After dark: The Night Watch

Francis Alÿs, The Nightwatch, 2004

Francis Alÿs, The Nightwatch, 2004

Encountering favourite works again by chance is always a real pleasure. My visit to the Exchange in Penzance while on holiday in Cornwall was brief but unexpectedly enjoyable. Apart from seeing the title of the show, I hadn’t really checked what was on before pitching up there (I also hadn’t checked what time the gallery closed, hence the brevity of my visit; why do I never learn?) so beyond thinking 3am: wonder, paranoia and the restless night sounded like my kind of exhibition, I arrived, as is so often the case, essentially clueless. In the main the works I liked the most were the ones I knew already but that’s hardly a problem when those works included some real favourites, especially Francis Alÿs’s The Nightwatch, seen here as a single channel video but sometimes shown as a bank of monitors. Francis Alÿs is probably one of my favourite artists (I’m fickle, it’s an ever changing list; but he’s usually on it, I would say) and The Nightwatch is one of the main reasons why.

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Ways of showing

Dayanita Singh, File Museum, Hayward Gallery, 2013

Dayanita Singh, Museum Bhavan installed in Go Away Closer

As well as Sarah Lucas at the Whitechapel Gallery, my December exhibition catch-up included a visit to the Hayward Gallery* to see exhibitions by Ana Mendieta (of which more in a later post, I think) and Dayanita Singh. Clearly December was women’s art month in my schedule. As with Lucas at the Whitechapel, there was an overlap with things I’d seen in Venice in the Biennale.**

Dayanita Singh is best known for making books and the books are much in evidence in Go Away Closer, the Hayward Gallery show. As a way of getting art photography to a wide audience this is a strategy with much to recommend it – and it’s certainly one a lot of people are working with right now – but for me it’s no substitute for seeing a great print. And, in the case of Singh’s work, it’s another display strategy that interests me more: her portable museums, displayed here as a group as Museum Bhavan.

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Way beyond the white cube

Sarah Lucas, Situation, Whitechapel Gallery, 2013

Sarah Lucas, SITUATION: Absolute Beach Man Rubble, Whitechapel Gallery, 2013

When it comes to exhibitions I’m usually all in favour of white space and plenty of it. I want to see the work and I want the installation of the work to be as unobtrusive as possible. If I’m spending time looking at the plinths or the frames or the way things are positioned then that’s less time spent looking at the art. Sometimes though the way the work is shown can become part of the show in a good way. Thinking back, there have been a few shows at the Whitechapel Gallery recently where that’s been the case (indeed, I wrote about two – the Gillian Wearing and Gerard Byrne exhibitions – a while ago for MostlyFilm) so I guess it should have come as no surprise that the Sarah Lucas show there late last year – which I caught just before it closed – was, let’s say, not the most minimal of installations.

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Shadow play

Lis Rhodes, Light Music, 1975 (installed at Tate Modern, 2012)

Performance art in museums is still something of a rarity. Though film/video installations do fare a bit better, the prospect of having a space dedicated to showing practices such as these in a major museum is an exciting one. Given that I am also intrigued by the reuse of former industrial spaces, all in all I’m quite excited about the opening of The Tanks – the vast underground tanks that once held the oil for Bankside power station – at Tate Modern. Converted, like the building itself, by architects Herzog + De Meuron, The Tanks are not remotely like the white wall gallery spaces we’ve come to expect. Like the Turbine Hall, The Tanks – two large circular spaces plus some smaller rooms – have been left unashamedly industrial.

In many ways Lis Rhodes’s Light Music which I saw in The Tanks at Tate Modern reminded me of Anthony McCall’s solid light works, such as Line Describing a Cone (1973). There is the same use of a hazy space to accentuate the beams of projected light. But it is also a very different work. Though both can be described as drawings, Light Music feels more random, as the lines one screen come and go; like much of Rhodes’s work, in some ways, this feels more like collage.

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A blank canvas

Yves Klein, Immaterieller Raum (Immaterial Space), Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld, 1961 (restored 2009)

Over the last few posts I realise I have been dealing with increasingly immaterial art. Though the work is visible it’s ultimately mostly made of nothingness. So, with Invisible soon to open at the Hayward Gallery, now seems like as good a time as any to think about work that really is made of nothing. The void as art. Well we’ve been here before in a way with Yves Klein’s Leap into the Void, but that was an actual photograph and art can get much more insubstantial than that…

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In the BANK

20120222-123622.jpgBANK, Fax-Bak Service, 1998

Invigilating exhibitions is fundamentally pretty boring. There is a lot of sitting around, often without anyone to talk to. In the days before smart phones, laptops and WiFi made spending the time pissing about on the internet an easy option, you had to make your own entertainment. In 1998, while running Gallerie Poo Poo, the artists’ group BANK did just that.

There is always reading matter in galleries. If nothing else, press releases from other galleries arrive daily and it was to these that BANK artists Simon Bedwell, Milly Thompson and John Russell turned to while away long afternoons in the gallery. They were artists after all, and running a gallery; why wouldn’t they want to stay abreast of what was on and read about art? As is happened though, they didn’t much like what they read.

And so it began: The BANK Fax-Bak Service: Helping You Help Yourselves!

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Are you sitting comfortably?

Ilja Karilampi, installation view at Wilkinson Gallery

I’ve been preoccupied with seating recently and in particular with the way film and video is shown in gallery spaces. It turns out that my attention span is much reduced if I’m not sitting comfortably. (Well, durr.) A particular low is the woefully inadequate seating at the ICA for the Lis Rhodes: Dissonance and Disturbance exhibition. When I came to write about that exhibition for MostlyFilm, all I could think about was how uncomfortable I’d been. So visiting galleries in east London yesterday it was pleasing to come across a couple of more interesting approaches.

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