Galleries - November 2013

idea here has been to invite a number of current members to respond to a work by a past member in the Ben Uri show. What becomes apparent in the very range and variety of the work that emerges is the fact that, while still strongly contemporary in both style and content, the present membership can, in terms of the current art- order imposed by the now hugely powerful Internationalist Market/Tate Modern/Frieze nexus, perhaps be seen to be as much ‘misfits’ of this moment as their Group forebears. The thoughtfulness and sensitivity with which they probe the artistic intent of their historical choices, their sense of history, combined with their desire to propose something meaningful also to the present moment represents a validation in itself of the point and purpose of the Group itself. Another 100 years please! By a nice coincidence, Ivon Hitchens, the subject of a handsome grouping of some 13 paintings at Richard Green, was also a member of the London Group in the 1930s, his rise to critical acceptance at last coming in the post-war period when Modernism finally became the new norm in this country, representing Britain at the Venice Biennale in 1956. For all the continued page 59 expensive administration and, of course, with no fixed abode bricks and mortar, but also because of the openness of its ideology and its commitment to the radical in art in whatever form it takes. As a consequence it became the natural home for a wide variety of artistic ‘misfits’ over the years, above all Jewish, émigré and women artists. With a veritable roll-call of major 20th Century British artists on display at the Ben Uri, from Bomberg to Henry Moore, Nevinson to Pasmore, Gaudier-Brzeska to Paul Nash, its historical importance is unassailable, the quality of the museum loans remarkable. But what of its more recent history and present state? For that we need to turn to the Group’s second celebratory show at its most recent base, the Cello Factory. Entitled ‘+100 The London Group Today’, the Groups or associations of artists that set themselves up to change critical attitudes usually have one of two things happen to them, and in fairly short order too. They either, like the Royal Academy , become the new mainstream against which later generations choose to revolt, or they implode, relatively rapidly, often in the bitterest of intellectual and personal infighting with accusations of artistic betrayal, eg the Pre-Raphaelites. So, to be celebrating the 100th birthday (25October 1913 to be precise) of an association of artists that has avoided doing either of these things, the London Group, is a moment to be both wondered at and treasured. And, with two excellent and neatly complementary exhibitions, perhaps to learn lessons from. As the title of the first show, ‘Uproar!: The first 50 years of the London Group 1913-63’ at the Ben Uri Gallery suggests, it wasn’t easy keeping what was really a very diverse collection of artists – Camden Town-ers and Vorticists among them – and immensely strong personalities – Sickert, Wyndham Lewis and Epstein for a start – sufficiently co-operative for the group to survive. Not to mention the emotional pressures of the war that so soon followed its formation. But, survive it has and very actively too (hence these two exhibitions) – in part because it has always travelled light in terms of rules and regulations, MODERN BRITONS 12. GALLERIES NOVEMBER 13 top: I von Hitchens ‘Warnford Water (First Variation)’ at Richard Green . . . the openness of its ideology and its commitment to the radical in art in what ever form it takes.