Keeping the Festival in the picture


JOSEF ALBERS: PRINTS 1 9 1 6-1 976

Edinburgh Printmakers, until 22 Sep 00

Galleries often presume that art has the power to communicate, unfettered through the mists of time. Somehow we, the reluctant inhabitants of our dysfunctional present, are apparently blessed with the power to communicate with the dead voices of artists from the past. I found myself thinking this as I stood blankly staring at one of Josef Albers’ prints at the Edinburgh Printmakers Gallery. I found it impossible to engage with this work, time having insured that both of us shared nothing more than muteness.

Albers, a one-time member of the Bauhaus whom Kandinsky admired and supported, wasn’t, of course, always thought of in this vacant manner. As a pivotal member of Bauhaus, Albers would have been involved in the attempt to transform the structure of social life via the absorption of some of

the key features of modernisation: rationalisation, standardisation and repetition. Taking their lead from the processes of mass manufacturing being pioneered in the United States, by Ford for example, such ideas were regarded by the Bauhaus as exemplary models for reorganising the patterns of social life in the wake of World War I. If Dada had been a byword for art and life in chaos, artists like Albers looked to resurrect order and planning as a route to social and personal


Walter Gropius, the architect and director of the Bauhaus stated that the institution’s program centred on forging ‘a new unity between art and technology’. Albers’ art embodied the Bauhaus ethos of simple, structural, logical design, typifying Gropius’ belief that ‘standardisation is not an impediment to the development of civilisation, but on the contrary, one of

its immediate prerequisites’.

Albers’ prints, like his paintings, are paragons of



lnverleith House, Edinburgh, until 14 Oct .0000

Seeing this exhibition is a bit like meeting a famous actress who is shoner or whose complexion is not as flawless as you‘d imagined. The exhibition. like the actress. is more ravishing despite those flaws. In reproduction. Ruscha's paintings have an irresistible force: page after page of paintings that go pow! At first hand. the brush strokes. lines of aerosol, and bleeds where masking tape was removed make the works unforgettably real.

Ruscha's trademark style is to overlay wry commentary on stunning backgrounds such as toxic Californian sunsets and night skies. For lnverleith House. Ruscha shows a selection of his most recent works: painting of mountains scripted with anamorphic texts in his unmistakeable font or. in Ruscha's own words. his ‘boy scout utility modern' font. He paints the mountains as if seen in brutal sunlight. all blue and black. and white with

Paragon of Bauhaus design: Homage to the Square, 1969

Bauhaus design, simple, structural and logical. The main repeated motif of his refined palette is the square, which is juxtaposed against differing fields of colour in infinite permutations. The prints now read as decorative, tasteful and polite; robbed of any of the radical fervour they may have once possessed, it’s difficult to connect these works with an ambitious plan to reorganise social life through art.

I’m sure it’s a comforting thought to believe that all

art can speak beyond its age, and that this ability is a

testimony to its greatness. Of course some pictures do retain a power and majesty, but perhaps these are fewer and farther between than is generally accepted. Albers is a good case in point. As his work is so emblematic of the Bauhaus call to order, and an artistic ideology with discernible social goals, it might have been better if the gallery had provided slightly more

additional information. Sometimes dead art needs a

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helping hand to live again. (John Beagles)

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snow. But the mountains are not the thing:

it‘s Ruscha's ear for American

language that makes the works come

together with a click like a closing box.

Like a mechanic in a Hal Hartley film. he turns phrases like ‘WALL

ROCKETS and 'ELEVATOR OIL‘ into poetry. The effect is of something we

have remembered or else dreamed of.

driving along Sunset Strip to the Chateau Marmont.

Ruscha’s tradea slscried with anamorphic text

He is careful not to slip into sentimentality. As a riposte to the glorious mountain works. he shows small scenes of nature. punctuated with blanked out threats. He positions phrases drawn from reports of [A gang violence. including ‘IT'S PAYBACK TIME' and ‘YOU Wll l. EAl HOT LEAD'. over landscapes of palms and cool water. We cannot read the statements. but we know they are there. (Sarah Lowndesl

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The best festival art

I Rembrandt’s Women Revealing the women in Rembrandt's life and his unique depiction of the female form, a major exhibition of paintings, intimate sketches and etchings drawn from collections around the world. National Gallery Of Scotland, until 2 Sep.

I Chris Cunningham Don’t miss Chris Cunningham’s two extraordinary video works flex and Monkey Drummer. Compelling, violent. humorous and not for the faint-hearted. Edinburgh College of Art, until 26 Aug.

I Ed Ruscha Another five star review for the seminal Los Angeles Pop artist Ed Ruscha’s hyper-realist paintings of snow- capped mountain ranges. encoded with his trademark cryptic text. See review. left. lnverleith House, Royal Botanic Garden, until 14 Oct.

I Jeff Koons: Easyfun - Ethereal While not a patch on his quirky sculptures, Koon’s playful paintings developed from computer collages are still worth a look. Fruitmarket Gallery, until 75 Sep.

I Sebastiao Salgado: Migrations A compassionate portrayal of the world’s population of refugees by Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado. City Art Centre, until 2 Sep.

I Sean Scully A Scottish debut for the internationally renowned Dublin-born artist Sean Scully featuring oils, watercolours. pastels and etchings. lngleby Gallery, until 15 Sep.

I Serizawa - Master Of Japanese Textile Design A cornucopia of exquisite design by Serizawa Keisuke utilising traditional stencil-dyeing techniques. Royal Museum, until 4 Nov.

I Roland Penrose and Lee Miller Shedding light on one of the most fascinating artistic partnerships of the 20th century, the Penrose and Miller exhibition is a must-see. Dean Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art, until 9 Sep.

2;; Aug i; 80;) mm THE LIST FESTIVAL GUIDE 49