Galleries - February 2015

Thus, alongside major expressionist pieces like Elegy to the Spanish Republic No.130 (1974-5), Motherwell started exploring rather more formal concerns, such as the wonderfully austere Open 22 ( 1968), one of a famous, long- running series that took its cue from observing the chance juxtaposition of a small canvas propped up against a large one. Looking at the truly museum- quality paintings Jacobson has assembled here, it becomes apparent that Motherwell perhaps reached his peak in the 1960s, in other words long after the abstract expressionist period, thereby, as Robert Hughes once shrewdly observed, illustrating “the perils of generalising about decades, groups or movements.” Brutal Facts In a world still coming to terms with the implications of the Charlie Hebdo tragedy, the exhibition ‘Caught in the Crossfire’, currently at Guildford House Gallery, really could not be more apposite, a vital reminder that, at a moment when so much of the international contemporary art scene seems obsessed with, and compromised by, financial values, there are still artists out seemingly used to be seen – what dazzles here is the sheer richness and variety of his invention. Time for a proper retrospective perhaps? Lynn at 10 At its birth, 10 years ago, the Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize (16 to 21 February), good as it always was, struggled to gain proper recognition, its then unfashionable venue in the handsome, eponymous City Livery Hall near Mansion House seemingly deterring unadventurous critics and possibly public too. A move to the much more central Mall Galleries (and very appropriate too given its support also for the kind of figurative art this competition was designed to encourage) a few years back worked wonders, and the competition is now really forging ahead. With its twin sponsors, the Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers and the Lynn Foundation contributing a now substantial amount of prize- money – £30,000 in all, including a £15,000 First Prize this year – and a distinguished roster of judges, it is very well worth winning, though with some 100 plus entries, quite difficult too! A Motherwell Centenary After seemingly working all his long gallery career (46 years) in and around Cork Street, Bernard Jacobson has finally had enough of the uncertainty and building mayhem currently engulfing ‘The Street’ and is making what many would once have seen as the great psychological leap, of moving south of Piccadilly into St James’s. Always traditionally seen as the preserve of the Old Master dealer, things have changed hugely of late around here and, while they are still a powerful presence, so too, increasingly, are more contemporary dealers. Jacobson is really doing it in style too, with a much larger, and very smart, architect-designed space in what was formerly a car- park in Duke Street, just opposite the side entrance to Fortnum & Mason, and to launch it he is putting on the only centenary show I am aware of in this country, of the great American Abstract Expressionist painter, Robert Motherwell. Jacobson has long been a huge champion of Motherwell, having put on some terrific shows of his work over the years, believing strongly that Motherwell, though very much a key figure in the movement, as A View Number1 (1958) makes plain, was one of the very few who didn’t simply go on repeating his youthful style. FEBRUARY 2015GALLERIES 7 from left: C harles Williams ‘Girls’ from Lynn Painter-Stainers at the Mall Galleries Robert Motherwell ‘Elegy to the Spanish Republic no.130’ 1974/75, at Bernard Jacobson Gallery kennardphillipps ‘Award Portfolio’ at Guildford House Gallery. William Gear ‘Black Trap No 1’ 1990 at Fosse Gallery. Irene Lees ‘Visual Invisibility’ at Tint-Art Gallery