The blog for hip + arty urban adventurers. Uncovering things to do and places to go in London and beyond. Visit the main site at a www.theculturalexpose.co.uk and click here to join the mailing list...
Something you should see… Claire Aho: Studio Works at The Photographers’ Gallery
Artist Claire Aho began her career as a photographer during a time when men dominated the industry. A cultural icon in her native Finland, British audiences now have the chance to see the images that made Aho’s name at London’s Photographers’ Gallery. The exhibition concentrates on Aho’s career from 1950 to 1970 – a period where her use of colour and inventive style made her a leading name in the world of advertising, editorial and fashion photography. Studio Works is the first solo exhibition of Aho’s work in the UK and will include the original Finnish lifestyle magazines featuring Aho’s cover pictures, as well as images from her archive.
Considered a pioneer of Finnish colour photography, Aho started her career in film before establishing her own commercial studio in the 1950s. Aho’s photographs from this era depicted domestic life around Finland and many of these images will be on view. Aho’s pictures are saturated with colour and contrasting palettes usually appear side by side. It was the quality of Aho’s colour photography that created a commercial demand for her services across a range of industries. If colour is thematic in the work of Aho, so is humour and audiences will definitely get a sense of that at the show. Photographs such as Compressor Refrigerator, which depicts a children’s tea party wouldn’t feel out of place in a current ad run for Ikea. The fun and playful quality that underscores much of Aho’s images at the show should connect with audiences.
Claire Aho says she never saw her work as pioneering during the 1950s, she ‘just worked hard’. But you need only watch the travails of Peggy Olson from the fictional show Mad Men to realise just how hard that must have been. (Words: Eri Otite)
Somewhere you should go… Popin’ Pete’s Pop Shop, Box Park
If you’re from a gen’ of hip-hoppers who attempted to bust a move while watching Wild Style or Beat Street (on repeat, of course), here’s the sort of rare homage to the good ‘ol days that should be in your diary. The Popin’ Pete Pop Shop has dropped into town courtesy of the legendary Electric Boogaloos dancer, who’ll be bringing back the old school at the Box Park through a week-long series of daily workshops, performances, DJing, Q&As, stuff for the kiddies, live art and parties.
It’ll be the chance to perfect your P&L’s (poppin’ and lockin’) and learn a bit of dance history before putting it all into practice at the Get Down Social Dance Party at Rich Mix with DJ Biznizz on Sunday, March 31st. Can’t wait to sign up!
Something you should see… George Bellows: Modern American Life at the Royal Academy
When George Bellows died at the age of 42 from a ruptured appendix, he was acclaimed as one of America’s greatest realist artists. Now British audiences have the chance to see what all the fuss was about this month at the Royal Academy. The exhibition, which is the first UK retrospective of his career, explores the principal themes in Bellows’ work and includes both drawings and paintings, as well as lithographs.
New York’s urban landscape – its people and places provided the setting for Bellows unflinching portrayal of early 20th century America. From the lawless violence of the boxing ring to gritty scenes of tenement life, to cityscapes and social scenes – he painted them all. Visitors to the Royal Academy can view life in New York and its diversity of inhabitants, as it emerged into the 20th century – from the 71 works on show. Bellows is best known for his boxing paintings and the exhibition includes his most famous work Stag at Sharkey’s (1909). The painting depicts a brutal underground bout at one of New York’s ‘private’ clubs on Broadway. The frenzied energy and raw aggression captured by Bellows in his early fight scenes helped to establish his reputation as a ‘formidable’ painter in New York art circles.
Thought of as the ‘all-American painter’, the variety of subject matter suggest Bellows was a more complex artist who was attuned to the social and political issues of the day. Lithographs Bellows produced for leftwing publications and paintings showing German atrocities during the First World War – both included in the show, attest to the social conscience for which he is known. Those looking for some light relief from the depressing studies of daily city life should seek out Bellows’ scenic paintings of Manhattan under snow and portraits of summer fetes in Central Park.
George Bellows left an extensive body of work for what was a short career, so here’s a great opportunity to see some of those works and find out why this American painter was so highly praised. (Words: Eri Otite)
George Bellows (1882-1925): Modern American Life is on at the Royal Academy from 16 March – 9 June. For more info, visit www.royalacademy.org.uk
Something you should see… Yinka Shonibare: POP! at the Stephen Friedman Gallery
Yinka Shonibare is having a bit of a moment. Fresh on the heels of a major retrospective at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the Stephen Friedman Gallery is hosting a show of new works by the British-Nigerian artist. Inspired by the financial crisis, the exhibition explores the subjects of corruption, excess and debauchery. With his characteristic humour, Shonibare critiques society’s obsession with luxury goods and the behaviour of the banking industry.
Shonibare’s lavish re-working of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, described as his ‘largest and most complex sculptural tableaux’, is one of the main pieces of the exhibition. In Shonibare’s fantasy, Christ is replaced by Dionysus – the mythological God of fertility and wine – surrounded by twelve over-indulged disciples in various states of sexual abandonment. The celebration of mindless excess continues in Banker (2013), which depicts a sharply dressed mannequin simulating a lewd act with a champagne bottle.
Headless figures and the use of Dutch waxed fabric are common motifs in Shonibare’s work. Throughout the exhibition, the colorful Batik print is used in the tailored costumes of the figures and the cloth also appears in the installationToy Paintings. Manufactured by the Dutch, and initially for sale in Indonesia, it was only after the textile failed to take-off that it eventually made its way to West Africa. A signature of his practice for nearly two decades, Shonibare’s use of ‘African’ material - that is actually European in origin – plays on its rather complex colonial history. The beheaded figures are an attempt by Shonibare to discourage associations with race on the part of the viewer.
Large-scale self-portraits based on Andy Warhol’s Camouflage series of 1986, which represent new lines of enquiry for Shonibare, also deserve a mention amidst all the decadence and depravity on show. Yinka Shonibare is of course the man behind the widely acclaimed Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle, commissioned for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square – and now on permanent display at the National Maritime Museum. Shonibare’s new work should resonate with audiences, losing none of its theatre, colour and style in its witty and damning take on contemporary life. (Words: Eri Otite)
Yinka Shonibare: POP! is on at the Stephen Friedman Gallery, from 16 March – 20 April. For more info, visit www.stephenfriedman.com
Something you should see… Becoming Picasso: Paris 1901 at The Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House
Most successful artists have a breakthrough moment in their career, when they make that leap from relative anonymity to being well-known. Pablo Picasso was no different. Becoming Picasso at the Courtauld Gallery focuses on the story of the young Spanish upstart’s breakthrough year in Paris in 1901, in which he took the French capital by storm. This exhibition brings together major paintings from his debut summer show at a gallery on rue Lafitte and explores his development as an artist during that seminal year.
In the work produced for his Paris show, Picasso reconceived the styles and subjects of other modern painters, including Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec and Van Gogh, to wide acclaim. This synthesis of styles can be appreciated in works such as Dwarf-Dancer and At the Moulin Rouge, both on display. Despite the success of his first solo show, in the latter part of 1901, Picasso’s artistic development took a new turn.
The iconic Child with a Dove appears as a transitional work at the Courtauld show, signaling the radical change in Picasso’s style. The painting, which expresses the fragility of childhood innocence, heralded the beginning of Picasso’s Blue period. Previous works of bright café scenes painted in brilliant colours gave way to works characterised by a monochromatic use of blue and blue-green tones. The themes during Picasso’s Blue period also became much darker and were partly influenced by the suicide of his best friend, Carlos Casagemas. Visitors to the Courtauld can view a death portrait of Casagemas and the funeral scene Evocation (The Burial of Casagemas) – in which the artist depicts the ascension of his friend’s soul. Much has been said about the barely dressed women in this painting, so I’ll leave you to your own interpretations. It’s worth pointing out that Child with a Dove could be lost to the UK, if attempts to keep it in the country fail. The painting was sold to a foreign buyer last year, so another good reason to get over to Somerset House to see it!
Becoming Picasso is an opportunity to experience artworks that are now considered to be the earliest masterpieces from a giant of the 20th century. With capacity limited at the Courtauld, queuing may well be the order of the day – but this is a show worth standing in line for. (Words: Eri Otite)
Becoming Picasso: Paris 1901 is on at The Courtauld Gallery until May 26. For more info, visit www.courtauld.ac.uk
Something you should see… Man Ray Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery
The great, the good and the beautiful are all on display at the National Portrait Gallery as part of a major exhibition on the photographer Man Ray. Best known for his avant-garde images, the American artist also took portraits throughout his career and it’s these photographs that are the subject of the show. The images, which were taken between 1916 and 1968 journey through Ray’s early days in New York, his spell in Paris during the twenties and thirties, the decade spent in Hollywood and his late years in Paris until his death.
Artists and writers captured by the photographer include Picasso, Salvador Dali, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and Marcel Duchamp. Also featured in the exhibition are fashion icon Coco Chanel and film siren Catherine Deneuve. With more than 150 vintage prints on view, these photographs really are a list of who’s who. However, there is more to this exhibition than just famous faces. Alongside these pictures of Man Ray’s contemporaries and cultural figures are the more personal portraits of friends and lovers. Included in the exhibition is one of his most famous images of lover Kiki de Montparnasse. In Le Violon d’Ingres (1924), the French cabaret performer and actress sits with her naked decorated back to the camera. The US model-turned photographer Lee Miller also makes an appearance in several prints. Miller was not only in a relationship with him, she also collaborated with him professionally.
For an artist for whom photography was never his principal artistic medium, Man Ray certainly made innovate strides with this form. He was instrumental in developing a type of photogram or what he called ‘Rayographs’ which were made by putting the image directly onto the photographic paper and is also credited along with muse Miller for inventing the process of solarisation. The use of solarisation can be seen in the portraits of Miller and of the French singer and actress Suzy Solidor. Rare examples of Man Ray’s early experiments with colour photography are also on show,
There are probably very few people who haven’t heard of the name Man Ray or seen any of his images, but as a comprehensive survey of his photographic career this exhibition is definitely worth a visit. (Words: Eri Otite)
Man Ray Portraits is on at the National Portrait Gallery until May 27th. For more info, visit www.npg.org.uk
Something you should see… Carl Andre: Mass & Matter at the Turner Contemporary
Before Tracey and her unmade bed, there was Carl and his pile of bricks. The artist behind the notorious 1970s sculpture of ordinary bricks stacked on a gallery floor, otherwise known as Equivalent VIII, is the subject of a new exhibition at Turner Contemporary in Kent. Mass and Matter is Carl Andre’s first major show in Britain for over 10 years and features sculptures made between 1967 and 1983, as well as poems from the same period.
A leading member of the 1960s Minimalist movement, Carl is famous for his sculptures of raw building materials arranged in linear or geometric patterns directly on the floor. Several examples of Andre’s floor sculptures are on show, including Weathering Piece (1970) – a giant chessboard formed from weather-beaten and oxidized metal plates. Many of the floor pieces were also conceived by Andre to be experienced by the spectator, as well as looked at – so, visitors to the Turner can walk across the metal sheets that make up 4 x 25 Altstadt Rectangle (1967). Andre has experimented with brick configurations throughout his career and a number of these works are on view. The piece 60 x 1 Range Work (1983) which has been described, as resembling ‘an enormous Toblerone’, is one of his more recent. Alas, the ‘controversial’ Equivalent VIII is not being exhibited which is a shame, as it would’ve been nice to see what all that fuss was about!
The re-ordered individual words and phrases that characterise the poetry at the show reference Andre’s approach to constructing his sculptural forms. Words in Andre’s poems (just like a wood block or a brick) are used as solitary units to be repeated, stacked or boxed. For the generation of artists who followed, Carl Andre redefined the nature of sculpture – it could consist of ordinary materials, didn’t have to be carved and could be set straight on the floor. Even though, he’s mostly known in Britain for the stir he caused back in the seventies, there is more to Carl Andre and his pile of bricks – and it’s worth leaving the capital to see. (Words: Eri Otite)
TCé picks: A selection of things to do and places to go – February 2013
As far as we’re concerned, February is the official start of the culture calendar – so we’re happy that this month has quite a few entertaining going-ons in store, from charity danceathons to an opportunity to go to your very own prom. Plus, tune into the site later for an announcement of a brilliant competition courtesy of our generous friends over at the Roxy Bar & Cinema…
Meet Mutsa danceathon, February 9th - This fun and quirky social activist has been doing her part in London to raise awareness of the HIV pandemic in sub-saharan Africa through educational projects, and her latest event sees her organise an international danceathon fundraiser in London and New York City. One of the teachers who’ll be putting participants through their paces is Zoo Nation choreographer Kate Prince (Into the Hoods, Some Like It Hip-Hop), so you’ll know this will be brilliant (and all for a good cause!).
Future Cinema presents Casablanca, February 14th – March 3th- The creators of Secret Cinema will be presenting the iconic Casablanca, where you’ll step into the world of Rick’s American Café at the Troxy which will be transformed into the famous, exclusive and romantic nightclub. Immersive cinema at its finest.
Teen Dreams Prom at The Book Club, February 14- Ever wondered what it’d be like to go to prom? Wonder no more on Valentine’s Day as The Book Club are throwing a fancy dress knees-up for couples and friends to experience prom first hand. There will be games, American food and even a final crowning of Prom King and Queen.
Something You Should See… Narratives of Arrival and Resolution, Art Space Gallery
If you’re a self-confessed perfectionist out there who swoons over clean-cut lines and shiver with satisfaction at exact tessellation, Art Space Gallery is the place for you this month. Curator Deanna Petherbridge has brought together a selection of works by four abstract artists who appear to share your passion for precision, in new exhibition Narratives of Arrival and Resolution.
First up – Belinda Cadbury and her meticulously pencilled patterns on paper. Cadbury’s work is about craft and process, rather than creativity and imagination, and each work is carefully executed, tightly finished and smudge-free. But the uneven densities of the markings within each of her carefully demarcated forms betray the personal labour that went into each of the works, without ever undermining the integrity of the design and its rhythm.
Alison Turnbull and Sarah Cawkwell both seek existing patterns in our everyday lives and, lifting them from their original contexts, isolate or re-work them to explore their aesthetic potential free of meaning. Turnbull’s interests lie in the topographical, in maps, charts and graphs. Her systematically placed dots and lines interact with the systems of her sources, and invigorate the page surface in playful and enchanting ways. Cawkwell turns to the domestic. A lot of her artistic practice comprises relatively uninteresting, middle-of-the-road charcoal renderings of dressing and undressing rituals, but Petherbridge has astutely selected only those works which dissolve the figurative into abstract patterning. Woven textiles, buttons and the folds and creases of fabric serve as departure points for lovingly rendered small-scale studies in pencil and wash.
The highlight is set to be Wendy Smith, who lacerates her dazzling white boards with inked lines which cross and merge to form intricate, interlocking patterns that shimmer and dance on the page. Smith’s drawings have a graphic quality and are so frighteningly free of imperfection it is easy to imagine them to be machine-made. Together in series Smith’s work looks like the result of hundreds of experiments in drawing, but experiments with no hypothesis, no analysis and no evaluation.
Smith’s works, as with the others shown at the gallery, are not reliant on theory. They do not purport to communicate any personal or objective reality to us but rather express the artists’ fascination with mark making itself. The crisp, clean visual clarity of the works at Art Space Gallery provide the ultimate in visual satisfaction and are not to be missed. (Words: Florence Ritter)
Something you should see… Juergen Teller’s Woo at ICA
A retrospective of an iconic fashion photographer? This couldn’t be further up our street here at The Cultural Exposé. That it also includes images from the photographer’s home life makes this all the more intriguing. But then again, in many ways, Juergen Teller has been giving us an insight into himself for some time now as he has often appeared in his own photographs.
Teller started out in music photography making his name with the cover of Sinead O’Connor’s Nothing Compares 2 U – a Mona Lisa-esque ambivalent pose, suggesting either ‘I’m hurt and alone’ (most likely) and ‘What the f**k are you looking at?’ (an equally distinct possibility for our Sinead). Following that, Teller set about changing the very nature of fashion photography. Featured in this exhibition is his work for designer Marc Jacobs, a tranche of work which featured Teller himself, as naked as the day he was born, flouncing about on a bed with the arch-raunch herself, Charlotte Rampling. Here, you can see Teller curled up in the foetal position clutching the hand of a serene and distant Rampling. It is this playfulness that has marked Teller out as a distinctive operator, his images both meant as a bit of fun but also raw and unabashed.
That he enjoys playing with the viewer and has a self-deprecating sense of humour is also illustrated by the exhibition’s inclusion of the many complaints he received while completing his weekly column for Die Zeit. You get the feeling that Teller couldn’t care less about the criticism. In fact, if anything he relishes it and being provocative is what sets him apart. Doubtless if there was no criticism he would have to do so something that would garner some gainsaying.
But that doesn’t mean that Teller is a sensationalist. Far from it. He does things because he likes to experiment and his very free approach brings out the experimental in his subjects, and it all makes for compelling, unusual and quite wonderful photography. (Words: Ed Spencer)