There is a couple of week’s reading to catch up on as I have been preoccupied with a several new Len Lye exhibitions, notably the new exhibition opening at Christchurch Art Gallery, Stopped Short by Wonder (on until 26 November). Curated by CAG’s Lara Strongman, the exhibition is the largest survey of Lye’s work held in Christchurch for several decades and includes requisite works like Universe and Fountain. However, it’s great to see CAG have selected a range of rarely seen paintings by Lye, particularly God of Light (1978), and a large number drawings previously unexhibited. There’s also Big Blade performing in a gallery setting for the first time. The Press previewed the exhibition here with some video of the sculpture in performance.
The exhibition in Christchurch is accompanied by Henry Matisse: Jazz, an exhibition of Matisse’s portfolio of prints issued in 1947. It’s a nice connection to Lye, sitting in the gallery adjacent to Lye’s proto-MTV experimental films with their jazz sountracks. Interesting then to read this piece this week from Edward Lucie-Smith on the Matisse exhibition at the Royal Academy and its discord with multiculturalism. You can also read Jonathan Jone’s criticism of that same exhibition too.
Just finished this piece today from the New Yorker on Solomon Shereshevsky, a Russian afflicted with synaesthesia and a resulting ability to remember everything. Well not quite, as the article uncovers. But it lead me to reread this older New Yorker piece on Henry Gustave Molaison, the American who couldn’t remember anything. It also brought me back to this recent and fascinating piece on our sense of colour from from Maria Michela Sassi at Aeon, The Sea was Never Blue, exploring the ancient Greek understanding of colour.
Controversy this week in Australia over the awarding of the Olive Cotton Award for Photographic Portraiture to Justine Varga for a cameraless photograph produced by the action of the artist’s grandmother writing and spitting on to the negative. The Sydney Morning Herald lead the charge with a couple of pieces and plenty of quotes from disgruntled photographers – their main criticisms here. They raise the question of whether the work is a photograph, whether it’s a portrait, and finally if it was even authored by the artist. With those issues hanging over it, it’s a wonder why the bile hasn’t been more directed to the awards organisers for including the work rather than the typical sexist dismissal of the artist on social media and the hate mail (!) to judge and NGA curator Shaune Lakin. Check out photographer Jack Picone’s social media discussion on the matter to see responses from the dead heart of Australian photography – at best, it’s surprising how few professional photographers can define a photograph.
Hyperalleric reposted an article on Duchamp’s Optical Experiments, something I’m thinking over a bit this week as we install our next Len Lye exhibition at the Govett-Brewster, considering the famous 1961 exhibition of kinetic art Rörelse i konsten/Bewogen Beweging which included the likes of Lye and Jean Tinguely alongside Duchamp. More in this in the coming weeks.
Yorkshire’s Hepworth Wakefield wins Art Fund UK Museum of the Year prize. I have to agree. I’ve had the fortune to visit the Wakefield on each of my trips back home to the UK and enjoy the museum more each time. In fact, wishing I was in the UK right now to catch the Wakefield’s Howard Hodgkin exhibition.
Reviews of The Body Laid Bare, Auckland Art Gallery’s exhibition of nudes from the Tate Collection, continue to stress the lack of colour.
Looking forward to this new biography of the photographer Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, or Nadar as we all know him.
After some Friday night hectoring about exhibition making from someone fired up by Susan Sontag – “in place of a hermeneutics we need an erotics of art” – I saw this Bookforum piece on Sontag’s diaries. The usual stuff. But it reminded me of something I wanted to read again. It’s close to ten years since filmmaker Errol Morris tackled Sontag’s accusation that Roger Fenton faked one of his most well-known photographs in a fascinating investigation for the New York Times. You’ll need some time to work through it, coming in three substantial episodes: Part One, Part Two, Part Three. Morris runs the gamut of what you can do (and the time you can spend) in thinking over a photograph, or two in this case.
Canada celebrates 150 years since its founding this week, however with somepause for thought for its indigenous cultures. David Balzer at Canadian Art writes on Canada’s settler-colonial kitsch and Adam Gopnik at the The New Yorker contemplates the foundation of the United States by comparison.
The Walker Art Centre is at the centre of another quagmire, this time around the Jimmy Durham retrospective. Hyperalleric has a good summary while the comments at Jezebel are quite ride.
And working as I do with kinetic sculpture this piece was a pleasant find this week – on the museum activators of Alexander Calder’s work. Add to that Jean-Paul Satre’s 1947 essay on Calder’s work for ARTnews.
A fair bit of talk lately of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’sLonely Hearts Club Band celebrating its 50th Birthday. Likewise, plenty of interest in Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains the blockbuster exhibition at the V&A. The TLS covers both in this review of related books. While a fan of the Beatles, I don’t have any great fondness for Sgt. Pepper’s, similarly with Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Both arguably the greatest of albums by anyone, but both far from the best by either band. On the matter of Their Mortal Remains, the consensus seems to be that it’s a stunning success. I didn’t see the Bowie Is or Bjork exhibitions that started this trend but I found the Floyd exhibition to be politically limp and technologically flawed. Which reminded me to reread an older review from the New Yorker regarding the Bjork exhibition fiasco.
‘Curating is undemocratic, authoritarian, opaque and corruptible.’ Stefan Heidenreich produces this week’s talking point for curators.
The Imperial War Museum North in Manchester has opened its new Wyndham Lewis exhibition Wyndham Lewis: Life, Art, War, the largest since the 1950s. The Telegraph reviews, noting the exhibitions is sadly not definitive but conveys Lewis’ promising but ultimately pitiful career.
This piece is a few weeks old and something I forgot to include in last week’s list – Joseph Fronczak at Jacobin on A Hobsbawm’s Long Century, a lengthy study of the historian, his commitment to communism and his place now, at the beginning of a new long century.
There is plenty to read this week about the Grenfell Tower fire in London, however this piece stands out. Sanaz Movahedi’s account of her friend and fellow artist Khadija Saye.
Jonas Mekas has published a new edition of his diaries I Had Nowhere to Goin paperback with Spector Books. A short article from the Telegraph discusses the filmmaker’s photographs of the Wiesbaden and Kassel/Mattenberg Displaced Persons Camps, 1945–48 showing at Documenta.
On a recent but fleeting trip to London I saw the wonderful Alberto Giacometti exhibition at the Tate Modern. The Spectator rightly praises the challenging exhibition.