19.1.13

words

I seem to continually pick up on accidental themes when checking out art. Recently I've seen a stack of work related to words and/or text - perhaps its the didactic nature of words i've been craving.

Whatever the reason, it's all about the letters.

John Latham and the APG at Raven Row.



I first saw works by John Latham at the Whitechapel library/reading room about 3 years ago. It was his series of works on books and i remember being relieved that art subverted books, whilst revering them and that writing and the written word still had a place in art.

i also discovered the Artist Placement Group - artists that believed in being embedded within 'society' - organisations, workplaces, schools, etc, etc, that the concept, process and open engagement of an artist's life was the crux of a practice worth investigating.*

Raven Row hosted a retrospective of the Group's work, which I only found out about on the day of a sound performance by David Toop. Phew!

I didn't get to see too much of the show, but I did get a chance to see some great posters and text by John Latham and his placement at the Scottish Office, some beautiful fifty (currency) prints by Barry Flanagan, the impressive steel sculptures/industrial interventions of Garth Evans and the great TV Interruptions installation/videos by David Hall, connected to his Scottish TV connection. 

The David Toop performance itself was great. An improvisation piece - it quite an intense work that was like a freight train through my skull at some parts. I closed my eyes the whole time and it was just immense. It featured a variety of instruments, found objects, electronica and vocal distortions (which reminded me of Alice Hui-Sheng Cheng in Australia). Documentation from his placement at the London Zoo was shown in the exhibition.



Ian Hamilton Finlay at Tate Britain



I have always cringed at the term concrete poet. In the same way I have cringed at the term music concrète. And I cannot tell you why. There is something hard and horrible about the word concret that neither poetry nor music holds. But that's my thing and I need to get over it.

Especially because, as a concrete poet, Ian Hamilton Finlay was quite a joy to discover. He makes words into things. He makes objects into words - plays with the relationship betweent the two and I like  the sign/signifier relationship, even if it's passé to most other artists of my era.

A series of works/words in the main gallery hall, there were installations which played upon severity of The Message (as an idea in itself) his large hanging stone 'tablets' The World Has Been Empty Since The Romans is in equal part reassuring and ultra depressing. Crumbling and precarious, the Words are only just held, they're swaying, like some kind of odd bling around the old building's nave.



Then there were his monuments to plaques. These odd, flat columns/pedestals holding flat plaques - taken off the walls for which they were seemingly intended and bringing them into the gallery space, making them discreet objects and Art. Not just a salutory relationship between words and art, but more significant than that.

I also loved his display of worded tiles, prints and other text ephemera. Perhaps for the same reason I love John Latham - an artist embedded in the written word and beautifully designed things - tiles and nautical natures.

I hadn't heard of Finlay before this exhibition (I'm pleading foreigner, before you jump down my throat), so I'll have to do some more research on his work.


Lawrence Weiner at Tate and Lisson Gallery



I didn't manage to get to the Lisson Gallery show, but I put it there to show that Larry was big in london for about a month. Crossing East and West, yo.


When i saw them they were apt, as words. And I quite enjoyed that you see them only if you're walking up the stairs between floors. A series of nonsequiturs, but in big, bold and blue text. I'm not sure if that's quite in the spirit of the nonsequitur, but that's what the words themselves - the meaning of them - feel like.

Some of them hit a spot with the slightly vulnerable zombie I was impersonating when I saw them. Others are not in their finest form. I can say that I have seen Weiner's that have wowed me more, but I enjoy being slightly disappointed sometimes.


Whilst their presence in the Tate Modern is quite an afterthought, though. Which is possibly intentional. I suspect the Lisson Gallery is a whole lot more Front and Centre.


Mel Bochner at Whitechapel

I saw this show so many times - en route to the cafe, the auditorium, other shows and by the end I kind of liked it and kind of hated it.

If I'm honest, I didn't really like a lot of the text works - large letters, squished in and a little overdone.

However, I did really enjoy a work about measurement - numbers, rather than words - as significant elements. The series of coloured canvases that stretched across the gallery wall, all of various sizes, and their widths painted across the work. All the works, lined up to present a continuous linear measurement of the space, according to the individual measurements of the paintings. And as you walked through the space, it was like a Wes Anderson tracking shot, almost following you through the gallery.


Which is sort of how I felt about my relationship to these words works that I kept running into. Like text and words and clarity-of-meaning were following me, peering into my soul a little and nagging me to work out what it is that I really want to say.




*I still believe this and wish that I could continue doing this to the level they have. I have had a little success, here and there (with the AURA project and a workplace residency), but still a way to go.

2 comments:

CJ Hurst said...

Ian Hamilton Findlay is no longer with us but if you ever get the chance in the Summer months his garden at Little Sparta is very well worth a visit http://www.littlesparta.org.uk/

lauren said...

thank you Mr Hurst! I saw that Findlay had passed on, but that link it exactly the kind of thing I'd like to check out.