The Easel

24th December 2019

Theater of Operations

What should art about war look like? Works by Goya and Picasso come to mind – arresting imagery, abstracted from reality. The Iraq war, as seen on TV, was curated to seem easy and tidy. Few challenged this falsehood and the work of some artists seems “smoothly dutiful”. The awkward question posed by this show – “how should we look at those art objects that spring from crisis but shrink from witness?”

17th December 2019

Stretching the Canvas

Postwar US government sponsored schools had a narrow view of native American art. Baskets, ceramics, beadwork, flat narrative painting. Of course, as a big New York show illustrates, that idea didn’t last. American Indian art now reflects the stylistic profusion of modern art with its own diversity of voices. Says one, who found inspiration in de Kooning’s work, “We’re native, but we’re all these layers on top”.

Portraits for the People

JR calls himself a “wallpaper artist” … not that that tells you much. Photographing people from local communities, he pastes their huge blown up images onto building exteriors. It seems almost an extension of graffiti – ephemeral, anti-authoritarian, local. In his words “I was [doing graffiti] to say ‘I exist,’ then I started pasting pictures of people with their names to say they exist. I feel safe when I see graffiti because it shows there’s life.”