Saturday, January 14, 2006

Clemente & Acconci

With one eye one the future gentrification of the King’s Cross area, Britannia Street now houses not only the huge museum-style space of Gagosian which launched a few years ago, but also the slightly less huge but still rather swanky warehouse/industrial style Kenny Schachter Rove gallery. At Gagosian the smell of money is so strong that the art itself often pales into insignificance. The entrance features a long line of finishing school Prada-drones typing away at their flat screen monitors, and a bookcase stacked with catalogues that had got to be 15 feet high. Really, it’s ridiculous.
Who better then, to adorn the walls, than Franceso Clemente, a big money painter who is synonymous with the 80s and appears to still be around. This exhibition is based around self portraits (as is the vast majority of his work) that see him portrayed as variously, a parrot, a buddha, headless, crazy man etc etc. The “idea” being that human identity is multifaceted. I don’t recommend thinking about that one too deeply but the paintings themselves are weird entities. Large scale (of course) fairly loosely painted in bright palettes that are almost Steiner-school in their symbolism. Much as I know I ought to hate them, I must confess that this guy kind of makes it work. His drawing is strong, hard edged, and pointed enough to take some of the sloppy New Age vibe out of the equation. And it takes some nerve to be so casual with the handling when big dollars are at stake. I guess this is why it worked so well in the 80s painting boom in the first place, and in fact they did remind me a little of Ashley Bickerton’s work purely by virtue of their boldness (I guess you could say “cohones”).
Across the street things are more exciting, with the return of Vito Acconci, or rather his conceptual architectural practice Acconci Studio. Just like any other architectural practice, they dream up fantastic and ridiculous proposals that don’t stand a chance of being taken up a by a client. The difference being that because of Acconci’s status as pioneering performance artist and all round creepy-guy they occasionally manage to secure arts funding to actually construct something. On display here are a selection of proposals rendered as large circular wall panels, computer graphics mixed up with hand written descriptions that outline schemes such as a city of spherical halls, or a self contained snail shell that clamps onto the exterior of trains or buildings.
It’s all great fun but I wonder what it amounts to? There’s a general reference to issues of personal, private and public spaces. There’s some kind of attempt to grapple with real issues, but what it lacks is a link to real people and real places. It would work better if these were proposals in response to a real brief – like real architects. But I guess it’s in the tradition of groups like Archigram and to a certain extent its very status as art is dependent on its socio-historical isolation from real communities.
At the far end of the gallery is a sculpture from 1981 “Fan City”, which it is possible to manipulate to produce tent like structures covered in words like “junkies” or “queers”. Large, cumbersome, completely like nothing else, this not only connects Acconci’s early and late phases but also operates as an utterly un-assimilatable object in its own right. Which I reckon is a good thing.


Anonymous canvas art said...

Sounds like its all happening.

3:36 pm  

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