PAINTING CHRISTOPHER WOOL - CROSSTOWN CROSSTOWN
Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee, Sun 6 Apr-Sun 8 Jun
Writing in Arfforum, the art writer Dave Hickey once described New York painter Christopher Wool as ‘the anxious vicar of 805 painting, obsessed with manners, morals and dress codes’. With all this 80s revivalism around, though, this sounds like a recommendation rather than a sneer. The forthcoming exhibition at DCA is the first major UK show of Wool’s work, so what can we expect to see?
‘The show will focus particularly on the relationship between photography and painting,’ says curator Katrina Brown. ‘Wool has increasingly employed photography as a tool in his work and it has become central to his practice, so we’ll be exhibiting a huge collection of photographs, around 150 Polaroids and 180 black and white prints, alongside a selection of 15 large-scale paintings from New York and Berlin.’
The paintings, some of which are up to 9ft by 6ft, date from 1995 right up until the end of 2002, and none of them has been seen before in the UK. They demonstrate how Wool has constantly sought to re-invent the medium of painting, experimenting variously with stencilled, spray-
MIXED MEDIA MAD or Lbno BYRON
painted, silk-screened, over-painted and paint- rollered works. Stylistically, they lie somewhere between ‘the scale and vitality of abstract expressionism and the slick, detached cool of pop’.
Some of Wool’s best-known works, however, owe more to street and pop culture than the intellectual pursuits of the avant garde painter. With references ranging from hip hop grafﬁti and George Clinton to Francis Ford Coppola and Raoul Vaneigem, it is the urban environment outside Wool’s New York studio that remains his biggest creative catalyst.
‘Wool’s work is absolutely rooted in an urban context and the photographs reﬂect this,’ says Brown. ‘They are images of incidental moments, doorways and grafﬁti, but they really give a sense of how the paintings came about.
‘Downtown New York is graffiti- clad, and Wool is interested in this
BAD AND DANGEROUS: THE CULT
National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, until Mon 26 May
Byron the rebellious raconteur. the prurient pariah. the literary luminary. the hypersexual deViant or as Caroline Lamb suCCinCtly put it. ‘mad. bad and dangerous to know”.
Phew — what a guy Byron seems to have been. Not only is he credited with influenCing European poetry. muSic, novels
and opera but also as the template for the modern cult of celebrity. As the exhibition's numerous portraits and recollections reveal, Byron was not shy of self-publicity and his melancholic good looks became the standard demeanour that other writers emulated and the public
worshipped. Even Byron's chOice of shirt became a must-
The exhibition also highlights Byron's continuing influence
on modern celebrities such as James Dean and DaVid
Bowie. and although some of the links seem a mite stretched. there's at least no Darius connection. After vieWing the exhibition, you would be forgiven for thinking that it was merely his risky sexual procliVities and his style of dress that
won him so much fame. Barely anything of the man as a poet is revealed which Ieavesthe exhibition extremely one dimenSional unless you are so duped by celebrity that image is enOLigh to please Or you
Minor Mishap, 2001
idea of this kind of mark-making.’ Whether or not Wool will make a mark on DCA remains to be seen, but this debut solo UK show is a rare opportunity to see the ‘anxious vicar’ for yourself - it would just be slovenly to miss it. (Susannah Thompson)
How to tether a penguin
WILLIAM SPEIRS BRUCE - THE FIRST POLAR HERO Royal Museum, Edinburgh, until Sun 1 Jun .000
It was the greatest trial for explorers of the 1900s. the ultimate challenge that called hardy Edwardians to test their mettle against the high seas and ice caps — an expedition to polar regioits. With moustaches frosting and huskies panting. the race was on to stake a flag in the icy extremes of the earth. And it is Shackleton. Scott and Oates i‘l may be some time'i who we think of. With their tales of adventure and Suffering. as the piOneers. But there is a hero closer to home: one Dr William Speirs Bruce in particular. This quiet man. who'd made Edinburgh his home. forged a steady path to the poles and is celebrated belatedly in this exhibition at the Royal Museum. History hasn't been kind to this fellow. He lacked the panache and good PR sense to send him spinning into the imaginations back on mainland Britain. but this exhibition is a fine attempt to give him his rightful place within the exploring tradition. In a nice mixing of old and new. a narrative develops. showmg you old photos of the men With penguins. bottled samples of sea creatures. sketch books from the
are a major Byron fan and can look at his image while his w0rds and yOur fandom carry you away.
l Isabella Weir)
George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, by Richard Westall, 1813
84 THE LIST 2? Mar—10 Apr 2003
voyage. examples of their clothing and all displayed in beautiful. modern. cold green glass. Curtains of silver chains shimmer like ice and geide y0u rOund the diSplays vrath atmospheric hush.
You feel that maybe Bruce w0uld be a little bit embarrassed at all the attention. but maybe feel a little bit pr0ud. too. (Ruth Hedgesl
In our regu/ar column. a team or lill'stery artists give their thoughts On the current art scene,
FAIR ENOUGH? Words: Artbug 0
Spring has most definitely sprung and so too has the build up to this year's Glasgow Art fair. The event for me has invariably been tinged With disappointment and served only as a reaffirniatioii of the stagnant state of the Scottish art market. Past fairs have featured predominantly cominerCial galleries crammed Wide and high With works for sale. It's been rare to stumble on a space where work and placement had been considered.
Last year this changed for the better With a larger space dedicated to two cutting-edge COntemporary art spaces. the CCA and Tramway. This year the Organisers have developed their commitment to innovative art even further by the lllCIUSlOll of a contemporary paVilion dedicated to seven organisations ranging from established spaces to grass roots organisations.
This commitment is admirable and one that should be Supported and encouraged if the art market in Scotland is geing to have any chance of competing on an international level. You need only to look to the fair's European ceiinterparts to see just how much catching up Scotland needs to do »- they w0uldn't dream of Sidelining a Jim Lambie for a Jimmy Robertson. Scotland is producmg some of the finest. innovative. young artists and it seems tragic that this isn't reflected in the market.
But the problem lies at a deeper level where perceptions need to alter if Views are to change. The average person feels complacent towards contemporary work with many finding it aloof and elitist. This isn't helped by the intimidation felt by many upon entering a contemporary gallery. These barriers have to be accepted and identified and significant steps taken towards changing perceptions through education and information if the Scottish art market is ever to stand a chance of full bloom.