Galleries - June 2012

Alexander Calder Alexander Calder (1898-1976) remarked that he avoided 'symmetry at all costs'. In the exhibition of his goauches and tapestries at London's Crane Kalman Gallery (map 22), the mobile asymmetry of his kinetic forms – in an audaciously attenuated palette – is entrancing. Calder spoke of two early 'shocks' of inspiration: when, as a young man working on a boat off the Guatemalan coast, 'over my couch – a coil of rope – I saw . . . a fiery red sunset on one side and the moon looking like a silver coin on the other.' Secondly, when visiting Mondrian's studio in 1930, Calder commented 'it would be fun to make these rectangles oscillate'. The reply he received was radically revealing, 'No, it is not necessary, my painting is already very fast.' 'This big fellow, a one hundred per cent American' (as Léger called him) started making exuberantly celebratory yet delicately playful gouaches around 1953. That his 'first in- spiration . . . was the cosmos, the planetary system' is evident in two Pinton, Aubusson tapestries of spectacularly intricate patterning and wondrous childlike wit. In one, amorphous, biomorphic blobs surround a vibrant multi- coloured grid, resembling some abstracted psychedelic space capsule investigating outer (or inner) space. Philip Vann Blake at 80 There are some very odd feelings swirling around when such an icon of 60s youth culture (my youth too!) as Peter Blake, a verit- able master of the art of rein- vention, celebrates his 80th birth- day (the new 60?) in high style. There are shows going on all over the place, this month and next. First up is a massive exhibition, organized by CCA Galleries , that occupies most of the available gallery space at the Mall Gall- eries (map 30), and will not only cover 6 decades of printmaking but contain a good cross-section of his other work as well. Mean- while the Railings Gallery (map 26) is also holding an exhibition looking at his work, of all genres, from the last 20 years or so (to 9 June). Finally, at the end of the month, there is a show at Pallant House (map 15) entitled ‘Peter Blake and Pop Music’. A full house then? NU And Phillips at 75 Not to be outdone, that other per- ennially youthful artist, painter, composer and polymath, Tom Phillips, is also having two London shows, one at Flowers (map 32), and another at the Camberwell- based GX Gallery (map 19), the latter exploring, among other things, Phillips’ continuing preoc- cupation with the psychogeo- graphy of this same area – and where, in fact, he has lived most of his life. NU Generations at Arch 402 There is an intriguing and ulti- mately intensely rewarding idea behind this new show at Arch 402 (map 32). Entitled ‘Generations’ and including 13 artists, ranging from Peter Blake (again!) at 80 to Simon Burrows at just 39, it aims to explore the common threads of language and meaning that link their work as painters and printmakers effortlessly across the generations. So that though there might well be over 40 years between the youngest and oldest artists in this show what is more immediately apparent here are not the differences but rather the shared passions their work embodies. How to characterize them? There are the more obvious ones that are apparent in their attitudes towards the medium – love, principally and a belief in the transformative power of paint – that seem to have been conveyed, largely through teaching, from senior artists like Blake, Jackowski, Walker, Strindberg, Chambers and Maelzer to gifted younger painters such as James Fisher, Simon Burton and Matthew Burr- ows. And then rather more subtle ones – a sense of a willingness to look at and absorb the lessons of earlier generations and an un- derstanding of the need to create, through painting, a language that will convey a meaning not just to us but, it may be hoped, future generations also. NU P eter Blake ‘Homage to Rauschenberg V’, at CCA. Alexander Calder ‘L’Etoffe’, at Crane Kalman Gallery S tephen Chambers ‘The leap (from the Judas tree)’, oil on canvas, 2005’, at Arch 402. 9. GALLERIES JUNE 12