Saturday, January 24, 2009

MA visit to Tate Modern

As there was no lecture this week Sarah Sutherland very generously brought tickets for the MA cohort to see the Rothko exhibition at Tate Modern. I spent a good deal of time in the 'Black and Gray' room contemplating two of the works that I particularly like. Giving them the extra time was well worth it - the longer I looked the more I saw. The subtleties of tone and brush stroke began to emerge and the paintings took on a greater depth.
Several other galleries were explored and favourite works revisited. I'm very keen on Elsworth Kelly, especially his early works, and could spend hours viewing 'White Curve' (1974) from different angles and enjoying its apparent changes of proportions and the way the lighting affects the surface of the white painted aluminium.
The work of Joseph Beuys gave much food for thought, though I did find the height at which his felt suit was displayed rather distracting. The vitrines (Untitled 1983 - right) were of special significance to me as I have recently been considering collections and their display in museum/gallery spaces, also their link to the work of Andrea Gregson. Vitrines always put me in mind of looking into tombs or reliquaries at the remains of saints.
Untitled 1972 - Copper, enamel and aluminium - by Donald Judd was visually stunning, with an almost pulsating glow emanating from within. I was interested in the two quite different pieces of writing that accompanied this piece. On the official label was 'industrially fabricated to eliminate any trace of the artists hand and bring out the innate qualities of the material' which are indeed beautiful. Beside this was an Artist's Comment by Thomas Demand - 'However to me it also represents a cenotaph - a metaphor for an open grave.' Two quite different takes on the same piece but I can see the relevance of both.
In the Surrealism galleries it was Untitled 1979 by Jannis Kounellis that really drew me to it. I've enjoyed it before but somehow this time it seemed even more poignant, the jackdaw and hooded crow, that have been seen as symbolising the death throes of imaginative freedom, appeared more tragic than ever.
Thirty Pieces of Silver, 1988-9, by Cornelia Parker is a piece that I have seen so many times in books but had never seen in the flesh when as I expected it is so much more powerful and being able to move around it (if only on two sides) brings more than just a different angle to view it from. All of the pieces of silver have been abused by flattening them with a steamroller but they have been further traumatised by the drilling of holes to attach the suspension lines. The pieces are literally a shadow of their former selves and it is often the shadow, cast on the floor, that gives the clearest indication of the original state of the piece. Again I have the interest in the display of materials, this work would have looked inappropriate in the Silver Gallery at the V&A but here it is viewed in quite a different way. I am also interested in the effect of the suspension lines,in some pieces they can become obtrusive but here they are grey and barely catch the light becoming more like a veil on reality.

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