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Muse Reviews: 15 June

15 June 2014

A round-up of the week’s reviews…

'On The Rocks. Again.' Bill Woodrow and Richard Deacon (WoodrowDeacon), at the New Art Centre.

‘On The Rocks. Again.’ Bill Woodrow and Richard Deacon (WoodrowDeacon), at the New Art Centre. Image courtesy the New Art Centre

Richard Deacon and Bill Woodrow at the New Art Centre (Maggie Gray)

The gallery at Roche Court – a small glass box looking out onto an expansive sculpture park in the Wiltshire countryside – must be an inspiring and intimidating place to exhibit. How do you compete with the Michael Craig-Martins doodling colourfully on the lawn outside; the cartwheeling Flanagan hares; the Gormley weathering solitary in the woods? Bill Woodrow and Richard Deacon are no strangers to such work…can turn out successful sculptures of their own on a scale to match…But the collaborative pieces of glassware that make up ‘On the Rocks. Again’, are improbable exercises in small, breakable baroque.

(1868–77), Edward Burne-Jones.

The Love Song (1868–77), Edward Burne-Jones. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Alfred N. Punnett Endowment Fund, 1947

The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy at the Metropolitan Museum (Lisa Zeiger)

These are works that bewitch, with a mimesis of female beauty…It is female beauty, however, of a peculiarly languid sort, the beauty of the muse who reigns through submission, the languor of the models – Elizabeth Siddal comes to mind – intensified, all too often, by laudanum or chloral. Her sovereignty arises through acquiescence, a majestic suspense of self in the service of myth.

Kenneth Clark in 'Civilisation' (1969)

Kenneth Clark in ‘Civilisation’ (1969) Photo: BBC

Kenneth Clark at Tate Britain (Peter Crack)

The best works here are those Clark collected for himself. Sometimes dismissed as a reactionary, he was a surprisingly diverse and progressive patron. Works by British modernists, such as Vanessa Bell’s Self-Portrait (c. 1958) or David Jones’ Petra im Rosenhag (1931) hung alongside Cézanne, Sidney Nolan and Giovanni Bellini at Saltwood, Clark’s Norman castle on the south coast.

Courtesy the Artist and Victoria Miro, London © Adriana Varejão

Adriana Varejão, ‘Carnivorous’ at Victoria Miro (Lily Le Brun) 

Anaemic green and sickly sweet red dominate and connect the paintings, which are gathered in uneven groups around the gallery. Like shadows projected onto sun-baked ground, menacing silhouettes of venomous plants with prying tendrils fall over sculptural canvases, ragged with exaggerated cracklure. The deep fissures reveal blood coloured interiors, which seem to seep through the surfaces, soaking the edges of several, and saturating one, Carnivorous Red, with a rich intensity.