Jeremy Deller, Open Bedroom, 1993 (reconstruction)
Like David Shrigley, Jeremy Deller is an artist whose work doesnt always fit easily into the gallery space. Unlike Shrigley though, when his work is brought together as an exhibiton it exceeds expectations. Joy in People at the Hayward Gallery is a show that is much more than the sum of its parts. And there are some pretty great parts.
In 1993, while others were holding open studios, Deller staged Open Bedroom, his first exhibition, in his parents’ house while they were on holiday. The work, his teenage bedroom presented as art, is reconstructed here as the route into both the show and the head of the artist. We get to open drawers and cupboards and explore the ideas, images and objects that fascinated the young Deller. It’s a great start and a useful grounding for a show that picks up these enthusiasms and makes them art.
Tim Noble and Sue Webster, Dirty White Trash (With Gulls), 1998 ( months’ worth of artists’ trash, 2 taxidermy seagulls, light projector)
Tim Noble and Sue Webster make rubbish self-portraits. That’s not to say they made self-portraits that are rubbish (though of course that’s a matter of opinion). No. It’s that they make self-portraits from rubbish. If we are what we eat – as the old cliché susggests – then surely we’re also defined in some way what we throw away.
The materials for Dirty White Trash (With Gulls) six months’ worth of artists’ trash. Noble and Webster have assembled the trash into a pile that casts a shadow of the couple sitting back to back, smoking and drinking as seagulls seem to pick at the pile of rubbish that forms the image.
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.
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.
The automobile has a very particular place in American culture. It’s central to countless films and novels, helping to drive (sorry) the narrative. Though cars do appear in art – in photography, painting and sculpture – they are less prevalent here though from the minimalist sculpture of the mid-twentieth century onwards there was certainly a clear interest in using industrial processes and making work that defied expectations about the nature of sculpture in particular. Expectations about painting had already been shattered by minimalism and abstract expressionism.
Flowers have a long history in art, not least in the history of pretty but clichéd painting. The flowers in Anya Gallaccio’s work aren’t painted though, nor sculpted. They are real, presented in panels and not altered – or, crucially, preserved – in any way.
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.