The Bruce Lacey Experience at Camden Arts Centre is by turns funny, moving, charming and even a little bit irritating. The exhibition, co-curated by art historian Professor David Alan Mellor and artist Jeremy Deller, offers a comprehensive view of Lacey’s inextricably linked life and work. Bruce Lacey, a performance artist before the term was in use, has hung on to his inner child – and exhorts us to do the same – and used it to make work that is, well, more bonkers than most art. But in a good way.
John Stezaker, Untitled II, Reader from The Third Person Archive, 2012
There’s often something strangely frustrating about the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize and in some ways this year’s exhibition is no exception. Photography has been a dominant medium in art practice for a long time now but a prize of this nature has to balance art against documentary practices often resulting in a strangely unsatisfying exhibition. In this year’s exhibition, one body of work stands out in terms of he artist’s use of photography in his practice. Unusually for a Deutsche Börse nominee, John Stezaker (whose work I’ve briefly referred to before) uses rather than makes photographs, producing collages from found images gathered over several decades.
Eugenio Dittborn, The 11th History of the Human Face (500 years) (Airmail painting no.91), 1990
For as long as there’s been an art world, art has travelled. In an increasingly international, multi-centre art world that’s truer than ever and artists working at an international level might have exhibitions in several countries at any one time. For some artists though getting their work out isn’t easy. For Eugenio Dittborn the question of how to get the work out has determined the nature of the work itself. Based in Santiago de Chile, for Dittborn the issue is not just about distance but about the problem of making art while living under a repressive regime and in 1984, with Chile governed by the military, he started to make what he calls Airmail Paintings. Collage-based works, these are made of lightweight, foldable materials and are posted to the galleries that exhibit them – often in segments to be assembled on arrival – with the envelopes becoming part of the work.
For Kim Rugg, the chaos of a newspaper front page is something to be organised. I’m sure we’ve all seen publications we think could be better presented but few would go to Rugg’s lengths to create a different order out of the information on offer. Rugg painstakingly cuts up the page and reorganises the content according to her own system, so that here the letters in each section are in alphabetical order.
It’s easy to recognise the paper as the Guardian but harder to determine the news of the day and certainly impossible to make sense of it in any conventional way.
My knowledge of the favelas of Brazil is somewhat limited. I imagine them as shanty towns similar to those in other parts of the world with buildings made from whatever is available and built in a ramshackle way. From Dioinisio Gonzáles’s digitally manipulated photographs that looks to be a good guess. Sort of.
Significant highlights of my visit to MoMA were the connected exhibitions Print/Out and Printin’ that look at the way print is used in contemporary art. The latter, organised by artist Ellen Gallagher and Sarah Suzuki, Associate Curator in MoMa’s Department of Prints and Illustrated Books, is centred around Gallagher’s DeLuxe a grid of 60 frames each containing a collaged print based on adverts found in mid-twentieth century black lifestyle magazines and newspaper articles. DeLuxe is an extraordinary, fascinating work that demands, and rewards, close scrutiny. I am fascinated both by the adverts Gallgher has found and by her use materials – particularly plasticine – in the collages.
At first glance, Ambrosine Allen’s pictures appear to be black and white photographs of a familiar but somewhat fantastic landscape; it’s only when one looks more closely that the structure of the images becomes apparent. The images are photographic in a sense but there is a strangeness to the surface. These are collages made of tiny scraps of photographs cut from books and used to build up the strange worlds Allen depicts. In the series Compendium to the New World, images from which are on show at Room, the world becomes a strange dreamscape in which odd geological features sit in uncomfortable proximity to one another under stormy skies or in the shadow of volcanic eruptions.
John Stezaker, Marriage (Film Portrait Collage) XLV, 2007
Cutting up old photographs or magazines to make collages is territory artists share with pretty much everyone who’s ever kept a scrapbook, maybe with everyone who’s ever been a child. But nonetheless – or maybe as a consequence, we all recognise the activity after all – it can be incredibly fertile ground for artists. Even something as simple as cutting up two pictures and sticking them back together can result in intriguing and sometimes disturbing new images.