A round-up of the week’s reviews…
As they are packed in floor to ceiling with no wall labels, to identify the paintings you must either squint up at period gilt labels (attributions that have often been amended by later scholars), use the gallery’s flimsy diagram and list, or – perhaps more fun – test your own eye. Would that be a Rubens down there? Well, that’s what William V thought but the list says the flirtatious young woman decked in silks and holding pink roses is by Rubens and his studio, quite a different thing.
As I walked, the board morphed to Gilbert Stuart’s George Washington looking quizzically up the street from Times Square’s chaos of yellow cabs; then to Edward Hicks’s The Peaceable Kingdom, bucolic amid the concrete; then to Grant Wood’s American Gothic couple staring out silently and disapprovingly at the chattering crowds in their shorts and shades.
The ‘two worlds’ promised by the title of this exhibition are, ostensibly, the static world of still photography and the cinematic world of moving images…But as you explore the exhibition, these ‘two worlds’ fragment even further, and fresh oppositions appear – science and magic, natural and supernatural, contemporary and historic, reality and apparition – forming minor fractures along the greater gulf that is still photography’s leap into representing mobility.
Everyone loves to hate at least one artist. My particular bête noire is Stanley Spencer. There’s something about his roly-poly figures, his whimsical religious scenes and his obsessive nudes that puts me in mind of a village pervert…But as I’m shown into the chapel, something extraordinary happens. I wouldn’t call it an epiphany, exactly. But it certainly made me look at Spencer’s paintings in a different way.