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Brain Frieze: The Art Edit

It’s no big secret that I love art.  I’ve put pen to paper – or fingertips to keyboard – about a variety of art-related topics, about how my father exposed me to art from a very young age, about exhibitions my sons and I have been to, about teaching art to little ones.

So it comes as no surprise that come October every year, as a Londoner, I get this giddy feeling in my belly.  I anticipate all the works that I will be able to see, all the art my sons’ pretty little eyes will be able to take in.

It’s not all about that miniscule art fair in Regent’s Park every tenth month of every year.  Frieze, I think it’s called.  It’s about the air in London for those whole 31 days.  It’s autumn and chilly but the sun still comes out.  There’s rain, but there’s a crisp day not too far away.  There’s half-term and Halloween, but above all, there is art.  It’s everywhere, hiding under burnt-orange and red-yellow leaves, beneath the tyres of black cabs, ebbing and flowing with the Thames, splashing on brollies, lurking in old stairwells and inside gargoyles’ mouths, and hovering in Turner skies.

The Frieze Art Fair is like the patriarch who invites his entire family of galleries – the distant cousin in Bogota, the grandchildren in New York, the aunt in Beijing and the nephews in Paris – to come to town wearing their best garb and showcase themselves as if they were Prince Harry’s “crown jewels”.

And like patriarch Michael Corleone, Frieze can be intimidating.  Especially if you’re a parent with a child whose attention span is…oh, did someone say pizza?  Or if your child is having a tantrum and in so doing, about to knock over an £8,000 sculpture.  This year, while I would like to take my boys to Frieze, I think that for health and safety reasons – my health, their safety – I’ll opt to take them to the Frieze Sculpture Park, as well as expose them to art at different white cubes around town, on alternate days.

It’s good for their being, this art stuff.  While at the “Photography, Motherhood and Identity” exhibition at The Photographers’ Gallery (which runs until 5 January 2014), my six-year-old Enlai asked a lot of questions and made a lot of comments, including noting that Ana Casas Broda’s body was different than mine.  We talked about female bodies and how they may change after giving birth, and I reminded him that this is often how humans learn and make sense of the world around them – by comparing and contrasting.  And this led to a conversation about balance, about responsibility, about unconditional love.  All this from looking at one photographer’s project.

Here are some local exhibitions I think my and your youngins might enjoy:

Some sweeties for your sweeties

Pop over to Blain Southern on Hanover Square to see Candy, a show highlighting Damien Hirst’s Visual Candy series alongside Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ candy sculptures.  Children will likely appreciate Gonzalez-Torres’ candy spills made of candies individually wrapped in coloured cellophane.  They are allowed to “interact” with these candy sculptures, choosing to touch, take or eat the candy.  Hirst’s colourful paintings, two entitled “Some Fun” and “Dippy Dappy Dabby”, set out to question the implication that aesthetically pleasing art is inherently insignificant.  This, from an artist who said “…art is about life – there isn’t anything else.”

Lots of flashing lights

I took my 14-month-old Lumen to see Japanese artist Tatsuo Miyajima’s I-Model at Lisson Gallery, and he seemed completely fascinated.  Perhaps it’s because light itself is his namesake, but it was as though he was hypnotised by the glittering panels of coloured LED numbers and the connected wires that were sculptures in themselves.  We stepped into the domed “Life Palace (Tea House)” structure after taking our shoes off and sat – mesmerised – by the constellation of blue lights, with numbers glowing and blinking in the dark space.  The fact that it is highly unlikely that Lumen understood the concepts and years of research behind these pieces is no matter; he was intrigued by what was in front of him, and this is always enough for me.

A sort of anti-painting which includes painting

In all honesty, I’m eager to take my little fellas to this show, The Show is Over at Gagosian Gallery, Britannia Street, for the sheer amount of artists exhibited, several of whom are some of the most remarkable artists of the 20th century, including Willem de Kooning, Yves Klein, Roy Lichtenstein, Sigmar Polke, Richard Prince, Gerhard Richter, Ed Ruscha, Cy Twombly, and Andy Warhol.  While I imagine Enlai and Lumen might welcome the diversity of works on display, I am fascinated with the concept of the negation of painting.  These works show punctures and slashes, monochromatic planes, and anarchistic symbols, all of which aim to confront the limits of painting.

Ashy phones and radios

Similar to the relics our children may have witnessed at the British Museum, Daniel Arsham’s ash- and glass-cast treasures – Polaroid camera, film projector, radio, Mickey Mouse telephone, microphone, and locks – provide an entry to conversations with our precious little people about history, civilisations, technology, and materials.  A relatively small exhibition by Arsham, who is a sculptor, painter, filmmaker and architect, #recollections at Pippy Houldsworth Gallery also includes a life-size cast of broken glass and resin of himself.  He looks like a contemporary version of a petrified Pompeian who is shielding his eyes from something.  I will ask Enlai if he thinks he was shielding his eyes because he was appalled by the threat of technology, was he making a gesture of denial about what was happening around him, was he trying to pause for a moment to make a mental note of all his surroundings, or was the sun too bright that day and he forgot his sunglasses.

Tutankhamen’s tomb and cloth sculptures

There are not one, but two exhibitions worth taking the munchkins to at Annely Juda Fine Art just off New Bond Street.  Yuko Shiraishi’s Signal show features eight paintings and the installation “Netherworld”, the latter of which I’m most enthusiastic to expose my boys to.  Inspired by the thought that death and stars are related, and influenced by the structural design of Tutankhamen’s tomb and the cycle of a star’s life, she created the installation – placed in a closed off section of the gallery, which is tinged in blue to resemble the night sky – to depict the numerous layers in an Egyptian tomb.  The early works of Japanese artist Katsuhiro Yamaguchi are on display in Imaginarium, his first show in London.  A member of Experimental Workshop, whose philosophy was to treat experiment as if it were as important in art as it is in science, he wants viewers to interact, even involuntarily, with his works, which in this show include light sculptures, cloth sculptures, vitrines, drawings, photographs and videos.

Human and computer collaboration on abstract paintings

In a space between analogue and digital lives Jeff Elrod’s art practice.  His show at Simon Lee Gallery, which includes large-scale abstract paintings, explores late 20th century abstraction and the emergence of sophisticated software and print technology.  His pieces, with such titles as “Sock in the Eye”, “Orange Julius” (oh, the memories of having an Orange Julius at the local shopping mall are rushing back to me!) and “I Can’t See Neon” include blotches, scribbles, doodles, spots, flecks, streaks, sprays, and frazzled lines.  I imagine my boys will be inspired to create their own versions of Jeff Elrod pieces, minus any help from technology.

An electric alphabet soup

My sons will have no idea of the history, the three years behind Shannon Ebner’s The Electric Comma show on at Sadie Coles HQ and a parallel project Black Box Collision A which is on view at the gallery’s mews location, but they don’t need to.  While my little guy is being exposed to letters in books and my older guy is busy studying for spelling tests, I think they’ll both appreciate and feel a sense of familiarity with Ebner’s letters and words.  The show features six black-and-white photographs depicting portions of The Electric Comma, which began as a 13-line poem, as well as a video that animates photographs of the portable changeable message sign (usually used to inform of accidents, road closures or detours) the artist rented, taken in 15 different positions over the course of one day.  Black Box Collision A is made up of 13 large-scale photographs of the letter ‘A’ which were found on walls, vehicles, electronic surfaces and building façades.  I think Enlai and I will attempt to come up with words or cities or countries that begin with the letter “A” for each of the 13 photographs.

Pop goes the art show

There’s something in this exhibition – Pop Imagery at Waddington Custot Galleries – for every child.  The group exhibition of painting and sculptures by such artists as Patrick Caulfield, Claes Oldenburg, and Robert Rauschenberg includes objects easily recognisable to children, including flags, targets, maps, colour pyramids, robots and a giant meatball on a spoon.  I’m guessing it might be a bit tricky to keep small hands off of some of these pieces.

Category: Art, General, Reviews, This Parenting Stuff


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