UTA BARTH, In the Light & Shadow of Morandi (17.03) 2017. Face mounted, raised, shaped, Archival Pigment print in artist frame, 48 3/4 x 52 3/4 inches; 123.8 x 134 cm, Edition of 6; 2 APs, Courtesy the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York
The concept of the artist as researcher is at odds with the more popular notion of the artist as creative medium; someone gifted with vision which is unique and unavailable to the average person except through the artist’s revelatory powers of expression. The writer John Berger identified Picasso as the latter type of artist. By denying – the causal connexion between searching and finding* -Berger finds Picasso as much a hostage to his own vision as we are.
Through years of quiet research into visual perception, the photographer Uta Barth has been searching and finding, and since the late 1990s she has been using exclusively as material the fleeting modulations of light and shadow which occur throughout the day in her apartment. Whilst Barth didn’t set out to impose this working limit on herself, by observing effects of light and shadow on the simplest expanse of wall or the fold of a curtain she quickly realised that she had unlimited visual material around her. Consequently, there was – no point in going out to seek that out.
Infused with what Berger describes as a spirit of research, Barth’s latest series pays homage to the work of another patient observer, Giorgio Morandi.
Uta Barth at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
*John Berger – The Success and Failure of Picasso, 1993, New York, Vintage, p.32.
Miró and Life in General: Relevant, 2016
Varnished inkjet print on canvas with acrylic paint
243.1 x 125.1 x 3.8 cm
From their apartment on the 30th floor of the Shelton Hotel in New York in 1925, the painter Georgia O’Keeffe and her husband, the photographer Alfred Stieglitz, looked out at the same view. On one side they witnessed the emerging city, and on the other, the low-rise profile of the East River. They captured these in much the same way. Yet O’Keeffe’s painted images and Stieglitz’s photos stand distinctly apart for us.
John Baldessari sees no good reason why painting and photography should have separate histories. Born in 1931, Baldessari came to maturity as an artist in the 1970s; a period of dramatic reconfigurations involving art theory and practice, and far removed from the limiting machismo of Abstract Expressionism. Baldessari has also worked as a teacher since the late 1950s, including a two decade involvement with CalArts. Of his philosophy of teaching, Baldessari states that he wanted to keep the “…wall as low as possible between instructor and student…”*. This is a strategy that has ensured a two-way exchange of ideas. As an artist, Baldessari keeps us looking at the exchange of meaning between the painted and photographic image and text by virtue of his even-handed treatment of all three.
* John Baldessari interviewed by David Salle
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.”
MADE YOU LOOK: dandyism & black masculinity / curated by Ekow Eshun @ The Photographers’ Gallery, London, July 15 – September 25, 2016.
Hassan Hajjaj, Afrikan Boy, 2012 © Hassan Hajjaj, Courtesy of the artist.
Adding to a tidy list of London shows currently featuring African photography, ‘MADE YOU LOOK – dandyism & black masculinity’ sets out a brief which is tight and unambiguous. (See the previous two articles below for more on African photography.)
This compact exhibition, in one of the smaller spaces in The Photographers’ Gallery, highlights the way in which black masculinity can tend towards the performative, the theatrical. From the very earliest photograph in the exhibition, an unattributed print thought to have been taken in Senegal in 1904 of two well-dressed men posing with bottles of champagne, we see a complex public expression of identity torn between appropriation and innovation. The two unknown men from Senegal, whose attire is typical of the colonial classes of the time, contrast with the superbly confident mix of public flamboyance and individuality of Hassan Hajjajs’ models.
What we see in this show is a way in which ‘…(black men) choose to define their self-image…’ as curator Ekow Eshun has said, and the emergent confidence which runs throughout points to an individualised self-image unburdened by historical appropriation. More than the public images however, Samuel Fossos’ self-portraits, taken after-hours in his photo studio in Bangui, remind us that identity is complex and fluid and, ultimately, personal.
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Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou / Borderlands @ Jack Bell Gallery, London, July 8 – 22, 2016.
Image courtesy of Jack Bell Gallery.
To be in a hurry in West Africa is to be immediately conspicuous. And to expect something to happen on time serves only to exhaust the energy required for the inevitable long wait. Backpackers complain enthusiastically to each other in hotel lobbies about delays and uncomfortable transport. Despite this however, the great cities of West Africa which grumbling visitors pass through continue to swell and adapt rapidly and organically, seemingly against the odds.
Adaptation and ingenuity are the immediate responses of the populations of these cities to serial frustrations and obstacles to development. This visceral mix of real necessity and ingenuity creates an aesthetic which is at once troubling and beautiful. In the dust raised by the traffic of Porto Novo, capital city of Benin, photographer Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou continues his series of portraits of people working the black market between Benin and Nigeria. These are spontaneous yet masterful compositions captured in available light on a medium format camera. Agbodjelous’ subjects are those people whose livelihood depends on transporting electronics, palm oil, car parts and petrol across the border.
Stemming from the best tradition of African portrait photography, ‘Borderlands’ captures, without dramatic embellishment, the uneasy energy of a modern West African city.
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