Art / Exhibitions


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Barbican, London, until 27 January 2008

This exhibition, subtitled "Art and Sex from Antiquity to Now", includes some 300 works from a wide variety of periods and cultures. As well as Indian, Chinese and Japanese art, items range from the Greek and Roman periods to today.

Greek pots, for example, show men having sex with either women or male teenagers. Roman marble statues display erections. Meanwhile, the most recent exhibits address the impact of Aids.

Exhibition: The First Emperor

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British Museum, until 5 April 2008

In 1974 a farmer digging a well in China's Shaanxi province stumbled upon one of the world's most stunning archaeological finds, the terracotta warriors. The 7,000 or so life-size and incredibly detailed figures formed part of the vast burial complex of China's first emperor, Qin Hsihuangdi. Around a dozen of these figures form the centrepiece of a new exhibition at the British Museum.

Reflections on Empire

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Jonathan Maunder looks at contemporary art in the US in the post-9/11 era.

In his poem "Lennox Avenue Mural", the black American poet Langston Hughes captured perfectly the tension in a society where people's hopes and ideals are continually frustrated:

"What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore -
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over -
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?"

And the Word was Good

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Review of Word Into Art, British Museum, London: Jonathan Maunder welcomes an exhibition of modern art from the Middle East.

The Word Into Art exhibition at the British Museum is a real treat artistically, and at the same time a great riposte to current prejudices about Islam and the East. Taking in both artists who have remained in their country of origin and those who have settled elsewhere, the exhibition is a diverse, engaging and at times beautiful journey into Middle Eastern history and identity, as well as the thoughts and feelings of the individual artists themselves.

Art of the Ordinary

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Review of 'From the Bauhaus to the New World, Josef Albers and László Moholy-Nagy', Tate Modern, London.

Anyone using the London Underground this month cannot fail to notice the striking posters advertising the latest mega-exhibition at the Tate Modern. The show brings together two great figures of modernist art, the German-born Josef Albers (1888-1976) and the Hungarian László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946).

The careers of the two artists overlapped during the 1920s when they both taught at the Bauhaus, the German school of art and design that pretty much invented "modernism" as we now know it - pioneering everything from anglepoise lamps to sans serif fonts.

Changing Dialogue

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Tanya Barson looks at the rich history of art and documentary in Britain from 1929 to now.

The 1930s and 1940s can be viewed as the era in which documentary was first defined and given recognition as an independent area of production. Central to this was the film movement of the 1930s, led by the producer and film-maker John Grierson, who had coined the term 'documentary'.

Grierson defined documentary as 'the creative use of actuality'. He was influenced by modernist film practice, yet attempted to reintroduce social commentary into avant garde film.

Turn on the Light

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Review of Dan Flavin, Hayward Gallery, London

At first Dan Flavin's art feels like pure pleasure. Flavin became famous in the 1960s by working almost exclusively with fluorescent light tubes of various colours. It is extraordinary how his careful positioning of these fingers of light transforms spaces and influences moods.

People wandering about this exhibition look genuinely exhilarated. I can't remember ever seeing children so transfixed at an exhibition - they explore the magically lit spaces with wonder in their eyes.

Disorienting Art

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Review of Observations, Christopher Stewart, Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool

Who watches the watchers? How mundane can a place of violence be? What does a politic of fear, in a war without end, look like?

These are the kinds of questions that are posed by Christopher Stewart's work. In his previous exhibition, Insecurity, were photographs of fleeting and nervous figures who were engaged in security practices which became their opposite, and where even the assassins appeared beatific while sleeping.

Back to the Future

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Sue Jones looks at the visionary art of Henri Rousseau.

Henri Rousseau (1844-1910) created some of the most instantly recognisable and best loved paintings of the modern era. He is most famous for his lush, dreamlike jungle paintings, many of which feature in this huge collection, the first exhibition of Rousseau's work in this country for over 80 years.

Rousseau was born into a petty bourgeois family in a small French market town. He served in the army and then found employment as a minor civil servant. He lived most of his life in poverty, outliving two wives and seeing six of his seven children die in infancy.


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