Monday, 31 December 2012

Six of the best....exhibitions

As the countdown to the end of the year begins, here is quick round-up of some of the best photography and art exhibitions I have seen in 2012. This isn't in any way a comprehensive list - just an eclectic and extremely subjective choice of those exhibitions, big or small, that have made an impact on me in some way. In no particular order....

William Klein + Daido Moriyama, Tate Modern
A huge blockbuster of an exhibition but required viewing for anyone interested in gritty urban photography and the relationship between these two giants of 20th century photography. As well as displaying hundreds of photographs from the 50s to the present day, the exhibition also charts the development of the photobook in their work and showcases Klein's experimental films and Moriyama's work in avant-garde magazine Provoke. Anyone of the opinion that black and white photography has had its day, will have their illusions shattered! You can still catch the exhibition until 20th January. Details here

New York,1954-55, William Klein

Memory of a Dog, 1982, Daido Moryama

Luigi Ghirri - Project Prints, Mummery + Schnelle
A jewel of an exhibition. Ghirri's deceptively simple images are in fact the expression of a complex interrogation of the relationship between photography and reality - 'hieroglyphs to be deciphered and interpreted' and his approach to photography is underpinned by a rigorous intellect. From the 1980s until his premature death in 1992, Ghirri turned his attention to the Italian landscape, which forms the major part of the Project Prints - medium format contact prints which he used as a tool for working on and shaping his images into a variety of changing and overlapping series. It is hard for me to put my finger on why I like his work so much but Ghirri is one of my favourite photographers, until recently little known in this country. It was a delight to be able to pore over the tiny prints, arrayed in groups around the walls of this small gallery. A book of the Project Prints is also available. More info here

From Project Prints, Luigi Ghirri

David Claerbout - The Time That Remains, Parasol Unit
Combining film and photography, Claerbout's themes revolve around the passage of time and the act of looking. His work requires the viewer to slow down, look closely and question what they are seeing. The film The Algiers Section of a Happy Moment was for me the highlight of the show - a sequence of extraordinarily beautiful stills of a football game taking place on a rooftop pitch in the Algiers Casbah. The game is paused as the men and boys feed some seagulls. It is only after looking at the video for some time that you eventually realise that the images are all of the exact same moment, but taken from many different angles of view, some high up, some at ground level, multiplying the photograph's capacity to portray a stilled moment in time a hundredfold. One of the most beautiful pieces of filmed work I have ever seen. More info on the Parasol Unit's website.

The Algiers Section of a Happy Moment, 2008, David Claerbout

Cy Twombly - A Survey of Photographs, Gagosian Gallery
Part of the Last Paintings exhibition. I had no idea that Twombly was a photographer as well and the images were a revelation. Taken from the 1950s onwards, the photographs resonate with a sense of memory, the passage of time and history - recurring motifs range from Classical sculpture, his own work, interiors, studios, landscapes, still life, often featuring fragments and close-ups of objects and flowers. The images all share a certain faded aesthetic using natural light and reminiscent at times of earlier Pictorialist photography. Twombly developed his own technique for printing - the photographs are in fact Polaroids which he enlarged and then had printed on a photocopier to give them their particular out of focus, grainy, textured quality. He called them 'dryprints' and they are quite exceptionally beautiful. I feel lucky to have seen them in the last half hour of the show before it closed for good! You can read more about the exhibition and photographs here and here

Peonies, Bassano in Teverina, 1980, Cy Twombly

Interior, Rome, 1985, Cy Twombly

Lucian Freud - Portraits, National Portrait Gallery
My last two exhibitions are not photographic in any way but both relate to the idea of the gaze. There is not much I can say to add to the wealth of material written about Freud's work. Freud ploughed his own furrow during his painting career, having little regard for the art world's trends and concepts. The paintings are the result of close and unrelenting scrutiny of his subjects, often recording a relationship, and are intense and psychologically charged. To be able to see such a great collection of works spanning his entire career, including the unfinished painting he was working on at the time of his death, was a profoundly moving experience.

Girl with Beret, 1951-2, Lucian Freud

 The Painter's Mother Reading, 1975, Lucian Freud

Girl Sitting in the Attic Doorway, 1995, Lucian Freud

Metamorphosis: Titian 2012, National Gallery
Bringing together for the first time since the 18th century Titian's three great paintings on the myth of Diana and Actaeon taken from Ovid's collection of stories Metamorphoses, this multi-layered exhibition in collaboration with the Royal Ballet and artists Chris Ofili, Conrad Shawcross and Mark Wallinger, was both fascinating and illuminating. It is always interesting to see how contemporary artists respond to great art of the past - not in a slavish way of trying to recreate the original paintings, but in a way which expresses their own individual vision, bringing the old stories alive to modern eyes. I found Chris Ofili's reinterpretation of the myth the most alluring and was entranced by the film showing the choreography of the ballet commissioned by the Royal Ballet, but Mark Wallinger's voyeuristic peep show drew most of the crowds! Truly inventive. There is a good review of the show here

 Diana and Actaeon, 1556-1559, Titian

Ovid-Stag, 2012, Chris Ofili

Diana, 2012, Mark Wallinger

Looking forward to seeing what 2013 brings!

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