Coarseness vs Delicacy

Absolute Beach Man Rubble

Yesterday, I came home with mixed feelings as a result of visiting two galleries in London which are now showing artists with opposite approaches towards art.

“As an artist, I work a lot on gut reaction. If you have a physical reaction to something, it has a power over you; like an old mattress in the street that makes you recoil at its horribleness. My work is about mobilising that.” Sarah Lucas, Harper’s Bazaar Art supplement November 2013

The YBAs Sarah Lucas is on show at Whitechapel Gallery, in East London, with works from the 90s to her recent cast bronze sculptures. The exhibition, it is fair to say, is very entertaining: you don`t get bored, unless you get bored with seeing too much penises… It seems to me that the main and only theme that has driven her whole career is that: penises, breasts, sex and toilets. Quite disappointing. She is interested in the animal side of humankind and, to be honest, she betrays a childish approach to human body: melons, oranges=breasts; banana, cucumber=penis, etc… She is an artist, she could think harder and longer to get something a little less obvious. Or, maybe, that is the whole point of her art. I have read somewhere that the 1990s generation is not about intellect but emotions, and here it is the proof. Sarah Lucas provokes a lot of emotions, but mainly unpleasant: dirty and old mattresses, nasty toilets, shabby couches, disgusting food, plinths made of scrap and disagreeable images of herself. She is ubiquitous throughout the exhibition, she herself is her own work of art. But again a clichĂ©-ridden image of an artist: the hackneyed unhygienic, drunk, smoker, excessive, I-do-not-care-anything and I-do-whatever-I-want type of artist. Contemporary art is really tricky as no longer are skill, talent, quality, beauty, intelligence, meaningfulness essential features. The other day, I was reading about Eddie Peake, a young British artist who first attracted attention through his work Touch, a naked five-a-side football match at the Royal Academy Schools. That makes me think nowadays artists have to do the most outrageous thing they can in order to get attention, coverage and eventually fame. Hard times. Coming back to Lucas, and to finish with something positive, she is really good at making the most of the visual and texture features of materials especially tights. Her sculptures with contorted and interlaced limbs made of stuffed tights really evoke something very similar to human flesh and produce a strong contrast with their bases, made of concrete blocks. Her recent sculptures are a shiny cast bronze version of the stuffed tights, which is a novelty, as bronze doesn`t fit in the poor and daily-life material category, Lucas’ favourite.

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Afterwards, I headed off to Victoria Miro’s new gallery in Mayfair where I found the Zen moment I needed after so many penises and revolting toilets. I was speechless at what I was seeing there, Yayoi Kusama’s most recent White Infinity Nets. The new gallery, sheer ultra white walls which do not touch the wax-finished wooden floor, seems to be the perfect place to look at these extraordinary paintings. These consist of a net of white arches over a grey or dark blue base. This seems pretty straightforward but the result is stunning. The quantity of paint applied on each arch can vary, so, sometimes, the picture is completely flat or, on the contrary, it evokes movement underneath the net. The artist explains that the Infinity Nets, a recurrent subject along her career, refer to the hallucinations she has had since her childhood in which she sees through a net of dots that covers all her visual field. Whatever the case might be, the texture quality and visual impact on the spectator are overpowering. You can linger around taking pleasure in the delicacy and patient which Kusama has made the paintings with. The last piece is a fragment of real life, a dinning room which has also been covered with Kusama’s hallucination, an all-over white infinity net. Just brilliant.

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I am wondering if SANAA had the same hallucination when they where working on the project for the IVAM extension in Valencia…


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