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Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Blockbuster & Bugger All


This post has absolutely nothing to do with April Fool's Day beyond the fact that the first item is a very suitable one for April 1st. Actually, it would have been even more apt had I left until the end the fact that the exhibition which forms its subject closed ten days ago!

The exhibition in question is the one shown in my first image. there are (or were!) five rooms. The next five images cover the whole scope of the exhibition, depict all the exhibits... at least, I think they do, for some reports have said there were five rooms, but others have put the figure at nine. It's all most confusing. It could well be that there should be another four images like the five I have included. Speaking of which... you are not mistaken and there is no malfunction. The photographs are empty. The exhibition was called Void. It was staged at the Pompidou Centre in Paris and was a retrospective.

"Whose retrospective?" I hear you ask. Wrong question. The exhibition catalogued the fifty year history of the art of absence, of nothingness, of the minimal carried to the extreme, to the point where it ceases to exist. Did I say catalogued? Ah, well, that reminds me: there was a very expensive, glossy catalogue produced to go with the exhibition. More than most people would be willing to pay for most catalogues, I guess, so it must have been something special! You've guessed it... blankness abounds!


Top of the bill was Klein. You probably remember him. He staged the first ever Void show, snappily entitled The Specialisation of Sensibility in the Raw Material State into Stabilised Pictorial Sensibility, the Void. That was in 1958. Three thousand people queued round the block (guess that's why they called it a blockbuster) to pass through a blue curtain into an empty room.

However, visitors this time were considered more deeply. They did not have only the empty whiteness of the rooms to meditate upon, they were also treated to silent music as they made their way between the absent exhibits.

My apologies for delaying the posting of this piece (peace?) until after the closure, but you have no need to worry, it is going on tour and will be coming to a gallery near you!




My other piece of news is that on this coming Sunday The Whitechapel Gallery in East London is to reopen after a two-year closure, during which it has been extended in to what was a library next door and extensively refurbished. To mark the occasion it will launch four exhibitions. My post concerns one of those.

The Whitechapel has a proud history of staging what have come to be seen as iconic exhibitions. Notably, it is still the only British gallery ever to have brought us Picasso's Guernica. Some would say it is about to cap that by exhibiting Picasso's tapestry of the same subject. The tapestry normally hangs in the U.N. building in New York. It was commissioned for the U.N. by Nelson Rockefeller. It is the same size as the painting, but many who have seen both, believe it to be more impressive, being less colourful and therefore more starkly dramatic. Others who know both the painting in Madrid and the setting for the tapestry in the new Whitechapel, say that the latter offers the great advantage over the former of being able to approach the work directly from the front and to being able to approach it closely or to move away from it.

40 comments:

Aniket said...

Its both fascinating as well as sad Dave. Art is really dying in this modern age and there are voids being created everywhere. But thankfully we have you out here, so we don't have to stare at nothingness.

I'll make sure to visit the Whitechapel, if I ever get an opportunity.

jinksy said...

From your first photo, I see the walls appear to have been painted; the whole exhibtion was therefore a tribute to the painter's art - just an alternative kind of painter! x

Louise said...

Love your post about the Void Exhibition! It does seem like an April Fool's joke! L

Louise said...

PS I miss not living in the East End any more and being able to stroll into such wonderful places as the Whitechapel on a whim!

Karen said...

Nothingness - a void - the absence of...something. I wonder if one has never experienced beauty, can he or she know there is a void? Same for love, or anything else for that matter. Does our soul thirst for something anyway?

I've said it before: you always make me think. Thanks for that.

Do you know how long the tapestry will be in Whitechapel?

Janette Kearns Wilson said...

I just love the "process" of making art so "Void" would certainly be so I understood Cage's 4.32 min.(or whatever the time span was)It did in the end turn out to be interactive....and it was a very long time ago....bewildering?

Midlife, menopause, mistakes and random stuff... said...

Oh Dave Prince and I have been to the WhiteChapel Gallery and WOW that tapestry is fantastic!! Do you know how long it will on display there? We are coming over to London later in the summer and I'd so love to see it!!
Your Void exhibit......lovely. I don't always get some interpretations do you?
Your's, I get. You have an amzing way with words :)

Steady On
Reggie Girl

Stephen Dell'Aria said...

Of course there is also Kasimir Malevich's White on White and Robert Rauschenberg’s -erased deKooning drawing- but even those offer some residue of the idea and concept behind them to look at. I’m afraid I’d ask for my money back if I was charged to enter Void. The concept is not engaging enough to be of interest, too anecdotal, like a quip or something.

A Cuban In London said...

Hooray for the Whitechapel reopening! I've only been there once (and by accident) but was fascinated by the building. Many thanks for the good news.

On the emptiness of art, or art's emptiness, or art being empty, or how do we empty art? (there that could be the title of my exhibition, and I don't even know how to hold a paintbrush!) there's so much that has been said (unsaid), I wouldhave loved to see (or not see) the exhibition you mentioned. But obviously I would stopped at buying the catalogue (non-catalogue).

Many thanks for a most wonderful post.

Greetings from London.

Derrick said...

Hi Dave,

I saw the Whitechapel news item on TV the other evening. There was also news that the Scottish Portrait Gallery will close for two years for extensive refurbishment, allowing the current 60 per cent of the building to increase to almost 100 per cent use.

I don't think I'll bother with the Void exhibition if it comes up here to fill the gap!

John Hayes said...

It does seem like absence is a worthwhile subject-- as a poet speaking-- but for absence to have any meaning (I think) there has to be a context of presence or at least the possibility of presence. "Silent music" & blank walls, seem to exist outside of any meaningful context.

If this were an April Fool's, tho, it'd be a good one.

willow said...

The Picasso tapestry is fabulous. I would love to see it in person.

Artist Unplugged said...

The first topic sounds like a whole lot of fuss about nothing! I love the Picasso tapestry, thanks for the info.

Frances said...

The words 'King's' and 'New Clothes' come to mind!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Oh Dave - this made me laugh out loud and destroy the silence! I suppose we are in the realms of John Cage's "I have nothing to say, and I am saying it, and that's poetry". I wonder what kind of expression you would have on your face as you walked round the rooms - would it be serious/thoughtful; flabbergasted or what?
Re the Guernica Tapestry - isn't it wonderful. I saw it on the news last night and read about it in The Times.
Glad about the South Downs becoming a National Park.

Helen said...

White ... of nothingness ... where it ceases to exist ... sounds like a description of death ...

Lady Glamis said...

Wow. This is sadly true.

Delphine said...

Love your sense of humour!
The real art is amazing-sorry i have missed visiting, but have had a bad weekend!

Conda V. Douglas said...

Oh my, the one thing I can say about the voids--made me look, made me read, made me think. Perhaps that's the whole point?

Jenn said...

Whitechapel sounds like an amazing place to visit! Not sure about the Void exhibit, seems odd but I suppose that is what makes art, art because certain things will appeal to some and not others. It is all interesting though!

Tabor said...

I cannot get my mind around the void exhibit. But then, I am pretty much a traditionalist.

Sarah Laurence said...

If only that exhibit were a joke. Should I put away my paint brushes? That makes me mad- what a total waste and it gives new art a bad name. Good April 1 post and comments.

Annie said...

Jack,

You had me there for a moment! I refreshed your page three times before I realized the "void" was intentional. I'm still smiling over your wonderful posting. It so reminds me of an exhibition of Agnes Martin's "work" at a Houston art museum and my husband's reaction to same.

There were two identical, giant paintings hanging in the main exhibit hall. You guessed it: they were totally void (white.) A young man sat in front of one painting, staring intensely. My husband leaned over and said to him in a loud voice, "You are looking at the wrong painting; the other one is more interesting."

Linda Sue said...

HA HA HA HA- rascal...

Mark Kerstetter said...

This reminds me of two things. One, the "Fart Show" I saw in SoHo, consisting of Fredrix prestretched canvases smeared with a single color of paint with the word "fart" fingerwritten on them. Two, the deluxe book devoted to Ad Reinhardt's black paintings. Now I like Reinhardt, and even the black paintings, but they are nearly impossible to reproduce. Every reproduction in this expensive book looked like a completely black square. (You'd think this sort of thing would be done and over.)

Art Durkee said...

And now the extended dance remix of John Cage's 4'33".

Wait for it . . .

Wait for it . . . .

Dave King said...

Aniket
Whitechapel is usually well worth a visit. It was the first gallery to bring us Pollack -uuand quite a few others.

Jinksy
Indeed, you are quite correct: all the rooms were painted white. Only the EXIT signs and FIRE notices stood out.

Louise
I agree it does smack of April 1st. I, too, miss not being as close to LOndon as I once was. (I lived in the suburbs)

Karen
Can you appreciate something or its existence without having experienced its opposite? Interesting question. Could keep the philosophers going for years, I should think!

Janette
I'm bewildered - if that helps.

Midlife, menopause, mistahes and random stuff
I understand it is going to be in London for a year, but I don't know if that means at The Whitechapel for that long. Probably not.
I would hav e been with you in the queue for a refund!

Cuban in London
I believe the exhibition was quite costly to enter. I think I would have spent the fee somewhere else.

Derrick
No, voids are not very good at filling gaps!

John
That's a good point. Absence is a rich vein to mine when it comes to poetry. I don't see it enriching the visual arts to the same extent, though.

Willow
Me too.

Artist Unplugged
Fuss about nothing. Right! Sounds like a Shakespeare play.

Frances
Don't they just.

Weaver of Grass
On second thoughts, perhaps it would have been worth forking out for the "Void", just to study the expressions on the faces - and maybe overhear a comment or two. Good thinking!

Lady Glamis
Not to worry. I'v missed a day, too. Thanks for stopping by now.

Conda
Mmm, but creatively? Perhaps, but I'm unconvinced.

Jenn
Whitechapel certainly is an amazing place.


Tabor
You and me both, I guess. It kind of made realise just how much of a traditionalist, I am.

Sarah
No joke, alas. A con, maybe, but not a joke.

Poetic Artist said...

Whitechapel. We all have our place in art where we only see white and sometimes that can be peaceful.
Thanks again,

Dave King said...

Annie
Very pleased you took it that way, though I must say that that was not the intention. I did n ot mean to bamboozle anyone. (When I planned the post I hadn't even realised it would be April 1st it would go up.)

Oh, that was absolutely wonderful. I wish I had been there. What a great sense of humour your husband has. Thanks for sharing that.Linda

Linda
I'm just finding my feet!

Mark
It does seem to be the case that the more voided a work is, the more difficult it is to reproduce. I wonder the security people and the B ank of England (for example) haven't got on to that yet.

Art
Got it! I really enjoyed that! Thanks.

Poetic Artist
... or for some of us it's black... Than ks for the coment.

Lynda Lehmann said...

An art of the void....hmmmm. Since art uses our sensory apparatus and engages the creative impulse in the making or perceiving of something that didn't exist before, I think the phrase "art of the void" might be an oxymoron. The silence or emptiness of it may cater to the senses on some level, but the void has always existed. We are, each of us, one heartbeat away from the void.

Poetikat said...

Brilliance, or madness? I'm not sure. It certainly allows for much interpretation.

Kat

Adrian LaRoque said...

Great Dave!

San said...

I saw Guernica (the painting) back in 1980 in MOMA, NYC, before it traveled back to Spain. I didn't know about the tapestry.

The VOID exhibition. Takes the concept of negative capability to the next level.

Dave King said...

Lynda
Yes, it's a form of (negative) found art, I suppose!

Poetikat
Could be somewhere inbetween, d'you think?

Adrian
Thanks.

San
My understanding is that you saw it under the most favourable conditions - better than those available in Madrid.

The next level... well, maybe, but I just wonder if there's another beyond that!

Jim Murdoch said...

It is amazing what people will buy into. It also shows that you can pretty much market anything. I would have though this kind of thing would have had its day back in the sixties.

I did think once to 'write' an empty poem but I couldn't think of a clever enough title.

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