The Easel

28th September 2021

Jasper and me

Not so much a review of a huge Johns retrospective as a personal meditation on his enigmatic work. Johns rebelled against 1950’s abstract expressionism with radical work about “things the mind already knows … things seen and not examined”. It had a huge impact – “like the Beatles kicking out Elvis”, opening the door to important new art ideas. Johns, says the show’s curator, is “[perhaps] the most important living artist for more than 60 years”.

21st September 2021

Helen Frankenthaler: Radical Beauty, Dulwich Picture Gallery review – adventures in print

Frankenthaler has long borne criticism that paintings as pretty as hers cannot be serious. What about her woodblock prints? Described as “visions of overwhelming beauty”, they have a familial link to her paintings. Woodblock printing is complex and signs of the technique, such as wood grain, add surface texture and ‘dimensionality’ to a work. By accentuating such effects, an evidently serious Frankenthaler achieved “a paradoxical distillation of all that is painterly”.

‘It’s just a perpetual slaughter’: Barbara Kruger on why she’s remaking some of her old critiques of power for her new museum show.

One famous Kruger aphorism is “your body is a battleground”. So is her art. It has been described as “one-liners that do no serious harm to anyone” and “one long exercise in preaching to the choir”. Well, imitation is the surest form of flattery and her text/photo style is widely copied. Further, her critique of consumerism and cultural power resonates loudly. Does that make her feel prescient? “No … the past 1000 years is fraught with power and its abuses”.