Tag: Gallery

Review: Glenn Ligon’s Encounters and Collisions at Nottingham Contemporary

Untitled, Glenn Ligon (2006).

Untitled, Glenn Ligon (2006).

One of the first pieces to catch my eye in Glenn Ligon’s Encounters and Collisions exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary is a neon sign which simply reads, ‘America’. Reminiscent of Allen Ginsberg’s poem of the same name, this untitled piece seems to be emblematic of this intensely personal exhibition in which Ligon brings together the post-War artists who influenced him, alongside his own work.

Encounters and Collisions explores the many narratives of American discourse, touching on themes of race, identity, sexuality, politics, language, history and aesthetics.  For Ligon, who was born in the Bronx in 1960, the Civil Rights movement formed a backdrop to his early years. Here, we see journalistic pieces of the time, including Kelley Walker’s 2005 piece Triptych, which re-appropriates a photograph of a black man being savagely attacked by a police dog as well as  pictures of the Birmingham Race Riots and Black Panthers. These sit alongside pieces which examine how these experiences were internalised. Ligon’s 2005 painting, When Black Wasn’t Bceautiful, a quote from comedian Richard Pryor, plays on the idea that our notions of beauty are bound up with a society’s dominant narrative. Meanwhile, Giovanni Anselmo’s interactive exhibit Invisible, where the word ‘visible’ appears on a projector, highlights the ephemeral nature of language and identity.

yellow

Yellow Islands by Jackson Pollock (1952).

Sexuality, and the subversion of established norms, is also significant as shown in Ligon’s colouring book picture of Malcolm X, who is rendered feminine in a Warhol-esque way with bright lipstick and eye shadow. Another is a silent and hypnotic film by Steve McQueen called Bear in which two naked men square up to each other in a display of violence and eroticism. The close-up camera work is disarming as it follows the contours of the men’s bodies and disrupts our perspective; McQueen has said he did not want the viewer to be a passive observer but rather to be hyper-sensitive to their own part in the action.

Elsewhere, Ligon pays tribute to the artists who shaped his outlook. The abstract expressionists, including Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline, are represented here and the immediacy of their paintings indicate a radical departure from the social realism prevalent in the US at this time. Looking at pieces such as Pollock’s Yellow Islands and de Kooning’s Valentine, it is easy to see why they proved so influential for Ligon: developed in New York, this movement saw artists peering deep into the human consciousness, by-passing rational thoughts, as they explored abstract human desires and experiences.

Encounters and Collisions is on at Nottingham Contemporary until 14th June. It will then move to Tate Liverpool where it will run from 30th June to 18th October. 

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Am I alone . . . strange goings-on at the Berlinische Gallerie

Walking through a ground floor room at the superb Berlinische Gallerie, I had a strange feeling that I wasn’t alone. In fact, I was surrounded by figures, including children, a receptionist and other guests breathing like human beings and appreciating the art on the wall.

It took me a moment to realise that I was the only sentient being in the room and these ‘people’ that I was surrounded by were mannequins who all formed part of American artists Edward and Nancy Kienholz’s installation The Art Show. The figures were grotesque – ugly, empty, bored figures with car parts instead of mouths breathing loudly. The vast room was used to great effect and every detail perfectly conceived – and I got the distinct impression this was a scathing attack on the art world as money-driven and pretentious.

The gallery also had a fantastic collection of Modernist art including Dadaism, Constructivism, Futurism, Expressionism and much more from both German and international artists. Some of the themes explored in this collection include the city, industrialisation, oppression under totalitarianism and war. Well worth a visit.

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The Clock Part II : A 24-hour screening

Following my first viewing of Christian Marclay’s The Clock at Nottingham’s New Art Exchange, I had been looking forward to the full 24-hour screening last Friday which I mentioned in my previous entry.

Visiting an art gallery in the wee small hours added a surreal element to this already unconventional experience. At times, the clock inches slowly along before picking up the pace and moving to a crescendo, with the most dramatic moment coming at midnight (and there are a wealth of film clips depicting the New Year’s Eve countdown). The narrative – which at first seems deconstructed by editing full length films into short clips – is in fact created again under the new umbrella theme of ‘time’. Old and new are fused seamlessly together so that they both exist in a continuing present but one that is creeping forward leaving all the fictional worlds and characters in a shadowy past.

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Christian Marclay’s The Clock: New Art Exchange

This year, Nottingham is playing host to The British Art Show 7 , the five-yearly exposition of the best the British art world has to offer. There are some strong (and not so strong) pieces across the three sites (Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham Castle and the New Art Exchange) which all make for interesting viewing.

But the stand out piece for me is Christian Marclay’s The Clock, a 24-hour-long film meticulously made up of film and television clips each telling the time, either with clocks or people announcing it and it is played out in real time.

Everyone will recognise at least some of the clips – from Laurel and Hardy to Twin Peaks right through to Inspector Morse and the X-Files. It cuts across time zones, genre, high and low art, comedy, drama and much more. But the over-arching theme is the perpetual movement of time. There are even some scenes where there is no clock – just someone looking at a clock – and it reminds us of how time structures and gives meaning to our lives.

Some of the clips also cross reference each other and although there is a sense that time is in perpetual motion, but themes and ideas – not least the over-arching theme of time – constantly recur and refer back to the past.

There will be a 24-hour screening of the film on 10th December from 10am. It finishes at 10am on 11th December and admission is free.

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