Saturday, 27 April 2013

Masking ourselves

Strangely touched today by this unusual George Platt-Lynes.

George Platt-Lynes: The Mask, 1940s
More here

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Queers and Mexicans

A mixed bag for Sunday night.

First, a great Radio 3 programme by a friend of a friend on Mexico's baroque tradition of violence; from the Aztecs to the current beheadings by drug gangs.

A Taste for the Baroque

Dude with La Santa Muerte, the deity of Mexico's underworld

Next, this month's best purchase already lying proudly on my coffee table: Phaidon's new whopper Art & Queer Culture. Almost unbelievably, it is the first comprehensive book to focus on the criticism and theory regarding queer visual art. Instant classic.

'The word homosexual was never used; they just said, "He's an artist".'
Paul Cadmus, recalling 1930s New York

And since we're on the topic of queers and Mexicans: my Flickr account is newly updated...

Un certain regard, Laurent
Buenas Noches!

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Basic Miracles

Dr. Karl Blossfeldt's enlarged photographs of plants will massage your botanical imagination. On show at the Whitechapel Gallery since this Tuesday, the century old images astound through their evocativeness and steal the show from all contemporary art currently on display.

Common male fern, young unfurling fronds, 4x

If you want, you can find aliens & sea monsters in Blossfeldt. But my highlight of the show is an article from the 1925 issue of a German magazine, illustrating the similarity between Blossfeldt's plants and cultural monuments around the world.

Horsetail reed and a Mameluke mosque in Cairo

Horse chestnand West-Native American Totem Pole

Open your eyes.

Until 14 June 2013 (Free Admission) 
Click here for Karl Blossfeldt's archive

Monday, 15 April 2013

Sylvia's Revolution

My first job in London was patrolling the rooms of the National Portrait Gallery. I remember marvelling at an austere group painting of 1960's literary critics by an artist I forgot, and being unable to decide whether I liked it.

Last week I stumbled upon a book about the Welsh painter Sylvia Sleigh. The cover was the very image I had looked at years before, but the inside was very different.

Annunciation, 1975

Paul Rosano reclining, 1974

Chelsea Garden, 1967
The Turkish Bath, 1973 - nod to Ingres' Turkish Bath of 1862

Northwestern Students, 1977 

Arakawa & Madeline Gins, 1971

Imperial Nude (1975)

There were still no smiles, but these works struck me with their quiet exuberance of colours and the frank portrayal of male nudity. Men are objects of desire - shown in poses most would expect women to take - but they are not objectified.

I like the stillness of that revolution. If only these had hung in the National Portrait Gallery, I would have remembered Sylvia's name much earlier. 

Thursday, 11 April 2013

What buildings can do

I want it to be summer, to walk through a deserted forest, and to find, by chance, a wooden chapel at the end of a path. Not to enter, not to pray, but to feel like it's been there waiting for me.

Contemporary Polish Architechture by Studio Beton - 2009, Tarnow/Poland

Sunday, 7 April 2013

German Humour

While passing through Berlin last week, a visit to the Hamburger Bahnhof was on top of my list. I knew I had missed  Carsten Höller's bizarre and widely discussed reindeer installation by over two years, but I sensed that the place - one of the largest contemporary art museums in the world - had other surprises in store for me.

Carsten Höller's "Soma" at the Hamburger Bahnhof museum for Contemporary Art, Berlin, 2010-2011

It did. 

At first, the name Martin Honert evoked as little in my mind as his slightly dull-looking objects that the entire show seemed to be made out of. There was no text, no titles. As soon as I got immersed in the explanatory booklet, however, I was seduced by the almost child-like simplicity of the work. 

House (1988)

"I have no personal connection to this house. It always caught my eye on train trips between Bottrop and Essen; it was not very different from the rest of the area's austere, dark-gray buildings, yet it repeatedly gave me the feeling of dignity an content. Even today, I cannot say just what features of the house induced these emotions."

Linden (1990)

"Free-standing lindens have always served people as meeting points, or places to rest. All of the tree's features - its deep roots, its round silhouette, its heart-shaped leaves, it's sweet-smelling blossoms - symbolize softness and relief. I rigorously abstained from using any natural materials.

But my favourite was the series of objects the artist made based entirely on drawings he had made as a child, fifty years earlier. 
Knight's Battle, 2003/2004

The original drawing, fifty years earlier

"I was not interested in new artistic interpretation of an old theme but rather in a precise, faithful translation in which I placed myself as an adult entirely in the service of the child who created this image." 

So much for the lack of German humour.