Maddox Arts: Degrees of Separation

 

MaddoxViewA number of contemporary British artists are certainly still influenced by their 1950s and ‘60s predecessors, Anthony Caro and Gillian Ayres for example, however there is certainly no straight, traceable line as there is with Latin American art.

This summer, London has played host to twentieth century Latin-American art on a mass scale with Radical Geometry at the Royal Academy of Arts, Pangaea at the Saatchi gallery, Made in Mexico at the Fashion and Textile Museum and Degrees of Separation at Maddox Arts, Mayfair. The final of these four exhibitions focuses specifically on the archetypal style of Latin American art, with artists born in the twenties exhibited alongside contemporary artists of South American roots.

Maddox Arts is tucked away just behind Claridge’s hotel and on Brook’s Mews, a small and unbelievably quiet street dotted with several new galleries and only five minutes from the mad rush of Oxford circus. Whilst the gallery’s artists hail from all over the world, Maddox holds a focus on raising the profile of Latin-American art – an area which has gained more and more attention over recent years, with Tate and the Pompidou increasing their collection as well.Medinakinetic-object

Degrees of Separation brings together work from all over South America, the UK and USA, from incredibly well-known figures (amongst the Latin-American art world) such as Jesús Rafael Soto and Carlos Cruz-Diez to new names such as Rafael Reveron-Pojan and Daniel Medina. One of the most striking pieces comes from Abraham Palatnik, a pioneering artist of Russian and German descent, and the inventor of ‘kinechromatic’ art – whereby a piece’s appearance, its colour in particular, changes due to movement. For Degrees of Separation, Maddox have acquired one of Palatnik’s original kinetic objects: a small, precise work of metal and wood which ticks away like some sort of solar system diorama, futuristic and yet analogue in its mechanism. Palatnik’s work reminds of Russian constructivism and Minimalism, with a De Stijl colour palette.

The movement of colour and light is a theme amongst all of the works: Daniel Steegmann Mangrane’s modest green hole-punched leaf which, held up against a light, strikes a silhouette against one of Maddox’s white cube walls; Medina’s sculptural wall piece, which appears to cast a stretched blue shadow against the gallery walls; and Cruz-Diez’s Op Art series, Chromatic Inductions in a Double Frequency, which invites viewers into the gallery and begins the visual illusion.

Venezuelan artist, Medina has been pegged as ‘one to watch’ in terms of the British art scene; interesting seeing as his work is so clearly informed by the art of South America, and concerned with its politics. Still, Medina’s contribution to this exhibition holds more of a visual than conceptual connection to his roots – reflecting  1950s Modernist abstraction – whereas Rafael Reveron-Pojan’s stitched postcards and hanging assemblages reference the favelas, makeshift buildings and urban architecture of his home city, Caracas.
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Reveron-Pojan’s paper postcard pieces are simple in their execution, yet convincingly portray  miniature worlds where angular sculptures of thread float upon the Thames or shoot down like beams of light from church spires. With intimate pieces such as this or Magdalena Fernandez’s geometric works on iPads, and ground-breaking items such as Palatnik’s kinechromatic invention, Degrees of Separation reveals the experimental nature of Latin American throughout the past century and its continuation today.

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Maddox Arts, Degrees of Separation is open for two weeks longer. Closing on 14th September 2014.

Kazuya Tsuji: Or

SCHWARTZ GALLERY

02.07.14 – 27.07.14show01

Hackney Wick is now less industrial wasteland than artist’s playground: its rabbit warren of streets home to galleries, pop-ups and (shamefully) some of the few remaining affordable studio spaces in London. Follow one such alleyway to its end to find Schwartz Gallery, currently home to Or, the first solo gallery show of Japanese surrealist artist, Kazuya Tsuji.

Tsuji reworks found ephemera – photographs, prints, sculptures – by mixing them with household objects such as drawing pins, or slick materials like glossy wooden blocks, mirrors and stone tablets. In accordance with the title of the show the work is minimalist and simple, whilst consistently precise and exacting in its execution.

Narrow white marble tables rise up on thin metal legs and support curling portrait photographs, their subjects’ eyes duplicated again and again in prisms sitting over them like glasses; in one corner a woman’s agitated expression glares out from a piece of paper, hung and lit up in mid-air, suspended and trapped, and on the gallery floor are two little fairies, their play disrupted by a collection tiny metal globes covering their mouths – upon first glance, the show is an array of disconnected items, although there is a distinct conversation at play.

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Tsuji shifts his collected curiosities into the sphere of contemporary art and, in metal and glass, appears to imprison them there – although all of these appendages are removable, and at the end of the exhibition each object will become debris again. This statement is most poignantly made by a small, rusting iron bust; a young woman looks down pensively, her shoulders, face and hair dotted with bright silver balls. These are magnetic ball bearings which perch like glimmering bluebottles, seeming ready to take flight if disturbed, and when removed will render her useless again.

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Amongst the deliberate impermanence and irregularity of Or’s sculptures are two vast white boards whose pure white surface is interrupted by slithering golden veins, branching out from one central point. Whilst the sharp angles of his marble slabs and mirror constructions juxtapose with Tsuji’s aged objects and fragile paper pieces – pinned to and fluttering from the gallery walls – these organic strands on board suggest a human element of connectivity, contrasting with the further focus upon temporality.

Essentially, Or communicates Tsuji’s preoccupation with the hybridity, reproduction and constant change that characterises post-modernity, with these golden branches becoming the links between the people that comprise this culture.

These wall pieces may be constructed from brass drawing pins stabbed into painted board, the artist’s floor pieces may be made from mirror tiles and his little fairies may only be silenced by clusters of steel ball bearings; however the first conjures images of living organisms, cells, maps; the second captures visitors in never-ending reflections; and the final pieces are powerful, if slightly disturbing, in their dark humour.

Within Or Tsuji combines the pointed approach of a minimalist with vivid flair and imaginative narrative to set in place a lively visual discussion of our changing culture, human experience and value.

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Or closes this weekend, Schwartz is open Friday, Saturday & Sunday 1 – 6 pm.

Fischli and Weiss: Visible World… More from Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid.

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Peter Fischli and David Weiss’ photographic project Sichtbare Welt (Visible World, 1997) is a monumental and fascinating visual feast, yet totally transparent – but do we care?

This disparate collection of images ranges from natural wonders to urban phenomena, and is currently on display at Museo Reina Sofia as part of Playgrounds: a multi-disciplinary group exhibition which analyses the socialising, transgressive and political potential of play within public space.

Artistic duo Fischli and Weiss seek to produce the “ideal picture” – whether this be of cacti, war memorials, quaint villages, manicured gardens or children playing is insignificant, with each picture afforded equal importance.

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The work may therefore appear one-sided (beautiful images of beautiful things recorded across the world over fifteen years) but firstly, this is far preferable to the beautiful images of ugly things that contemporary photographers all too often produce; and secondly they do succeed in illuminating the otherwise ordinary, in challenging general perception.

As Arthur C. Danto points out in Peter Fischli and David Weiss: In a Restless World, there is ‘an extraordinary purity in the banal scenes [Fischli and Weiss] favour in their depictions, which are untouched by squalor or obscenity.’ The work is visually pleasing if nothing else, and sometimes that’s just enough.

Iphone16.6 559 Iphone16.6 560Exhibition view Playgrounds. Reinventing the square, 2014Visible World, Fischli and Weiss features as part of Playgrounds: Reinventing the Square, open at Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid until 22 Sept ’14.

Hanne Darboven: The order of time and things, Museo Reina Sofia

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Hanne Darboven, a first-generation conceptual artist best known for her large-scale geometric drawings and numerical series stated that “Art is a mixture between concept and discipline” – a combination reflected in the current Museo Reina Sofia exhibition, The Order and Time of Things: The Home Studio of Hanne Darboven.

Where the artist’s work displays an obsession with precision, order and structure, the mélange of objects amassed in her family  home in Am Burgberg  – where she lived and worked her entire life – suggest another, polar opposite, side to her personality: chaos in the rooms, order on the walls.

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With carnival games, soft toys, taxidermy, mannequins, musical instruments, souvenirs from all corners of the world, tiny boats and enormous hanging dinosaurs, this ‘studio’ is more akin to a 16th century Cabinet of Curiosities or Wonder Room. Rather than present a chronology of Darboven’s life, the exhibit is a presentation at once of the artist’s seemingly conflicting psychologies in life and work – perhaps providing a reconsideration of her numerical writing, which was at its core an obsessive method of calendaring to fight lost time, the degeneration of memory, and to record and solidify experience.

At Reina Sofia, amongst the reconstructed madness of her home studio, Darboven’s work becomes an attempt to reduce the unpredictable and impulsive into diagrams and grids, the three-dimensional world into silent graphite scrawls on squared paper.

_dsc4313_53343a8388f65The order of time and things. The home studio of Hanne Darboven is open at Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid until 1st September 2014.

 

 

Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster: SPLENDIDE HOTEL, Palacio de Cristal

Iphone16.6 636Four days in Madrid and five visits to the 350 acre Parque del Retiro – a boating lake, turtles, perfectly manicured gardens and rough spaces for napping, reading, picnicking, as well as two gallery spaces, it never gets old!

Amble number three led me to the Palacio de Cristal, a three-storey tall greenhouse of glass, iron and ceramic work; once home to plants from the Philippines, and currently masquerading as the SPLENDIDE HOTEL.

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We revisit 1887, the year that the Palacio was built and during which the Hotel Splendide in Lugano was opened –  the name having previously come into being  in Arthur Rimbaud’s poem Après le Déluge, published in 1886. Splendide was also the name of the hotel in Évian-les-Bains, where Marcel Proust holidayed with his family.

Gonzalez-Foerster’s practice consistently invites the viewer to take a journey through space and time, via literature – here in the form of texts tied to rocking chairs. Whilst the Palacio is dotted with ornate nineteenth century furniture, infiltrated by an impenetrable glass room which mimics the original architecture and its façade is stamped with a gaudy green HOTEL sign, the main pleasure of the piece is its quietude.

HOTEL SPLENDIDE is most successful in allowing us to appreciate the beauty of this vast glass structure as it was first constructed; looking out upon the park from within is something like taking the position of the 19th century flaneur, viewing the world from glass-covered Parisian arcades.

Gonzalez-Foerster’s artwork directs rather than dictates, producing an array of unique, subjective experiences beneath a single glinting glass dome.Iphone16.6 643SPLENDIDE HOTEL continues until 31 Aug ’14.

 

PUNCHDRUNK

If you haven’t seen it yet, you have three weeks until Temple Studios closes its doors to The Drowned Man: the most ambitious production yet from the award-winning immersive and physical theatre group, Punchdrunk.1401814_1432491546963150_1811101450_o

Set amidst the fading glamour of 1960s Los Angeles, The Drowned Man explores the darkness of the Hollywood dream, where celluloid fantasy meets desperate reality, and certainty dissolves into a hallucinatory world.Fernanda-Prata-Jesse-Kovarsky.-Punchdrunk.-The-Drowned-Man-A-Hollywood-Fable.-Photo-Birgit-Ralf-0399

This extraordinary theatrical adventure holds up to 600 audience members during each ‘viewing,’ each of whom have undergone a unique personal journey that unfolds over the course of three hours and across four floors of the vast Temple Studios.New_20130709_TimeOut_Punchdrunk__MG_1636-Edit

Having experienced my fair share of alternative theatre, I can vouch for this one – it is truly unbelievable. Curiosity is key – explore, go it alone, and hold the gaze of the performers and you never know where they might take you – and only you. tn-500_thecompany.punchdrunk.thedrownedmanahollywoodfable.photobirgit&ralf(0456)

 

Punchdrunk, Temple Studios, Paddington closes 6th July 2014.

FUNDACIÓN MAPFRE, MADRID: VANESSA WINSHIP


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This summer Fundación Mapfre opens 868 square metres of white cube space in the heart of Madrid, dedicated to exhibiting masters of photography and those just entering the international arena.

Debuting in the new space is British photographer and Henri Cartier-Bresson Award winner Vanessa Winship, with 183 photographs taken across the Balkans, Turkey and Caucasus, the USA and even in her quaint hometown of Barton-upon-Humber.

The exhibition is a stream of haunting expressions and dilapidated environments – according to curator, Carlos Martín García, depicting “the prints that twentieth century history has left upon the land and people.”

 

Winship rejects categorisation as a documentary photographer, however her work is a clear documentary record of rebellion and conflict – with a nod to portraiture in her staged series.

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The most striking set of photographs within MAPFRE is undoubtedly Black Sea: Between Chronicle and Fiction. Travelling across the borders of Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Turkey, Georgia and Bulgaria between 2002-2010, Winship recorded the traditions and troubles of six divided nations which are connected by the sea – itself recorded in such heavy-set detail that it becomes a concrete stopping point within the exhibition.

Meanwhile the confrontational glares of Anatolian schoolgirls in series Sweet Nothings, conflict with their delicately embroidered uniforms – love letters stamped onto coarse fabric as a defiant act of individuality – and the American youths of her series she dances on Jackson stand awkwardly beside cars, shop windows, bleak (and weak) representations of the American dream gone wrong.

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Whilst Winship’s photographs are beautiful, highly detailed and thoughtfully executed, her series do not stand particularly well together. she dances on Jackson and her newest work in Almeria, Spain cannot live up to the apparent tragedy of her Eastern European series whose troubled individuals we, as Western viewers, are simply fascinated by as immune onlookers.

The issue of documentary photography (which, undoubtedly, is) has always been an ethical one: we enjoy beautiful photographs of ugly scenarios, but why and should we and is this enough?

Winship’s photographs give her subjects a voice and a pinch of recognition; but the significance of this pales as soon as you leave the exhibition and -inevitably – discover another similar set of works just around the corner.

Vanessa Winship is showing at FUNDACIÓN MAPFRE, Bárbara de Braganza, 13, Madrid until 31st August, 2014.