Chris Marker, A Grin Without a Cat installation view
I guess it’s seeing the two within a week or two that means that Richard Grayson’s Nothing Can Stop Us Now reminded me in a way of Chris Marker’s Silent Movie which is included in the Whitechapel Gallery exhibition Chris Marker: A Grin Without a Cat. The connection is a simple but somewhat tenuous one: both works feature five monitors. In Grayson’s piece, these run in a horizontal line across the front of the space using the full width of the building. In Marker’s Silent Movie the monitors are in a vertical tower. The tower is a bolt together structure which is both the simplest solution to housing the monitors and also, in its industrial simplicity, somewhat constructivist in feel.
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.
I guess the leap from thinking about a woman artist making a sculpture of a cock to Sarah Lucas’s work is a distinctly literal one, but as I saw Lucas’s exhibition at the Whitechapel shortly before it ended last month, her work’s been on my mind.
There is of course a long history of toilets in the gallery space but it’s a form few have used with such determined consistency as Sarah Lucas. And while Duchamp’s Fountain – like the works that reference it very directly, such as Sherrie Levine’s Fountain (Buddha) – seems somehow more about the form than the function of the artefact and Claes Oldenberg’s Soft Toilet can be enjoyed for the strange disjunction between the form and materials used in the work and the function of the object on which it is based, Lucas’s toilet works are often grubby and unpleasant to look at.
Panorama, Gerhard Richter’s exhibition at Tate Modern, includes so many show-stoppingly great works – Aunt Marianne and Uncle Rudi (the juxtaposition of which I wrote about for MostlyFilm.com), the paintings of Richter’s daughter Betty, squeegee paintings both large and small to name but a few – that it’s a surprise when something quieter, seemingly simpler, works its way under my skin. But two rural landscapes, both painted in the mid-1980s, did just that. I was reminded of the time I spent with Barn and Meadowland last weekend at the Whitechapel Gallery when Wilhelm Sasnal’s rather larger argricultural lanscape Pigsty grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go.
A new year and a new resolve to write about art (and yes, there are plenty of other resolutions I should be making and maybe I will, but I promise not to talk about them here; it’s for the best). And when better than New Year’s Day to think about what a hangover looks like? Wilhelm Sasnal’s Photophobia (on show at the Whitechapel Gallery until, ooh, later on today) isn’t intended as the abstract painting it initially appears to be. Rather, it’s an attempt to record that first blast of light that invades your consciousness when waking with a bad hangover. The light in the painting is intense and beautiful but its beauty doesn’t mask the pain it depicts. Like more than a few others in this show, this is a painting I could contemplate for a long time. The delicacy of the colour palette and use of paint are beautiful and, viewed as an abstraction, these perhaps transcend the subject matter, but the slightly nauseating colour that bleeds into the painting from its edges and the jarring brightness of the light brings the pain home and reminds me why I seldom drink to real excess these days. [And if your waking moments this morning looked a bit like Photophobia, well, drink lots of water and perhaps have little lie down. Then, if you feel up to it, perhaps see whether you can turn the experience into art.]