Viewing modern art Poetry and Dream exhibition.
Also whilst visiting the Tate in London I found myself drawn to the Poetry and Dream exhibition due to the name, as it sounded as though the art could be very interesting and imaginative in a non classical way. When looking at the art in this exhibition, and thinking about the themes it was clear to me that the pieces that stood out to me had a real connection with at least one of the themes if not two.
The displays in Poetry and Dream show how contemporary art grows from, reconnects with, and can provide fresh insights into the art of the past. The large room at the heart of the wing is devoted to Surrealism, while the surrounding displays look at other artists who, in different ways, have responded to or diverged from Surrealism, or explored related themes such as the world of dreams, the unconscious and archetypal myth. These displays also show how characteristically Surrealist techniques such as free association, the use of chance, biomorphic form and bizarre symbolism have been reinvigorated in new contexts and through new media, often at far remove from the intentions of their pioneers.
Here a few of the artists that caught my eye:
Marcel Mariën – Star Dancer 1991
Born in 1920 – Deceased in 1993
Marcel was a Belgian surrealist and later became a Situationist, and put his hand to many things as he was, a poet, essayist, photographer, collagist, filmmaker, and maker of objects. However, Marcel was not only an artist, but also a publisher, a bookseller, a sailor, a journalist in China and an elaborate Surrealist prankster. Being a surrealist he followed the tradition of making unexpected combinations of objects to reveal hidden or poetic meanings. In Star Dancer (above), the addition of a toy shoe creates a visual rhyme between a starfish and the leg of a dancer. I found this picture compelling as you can picture the starfish as a ballet dancer leaping from side to side of a stage, and when bringing in the themes you can see the spectacle of the piece as something strange, as the shoe looks as if it should be on a Barbie doll. I think it is a memorable piece of art but for me it’s more powerful in the memories it brings back to me as a little girl playing in big shoes, pretending to dance and playing with dolls and putting there shoes on other objects to make them come alive.
Man Ray – The Lovers 1933
Born in 1890 – Deceased in 1976
Man Ray was an American modernist artist and spent most of his career in Paris. He was a significant contributor to the Dada and Surrealist movements, although his ties to each were informal. Man also produced major works in a variety of media but considered himself a painter above all. The Lovers, 1933, editioned replica 1973, consists of a rolled lead sheet with the outline of lips painted onto it. A loop of rope extends from one end, suggesting a head, while two other sections of rope, linking the two ends of the lead sheet, complete the suggestion of a body. Love was central to surrealism, and this work is an expression of the group’s fascination with, and devotion to, a concept of love that embraced desires, dreams and philosophical meditations on the nature of reality. I was drawn to this piece also in the same display as Star Dancer, as I thought it had a very powerful message in that love represented by the lips, something so soft can in fact be hard. Also that love can be strong either in the sense that it is a strong bond that cannot be broken, or strong in the sense that it is so powerful it can be dangerous and deadly, as when I see the thick almost noosed rope I see suicides and broken hearts. This piece is powerful due to the hard materials used and the signals it send out.
Karel Appel – Questioning Children 1949
Born in 1921 – Deceased in 2006
Christiaan Karel Appel was a Dutch painter, sculptor, and poet, he started painting at the age of 14 and was one of the founders of the avant-garde movement Cobra in 1948. Appel prepared the surface of Questioning Children by nailing discarded pieces of wood to an old window shutter. The vibrant colours and roughly-painted figures recall the spontaneity of children’s art. CoBrAartists believed that such unconventional sources could re-invigorate post-war culture. In the same year Appel also used the title Questioning Children for a controversial mural at the Town Hall in Amsterdam, which was condemned as incomprehensible, and covered over with wallpaper. There is a note of tragedy in these works as the Dutch title also means ‘begging children’ and evokes scenes of poverty that Appel had witnessed in post-war Germany. At first I was drawn to this piece as again like Star Dancer it evoked my inner child, with all the bright colours and child like paintings, but after reading the above which was displayed next to the piece I was overcome with sadness, as I then saw the powerfulness of the picture. Having looked at it a second time after reading the description I could see and almost hear deprived children with innocent and confused faces asking why they are in this position, this piece quickly turned from happiness to sadness with just a second glance, this is what I call powerful.
In this exhibition there were some other displays that caught my eye as they were big and bold, either making a spectacle of the room or portraying a powerful message.
Jannis Kounellis – Untitled 1979
Mike Kelley – Channel One, Channel Two, and Channel Three 1994
This is what each channel looked like inside, there was a intriguing build up waiting in a queue wondering what it was you could see, and then almost a disappointment once you did look, this is one of Kelley’s traits ‘ Kelley’s work confronts the viewer with unexpected associations and sabotages expectations, often to tragicomic effect.’
Joseph Beuys’ installtion Artist Rooms this is one of them I saw. this was breath taking as it was almost the whole height of the room, it had all to itself making me feel very small and insignificant, what a spectacle!