The Easel

25th May 2021

Tony Cragg is the star of Houghton Hall’s summer sculpture exhibition

Houghton Hall is a magnificent English country mansion that hosts an annual solo sculpture show. Only superstars get invited – this year it is Tony Cragg and his biomorphic, abstract forms. Difficult to interpret, they are Cragg’s take on nature, expressed in form and surface. The works in the show are “elegant … expressions of our current anxieties” but seem optimistic about “our presence in the biological realm.” An excellent backgrounder here.

18th May 2021

Introducing: Jean Dubuffet

Dubuffet was rebellious, hating academic art theory and rigid art traditions. His aim was to “‘amuse and interest the man in the street”. Child-like figures in his early works, then numerous experiments with “banal” non-traditional materials and, in late career, graffiti-like abstractions. Hockney, Haring and Basquiat are among those to have sung his praises. As for the man in the street, “the success my work has had is quite contrary to the beliefs I hold”.

The Turner Prize’s Radical Chic

A brisk slap in the face for the Tate and its famous Turner Prize. This year’s short-listed artists are all art collectives. Tate says this reflects “the mood” in British art. The writer doesn’t buy it – this is all about Tate positioning itself as “progressive”. It is doing so because of “the fashions prevalent among its institutional curators”. Catering to this group means neglecting the “diverse reality of its wider public” and its own responsibility for “a national conversation about art.”

The Making of Rodin review – not a radical, just a plain old genius

A case of trying too hard? After umpteen Rodin shows, London’s Tate is showing a large array of Rodin’s preparatory plaster casts. Its unclear that they show something new. Repeated use of particular casts was nothing more than standard procedure for the day. Further, Rodin’s mix-and-match method has none of the spirit of today’s ready-mades. We are left with what’s already known – Rodin’s radical vision replaced stilted realism with the expressive modern body.