Art / Exhibitions

The Pivot of New Traditions

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Review of 'Turks: A Journey of a Thousand Years, 600-1600', Royal Academy of Arts, London, 22 January-12 April

Despite there being over a billion practising Muslims across the globe and despite the vast array of Islamic art and architecture (Abbasid, Moorish and Mughal, to name just a few), the Royal Academy of Arts has not produced a largely Islamic exhibition since 1931. With this subject matter now being so topical it was only a matter of time before it followed the likes of the Courtauld and V&A in staging its very own Muslim blockbuster.

An African Anthology

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Review of 'Africa Remix', Hayward Gallery, London until 17 April

While Tony Blair vies with Gordon Brown for the title of saviour of Africa, this exhibition shows us Africa as it really is. It is 'the largest exhibition of contemporary African art ever seen in Europe', the guide informs us, and 'rather than a comprehensive survey, the exhibition is an anthology'.

Incandescent Rage

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Review of 'Freedom Fries' by Steve Brodner, Fantagraphics $29.95 (available on-line for around £16)

The cartoons in this book cover American politics and politicians from Ronald Reagan to George W Bush, and none of them gets off lightly.

The pictures are mostly ink all over the place spitting bloody attacks on whoever he's drawing. There are also over-the-top caricatures. In the introduction he explains that the mainstream press didn't want to know about a lot of his cartoons - not much of a surprise.

Art Escapes the Gallery Walls

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Review of The 2004 Turner Prize, Tate Britain, London

The Turner Prize is a competition. It has a TV event to announce the result on 6 December, long before which bookmakers quote odds and the press declares its favourites with argument and passion.

But it is more than a media circus. It has a good history with quality past winners including Gillian Wearing, Damien Hirst and Anthony Gormley. The Turner Prize has made the 'installation' commonplace, has led film into the art gallery, and has turned the art world sharply towards social themes.

Caught in a Trap: A Tribute to Henri Cartier-Bresson

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Before the age of television, the work of photographers was often the only source of visual information to a public hungry for news. Henri Cartier-Bresson, who died recently at the age of 96, was part of the first generation of photojournalists.

Cartier-Bresson came from a wealthy French family, but he was always a radical left winger and rebel. This informed his photography and the emphasis that he placed on recording aspects of ordinary people's lives, setting the standards for, and being hugely influential on, future photojournalists.

Earth from the Air

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Review of photographs by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, and Birmingham Victoria Square

Yann Arthus-Bertrand's photographic portrait of our planet, Earth from the Air, has been shown in 52 cities since its launch in 1999. This open air exhibition contains a range of stunning images from over 100 countries. Each image has a story to tell - most with ecological or social themes, which when viewed collectively present the ecosystem and our relationship to it in all its complicated glory.

Shooting the Present

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Review of "Tina Modotti and Edward Weston: The Mexico Years", Barbican, until 1 August

In the 1920s European art was in the middle of a revolution which would end in what is now known as modernism. Yet in another part of the world an equally significant though less well documented artistic revolution was taking place. The Mexican Revolution in the early 1900s became a beacon of hope to millions of poor people across Latin America, and a noble cause to many on the left, especially in the US.

The Myths behind Maoism

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Review of 'Li Zhensheng: Red-colour New Soldier' and 'Hou Bo and Xu Xiaobing: Mao's Photographers' at The Photographers' Gallery, London

Maoism and in particular the Cultural Revolution are surrounded by myth and romanticism. As teenagers in the 1970s we discussed the apparent heroism of the Great March and the determination of the students fighting the teachers and officials. The reality, as Li Zhensheng's photographs on display at the Photographers' Gallery reveal, is quite different.

There are two displays running together at the Photographers' Gallery. Hou Bo and Xu Xiaobing were Mao's official photographers. Li Zhensheng was a photographer on a local newspaper and documented the Cultural Revolution.

Popping the American Dream

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Review of 'Roy Lichtenstein', Hayward Gallery, London

Roy Lichtenstein's pop art paintings had an immediate and forceful impact on my 17 year old grandson. It was worth taking him to the exhibition to see how the comic-inspired images of the American Dream and the violence of war affected him.

At the beginning of the exhibition is a small cinema where a screening about Lichtenstein and his work gives a really useful introduction before going round the exhibition.

How to Win Hearts and Minds

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Review of 'Pax Britannica: A Hellish Peace', Aquarium Gallery, London

When Peter Kennard was commissioned by Orange for their 'Peace on Earth' show he depicted the Virgin Mary with a globe replacing her face and a CND sign as a halo. Orange refused to use the image, considering it 'unfit for grandparents and small children'. This is hardly surprising. The media have scrupulously avoided any account of the reality of war. That is why this free exhibition of the response to war by over 18 major artists is so important.

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