A round-up of recent exhibition reviews
Moroni’s self-conscious sitters at the Royal Academy (Phoebe Dickerson)
Moroni’s portraits picture all the strain – and with it the charisma – of self-consciousness. Take Isotta Brembati: the daughter of a wealthy patrician family from Bergamo…sits bolt upright in her Savonarola chair; tight-lipped and blue-eyed, her expression is firmly set against the betrayal of any emotion. A marten stole cossets her broad shoulders, a gold chain draped from its nose across her bodice. She wears a lavishly patterned green-bronze dress, and in her lap she holds a fan of candyfloss ostrich feathers. The combined effect is that of a woman circumscribing herself – with great deliberateness – in all the high silliness of wealth.
From the mass market to the museum: ‘Warhol Mania’ in Montreal (Elizabeth Grant)
One can easily forget that Andy Warhol not only made art about mass consumption, he made art for mass consumption as well.
‘Warhol Mania’…is a comprehensive collection of what could be described as ‘popular artefacts’ by the foremost American Pop artist, including posters made for limited and wider distribution, album inserts, magazine illustrations, and other cultural ephemera. The exhibition aims to highlight how Warhol ‘broke down boundaries between the graphic and the fine arts by using both to their mutual benefit’.
CRW Nevinson’s ‘Rebel Visions’ at the Barber Institute (Anneka French)
Timed to coincide with the First World War centenary commemorations, this small exhibition at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts contains drawings, prints and oils, and spans a 20-year period of Nevinson’s remarkable career, from 1914 to 1934. Nevinson served with the Quaker Friends Ambulance Service, and later the Royal Army Medical Corps during the war (he was medically unfit for combat). The acutely observed, piercing details in his paintings are difficult to shake from the mind.
‘Basic Design: A Revolution in Art Education’ at the Hatton Gallery (George Vasey)
‘Basic Design: A Revolution in Art Education’ at the Hatton Gallery…explores the re-evaluation of art education in Britain during the 1950s and ’60s…Receiving exposure through exhibitions such as ‘The Developing Process’, which was held at the Hatton Gallery in 1959, the work was almost typically abstract, offering a regional adoption of International Modernism: muddied hues, wonky squares, rectangles, whirls and dots….I would have been interested to see links made between the legacy of Basic Design and the more radicalised student and staff projects that emerged throughout the decade.
‘Hiroshi Sugimoto: Still Life’ at Pace Gallery, London (Peter Yeung)
The first time Hiroshi Sugimoto laid eyes upon a diorama was shortly after he had moved to New York City in 1974. The surreal, uncanny displays of taxidermy wildlife and delicate, hand-painted backdrops in the American Museum of Natural History struck the young Tokyo-born artist, who later wrote of being overwhelmed at how they captured the ‘fragility of existence.’ Two years later, an inspired Sugimoto began working on Diorama….at first, these pictures appear to be like the black-and-white photographs usually found in National Geographic, until closer inspection reveals detailed brushstrokes.
The Way of All Flesh: Berlinde de Bruyckere (Matilda Bathurst)
Painting loves to lavish attention on the flesh, whether the plump, pearly perfection of an Ingres hand, the rouged dimple of a Rubens buttock, or the flaccid folds of a Jenny Saville nude…A new exhibition of works by the Belgian artist Berlinde de Bruyckere (b. 1964) at Hauser & Wirth London, ‘Of Tender Skin’ (until 10 January 2015), suggests that the treatment of flesh in sculpture may be rather different: that it can only aspire to a condition of deadness.
Mapping the contemporary: Bloomberg New Contemporaries vs. Tomorrow: London (Jack Orlik)
In stark contrast to the ICA, the SLG’s show contains only one video work (Rodrigo Garcia Dutra’s Abstract Eruption III), which would probably be better described as a ‘moving photograph’. In a world increasingly saturated with video art (see the Turner Prize, 2014), this might seem to be an oversight. However, the absence of video at the SLG highlights a problem that is surely going to spread in coming years: how to exhibit video in a contemporary gallery.
Don’t blame the culture wars for Tate Britain’s disappointing rehang