The Easel

26th September 2017

Basquiat: Boom for Real, Barbican review – the myth explored

There is some skepticism about Basquiat. Snobbery, racism, envy, the wildness of his art – all perhaps play a role. In addition sky-high prices have meant that very little of his work is viewable in public collections. So what is the verdict on Basquiat’s first London retrospective? High energy art, one critic comments, “wholly fresh … jazzy and garrulous, and surprisingly visually powerful”. An interview with the curator is here.

Drawn in Colour: Degas from the Burrell, at the National Gallery, London; Degas: A Passion for Perfection at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Degas closely aligned with the Impressionist group but in many ways was different. Painting landscapes outdoors was not for him. He preferred half-lit interiors … and nudes. Behind a difficult personality was a relentless innovator. Degas’ approach to the nude was “audacious … a collision with the whole history of aesthetics. He was not concerned with the final, or finished, or even the successful”. More images are here.

19th September 2017

Object lessons: Rachel Whiteread and the legacy of the Young British Artists

London’s “YBA’s” – of which Whiteread was a peripheral member – brought a blast of new ideas. Has her early promise been fulfilled? Whiteread’s reputation has benefitted because, atypically, her work is quiet – it carries “the imprint of anonymous lives.  She is a somewhat limited artist … But in refining her technique, she also refines the expressive possibilities of her work … a still-life artist whose work commemorates Everyman”