions or challenge the entrenched, the bigoted, the smarmy marketing pulp or the bullying sales attacks.”

Theses images, in the main, used the lenticular printing process in a very interesting way, and for the most part I thought it worked very well, as one viewed the images from slightly different directions the images morphed between two images, thus the possibility to present two facades of a narrative in the one space. Or to present complex issues in a complex way, thereby perhaps compounding the argument, by amplifying it as in this print regarding the depiction of the female in art/media.

photo 5 (1)c2

 

or to be playful with it as here:

photo 3c2I find myself between two Warhols and looking down upon Monroe.

The first image is captioned ‘Idol War presents a modern Bayeux tapestry featuring scanned images of the prelude and subsequent events of the Iraq War as reported by the international media’ had a particular resonance in the work on documentary that I have been working and researching on. The titular Idols, being the main stage players in a media developed spectacle seemed only to be missing, or perhaps it referred to ‘American Idols’ – the reality talent show whose function is to develop ‘viewership’ for advertisement revenue. I thought the scope of this small show was quite ambitious and wondered only about one piece of work:

photo 3 (1)c2

 

 

Accompanied by this homage to both a patrician society and to the artist who produced it.

photo 4 (1)c2It subverted my view of the intent of the show somewhat, albeit that the show was a ‘Group’ show of artists in using the lenticular printing method, by the show’s heading was Truth and Justice, and most – except this ‘deep bow’ readily yielded their interrogations on Truth and Justice, whereas the image of ‘Her Majesty’ might have suggested – without the use of the detailed explanation – a viewer sourced question, whereas we are being told of our Majesty’s position as head of the realm in which I live. A piece of idolatry too far for this citizen.

 

 

 

Hannah Hoch at the Whitechapel, a three act play

I suppose if there was one artist that exemplifies the core of this course it might be Hannah Hoch. I was looking forward a great deal to visiting the show and I wasn’t disappointed, the work was at once beautiful and, for the most part, exploring some very important and, for it’s time, critically important subjects. However something struck me after I returned home and thought about the work, and it is about the job of curating an artists work that might be suggesting it as a ‘life’s work’. I wondered about how the curator will necessarily be limited by both the available work and the knowledge of the artist. And this slight digression has registered to me that an exhibition is of course a partial view, made so by the available work to view, the research on the artist undertaken by the curator and the ‘partialness’ of the same.

So to the work, there seemed to me to be three phases of work on show, the student life, the pre-war years and post war era – and I suppose this could be either my mis-reading of intent or that it how it was meant to be seen. The ‘student life’ seemed as much to do with aesthetics as it was about anything, the collage work didn’t seem apparent in her early work, and the works on the wall had an ‘exercise’ quality about them. My expectation of student life is that it might generally be thought of as the place where the artist might explore more widely, more cruel, more controversial. Like Laura Pannack says in one of the videos I saw yesterday – “Uni life is a place where you can fail – embrace it..” (I paraphrase), Hoch’s student work – at least what I saw – was quite sedate, pleasing, pleasant, nice and I’ve forgotten most of it.

Act II was the period from the end of her student days to WWII and this period was not only very productive for Hoch, but it was where I felt the narrative of the work had the greatest strength. Exploring the role of the female in her society might have been influenced by Hans Richter’s statement that “…she was good at buying sandwiches and making coffee…” – so much for the enlightened views of Dadaists (seemingly very similar to the Surrealists then!). Her work with collage and ideas seemed to question continually the place of women in society, how they were objectified and mute – the use of masks to reduce the personality, the presence of the female body, or parts thereof, was very common, as was the eye. The eye is clearly a reference to looking, but it’s placement within the frame was not always similar. The placement of it high up seemed to suggest the female gaze, whereas lower down (and looking up) it might as likely to be male. The depictions of women were most often parts of women and whilst this image wasn’t at the show, there seems to be a much more straightforward challenge to the viewer.

Fremde Schönheit (Strange Beuaty)

Fremde Schönheit (Strange Beauty)

This image does contain some of the areas of interest one of the conversations that we had at the show. The contents of the frame are clearly all purposeful; the background watercolour is created to host the image and therefore has narrative and contextual value, the venus like body is beautiful in form and is offered to us for our viewing pleasure. But the mask, with those spectacles – not amplified eyes – but spectacles, to magnify the intent of the wearer of the mask challenging the viewer to regard what they are viewing, not just as an object, a procurer of tea and recreation, but having depth, substance for to ignore it would be to ignore the whole.

This feminist trope was very strong in this phase of her work, Hoch didn’t contest the racism inherent in the society she live in, nor in the burgeoning National Socialists despite the clear left wing credentials of the Da-Daists and when the going got tough she moved to a cottage on the fringes of the city and waited out the war. I was particularly struck by the purposefulness of her intricate collage work, her scissor work, the precision in the placement of the layers which emphasised the narratives she was exploring. Some of it was playful, but this second act period had a strong political theme, against some of the business practices, but mostly about the depiction of the female in society and despite the main thrust of DaDaism being largely over by the mid 1920’s Hoch still held to the aesthetic very strongly until the advent of the second war. I didn’t comprehend some of the imagery, perhaps I needed to have had more research in the artist, her use of colour was very interesting and somewhat quirky, inasmuch as it didn’t always seem to chime with other works in the same period – I expect a lack of art history was at fault here, and I suspect a lot of it was of it’s time – especially the work for the ‘Ethnographic Museum” and it’s use of dark skinned people from Africa.

The third act had a much more calmer feel to it. Hoch’s problems pre war had largely been resolved, no more vilified by the society at large her work becomes softer, at ease with itself, more colour and softer colour at that, perhaps more reflective. It seemed to me to have a more settled feel to it, certainly it became much more abstract, perhaps her emotions became more difficult to define after the sharper inter-war years where things were more black and white, clearer to whichever eye was looking.

She is reported to have said at some stage ‘Gee it would have be great to have been born a man’ if so I don’t think the art would have been anywhere near as visceral as her early, post study period work was, but then she did at least survive to a good age and carried on working throughout. The main body of the exhibition seemed in my mind to centre on her pre-war work, which thinking about the curation, suggests that this period was hr most important. But what if the curator hadn’t had fuller access to the post war period? What if that necessarily encumbered the flow of narrative from the walls? The portrait of Hoch that is at this exhibition is very interesting whichever one was depicted, and curiously chimes with another artist whose work is grounded, to a much lesser extent in Da Da, that of Fontcuberta.