The Easel

25th May 2021

Nan Goldin Gets Your P.A.I.N.

“Flashbulb memory” characterises Goldin’s diaristic photography – a way of remembering what happened the night before. A “vast” show of new work draws not just on the drug-addled 1980’s but also on more recent photography. Her work blurs into her anti-opioid activism but this does not stop them adding significantly to “the requiem-like power” of her oeuvre. Showing the “wonder and untold dangers” of addiction is a “reason the camera was invented”.

How Yoshitomo Nara’s Manga-Inspired Paintings Tap Into Universal Feelings of Anxiety

Resist comparing Nara to Japanese “Neo-Pop” artists like Murakami. Yes, both have a cult following and both sell cute, manga-influenced works for millions. However, Murakami’s “superflat” paintings are about consumerism while Nara is focused on expressing emotion. Nara’s figures tap into a universal sense of angst, a mood that, over time, seems to be darkening. Says one critic “one of the most egalitarian visual artists since Keith Haring”.

Stephen Shore: “Photography Isn’t Very Good at Explaining”

Shore came to prominence with images of “what American culture looked like”. That led to a project photographing steelwork towns in the Rust Belt. The resultant series gave a face to large scale industrial decline and the “deaths of despair” that it brought. Shore’s acclaimed deadpan aesthetic captures a sense of sadness among the affected workers who “seem to question the photographer, as if in the hope of a miracle solution”. More images are here.

18th May 2021

David Hammons ‘ghost pier’ draws lines to Village’s waterfront past

Public art sometimes disappoints but New York now has a piece that is being feted. Pier 52, once a derelict structure on the Greenwich Village shoreline, was both a noted gay haunt and subject to large “cutouts” in its walls by the artist Gordon Matta-Clark. The pier is long gone but an outline in steel now stands on he site as a tribute to this rich social history and to Matta-Clark. Says one critic, approvingly, “its empty of everything but history, light and air”.

Deborah Remington’s Singular Place in Art

Remington trained as an abstract expressionist and her early paintings had the gestural style of that genre. Then she abruptly changed course. Paintings of alien objects floating in three dimensional space, meticulous drawings of vaguely biomorphic and skeletal forms – all difficult to pin down. With such creativity, why has she received so little recognition? Says the writer “When you don’t have a genre, you might as well be invisible.”

Canaletto’s Eternal Sunshine

Wealthy young Englishmen on the Grand Tour wanted mementos of their salad days. Many bought a Canaletto, one of the 18th century’s great scene painters. Still hugely popular, his views of Venice’s Grand Canal have a photographic quality. The artistry with which it is rendered involves “prodigious clarity … a singular gift for detail … silken texture”. Canaletto’s Venice evokes “a sense of serenity, of happiness [that stands] at the heart of the world”.