Posts Tagged ‘Tate’

Art | Surfing Over Manhattan

Friday, March 28th, 2014

No Title (Here and there), 1995
Pen and ink on paper
Private Collection, New York




Are Your Motives Pure?
Raymond Pettibon Surfers 1985 > 2013
Venus Over Manhattan
980 Madison Avenue
New York City | USA
3rd April > 17th May 2014

Stylistically, Raymond Pettibon’s work stems from comic book art, but has little in common with that of Roy Lichtenstein. Besides, much of its content: American history, literature, sports, religion, politics, and sexuality, doesn’t celebrate the images thrown up by capitalism, but rather, is his very personal critique of contemporary life, through which, according to his biography on the Tate’s website, he [seeks] to redefine attitudes toward values in art and culture. He does, however, have super-heroes: the sea is one of them, of which across the top of No Title (The sea, the), 2005, in uncompromising capital letters he writes:

‘THE SEA, THE MOUNTAIN-RIDGE, NIAGARA, AND EVERY FLOWERBED PRE-EXIST, OR SUPER EXIST, IN PRE-CANTATIONS, WHICH SAIL LIKE ODORS IN THE AIR, AND WHEN ANY MAN GOES BY WITH AN EAR SUFFICIENTLY FINE, HE OVERHEARS THEM, AND ENDEAVORS TO WRITE DOWN THE NOTES, WITHOUT DILUTING OR DEPRAVING THEM.’

and the lone surfer is another, of whom on the same painting, below, he scrawls:

‘He is the person in whom all these powers are in the balance, the man without impendiment [sic], who sees and handles that which others dream of, traverses the whole scale of experience, in virtue of being the largest power to receive and impart it.’

No Title (When the surf), 2008
Private Collection via CFA Berlin, Armonk, NY


Akin to the rantings of some Bible-belt preacher, Pettibon’s enigmatic messages often appear almost biblical in tone – and, in presentation, the word / picture ensembles are reminiscent of the work of English painter, engraver and mystic William Blake (1757>1827), who claimed that most of his work as a writer and artist was done under the direct inspiration of spiritual guides. Could Pettibon’s inspiration rise from a similar source? Well, no, the press release for this exhibition, informs us that his prolific output of drawings and paintings stem from the ‘do-it-yourself’ aesthetic of Southern California punk rock album-covers, concert flyers, and fanzines. His brother, Greg Ginn – Pettibon is a pseudonym– was a founder member of West Coast punk band Black Flag, founded in the late 70s. Pettibon, himself, who briefly played bass in the band, came up with its name and designed its logo. However, feeling that the negativity of punk ruined a lot of people’s lives, his heart was never in it, but he retained his links with the music world, designing the cover of Sonic Youth’s album Goo, in 1990.

Much of Pettibon’s visual output looks like the work of someone who never went near an art college, nor sketched a nude in a studio, which is a correct assumption to make – self-trained, he graduated from UCLA in 1977 with a degree in economics, beginning his working life as a maths teacher, before launching his career as an artist – but then you’re taken aback because the drawing, while not on a par with Leonardo da Vinci’s dexterity, exactly, is often fluid and well-observed. On the other hand, the execution can verge on the primitive, and so perhaps Pettibon’s is a kind of idiosyncratic folk art like graffiti – you can almost imagine it appearing overnight scrawled across the walls of an underpass, or the previously pristine screening erected around the construction site of some shiny new high-rise development.

No Title (This left was), 2012
Pen, ink, colored pencil, acrylic, gouache and collage on paper
Courtesy Venus Over Manhattan, New York


It’s unsurprising to find that Pettibon is a serial tweeter (@RaymondPettibon), and here the themes that are integral to his paintings, continue. Unsupported by visuals, his splurge of cryptic, political and sexual statements take on a curious life of their own, and might constitute an ongoing separate body of work. Recent Pettibon tweets include:

My liiver’s fine.How’s yr concience?Fine.Bcuzz u are a sociopath.Swell.
I’m patriotic.I jerked Obama off.
Teach yr children to disrespect cops,stand up to the pussies.They are wicked.
See the Pandas.
!0.5K followers?More than Jim Jones had at Jonestown.
My elbow tube sock.Easy access.Call the shots.

Venus Over Manhattan’s show is the first exhibition to focus exclusively on Raymond Pettibon’s surfer paintings. Are Your Motives Pure? Raymond Pettibon Surfers 1985-2013, brings together forty works spanning a quarter century of the artist’s career. Somewhat contradictorily, it takes its title from the earliest work on view, painted in 1987, but who, in what might be Pettibon’s parlance, gives a f*ck! The artist, born in 1957 in Tucson, Arizona, who lives and works in the beach town of Venice, California, is, however, not a surfer, nor does he consider his paintings ’surfer art’ – as typified by much of the very much slicker examples to be seen on websites such as Club of the Waves.

No Title (The sea, the), 2005
Ink, oil and watercolor on paper
Courtesy Venus Over Manhattan


Since Pettibon’s emergence as an artist in the 1980s his work has been exhibited widely in the USA and internationally. Recent solo exhibitions include David Zwirner Gallery, New York (2013), the Kunstmuseum Luzern, Lucerne (2012), Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna (2006), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2005). His first American museum presentation, organized by The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago in collaboration with the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1998, travelled to The Drawing Center, New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

A participant in numerous group exhibitions worldwide, including at the Istanbul Biennial (2011), Liverpool Biennial (2010), SITE Santa Fe, New Mexico (2010 and 2004), Venice Biennale (2007 and 1999), Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2004, 1997, 1993, and 1991), and documenta XI, Kassel, Germany (2002), his work is held in the permanent collections of, among others, the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris,Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Tate Gallery, London; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

Pettibon is represented by Regen Projects in LA, and Sadie Coles in London.


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Art | Alex Katz: Immediate, Present

Friday, August 31st, 2012

Alex Katz
Timothy Taylor Gallery
London, UK
5th September – 5th October, 2012

American painter Alex Katz, admires David Hockney’s public graciousness and sense of self. Qualities that Katz in an interview with Martin Clark, artistic director of Tate St Ives for Tate Etc. magazine, the text reproduced in the Timothy Taylor Gallery’s elegantly-designed catalogue, reveals himself to possess by the bucketload. (See the Tate Shots live interview here)

What struck me in September 2010, when I first saw his work – yes, I know: how could I not have been aware of it before, when 2012 marks his 85th birthday, his paintings are in at least 98 public collections throughout the world, he has had countless solo exhibitions, globally, and been included in an endless series of mixed shows – stumbling across his National Portrait Gallery show, was its supreme stylishness. After all, here was an artists who had painted a huge close-up portrait of Anna Wintour – incidentally, the first portrait she has ever consented to sit for – without her, up until about then, omnipresent dark sunglasses. Although Katz admits to being interested in style and fashion I felt a sense of this portrait having being produced by a painter obsessed with neither: someone who knows all about style but is not of the style cogniscenti. During the interview, Katz tells Clark that to him ‘the surface is the whole thing’, however, as I’ve learned, there is nothing superficial about the processes he goes through and the history of the development of his approach to his paintings and subjects that could, in any way, be interpreted as shallow.

In my ignorance of who Katz was, my first impressions had been that here was someone who had seen Hockney, whose work at various stages has a similar, primitive feel about it – and had applied techniques possibly borrowed from illustration for his own purposes. I thought he might be British and perhaps one of the generation of the illustrator/artists who emerged, post-Hockney, from London’s Royal College of Art that included figurative draughtsnman Adrian George, brilliant colourist Glynn Boyd Hart (1948-2003) and maybe even Paul Leith. Instantly drawn to Katz’s work, I couldn’t have been more mistaken about its provenance.

In fact, Katz, whose parents were of Russian origin, and who grew up in Queen’s, emerged in 1950 from art school where he had produced detailed drawings of classical sculpture and painted from life, into a hysterical New York where the new heroes of abstract expression, Jackson Pollock and Barnet Newman, were throwing everything up in the air and riding a wave of popularity. Enjoying the parties and the jazz, Katz nevertheless had no inclination to err from the figurative direction he was set on that earned him an early popularity with the pop artists, who were just starting to appear. Instead Katz, who had nevertheless begun exploring the properties of flatness in representational painting turned to Mark Rothko and Yves Klein for inspiration and through the consequent reduction processes he applied to his own work, discovered a profound depth comparable to Pollock’s seemingly endless, multi-layered distance.

Alex Katz: Give Me Tomorrow is running until 23rd September at Tate St Ives, before transferring to Turner Contemporary in Margate in October, and shows a cross section of work spanning the artist’s six-decade career. Katz’s most recent, large-scale intimate portraits of family, friends and still lifes of flowers purchased from street vendors near his New York studio, are self-evident of the artist’s mastery of his medium. Seventeen of these have been selected for London’s Timothy Taylor Gallery show. In them can be detected traces of Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keefe and perhaps Andrew Wyeth, but Katz’s influences have often been strongly European: Picasso, Miro, Matisse – some of the same artists Hockney looked and may still look at – as well as earlier painters such as Watteau and Rembrandt, for gesture and composition. The big painting was an American idea, asserts Katz – perhaps unconsciously ignoring Monet’s great Waterliles triptych, measuring 2.1m x 13m (7ft x 42ft) in total, which had so inspired the New York abstract expressionists. Physically demanding for one so advanced in age, Katz’s works, though often huge in proportions – he was at the time of the Tate Etc. interview preparing to produce a 6.1m (20ft) wide, white on white, painting – are all done in a single day, all preparatory drawings and paint mixes having been finalised beforehand. His paintings could never be called impressionist but he likes to capture the immediate present, which this series of UK exhibitions are certainly doing for him.

Alex Katz paintings from top
White Roses 8 (large), 2012
Vivien, 2012
Gavin, 2012
All paintings © Alex Katz/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY, USA.
Courtesy, Timothy Taylor Gallery, London

Alex Katz photographed in 2004 by Vivien Bittencourt
©Vivien Bittencourt

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Auction | Modern & Post-War British Art

Friday, October 28th, 2011


Modern & Post-War British Art

Sotheby’s, London. Evening Sale, 15th November, 2011

Exhausted. Broke. Britain, after Hitler’s war was a barren and desolate landscape. But while the rest of Europe rapidly recovered, rebuilding both their shattered cities and economies, Britain lagged behind, its population having to endure food rationing – that had begun in 1940 – until 1954. The country’s economy never really got going again until the latter half of the 1980s. It might be surprising and seem ironic then that a group of paintings, drawings and sculpture representative of the prodigious output by British artists from the post-war years, together with others from the 21-year inter-war period – itself dogged by unemployment and poverty, and hit hard by the 1929 Wall Street Crash – are expected to reach a combined total of £7.2 – 10.8 m ($11.9 – 17.3m) in this forthcoming auction at Sotheby’s, London.

Born in 1878 – well before WWI during which he was a war artist – master-draughtsman, Augustus John’s, David at the Table portrays the somewhat idealised image of a haggard though handsome, wild-eyed young man in work clothes sat slumped at a plain table on which one senses there is no food and might not have been for some time. Generally considered to be the most famous British artist of his day, John himself was never short of money or commissions, however he cultivated a bohemian image inspired by his admiration for the lifestyle of gypsies. Perhaps the bluntness of Laurence Stephen Lowry’s painting, The Cripples (Political Argument) executed shortly after WWII comes closer to reality. Along with other Lowry’s it is also included in the sale.

Bridget Riley, born to middle-class London parents in 1931, would have been eight years old when war broke out in 1939. Raised in the relative safety of the west country, she was educated at Cheltenham Ladies College before coming up to London to study at Goldsmiths then at The Royal College of Art. Her signature, disorientating Op Art painting style matured at the beginning of the 60s with which it and she became synonymous. At a time when the younger generation, anxious to escape the dullness and squalor of the 1950s, living in the shadow of the Cold War and of the possibility of a nuclear holocaust, experimented with hallucinogenic drugs, these paintings were said to inspire audience participation. Becoming disillusioned when her style was exploited for commercial purposes, Riley abandoned it in favour of pursuing ideas concerned with colour, in so doing backing away from the limelight. She was fifty-one when she painted the strikingly linear Praise 1 at the dawn of the 80s.

The same age as Riley, Frank Auerbach, whose gaunt work, Head of Gerda Boehm, among others is also included in the sale, was born of Jewish parentage in Berlin. Sent to England in 1939 to escape Nazism, his mother and father remained behind and perished in concentration camps. Young Frank was evacuated to Shropshire but ended up attending London’s St Martin’s School of Art and going on to the RCA, where he and Bridget Riley were contemporaries.

Painter, William Roberts, started out as a poster designer and studied at the Slade; leaving the school in 1913 he travelled in France and Italy and fought in the trenches during WWI, the sheer horror of the experience, as with many other artists who went to fight, significantly changing the direction of his work. Roberts was one of the signatories to the first issue of BLAST, the short-lived literary magazine of the Vorticist movement in Britain. He developed an interest for representing and interpreting the predominantly working class elements of metropolitan London’s everyday life and events – visits to the cinema, the dancehall but treating them with dignity and humour. Roberts’ painting:s The Boxing Match, produced between 1919-25 and The Barber’s Shop, circa 1946, along with Bath Night, 1929, are all in this sale.In contrast, Barbara Hepworth’s Mincarlo: Three Curves with Strings, created in 1971, only four years before the sculptor’s death and, although small in size – only 16.5 cm high, excluding black, polished stone base – is unashamedly extravagant and luxurious in use of materials.

Hepworth, from Wakefield in Yorkshire was born in 1903 to middle class parents and died in 1975; her adulthood spans much of the scope of this sale. Aged 17, not long after the Great War ended, she went to Leeds School of Art before being accepted at the RCA, soon becoming well-connected to the up-and-coming art cognescenti including sculptors Henry Moore and John Skeaping. Marrying the latter, the couple regularly exhibited together to great acclaim but drifted apart and separated in 1931. Soon after Hepworth met Ben Nicholson whom she was later to marry and to form a long-standing creative relationship with in which together they moved into abstraction. Both artists benefited enormously from forging links to the continental avant gardists – Picasso, Mondrian, Brancusi – and from those artists who fled Europe and came to England prior to WWII – Gabo, Walter Gropius, Moholy-Nagy. When the war began Hepworth and Nicholson relocated to St Ives in Cornwall where they continued to work and succeeded in their efforts to attract international attention. In the 50s, after divorcing Nicholson, Hepworth confirmed her reputation as one of Britain’s major artists producing two sculptures for 1951’s Festival of Britain and retrospective shows in Wakefield and at London’s Whitechapel. Both the 50s and 60s were good to her; Hepworth’s international stature grew. She was awarded the CBE and later, the DBE. She had a further retrospective in 1962 at the Whitechapel, became a trustee of the Tate and had a retrospective exhibition there in 1968. Barbara Hepworth died in St Ives in 1975 – her studio and garden there are now a museum administered by the Tate – after a long battle with cancer. Celebrating her achievement and named in her honour, 2011 saw the opening of the Hepworth Wakefield gallery in her home town.

Sold earlier this year through Christies and significantly surpassing its estimated sale price of £70,000 – £100,000, ($112,980 – $161,400) selling at £145,000 ($236,612), the Mincarlo: Three Curves with Strings, sculpture is of 18 carat gold (Apparently, the best gold you can get for making precious objects, 22 carat is too soft). Deep in the current world recession, apparently far worse than that of the 30s and in post WWII Britain, and as gold prices head towards $5,000 (£3,127) an ounce, curiously in Sotheby’s Modern & Post-war British Art sale the estimated price for this piece exactly matches the earlier Christie’s estimate.

Works from top
Bridget Riley, Praise 1, circa 1981. Estimate £150,000-250,000
Augustus John OM, RA, David at the Table. Estimate £20,000-30,00
Dame Barbara Hepworth, Mincarlo: Three Curves with Strings, 1971.
Estimate £70,000-100,000
Frank Auerbach, Head of Gerda Boehm, 1971. Estimate £180,000-250,000
William Roberts RA, The Barber’s Shop, circa 1946. Estimate, £70,000-100,000


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