Monday, August 01, 2011

Shock at the White Cube

As I have never been to a Chapman Brothers exhibition, this show at White Cube came as quite a revelation. Critics are talking of the 'same old, same old' but for a virgin viewer the shocks were strong, the implications and influences stark and ironic. The basement gallery at White Cube Mason's Yard is peopled by life-size (well slightly larger than life to me) mannequins dressed in Nazi storm trooper uniforms, performing an explicit sexual act in one group, being shat on by a pigeon in another, or peering at the artworks on the wall, specifically engravings which had been 'enhanced' bearing all the marks of being Goya's Disasters of War. Then you suddenly remember Hitler's Entarte Kunst (Degenerate Art) exhibition held in Munich in 1937 and sure enough you find an image which links these two far apart exhibitions.

But the difference is that the Chapman armbands are 'smileys' and the faces and hands are black with ravaged skin on the face which looks almost maggot eaten.The room is crowded with these hideous presences and it is disturbing but arranged in such a way that nervous laughter is near the surface. 

Also interesting to me was the ground floor gallery with 47 constructions on plinths. Most were made of painted cardboard and reminded me at once of the constructions of Peter Lanyon, my dissertation topic. As one piece of work it was beautifully curated, being arranged to create a totality of view. The brothers worked separately, so the work only came together in the gallery. It is not important who made which, but with these it is quite clear that separate artists have a different approach, some being quite roughly made and others more meticulous.
A visitor to the exhibition was interested in buying one of these sculptures and didn't understand that it was one piece.

So as a Chapman Brothers newbie, I have to say I was impressed. But then, what do I know?

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