Tuesday, 29 April 2014

DAN GRAHAM on the roof of the Met, New York

The sun shone, the sky was blue. It was a perfect day for the inauguration of the latest Roof Garden Commission at New York's Met.
 This idea began in 1999 using "a leftover space' now popular for summer art, lunchtime sandwiches + breathtaking views of Central Park or martini cocktails on romantic weekend evenings.
Previous artists have included Jeff Koons & Andy Goldsworthy. This time it's Dan Graham's turn, with a stylish S-curve steel & glass Pavilion.
            Dan Graham
Admired for his wide ranging multidisciplinary practice - video, writing, performance. photography & sculptural environments of mirrored glass- this self-taught artist is a hero to many, especially in Europe. In 2007 he collaborated on "Don't trust anyone over 30." (He's now 72! ) 
This one is special as it relates so well to its surroundings of Central Park, which soon, (leaves very late this year due to the Siberian winter NY has endured) will be an oasis of green. In addition the Met's roof is covered with lush green lawn (actually 2nd generation astroturf which is amazingly real) and the pavilion (strangely no roof to this) has high ivy walls.
Graham wanted boxwood which takes years to grow, so collaborator Gunther Vogt suggested ivy. "How did he do it? How will it survive Manhattan heat? "I don't know. Ask Gunther!" How did u come to this design? "It just happens! I'm an Aries. I don't calculate."
Graham began using hedges in the 1980s, " I am fascinated by banal suburbia & by ancient Chinese gardens. also by English gardens like Stowe." He also quotes artist Larry Bell as a major inspiration. No surprise; Bell's use of glass is exciting.  He also loves "the convex & concave - and the psychedelic.""My pavilions derive their meaning from the people who look at themselves and others, and who are being looked at themselves," he says. "Without people in them, they might look a bit like minimal-art sculptures, but that's not what they're meant to be." He ad-libbed,"It's a fun house for kids & a photo op for parents. Little girls dance in front of them; boys pretend to be superman. My work is child-friendly. It's playful!"      
This was immediately proved by the adults present who dotted in & out of Graham's huge glass walls, both transparent & reflective simultaneously. I'm not convinced it "create a different space which disorients the viewer'. But, yes it's fun. It all alters as sunlight changes, & will be much less interesting on a dull day. But visitors can still have fun viewing each other superimposed on reflections of Manhatten's famous skyline.
His pavilions, originally rectilinear, are created for public experience, & blur the line between sculpture, architecture & art. With its elegant curves of steel & glass, the structure has overtones of sleek skyscraper facades & modern office towers. As the Met's British duo, director Tom Campbell, (ex Courtauld) & Chairman of Modern & Contemporary Art, Sheena Wagstaff (ex Tate Modern) explained, the work was a collaboration with many fabricators led by Swiss landscape architect Vogt, professor at Harvard & Zurich, who designed for Fifa, London's Olympic Village & Tate Modern. For a small structure it sure took a long list of folk to create               Sheena Wagstaff
The event is accompanied by a lovely little book containing a great interview between Graham & Wagstaff, plus a small show of his projects downstairs. 
P & C on the Roof

NB. Any artist commissioned for the Met's roof has a BIG problem. 
The view.  Can't be beat! 

Sunday, 27 April 2014


In a word disappointing. An event where the spaces are more interesting than the art. How can this be? There are around 70 exhibitions, events & performances all over the city, and this a city crawling with artists. A city moreover now using its artists, ("More Turner Prize nominees than anywhere in the UK") as tourist PR. Glasgow is hosting the Commonwealth Olympics this July, so it's an important year. Let's hope things improve from this limp, slight, slipshod, ineffectual & unfriendly offering. 
I was hoping for several serious important exhibitions, but much of GI 2014 provides half hearted, banal, derivative work. And the 'international" aspect is thin. Luckily the Modern Institute has captured 2, including NY -based Anne Collier. I also object to second-hand imports like the Govanhill inflatables, seen 2 yrs ago in London. Surely these artists could have been asked or told to make a couple of sculptures relating to Glasgow? 
 And why import from London anyway? People come to GI to see work by Glasgow artists or work by international artists. That's why its called GI!  
I realise that it's trendy to be 'immersive" - such an overused word -  but the result can be offensive. Promoted in an extreme form of artspeak, GI is a festival which caters to a small section of the art world & art students, but totally excludes the general public. Glasgow has a huge welcoming heart and a willing population. Yet no allowance has been made for Joe Public.  

Everywhere the SPACES are FAR MORE MEMORABLE than the art! Glasgow is full of architectural gems. Some of these Victorian spaces are truly beautiful, (GoMA's big central hall, Mackintosh's School of Art gallery, the Kibble Palace,) some quirky, (disused swimming baths, an underground carpark), some vast, most old, but occasionally new, white-box-perfect, like Voidoid Archive, only one is a room with a view, (Common Guild,) but there'd even a garden, (at the House for an Art Lover where  Suzanne Dery's cosmology does it no favours.) 

    voidoid archive
The Briggait, originally the city's fish market built in 1873, has a spectacular glass roof which allows light to flood the various sculptures of Reclaimed. The Modern Institute hosts a dramatic diagonal divide (plus music) from Vapour in Debri& while Kendall Koppe also works the diagonal for his display of Lucie Rie ceramic pots.  Ceramics is the province  of Paisley Art Gallery where Robert Saunders worked wonders. There are great Rie ceramics there on show right now.  At the McLellan yet another diagonal, this time constructed with a huge truck tarp, crosses the grandiose Victorian space, (in need of refurbishment.)  Personally I much prefer Avery Singer's fractured geometrics.
Modern Institute
Some of the best installations were to be found in dusty warehouses like the Glue Factory where Michael White  creates an impeccable installation with printed fabrics and upholstered structures &, I'm told, the Pipe Factory too featured a wonderful, fluttering installation by Becky Sik. 
Sik installation photograph by Fiona Watson
Surprisingly GoMA's large-scale installation in its central hall, while politically motivated, also has a magical touch with its science fiction robots and Disney creatures. SWG3's Encadre included much derivative work, while Gabriel Kuri's boring booths are offset by his discs.
Worst efforts: Alex Frost at GPS; Kelvingrove's rarely working videos by Simon Martin; Hydrapangaea at the Botanics. 
Disappointments: the lack of animals in Gareth Moore's Sculpture Studios show. All the Tramway videos. Transmission's long-winded 'Post-Military Cinema'; Mary Mary's ugly pots & vessels afflicted with gigantism. 
Better presentations: Gabriel Kuri's colourful metal floor piece sculpture; Stumpf's walls and shocking pink circles.  Dominic Snyder's Performance. 
Best projects: Sik; Balcus & Nieuwenhuize; 
Best international contibution: Christina Ramberg's 1970s early explorations of underwear which led to her famous fetishised bound bodies, at 43 Carlton Place. A return to Glasgow after 34 years. Beautifully housed at elegant 43 Carlton Place, this distinguished Chicago Who artist, (1946-95) was an important first wave US feminist artist

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Glasgow Open House,

 by Fran Light - not me.
With Glasgow International plus Open House all opening at once, I decided to ask Fran to research some locations and let us know what she thinks about them.
This weekend I will follow up with comments on GI plus a few Open House. Being a critic can be hard on the feet!
Glasgow Open House, a new festival organised by recent GSA graduates, has seen a crop of 32 exhibitions opening their doors in artists’ homes and other non-gallery locations across the city. Here, sculptures nestle in stairwells; unexpected sounds can be found emitting from cupboards; shower curtains double as projection screens. I spent a weekend exploring the offerings.
At 51 Grant St, the garden is filled with (see below) Emma Ewan’s sculptural jigsaw puzzle 'Modular Manner' – great fun in Saturday’s sunshine – whilst an intriguing show by Madeleine Virginia Brown and Stella Stewart at 16 Baliol St explores the relationship between model and artist. A sound piece recounting Brown’s inner monologue whilst life modelling is a particular highlight.
'HALLelujah! 3' sees Janie Nicoll’s hallway at 212 West Princes St given over to a variety of artists working with collage; the space at 1 Royal Terrace (which, despite being the only full-time gallery included in the programme, is nevertheless housed inside a flat) is transformed with the darkly architectural sculptures of Augustus Veinoglou. Outside, I find Catherine Hotchkiss and William Aikman’s interactive installation ‘Scope’, an enormous electronic kaleidoscope housed in the back of a van. Being mobile, Scope will be moving around different venues over the course of the festival – keep track of it via http://www.locatescope.co.uk.
On the Southside, ‘I Bought a Little City’ at 101 Forth St comprises four artists’ responses to Donald Barthelme’s short story of the same name, spanning painting, artist books, video, sculpture and the written word. A couple of blocks away on Leven St, ‘Romantic Possibilities in Modern Flats’ sees artists Andrew Black, Bradley Davies and Nick Thomas cohabiting with the works of invited artists Dan Hays, Paul Housley and Torsten Lauschmann, curating these alongside a selection of their own pieces. The excellent show ‘A Gyrus to Define Us’ at 100 Deanston Drive is well worth the walk, particularly for Jack Farrell and Angel Reid's 'Roaming Colonies' - motorised sculptures, camouflaged cunningly against the bathroom floor.
Artists and curators are on hand at every venue, happy to chat about the work and offer cups of tea, and consequently there aren’t enough hours in the day to see every show. Luckily, the festival will open its doors again next Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 April. With an exciting selection of artists in unorthodox venues, Open House certainly proves that Glasgow’s DIY ethos is alive and well – and, funding permitting, it looks set to be an annual event.
http://glasgowopenhouse.co.uk/#                                       by Fran Lightbound 
 Elizabeth Rowe

Thursday, 3 April 2014


Today as I was driving to Govanhill Public Baths, (no, not to swim, to see an art installation) I heard Glasgow Life director Bridget McConnell announcing on BBC that part of July's opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow will be the demolition of the notorious Red Road flats. Built in the 1950s as part of a maligned housing project, they have long been a big problem.

                                                        Govanhill Baths 
Whether this is a good idea will be vigorously debated, but it certainly shows that Glasgow does things differently in an 'authentic' way! 
 Likewise GI, or Glasgow International, opening tomorrow. This is the 6th biennial of visual arts events and exhibition with this year's ex's leaning heavily on the moving image, film, video, sound side. info@glasgowinternational.org

As is the RSA or Royal Scottish Academy in its 188th annual. The splendid newish downstairs rooms are the film focus, beautifully installed & curated by Ronnie Forbes, and comprehensive in its stretch from Muybridge to recent graduates. Will GI last 188 years?? I fear not.
However back to Govanhill where Anthea Hamilton & Nicholas Byrne show LOVE, a series of enormous inflatables printed with famous images from Brancusi, Maplethorpe, Rodin, etc and of course Robert Indiana. Phallic & sexy, this light-hearted colourful display was first seen in London's Poplar St Baths as part of the 2012 Olympics.  

While GI trumpets "50 shows and 90 events featuring 150 artists", the RSA itself has over 400 exhibits. Well known names like Elizabeth Blackadder, Ian McCulloch, Tracy Mackenna & Alan Davie features alongside young Kyle Noble  & others. However I am not convinced that doing away with ARSA associates & separating the Academicians from 'the rest' is a good idea. Time will tell. 
                                  PA Bruno, Clare & Edi Stark at the RSA
Edinburgh also has a start-up Hidden Door Festival in damp cold dark vaults (Bronwen Sleigh the best by far) while Glasgow's Open House - 70 artists showing in 36 unusual citywide venues starts next week. 

Bridget McConnell's announcement stressed the city's flourishing artistic side & its mass of Tate Turner winners & nominees. Good to hear the visual arts to the fore again.