Sunday, October 29, 2006

GEM Nederland Deutschland Malerei

Tjebbe Beekman
David Schnell
Martin Eder
Mathias Weischer
Rezi van Lankveld
Aaron van Erp

Tjebbe Beekman is also showing new works at Diana Stigter Gallery in Amsterdam.

Painting The Netherlands - Germany Malerei

Open from 21 october 2006 - 21 january 2007

Friday, October 06, 2006

florentijn hofman

USA Today

Barnaby Furnas

Hamburger Hill

Urethane on linen

182.9 x 304.8cm

Jules de Balincourt

Internal Renovations

2006, Two panels, acrylic, oil and spray paint on panel
220 x 300 cm

Schlock and awe

After Iraq, Katrina and Abu Ghraib, what should we expect from US artists? More than Saatchi's show delivers, says Adrian Searle

Thursday October 5, 2006

One can forgive current American art a degree of querulousness, ambivalence and doubt about itself and its place in the world. One might expect it to be critical of the culture of which it is a part, and expect it to be cynical as well as satirical. How could it be otherwise? USA Today, the Royal Academy's exhibition of new art from America, all collected by Charles Saatchi, is certainly bold. Whether it adds up to a statement, or defines a zeitgeist, is another matter.

It has a sense of anxiety and self-loathing; amid this are angry protests, displays of mock insouciance, and tragicomic buffoonery. Ryan Tracartin's sculptures made me laugh out loud. At 25, he is as much a film-maker as a sculptor, and his sculptures look like props. Until Hurricane Katrina, he was based in New Orleans. World Wall is a kind of childish grotto, with bits of bodies poking out of the walls, a huge, cave-like open mouth where a living room once stood, mad bulging eyes, a house whose roof is painted over with waves. An unnaturally skinny naked mother stalks the floor, head aloof. The unattractive but game Vicky Veterinarian has a cat burrowing in her shirt. Mango Lady's skin is made from mango peel. The characters are all in search of a plot, but there isn't one.

The painted and sculpted human beings throughout USA Today seem variously dumb, stupid, aggressive, abject, forlorn, ridiculous, damaged, sick, in distress, screwed up. This can be no coincidence. Or perhaps Saatchi has a taste for this sort of thing, this dismal view of the world. Almost everything else here shouts, screams, lacerates itself in self-loathing, hectors, assaults, appals, insults.

In Fuck the Police, Dash Snow presents 45 framed press clippings: Cops Busted in Sex Abuse, Cops Who Killed For Mafia, Cop in Coke Ring. The catalogue tells us Snow "started taking photos when he was a yobbish teenager", and that the headlines are all "splattered with jism". Well, that changes everything.

Perhaps the most telling sculpture is an anonymous figure, either cowering or in prayer. The body is a black bin-liner. Brown clay hands reach forward, palms flat on the floor. Behind the figure is a trail of crumbled clay. Huma Bhabha's sculpture has an odd vulnerability, however curtailed an image of a human it presents.

After 9/11, after Hurricane Katrina, after Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo, what should one expect from American culture, apart from rage and crawl-into- a-hole-in-the-ground-and-die abjection?

Perhaps that is what LA-based Jon Pylypchuk intends: his miserable little figures, touchingly dressed in remnants of fabric, stagger about on the floor, gather helplessly around the wounded, vomit in shock on the ground and upon each other. It is a horrible roundelay. All this goes on at ankle height. "Hopefully, I will live through this with a little bit of dignity," the title reads. Dignity is in short supply here. How about 222 plaster, wax and charcoal heads, each damaged in some way, each set inside a grubby little vitrine, in Beijing-born Terence Koh's Crackhead? Koh can't be accused of subtlety, any more than Banks Violette and her sculptural tableaux.

Violette's work is sculpture that wishes it was as edgy as a death-cult heavy metal band, but is about as dangerous as Spinal Tap. His casts of electric guitars, mock amplifiers and drifts of salt and sugar faking cocaine have schlock value, but little else.

In Barnaby Furnas's paintings, men in suits are being turned to mincemeat in a shoot-out on Hamburger Hill, and a flood of urethane red, like a bloody response to the poured and stained 1960s colour field paintings of Morris Louis, roars through a blue sky in another mammoth canvas. I can just see this sanguinous deluge displayed with pride in some American corporate lobby somewhere. That is one of the problems with art that attempts to make statements: it gets assimilated.

Paint becomes snot in a painted sneeze by Dana Schutz; she paints feelings as though they were regurgitated food. In one canvas, a head eats its own face, as well it might.

Schutz's paintings are at least funny and intelligently made. There are some silly paintings in this exhibition: a self-consciously badly painted decapitated horse with a huge penis, bluntly crass paintings of bits of bodies, Gerald Davis's deeply unpleasant paintings of adolescent sexuality.

Davis paints pubescent Monica giving head, and an x-ray view of teen Linsey's full colon, accompanied by a painted diary entry about her exquisite bathroom experience in the shopping mall. Where do we go with images like these? Am I meant to admire their more abstract qualities, or feel all smug at their sophisticated ironies?

USA Today is neither as good as I wanted it to be, nor as bad. When I say bad, I mean angry, lacerating, bitter, disillusioned, pained and powerful. In New York's Whitney Biennial, Richard Serra showed a rough little drawing of a now familiar image: a figure hooded in black, standing with outstretched arms on a box, waiting, so he thinks, to be electrocuted. "STOP BUSH," Serra scrawled on the drawing.

It may not be great art, but it doesn't need to be. That's the problem. I want an art more powerful - not just loud, not just blunt. Most of art's audience already know what they think about the state of America and the war on terror. The job of artists, novelists, film-makers, musicians and playwrights demands that they go further than stating the obvious. USA Today is an expression, more than anything, of impotence.

· USA Today is at the Royal Academy of Arts, London W1, from tomorrow until November 4. Details 020-7300 8000.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Turner Prize 2006

Personal Favorite : Mark Titchner

It's Turner prize time again: the annual occasion for a national punch-up over contemporary art, when four artists are lined up in order to be pilloried, praised and passionately fought over before one of them - not infrequently, the one least expected to do so - is awarded a cheque for £25,000.

It is, in short, always something of a soap opera, which is why it is particularly appropriate that, as part of his section of the exhibition at Tate Britain in London shortlisted artist Phil Collins has set up a fully operational TV production office, called Shady Lane Productions.

The office, with its phalanxes of lever-arch files and ugly house plant, will be up and running each weekday from 10am till 6pm. The only difference from a normal office is the glass wall that separates it from the gallery, through which visitors will be able to observe the employees going about their daily business.

Collins is asking members of the public to contact the office if they have had a damaging experience as a result of appearing on a reality or makeover show.

He will then invite participants to tell their side of the story, unedited, for a resulting programme called The Return of the Real, a sort of "what-happened-next". Collins's own reaction to his shortlisting was: "I thought about it for a week. It felt like that moment in [the film] Carrie when she has a bucket of blood thrown over her and is made a fool of on a grand scale."

Lizzie Carey-Thomas, one of the Tate curators who has put together this year's exhibition, said that this year's artists "cover all bases". Apart from film-maker Collins, the other shortlisted contenders are a painter, a sculptor and an installation artist. It is the second year running a painter has made the shortlist. Tomma Abts's non-representational oils, unvaryingly 38cm by 48cm, are made, as Ms Carey-Thomas put it, "with no source material, no sketches and no preconceived idea of how they will end up". Working with a combination of utter precision and total intuition she applies paint until, gradually, a shape emerges, though the work may go through wildly differing stages before the final form is found. Ms Abts says that the painting is complete when "it suddenly has an atmosphere and makes you feel something". The work is then given a title using a dictionary of first names from a particular region of Germany.

The other contenders are Rebecca Warren, whose clay sculptures reference figures such as Rodin and Dégas and whose lumpy, bumpy, hyper-feminine forms gently debunk her artistic forebears; and Mark Titchner, whose installations draw on defunct belief systems and outmoded science to "question the codes by which we live today", according to Tate curator Katharine Stout.

The unveiling of the exhibition was, however, overshadowed by comments made at the weekend by one of this year's jurors. Journalist Lynn Barber, writing in the Observer and breaking the convention that jurors remain silent at least until the prize is awarded, quoted an extract from her diary saying that she felt "demoralised, disillusioned, and full of dark fears that I have been stitched up - that actually the art world has already decided who will win the 2006 Turner prize and that I am brought in purely as a fig leaf". She also said the experience of being a Turner prize judge had "seriously dampened" her enthusiasm for contemporary art and that she had tried to "warn off" a colleague, writer Miranda Sawyer, from accepting an invitation to become a juror for the 2007 prize.

Stephen Deuchar, director of Tate Britain, said of Barber's article: "I think it was tongue in cheek. This was a very personal account of how she found the process and very good-humoured. I'm very relaxed about it - she's very engaging and slightly self-deprecating and honest."

This year's prize is awarded in a ceremony at Tate Britain on December 3. The winner will receive £25,000 and the runners-up £5,000 each. This year's jurors, apart from Ms Barber, are Margot Heller, director of the South London Gallery; Matthew Higgs, director of White Columns gallery, New York; and Andrew Renton, director of the curating course at Goldsmiths College, University of London. Chairing the jury is Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota.

According to Sir Nicholas, the prize "cannot possibly cover the full range of new developments, nor survey all that is important in contemporary art in Britain. Nor is the prize intended either as a long-service medal, or as a forcing ground for new talent. It answers the simple questions, what were the exhibitions, which were the works of art and who were the artists whose work had the strongest and most enduring impact this year on this group of individuals, the jury?" To be eligible artists must be under 50 and living or working in Britain. Previous winners since the prize's inauguration in 1984 have included Martin Creed (2001), Chris Ofili (1998), and Damien Hirst (1995).