What would you choose?

Komar and Melamid, USA’s Most Wanted, 1994-5 (dishwasher sized)

In a world increasingly driven by surveys and focus groups, what happens when market research meets art? In 1995, commissioned by the Dia Center for the Arts as its second artists’ project for the web, Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid decided to find out. The results make for entertaining, yet predictably depressing, viewing

Continue reading

In the kitchen with Martha

Martha Rosler, Semiotics of the Kitchen, 1975 (video still)

They took things very seriously in the 1970s. Well, some things anyway. And two of those things were video art and feminism. In art terms, there was the whole postmodern emphasis on parody and pastiche going on. With video, though artists might have enjoyed the playfulness of exploring a new medium and freeing performance art from the one-off event, the resulting work was often somewhat po-faced. And of course, challenging the longstanding notion that a woman’s place was in the home, where she should be chained to the kitchen sink, metaphorically at least, wasn’t to be taken lightly.

Continue reading

In the kitchen with Cindy

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #3, 1977

By way of description, the image depicts a domestic scene in which the character – seemingly a housewife – stands at her kitchen sink. The construction of the picture hints at a number of possible narratives and is open to a range of analyses. Though almost cropped from the picture, the woman’s gaze – out of frame and away from the viewer, accentuated by eye makeup surely unnecessary in her own kitchen – holds my attention.

Continue reading

Daily rituals

Hadrian Pigott, Instrument of Hygiene (Case 4), 1995

I’ve always been interested in the way we muddle through life and the daily routines most of us construct – at least, I don’t think it’s just me – to get through the day and feel vaguely in control of something, anything, however mundane. We are, by nature, creatures of habit to a greater or lesser extent. Before you know it, routines become rituals and it becomes unthinkable to break the sequence. One of the most ritualised aspects of daily life is often personal hygiene.

Continue reading

It’s who you know

Peter Davies, The Hot One Hundred, 1997

You can learn a lot from looking at art.

Reading a Peter Davies painting is a bit like looking at someone else’s bookshelves or CD collection: a sneaky insight into their taste or knowledge. The Hot One Hundred tells me what art Davies rates; it feels like quite a random hierarchy but every time I look at the painting it reminds me about an artist or a piece of work I’ve forgotten about and Davies’s  descriptions of the work always makes me smile. Emma Kay’s The Story of Art – a list of every artist and art movement Kay can remember, made in 2003 for Tate Modern’s Contemporary Interventions series – has something of the same feel though it’s not as nice to look at.

Continue reading

Nothing to see here

Robert Rauschenberg, White Painting (Three Panel), 1951

After yesterday’s pile of shit, today is perhaps a day for a bit of breathing space: art with nothing to look at. It stands to reason: if there’s nothing to see, there’s nothing to get squeamish about.

Continue reading

Making shit art

Wim Delvoye, drawing for Cloaca, 2000

Plenty of people think contemporary art is shit. And of course, some of it probably is. And sometimes when I’m talking to students about their work I’ll use the word crap, but I always mean it to be a positive (for example “this has a pleasingly crap aestheic”). But one, unusually bonkers (and I mean that in a good way too) work, Cloaca by the Belgian artist Wim Delvoye, is shit in a much more literal sense. Don’t read on if you’re squeamish (or about to have lunch)…

Continue reading

Spots before the eyes

The world – well Gagosian Gallery, anyway – has gone dotty for Damien Hirst’s spot paintings. In an unprecedented move, Gagosian is showing a single artist across all its sites, and not just a single artist but a single strand of that artist’s work. The Complete Spot Pantings 1986-2011 is on now at all 11 Gagosian spaces globally. Why? What’s it all about?

Continue reading

Something from (almost) nothing

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.

Continue reading

Lost in a world of lost people

Mike Nelson, Coral Reef, 2000

There’s a slightly shabby door in Tate Britain that leads into another world. It’s a world that allows me in but never makes me feel welcome. It’s a world I wouldn’t want to live in, or even be in when anyone’s home, but one I love to visit. And, if the Tate website is accurate (not something that can guaranteed given its longstanding confusion about the whole thing), it’s a world that is only accessible until Sunday.

Continue reading