The Easel

13th February 2024

Frank Auerbach, The Charcoal Heads: there’s a raw, vital power behind these haunted faces

Auerbach famously paints by repeatedly scraping off each day’s efforts and starting again. Likewise, his postwar charcoal drawings were drawn and erased so often that he sometimes wore through the paper. The images are intense – “unsmiling, stoic troglodytes, with downcast eyes”. Says one writer “We carry the marks of our experience in the flesh, and that’s what’s on these sheets of ripped paper: the battered, bruised and broken signs that somehow, despite it all, we’re still here.”

Barbara Kruger Is Still Flipping the Bird

Kruger’s work was once described as a “long exercise in preaching to the choir”. Whether or not that was true, no-one is saying it about this show. Her aphorisms are as sharp as ever and the show “pummels” viewers with words and images. Says one writer, “if you could package social media into a room, this would be it”. This is twentieth century art, “over-explaining and oversharing [reflecting the] desperate urge to be understood in a clamorous, look-at-me-please world.” A backgrounder is here.