The Easel

7th December 2021

Why black art matters — and the joyful Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition

Some think Britain’s prestigious Turner Prize has been captured by political correctness. What then about the Royal Academy’s venerable Summer Exhibition which this year emphasises “diversity”? In fact, it is “wonderous”. Works coming from outside the Western canon have given it “a brightness and uplift that wasn’t previously there … a sense of direction, [and] fresh energy”. Says one critic, this show “has never been so much fun. And it has never been so serious.” Images are here.

Fine Prints

Vast social changes unfolding in the early decades of the 20th century produced some distinctive art. In Britain, the Vorticists celebrated the onrushing modernism of life. Their favoured medium was the humble print, which “exists somewhere between art object and art product”. Being inexpensive, printmaking opened up new possibilities for showing art: “The art galleries of the People are not in Bond Street but are to be found in every railway station.”

30th November 2021

Getting real with Richard Estes

What Estes took from working in advertising – the power of detail, the importance of visual rhythm – is evident in his acclaimed photorealist cityscapes. He paints from photographs, though without attempting a replica image. The difference lies partly in which details he omits. In addition, while showing the “pulsing visual pattern of things”, he includes elements of abstraction. “You always have to have that quality [but] pure abstraction is like having a lot of sound without any melody”.

Trick of the eye: the visual deception of Lucy McKenzie

Artists pursuing a diverse practice can suffer because critics don’t know where to focus. McKenzie seems a case in point. Despite getting a prestigious retrospective at a young age, reviews are scarce. The heart of her art is the use of visual deception, including trompe l’oeil, to invite other ways of seeing things. She applies this approach in architectural painting, fashion, film, design and more. Says the gallery, McKenzie is “among the most singular artistic voices of her generation.”