Pangaea

Yoko Terauchi arrived from Japan the other day, and in her luggage was the sculpture she made last year called Pangaea. It is made of two sheets of paper 24cms square. They are both marked at the edge with a coloured pentel pen. One is placed on the wall, and the other is wet and formed into a sphere about the size of a ping-pong ball by squeezing and tightening it in cling-film, and being left to dry completely.

This descriptive mundanity of the work of course completely detracts from its purity, and it is one of the most purely abstract things I have seen. It is a serial work, in as much as there are several colours in the pentel range that she will use to make the work, perhaps as many as twenty.

Because of its simplicity and scale, it is quite difficult to know where the work belongs. Certainly the ‘gallery’ might be too demonstrative, the display too gestural , which is what I have come to think of such places in recent times. And my fear is that the world is too busy to see things of such accomplished simplicity, too noisy for reductive thinking.

Well done, Yoko: it stays in the mind , and to paraphrase Berthold Brecht and Sol LeWitt, and once you have understood it, you own it!

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Wartesaal 1979-86

I’m rarely in Paris without remembering Reinhard Mucha’s Wartesaal seen at Centre Pompidou in 1986, in what was the big open space just off the corner of Rue du Renard.

There were several very large cumulative works in his retrospective of the time, stacked furniture, ladders, dissemblies of rooms, re-makes. But the one piece that really struck me, an entire room in itself, was The Waiting Room built between 1979 and 1982 in Dusseldorf by Reinhard Mucha, and modified in 1986 for this exhibition. It is made of made of a system of stacks of drawers in a what look like dexion supports, butted and bolted together, intersecting at right angles, and incorporating a cumbersome gothic wardrobe. This in itself gave the whole installation placement, and was the sort of accoutrement you might find in any isolated railway station across the network. At the same time it anchors the piece from being completely self-enclosed, and gives it its veiled narrative.

There are eleven of these wheeled shelving units, each with twenty two drawers. In each drawer is the name of a station in Germany, painted on boards, each of them of six letters, 242 place-names in total, taken from a 1948 freight directory first published in 1943. They are rendered in the modernist type of the German rail system

Because of the need to open the drawers, you are passively invited to examine and move name-plates to a lit table in the middle of the piece, and in the hue of the fluorescent strips running at the top of each unit and the wardrobe.

In its nostalgia, its soulfulness, Wartesaal embodies the whole journey of Europe, even if taken from one particular place, almost as a cross-section of it. It also begins to use the materials of Reinhard Mucha’s construction in a more abstract, less narrative way, and forms the basis of much of his later work in which these place-names continue to be used.

It is as present for me as the Eiffel Tower, even if it has not existed there for thirty years, but whenever I turn that corner from Rue du Renard into Place Beaubourg, I am amongst it.

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The Vertical Earth Kilometer

De Maria Kassel

It was saddening to hear last month of the end of Walter de Maria. He was visiting his 100 year old mum in California, he being a mere strip of 77. He was the most quizzical of artists,arriving from the world of bands in which he was drummer, the New York of the mid sixties, the neo-fluxus world of happenings.
He has left us with at least four major enigmas, that remain utterly fresh to the imagination every time you consider them. Thanks to the Dia Art Foundation, they are maintained, where they need to be, and at varying degrees of inconvenience, can be visited at any time. The Broken Kilometer still glistens from the ground floor of an industrial building in West Broadway, New York, and the Earth Room is still warm and humid in Wooster Street. The Lightning Field is a little more tricky in the desert of New Mexico, but it can be done as a pilgrimage.
But the piece that fascinates me perhaps the most is the Vertical Earth Kilometer in Kassel, Germany made in 1979. You can go and see it, but all you get is

vertical earth kilometre

You are asked to believe that the plate, set in a square of sandstone, descends a whole kilometer into the earth. It is a structure of belief, as is the notion that the fronds of lightening will play in their designated field in New Mexico. Walter de Maria’s work indeed seems to resound with the idea of belief, as the proposition of conceptualism, and he is perhaps its main proponent. We have to believe in the detail of time and geography of a work, say by Richard Long, before we can move to the next step.

Vertical earth kilometer

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Used Art Dealer

Saatchi458

I notice that Steptoe Brother or Del-Boy of the art scene is shelling-off some of his ill-considered wares at a Christie’s auction in October, at the time of course of the Frieze Art Fair. Apparently, there’s no room for it at the respectable auction house, so it’s being held in a Post Office warehouse. And there’s no reserve prices, so you could pick up your very own David Batchelor for a fiver, or some other sub-Culbert piece as illustrated in the clipping above. Of course, there’ll always be a Chapman or two in such yard sales, with increasing regularity. This shameless piece of David Batchelor is incidentally called ‘Brick Lane’. Where does he come from?

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Ian Finlay at Arnolfini

Finlay Arnolfini

At last someone has managed to put on a Finlay show that might do the work some justice. There has been so much dithering around, so much lack of insight into a full exhibition, that you wonder if it will ever take place. In lieu there are a succession of smaller offerings of mostly printed work from private holdings. I saw one was held in some sort of taxi shed in Pimlico earlier this year : then there’s this, and I see another on the horizon in Portland Oregon, from the collection of Stephen Scobie, I presume. There is nothing amiss with a show based on publication, in fact it is a seminal cause, and Finlay’s work is a triumph of that. But not as an excuse for a more complete airing of all the work in all its facets.  Nonetheless, this display at Arnolfini in Bristol which runs until early September, looks magnificent in its arrangement, fresh, light and aerated, the opposite of a mordant attempt at the end of last year in one of the bigger emporiums. I just wish they would give up on other artists’ responses to work being shown! What a bad idea, and how confusing. For instance, what is that little gridded thing in the middle of the floor that I spent ages trying to reconcile with Finlay, thinking it must be a maquette for a photograph for a postcard (maybe one to be called Swastika Compass! ) – then I thought it was the inlay for a table by Graeme Murray that he may have left with Ian Finlay. Eventually I realized it was some other persons work entirely!

But well done Axel Wieder for this show. I should have known, as pro qm in Berlin from whence you come is one of the great bookshops.

 

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The Dreaded P Word

images
For a long time I’ve thought that journalists were running the show, having created the fiction of the popularity of the visual arts, only to be believed by the so-called curators. It is however coming full circle, and things may return to a normal and healthy obscurity. There are so many really bad exhibitions about, viz. The Light Show at the Hayward Gallery.What has happened to the intervening years since the quasi-theoretical GRAV and Kinetics? You are never going to find out here. But all that’s for another entry.
I just wanted to chew over a piece by journalist Stuart Jeffries attempting to deal with assistants to ‘well-known’ artists, entitled Behind Every Great Artist. It’s a bastion of the overworked and over-edified p word…
working in a restaurant and as a builder while establishing a sculpture practice…I sometimes regret that I have let go of my own practice…I get interested in his practice…He’s thrived too as Gormley’s practice has… to learn what he could before setting up his own practice… Wentworth’s later practice as a sculptor…At the same time there are so many bad editorial strategies ( don’t I mean curatorial?) available.
Jake and Dinos Chapman’s AK45 show is like much of what they do, an unintentional cartoon of its (them)self, and contains Gormley’s worst ever work. Artists being invited to make playing cards or chess pieces are such dumb ideas, but they seem to exist in every generation.But to take the biscuit, how about My View : Personal Reflections By Today’s Leading Artists, now doubt coming from Tate Publishing, who really haven’t got a clue. With so many curators, that enterprise is spiraling inwards, but I suppose you’ve got to do something with all those unused Ph.D’s

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