200 words #5 / Robert Rauschenberg

Robert Rauschenberg / Glacial Decoy Series (Lithograph IV) 1980, Tate Collection, purchased 1981.

RR Tate collection.jpg

Glacial Decoy Series (Lithograph IV) 1980 / Robert Rauschenberg / Lithograph on Paper / 1680 x 1022 mm / Tate Collection / Purchased 1981.

In December this year Tate Modern will launch a retrospective of work by Robert Rauschenberg, the first since the artist’s death in 2008. It is being sold as a retrospective of a giant of Pop Art, and to many observers and the wider public Rauschenberg falls into an aesthetic category alongside Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Tom Wesselmann. Developments in colour print media allowed these artists to riff off contemporary events with an enviable cool and on a scale which was unavailable to collage artists at the start of the century.

I never saw Rauschenberg as a true Pop artist. The energy of the times does echo through much of his most iconic work, in silkscreens such as Retroactive for example, but it is an energy which is dependent on proximity to that moment in time for its impact. If Rauschenberg’s work had not had something more substantial in its makeup, we might not pay it much attention today. Far more than the imagery he appropriated from media sources, what remains fresh and fascinating is the way Rauschenberg could put an artwork together, assembling paintings as though they were three dimensional, and approaching sculpture with the hand of a painter.

A retrospective of the art of Robert Rauschenberg will be on show at Tate Modern, London from December 1st 2016 to April 2nd 2017.

Tate Modern – Robert Rauschenberg Retrospective

Le Penseur @ Jack Bell Gallery, London, Aug 5 – 13, 2016.

<em>Rendir</em>, 2016

Karen Hampton ‘Rendir’ 2016. Image courtesy of Jack Bell Gallery.

Despite what might be going on behind the scenes, to the gallery-going public August in London means down-time on the gallery circuit. Many quality, big name galleries fill this gap with group shows which, to the regular visitor, can seem like the weakest link in an otherwise strong calendar of exhibitions. For smaller galleries looking to build an audience however, it’s as good a time as any to offer an overview of the artists they represent.

The group show, ‘Le Penseur’ at Jack Bell Gallery, a bright and tidy space behind White Cube in Masons Yard, provides a neat introduction to some of the Gallery’s stable of artists. The space is a nice surprise at the top of an unexotic flight of stairs in one of the narrow townhouses on the square. It contrasts modestly with the colossal cavity block that is the White Cube. Indeed, this whole area, according to the new Mayfair & St James’s Gallery Map, which shows what I estimate at 150+ galleries, is a densely packed hub where old, ageing, and new spaces coexist. It’s encouraging to see surprisingly fresh work being shown in some of the smaller galleries in this area, in the middle of so much Polo and Aquascutum. Continue reading “Le Penseur @ Jack Bell Gallery, London, Aug 5 – 13, 2016.”

200 words #4 / David Hockney

David Hockney / Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) 1971


David Hockney – Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) 1971, Private Collection

© David Hockney

When I was in my early teens I came across David Hockneys’ interpretations of Cubism through what he called ‘joiners’; composite images composed of clusters of Polaroid photographs. The effect is similar to early Cubist portraits, where the figure has been fragmented and reassembled. At the same time Hockney was painting tightly composed portraits à la Picasso of the 1940s. With a distinctively sun drenched take on Picassos’ signature motifs, Hockney took quantum leaps across a substantial Cubist lexicon. Not only did he dip in and out of Cubism at random, but Hockney seemed to play around with it without the slightest hint of reverence. And why shouldn’t he? Picasso too, by his own admission, was an expert thief. As a consequence of the lessons I learned from Hockney’s fresh take on Cubism, I went back to my textbooks to see how badly I’d misread Picasso the first time around.

Hockney was the perfect art history teacher, and for the period that followed I rarely thought about his work without it leading to the discovery of someone else’s. I have learned to look far more carefully since then, and discovered so much more in Hockney that is original and timeless.


David Hockney opens on 9 February 2017 until Monday 29 May 2017 at Tate Britain.

Tate Britain – David Hockney


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