‘Alka Seltzer’, Roy Lichtenstein, 1966.
A Review of ‘Lichtenstein: A Retrospective’.
On Thursday of this week I received membership to the Tate as a gift. This encouraged me to see the Lichtenstein exhibition at the Tate Modern that I had been putting off visiting since its opening for its position within the current hierarchy of things to visit in the city. The retrospective exhibition of this immensely famous twentieth century artist is curated across thirteen rooms, testament to the amount of works, each with a distinct size and colour to the enclosing walls, appropriately reflecting the objects on display. for example a more prominent expression of this was the transition between the low, medium sized room three, ‘Black and White’ and the tall, expansive room four containing the more recognisable pop works titled ‘War and Romance’.
I was guilty of more than a trace of pre-determined judgement towards the exhibition as like most I have been over-exposed to the pop paintings of Lichtenstein, and find them grossly underwhelming. Having visited the small Choucair retrospective two floors above last weekend, which contained more beauty and intelligent studies across four rooms than most have packed into the usual eight to ten at the Tate, I was not anticipating much at this major show. Yet, there are moments in this exhibition that excited, such as ‘Brushstroke with Splatter’ in the first room painted in 1966 and ‘Alka Seltzer’ in the monochrome room, also painted in 1966, commanding joy and also critical satisfaction in equal measures. It is evident that Lichtenstein was not simply injecting polemical statements regarding originality within these works, but was actively smiling when doing so at the prospect of Pollock et al’s possible responses. They are pregnant with intelligence and charm.
It was the latter rooms that deflected this initial enthusiasm and surprise, where Lichtenstein moved from the comic-strip works through to the dire room ‘Art about Art’ where his critique of authenticity becomes awful parody and is devoid of the wit so evident in the first rooms. Lichtenstein’s low-art was low-calibre. The finest works within the exhibition could be his sculptures in the room titled ‘Modern’. I saw cruise-liner-deco in the brass constructions, sharing chromosomes with a French horn or flute, or a bar VIP rope from an early Scorsese film. It felt like 2:1, or even 5:1 details from a 1930s Art Deco cinema or theatre venue or atmospheres of the quartet going down with the ship, and each was enchanting.
I felt enthused sporadically amongst an exhibition that lived down to its expectations. Lichtenstein’s body of work is extensive, particularly the impressive period of production between 1965 and 1966, and does command many rooms, but the understated Choucair rooms felt like wading through viscous genius, whereas most rooms in this exhibition were meandered through with easy disdain. The crowds concentrated around the brash and the big roped paintings of distress and violence, but the moments to be savoured were the cool and the considered representations of more tender incidents.
‘Lichtenstein: A Retrospective’ is at the Tate Modern until May 27th, 2013.
‘hungerford bridge’, colour print, joe morris.
In the West Wing Gallery at Somerset House there are currently a collection of drawings from one-hundred selected artists, designers and architects. These drawings were commissioned as a fund raising exercise on behalf on Article 25, a UK charity designing and building shelters at sites of ‘disaster, poverty or need’, with the pieces auctioned through both a silent bidding process and an event on November 14th.
As you approach past the crashing of hammers from the workforce erecting the ice-rink in the courtyard, and walk up the steps into the exhibition space you are confronted immediately opposite by the monochrome work ‘St Martin’s Lane and Neighbours’ by Edward Cullinan, a drawing investigating the view from Trafalgar Square, liberated from representation by the inclusion of framing thumbnail drawings of objects and atmospheres of the place, an absorbing, harsh opening line to the exhibition’s narrative, exploring central London through the abstracted or documentary works.
The most interesting pieces form the exhibition were undoubtedly works from Joe Morris, Artur Carulla and Charlie Koolhaas. Joe’s piece is a study of the Hungerford Bridge and its oblique structural geometries, reduced to a layered series of patterns forming a spectacular wallpaper with multiple mirror-lines, something that could’ve been lifted from the works of Sean Griffiths and Kester Rattenbury’s studio at Westminster. Artur’s work is a laser-cut relief model of the London Review Bookstore, studying the nature of the heritage facade and the idea that this part of London is dominated by literature-pursuits for Artur. Charlie’s small work is three versions of the same story, a remembered text outlining the event, found objects imagined to be at the scene and a photograph re-discovered from the event, a lunch, ten years ago in Soho.
The exhibition is multifaceted as expected when including works from Paul Smith through to Jake and Dinos Chapman, and some works appear lazy, however, some, as aforementioned, are beautiful and should be looked upon, possibly purchased.
I have placed a reserve bid on Charlie’s piece. I won’t hold my breath.
‘10x10: Drawing the City’ runs at Somerset House until November 13th, and the auction will be held on November 14th.
‘architecture works’, 180gsm canson cartridge/250gsm grey mineral card/stapled, original photographs.
List of buildings in London to experience on the weekend of September 22/23.
16a King’s Grove, New Cross, Duggan Morris Architects
Brick House, Westbourne Grove, Caruso St John
Gustafson Porter Studios, Agar Grove, David Chipperfield Architects
The Maughan Library, King’s College, J Pennethorne and Sir John Taylor/Gaunt Francis Associates
The White Building, Hackney Wick, David Kohn Architects
‘design development for ground floor intervention’, private house, west kirby, works for MgMaStudio/.