Archives for the month of: November, 2017
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Monochrome after Van Gogh Sunflowers: 1-12

Sherrie Levine’s show is about art and appropriation. There are bronze casts of works by unknown artists (or at least artists unnamed in this exhibition). There are photographs of reproductions of photographs by Russell Lee. Who made these works? Who do they belong to? Are these authentic artworks?

Complex questions, and Levine’s response leaves me cold. I’m not convinced that reproducing the work of others and saying ‘look, this is appropriation, see how I appropriate’ is enough to make the appropriation ok or worthwhile, and I don’t see what it adds to the debate about appropriation, especially when appropriating stuff that is so often appropriated anyway. Punch up, not down.

Gamelan Figures

Also, I found it boring. I love me some conceptual art, all that shit that makes some people despise contemporary art. But Levine’s Monochromes after Van Gogh Sunflowers: 1-12 is, to me, an oversized Dulux colour chart of Van Gogh’s drabbest colours.

Detail from After Russell Lee: 1-60

Her photo series After Russell Lee: 1-60 interests me a little more. Russell Lee’s photographs of rural American life – generally beaut – are seen by some as exploitative, so maybe there’s a suggestion of ‘how bad is it to reproduce these images when the original artist isn’t exactly clean as a whistle’. It is also conceptually interesting and politically charged for a female artist to work with appropriation of works by famous male artists. But realistically, they’re the same potentially exploitative images. It made me think about rural life in America. It didn’t really make me think about art. Somehow this show didn’t do it for me. If you don’t get to see it today before it closes you’ll survive.

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CN/TW: discussion of domestic violence, Nigella Lawson/Charles Saatchi.

Sophie Neville

As an architecture gallery, Anise Gallery’s show puts buildings at the centre of its response to the ‘Nasty Women’ movement of art and activism, focusing, among other things, on the domestic as an architectural space. Many of the works displayed contemplate violence and the domestic. Theresa Bradbury’s Untitled is a photograph of a naked young woman, smiling coyly at the camera, wallpaper patterns cut into her paper flesh. Wallpaper surfaces again in Rachel Ara’s Cameo series, based on photographs of Nigella Lawson being strangled by Saatchi. Women’s bodies and the home, as pretty and comforting as they may seem, are places of violence.

Theresa Bradbury Untitled

A radical embroidery piece by Sophie Neville in this show reads ‘A WOMAN’S PLACE IS IN THE RIOT’ in cross stitch on an embroidery ring. There’s also an installation of translucent cylinders, based on the shape of an embroidery ring, enclosing Martha Rosler’s seminal video piece Semiotics of the Kitchen, 1975. The supposed primness of embroidery and the notion of the woman’s place being in the home is powerfully disrupted by the sound of Rosler demonstrating the use of various kitchen tools, cutting, grating and sawing.  On the way to this show I listened to a podcast on the politics of textiles in art, and recently I’ve been enjoying Hannah Hill’s radical embroidery on Instagram. I now want to know everything about the politics of needlework (all book suggestions appreciated). Neville’s piece at Anise Gallery is feminine and powerful, it made me laugh and filled me with energy.

Rachel Ara Cameo series

For me the most powerful work was Rachel Ara’s Doom III (The Death of Ana Mendieta). I’ve discussed Ana Mendieta’s story before, pushed to her death from her 34th-floor apartment by her husband, and this work digitally reconstructs her murder scene. Ara depicts the space where Mendieta’s body would have lain as a dip in the ground, a nod a burial plot as well as to Mendieta’s work, used against her as proof that her death was suicide. It’s also an empty space and an empty scene, reflecting the silence that too regularly meets instances of violence against women, especially women of colour.

Section of Rachel Ara’s Doom III (The Death of Ana Mendieta) pls excuse the rubbish quality, couldn’t get rid of the reflection.

This show is open until 18th November 2017 and art sale proceeds (I think it’s 10%) goes to Rape Crisis South London.