Victoria and Albert Museum, London
24 March-25 July 2004
Bill Brandt: Nudes
Pentagram Gallery, London
In the introduction to Paul Delaney's catalogue (published by Jonathan Cape 2004) is the defining statement, 'Bill Brandt was a man who loved secrets'. His world was protectively enigmatic, as the selection of subjects for this exhibition seems to emphasise. From the mysterious, deep-toned views of an October brooding Isle of Skye - so characterised not by storm but by stillness - to the photo-portraits of Graham Greene (1945), and of that arch literary mystery of the 1960s, Alain Robbe-Grillet (1965), the secretive disposition of the camera lens (and Brandt's own eye) contrives that the subjects do show no expression. Yet compliant with this secrecy comes a barely explicit social awareness ('conscience' might be too definitive a usage here).
On the one hand we observe the echoing, but silent avenues of a depressed Glasgow (1948) but on the other we find a rearward view of an Eton boy, undignified and oblivious, spreadeagled on the playing field in full school uniform (1933). That can be compared, over the same subject, with the somehow more atmospheric and inspiring photographs taken for the book Eton Portrait by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (published 1937, but surely taken sometime earlier). Did Moholy-Nagy see these Brandt photographs? He almost certainly did and was inspired by them, but decided on a different, less socially aware treatment. They make an interesting comparison.
Brandt, in his evocative fruit stall picture (1929), which acknowledges Eugene Atget as his inspiration (as did numerous contemporary artists, including notably Man Ray), directly references his sources. One that is repeated in his work is the famous figure of late 18th century, Samuel Johnson. Johnson was also secretive (as the unexplained and unaccounted for Jacobite sword and buckler found in a closet in his London house exemplified).
It seems Brandt really did wish to be remembered by posterity for his female nude studies. These are available in profusion, as exhibited at the Pentagram Gallery, and run to the late 1960s. They seem to lack the profundity of the social chapter, however beguiling they appear in their cryptic physiognomy of the female form.
What equivalent of Brandt exists today? None, it seems. Most claimants lack the elusive, rare quality that was Brandt's hallmark. Brandt got in everywhere, silently. E.M.Foster, so recessed as to appear almost like a cornered quarry in his rooms in King's College, Cambridge; that too is captured by Brandt
Douglas Gordon: Superhumanatural
The film and video artist Douglas Gordon had his first one-man exhibition in Britain at the Lisson Gallery in 1994, sponsored by its perceptive director Nicholas Logsdail, to which he returned again in 2001. The following year, he was to exhibit 'Entre'Act 3' at the Stedelijk Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven. 'Fuzzy Logic' followed at the Pompidou Centre in Paris, and from about this time his work really took off internationally.
Pop Culture on Repeat
Using today's most basic, accessible medium - the television - as her canvas, Candice Breitz treats film footage as found objects and pop fanatics as the makings of a chorus. Breitz's strong belief that, 'We learn who we are by watching others' fuels her exhibition of new works on view at the White Cube gallery in London.
New acquisition: Quattro Stagioni by Cy Twombly, Tate Modern, London
American artist Cy Twombly (see ‘Philosophy in Paint’) has four tall canvases on exhibition at the Tate Modern. ‘Quattro Stagioni’ (Four Seasons), a painting in four parts, was executed during the period 1993-94.
The Horse: 30,000 Years of the Horse in Art – book review
The Horse: 30,000 Years of the Horse in Art by Tamsin Pickeral is a gallop through art history from prehistoric times to the present, with the focus narrowed on the horse - a long-standing and yet surprisingly unmentioned muse of artists spanning centuries and continents, schools and movements. A creature of practicality and mythology alike, promising loyalty as well as escape, serenity and passion, domestic bliss and gallivanting into the wilderness, the horse indeed is a subject of promise.