Edinburgh: National Portrait Gallery, until 30 Jan *****
Five photographers. one agency: Magnum. Eve Arnold, Martine Franck, Susan Meiselas, Marilyn Silverstone and Inge Morath are the only women to have worked for the distinguished photography co-operative founded in 1947, and they are among the best Magnum photographers of either gender. The fact that they have all broken ground in this archetypal male profession gives this exhibition real weight.
The show is dedicated to Marilyn Silverstone, who died only months before its opening. Her photographs of India, Tibet and Nepal capture two different sides to her life. Scenes of famine and political turmoil give way to later studies of her spiritual quest. Uneasy with so much social inequality, Silverstone felt she was always an intruder in someone else's life - perhaps the dilemma of many a sensitive photographer. In 1973 she was ordained as a Buddhist nun.
Inge Morath has travelled just as widely, but here the focus is entirely on her native New York with gentle, sometimes funny images of the city from the 50s to the present day. Plenty of famous names are featured. including one shot of her husband, Arthur Miller, deep in conversation with fellow writers Saul Bellow and John Steinbeck. Igor Stravinsky, Roy Lichtenstein and George Segal also appear. but this is by no means just a
Art Class, Chunking, China by Eve Arnold celebrity zone. Morath also has a feel for the humdrum street life of the city.
Susan Meiselas is a different proposition again, taking us into the violent conflicts of Central America and the twilight world of illegal immigration on the Californian/Mexican border. Her photographs and written introduction are a cry against indifference and complicity. Some of the shots from Nicaragua and El Salvador in the late 705 are adrenaline-filled. others plain harrowing.
After this anguish it’s something of a relief to move on to Martine Franck. Like Silverstone, she spent long periods in isolated communities and her series of black and white photographs from remote Tory Island, off the Donegal coast, is an intimate portrait of a hidden world. Whether it's a priest ringing a church bell or children playing on the beach, Franck catches the details that count.
Eve Arnold is perhaps the most famous of the five and her work stands out even among this elite. China in 1979 was off-limits to most Americans, yet Arnold went as an official guest. She emerged with a stunning collection of rural and urban shots. Strangely, her sumptuous colour pictures of Inner Mongolian cowboys, wrestlers and farm workers have a timelessness more often associated with black and white photographs. But, for all their beauty. Arnold does not romanticis'e the country. (Sam Phipps)
Glasgow: The Lighthouse until Sun 13 Feb ***
Speed Boots designed by Mark Fletcher
It can be hard assessing the last thousand years when you've only been on the planet for a few decades. If you're exhausted by millennial thoughts, but still feel like an end-of- year assessment, this - the final exhibition of Glasgow 1999 Year Of Architecture and Design — is a look at the 905.
So what designs define the decade of
92 TI'IEUST 2-16 Dec 1999
the Spice Girls, Starbucks and the lad mag? Curator David Redhead, who has written for publications like Blueprint and Design, has gathered more than 300 objects in an attempt to find an answer. The products span the spectrum from conventional ’designer items' like chairs to video promos, adverts and industrial objects. In shows such as this, looking at endless objects displayed in cases does pall. The draw here is the kind of game you can play. Would you choose Kwik Save no-frills packaging as emblematic of the era? Did you buy a yo-yo or a Buzz Lightyear doll? Do you use a Prince Charles approved Dyson or a conventional vacuum cleaner? Will you look back on organic food as a passing fad or a domestic revolution? Squeezing through the sheer volume of stuff, there are a number of interesting issues. How have mobile phones changed our lives? Why do we
drink designer water? What are the long-term implications of Dolly the sheep? The structure of the exhibition smartly reflects a number of the key issues. There's a section dedicated to the apparent trend towards minimalism — the desire for paring down which is almost only found in times of excess. A look at the thrust of technology entitled Faster, Stronger, Smaller, Better raises the question of where this endless ‘improvement' is leading. There's also a look at advertising, trademarks and logos and what may be the illusion of personal identity.
The most salutary section of the show, however, is one small cabinet containing some anonymous-looking green discs. The decade defined? These- are landmines, and the sight of them provides a palpable jolt. So my end of term report on the last ten years? Could do better. (Moira Jeffrey)
Glasgow: Transmission Gallery until Sat 18 Dec *inH:
In this pristine, almost noiseless space, the viewer is immediately struck by a faint hum and the distinctive odour of cleaning fluid. Transmission is dominated by Roger Hiorns's suspended ceramic vessels, issuing out soapy, elongated shapes which form and then drop away to produce watery globules on the floor. This process of self-generation sets up a beautiful effect: sexual, mesmerising and sweet. Elsewhere a mound of soap bubbles engulfs a string of wooden blocks. London-based Hiorns’s work is strange and delightful, a tranquil expression of creation and disappearance.
Similarly, the Glasgow-based artist Clare Stephenson embraces a deliberate method of fabrication. Her stencilled paper rolls sit like curious archives and feel very much like secret plans or investigations. Working in a more disturbing arena is Enrico David's sensual fashion goddesses made in needlepoint and wool. Massive in scale, they are inspired by fashion plates and, like their source, are superficial, free of identity and inert — one is seen wearing heels, gazing out in pained numbness. Showing these women as flat and constrained renders them pitiful targets.
Rooted in craft and design, these artists are engaged in their own mindful tasks. Together, they invite you to share in a moment of suggestive gestures. (Alex Hetherington)
Installation Shot: Transmission Gallery
Edinburgh: Ingleby Gallery until Sat 8 Jan *ir‘k‘k
The head of Janus sits on a slab of thick stone which, in turn, sits on a thick-girthed plinth of wood. Janus himself is carved from blue Purbeck marble. A vein in the marble runs across his face following the line of his nose. Elsewhere the marble is roughly hewn suggesting hair.
Emily Young's sculptures are monumental. Strong-faced, her heads appear to have a certain knowingness and a quietness. Even though they are contemporary, you sense their ancestry: classical sculpture, the work of Renaissance sculptors. Angel Head is, again carved from blue Purbeck marble. A thick mass of hair extends out from the head, as if it has been caught in a breeze but remains frozen in stone. Once more the grain of the marble, its blotches and veins play on the face. Young knows precisely how much to carve and polish her material without stripping it of its character. (Susanna Beaumont)