Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child

This new account of the young Brooklyn artist was on at the Film Forum in New York last month. We were lucky enough to see it on its last day.

An official selection for the Sundance Film Festival this year, The Radiant Child sets itself apart from earlier biopics (eg Julian Schabnel’s) portraying the artist’s life. Interviews with Larry Gagosian and Annina Nosei among others, quintessential in the nurturing of the artist, capture a striking image of innocence and fragility. Davis uses yet unseen footage of a rare interview with the artist. With minimal focus on the artist’s lifestyle and suicide ,which seem to have largely defined our perception of him, instead there is a stress on the production and content of his art. Despite his clear prolificness, contemplation and intellectual reckoning define Basquiat here, replacing my earlier view of him as stylistically haphazard.

I am not certain when or where the film will show here, nonetheless it is available from next month on Amazon.

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Nothing is Forever

South London Gallery


Still my favourite exhibition space, the South London Gallery celebrates its
expansion with a series of wall murals by internationally renowned artists. The
pieces are diverse and engaging, ranging between the political vibrancy of
Sam Dargan and the sheer playfulness of Lily van der Stokker. 
Robert Barry’s conceptual  Telepathic Pieces lists five contemplative
statements which address both the solidarity sensed by exhibition goers and the 
redundancy of large artistic statements in communicating with the viewer:

A secret desire transmitted telepathically
A volitional state of mind transmitted telepathically
A particular feeling transmitted telepathically
A particular emotion transmitted telepathically
A great concern transmitted telepathically

The changeful architecture unifies the theme of transition and impermanence: at the end
of the show these works will simply be painted over.

Black Hawk Down, Fiona Banner

Sam Dargan, A Brief and Idealistic Account of the Paris Commune

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Alice Neel

Whitechapel Gallery


A unique collection of social realism best describes Neel’s depictions of 20th Century America on show at the Whitechapel Gallery. A contrast to the emotional detachment dominating the mid-century art scene, Neel grapples openly with the flaws in post-industrialized metropolitanism, expounding them in works such as Ninth Avenue El (1935). Moreover, her studies embrace introspection; the pains of motherhood and loss clearly addressed. The most striking for me was Futility of Effort (1930), a draining response to the loss of her first child to diphtheria. Her rendering, verging on caricature,  and use of heightened primary colours reiterates the subjectivity that drives her creations. The success of this is evident in her depiction of Joe Gould: his genitals are not only engorged but repeated, parodying the vanity that she recognized in the sitter.

Unknown for the best part of her career, Neel’s collection maintains an authenticity and continuity despite its time span. However, her growing success and accompanying self-confidence is clear in the gradual increase in canvas size and fluidity of brushwork. It is reassuring to see an artist, constricted by issues of gender and social duty, refusing to submit to trends, instead waiting on them to submit to her.

9th Avenue EL 1935




Futility of Effort 1930


Joe Gould 1933

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This online exhibition space presents the youngest and freshest photography off the press. 

Lewis Chaplin and Alex Webb use a harsh selective process to filter through the hundreds of applicants they receive daily from around the globe. There are some really great things up there, which I look forward to seeing in the flesh in their first physical exhibition this fall. 

‘Our motivation for establishing fourteen-nineteen was the lack of young people realising their work physically,’ says Webb. This space certainly showcases the promise of our generation, filled with flavour and originality. 

The rapid sell out of the website’s first accompanying book, Minus Five, pays tribute to its popularity, with a second due to be released shortly.   

Watch this space. 





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A Useful Dream

Cape Town, Essop Brothers

BOZAR (Palais des Beaux Arts)  

26.06.10 – 26.09.10  

As part of the Summer Program, Visionary Africa which celebrates 50 years of independence for several African countries, BOZAR is hosting a photographic retrospective of the Dark Continent. Exclusive to native artists, the show addresses the issue of identity with which the Africa has struggled after years of smothering colonisation. A Useful Dream allows us an insight into an Africa emancipated from colonial stereotyping, be it negative or positive. Moreover, we see beyond the politics which has branded our perception of Africa for too long.  

Nevertheless, the beautiful images still show traces of Americanization: dance classes, sports cars and western pornography. Thus a lingering insecurity confronts the celebratory note of the exhibition, forcing us to ask the same question as the photographer: what is modern Africa?  

The images are powerful and varied, offering us 50 years of challenging historiographical evidence. My favourite is the work of Pierrot Men.   

Mtethwa Zwelethu

Sad Eyed Model, Ricardo Rangel

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La Pesanteur et la Grâce (Gravity and Grace)

Collège des Bernardins, Rue de Poissy, Paris

After a gallery blitz yesterday, my last but favourite encounter was with this exhibition in the Cistercian University, curated by Eric de Chassey. Housing works by Marthe Wéry, Callum Innes, Georges Tony Stoll, Emmanuel Van der Meulen and Emanuele Becheri, the curator explored the ongoing dialogue between the abstract and the spiritual. Not a new concept by any means, but here the key achievement lay in the very nature of the foundation: non-profit making and aiming as much as to avoid elitism, it liberated de Chassey  from the demands of creating an allure for the Parisian public. Thus whilst the abstract paintings and constructions are demanding, the meditative application of paint does not alienate the audience. Instead the viewer must reckon with the contemplative nature of the setting, using the works at hand as a point of departure. Each artist engages individually with the materials, yet because their response are not pre-determined the product is elementary, personal yet equally accessible. Callum Innes treats his monochromatic canvases with turpentine, creating an image just outside the realm of total control. My favourite piece is his Untitled 35, where the monochromatic sections isolate a trace of red paint, creating a repose between the extremities. The balance between the weight of reality’s pressures (gravity) and the fragility underlining the constructions (grace) is remarkable.

If anything, visit this exhibition for the space alone.

Innes, Untitled 35, 2009

Stoll, Random Constellation, 2010

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Kseniya Simonova

I came across this on YouTube. It’s not exactly new, winning Ukraine’s Got Talent last year, but it is pretty wicked. Look out for 4:00-4:30 in particular.

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