Art in Print

Will there be a Northern crystal palace?

Evidently an attempt to resonate with the glory of its near-namesake of 1851, the Great Exhibition of the North is a manifestation of George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse scheme that seems to have navigated its way through the sluice gates of Theresa May’s scepticism. Government has confirmed that it will invest £5 million (as well as £15 million for a legacy fund) in a series of events and displays that will run through 2018 in Newcastle-Gateshead. The hopes are that the programme will attract three million people and stimulate a depressed area.
 In 1951 the Festival of Britain uplifted national morale during the grim post-war era, and, with the construction of the Royal Festival Hall, began a process that would transform a bombsite into the culturally lively South Bank of today.
 But with the spread of globalisation and the ubiquity of film, air travel and the internet, we have become sated with marvels. The concept of a World’s Fair seems jejune if not redundant – last year’s iteration in Milan, headlined “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”, collapsed in an expensive flop. 
 With only 18 months to go, dreaming up an unmissable attraction – something as dazzling as the Eiffel Tower that lit up the Paris Exposition of 1889 or the Expo 67 geodesic dome – is vital. One wishes them well, but the organisers really have to pull their fingers out, and soon, if the project isn’t to turn into another Millennium Dome shambles of good intentions and political platitudes. 
Via The Telegraph

Barbican exhibition delves into 'vulgar' fashion

One of the exhibits at the Barbican show. 

What constitutes good – or bad – taste? That is the central question posed at the Barbican’s new exhibition, The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined.
 Taking in 500 years of fashion, and featuring over 40 designers, it brings together garments that were, and are, considered “vulgar”, but the connotations are not necessarily negative. Co-curator Judith Clark said: “It’s meant to celebrate, not to humiliate.”
 The exhibition presents modern-day outfits from designers such as Alessandro Michele (Gucci), Mary Katrantzou and Gareth Pugh juxtaposed with outfits from the Renaissance, French revolution and the 1920s, to show the line of influence, commonalities with fabrication and style, and to highlight the cyclical nature of fashion.
“The concept of vulgarity is always about defending class boundaries,” explained Clark. “That’s why we included the etiquette books. They take the idea of what’s vulgar, and what’s not, to ridiculous levels.”
Alongside this, there are items that have divided the taste-makers, including the Kimye issue of American Vogue, the Tom Ford editorial for Vogue Paris featuring a sexualised child model, and David LaChapelle’s portrait of a woman snorting a line of diamonds as if they were cocaine. These artefacts help contemporise the exhibition, linking it to today’s fashion climate, where designers have embraced the concept of “ugly” as an aesthetic choice, consciously moving away from notions of classical beauty. 
The Vulgar, Fashion Redefined is at Barbican, London, from 13 October 2016 to 5 February 2017.
Via The Guardian

The Joy of Reading Between Agnes Martin’s Lines

What if people do not have information on abstract painting? How does one approach an art empty of figures and evident narratives? How does one find out what, if anything, is in it for you? What does one do to make it your own? “You go there and sit and look”, is the advice given by the painter Agnes Martin.
More than 100 of her paintings are now floating up the ramps of the Guggenheim Museum rotunda in the most out-of-this-world-beautiful retrospective. Her abstract is as abstract as it gets, yet her presence in it is palpable. So is her story once you know how to read it.
View her paintings from several feet away, and their surfaces – whitish, pinkish, grayish, brownish – look hazily blank, as if they needed a dusting or a buffing. Move closer, and complicated, eye-tricking, self-erasing textures come on and out of focus. Move in very close, and you find that the surfaces are marked with hand-drawn lines, often faint but always firm, and regularly spaced, like the lines of a musical staff, or an accounting ledger, or a school notebook.
Martin once wrote a long list of jobs she’d worked since her youth, among them playground director, tennis coach, baker’s help, ice cream packer, receptionist, janitor, dishwasher, waitress, warden to “criminal boys”, and manager to “five Hindus baling hay”. Somewhere in the summing up there is a mention of art instructor, because that’s what she studied to be in 1941 at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York. A year later, at 30, she decided not just to teach art, but also to make it, to be an artists.
Agnes Martin runs through January 11 at the Guggenheim Museum.
Via The New York Times

'My nose is askew, my chin is formidable – it's me, all right' … a portrait of my mental health

“Some people close to me suffered with mental health issues and find it hard to be open about it,” Tyrimos says. “That was the initial inspiration. I wanted to do something to get people talking about it.” The artist, exhausted and exhilarated by four months of living inside other people’s heads, calls her project Bipolar Picasso. The portraits are accompanied by audio clips in which the subjects speak about their affliction, how they cope, and how they don’t.
 “The media only cover mental illness when it concerns a celebrity, as entertainment,” she says. “I want to use a celebrity-obsessed society to get people to learn about the illnesses, and to see ordinary members of the public in the same light.” And so, among famous faces such as Bill Oddie, Kerry Katona and Alastair Campbell, she has included people who are not well known. After all, when mental illness strikes, it doesn’t matter how famous you are. Celebrity won’t help.
But mental illness, and depression in particular, is not picky. It really doesn’t care if you are rich, poor, black, white, privileged or deprived, famous or obscure. It’s particularly happy to feed on introspection and self-evaluation, in people who reflect a little too much about themselves, how they compare. Over-thinkers.
 “Art is therapy, escapism,” she says. “It’s very important to have a creative outlet. A lot of people with mental vulnerabilities are the most amazing people. We should treasure them.”
Bipolar Picasso is at 5th Base Gallery, London E1, 14-19 October.
Via The Guardian