An impromptu whistle stop tour of a few of Mayfair's galleries this week ended in a truly wonderful discovery.
I began at Simon Lee where, the Texas and New York based artist, Jeff Elrod was holding his first UK exhibition and it was nice, I can't think of much more to say about it. Big, nice, aesthetically pleasing canvasses that play with your sense of perception as depth is created by blurred digital backgrounds with lines and squiggles on top.The works look good, they are fresh, big and visually interesting - in that you can look at them for a pleasant amount of time, drifting off. They felt childlike, but maybe that's because my 3 year old makes these on my phone all the time, and I was momentarily excited by the thought that, all though they looked like digital prints, maybe he had in fact hand made them, thus making them quite extraordinary...but no, they were mostly just blown up digital works Photoshopped with some man made touch-ups. To be more precise they are hand drawn pictures that Elrod has created in the old fashioned way, in a notepad, and he has then scanned them and then blurred, distorted and drawn on top to create new, abstract images. I was curious as to what the original hand drawings were of, for about 30 seconds... Perhaps I am being unfair, their scale and presence was engaging and they did have the required energy for a notable exhibition and I like the idea that they are the culmination of multiple works and developments, they would be a great addition to a collection, as are undoubtedly very of our time and well executed. My frame of mind just needed more drama, something to wrench me out of a domestically induced state of sedated apathy. Regretfully I wasn't to find this at either of my next two visits, Ali Silverstein at Bischoff/Weiss and someone, obviously very important, at Sprüth Magers.
Ali Silverstein at Bischoff/Weiss 25 September - 16 November 2013
Ali Siverstein offered a feminine contrast to Elrod.
Large, soothing, calm canvases made up of layered, hanging, dyed materials and watery print or paint. They are sensuous labours of love and have the human touch in abundance. It was like a subliminal conversation with mother earth, reminding me that intense emotion can be contained beneath beautiful calm, just not by me. Subtle, considered, tactile, they had a richness I found lacking in the more clinical feeling digitized Elrod's, most likely because I am an emotional female. They ooze a physicality, refreshing in their obvious hand crafted nature, feeding back to a nostalgia of things crafted. I was comforted, which was a step in the right direction,but I was not ignited.
‘From Wings to Fins’, an exhibition of Color Field paintings by Morris Louis and new work by Cyprien Gaillard.
Then on to Sprüth Magers, another important gallery off my list of exhibitions I MUST see all the time if I am ever to be taken seriously in the art world. In I nervously crept, waiting to be blown away by this...Needless to say it didn't take me long to look around. A couple of colour field paintings by the 1960s American abstract artist Morris Louis were a treat, these things need to be appreciated in isolation, which they were, and gave me a chill of some kind of dark nuclear apocalypse. The other work of rolled up magazines in boxes by Cyprien Gaillard interested me little, all though he must be important because the press release stated Hans Ulrich Obrist had discussed his work...I did make am attempt to find out more about his work when I got home but Google images search results of his name just bought up loads of pictures like this... ...which I found interesting for all the wrong reasons. It would appear his lovely face is more important than his work, well it is very lovely, in fact maybe I shall revisit this artists ouevre .
Finally I decided to turn my back on the glitzy contemporary galleries and search out a fascinating older dealer I had met at Frieze Masters. He had some amazingly original and unique work by an artist from the 1920s called Federico Beltran-Masses. This huge piece in particular caught my eye, it was like David Bowie meets Cleopatra. If I am correct it was painted in 1924, which made it quite extraordinary to me. Brazenly depicting some kind of homo erotic, androgynous fantasy whilst Communism, Fascisim and Surrealism where the main focal points of the day. Theatrical and bizarre, I loved it and walked to 38 Dover Street with excitement. On ringing the door bell and ascending the grand staircase to the gallery, I was in fact led into a room filled with this... ...and this...
...and this... ...and this...
I was excited, finally blown away, tube fare justified. The two rooms I walked into were astonishing. These huge, meticulous, bulbous forms pulsating from the canvases. Now I am not much of a Fontana girl, kind of a "you've seen one you've seen them all" sort of a man to me, but these were obviously in the same generation but had so much more to say. They really do seem to breath. They are incredibly tactile, balloon like forms. They have a weird fetish, space age thing about them. They are what a lot of contemporary art is lacking for me, and that is they are really interesting to look at and experience. This was Bonalumi's first exhibition in the UK for 50 years and tragically he died in September before the opening. I felt genuinely blessed to experience his work in this quiet setting. I have no doubt his pieces are set to soar in price and he surely has to go down in art history not merely as a contemporary of Lucio Fontana , Piero Manzoni and Enrico Castellani but as a major visionary in art as sensory perception. What we are seeing here is a leap into changing the use of the canvas by abandoning subject, and instead using simple colour and form to effect our senses.
I returned home to find out more about him and see where his art was selling. It would appear that presently his worth is only really being noted in Milan with a piece selling this week for 100,000 euros over its estimated guide price. Such a shame that typically the artist's true worth comes after their passing. Sad too that so few people got to experience the fantastic exhibition at Robilant & Voena, certainly the opportunity to see so many of his works without the distraction of bustling crowds has passed along with this true master. The photographs represent nothing of the splendor of these works, so seek them out in galleries and museums, as Bonalumi so perfectly puts it "Beauty has to be experienced, not described"