Art / Exhibitions

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.

Geometric Smiles

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Review of ’Constantin Brancusi: The Essence of Things‘, Tate Modern, London

Constantin Brancusi (1876-1958) was the greatest sculptor of the first half of the 20th century, and is often compared to Picasso as an innovator of new styles. In particular Brancusi was the first great sculptor to approach abstraction in his work, and the exhibition dramatically shows his movement in this direction. He thus laid the foundation of the avant garde and ’modernism‘. At the same time he always sought meaning beyond the ephemeral. As he said, ’What is real is not the external form but the essence of things,‘ and this too comes across and is strongly felt.

Sound and Vision

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Review of 'Reds', The People's History Museum, Salford

The People's History Museum, Salford, has collected an array of sound and visual aids to bring alive the history of the British Communist Party. The exhibition includes poster designing and videos for the kids, and audio replicas explaining the inspiration behind the party - why people joined and what it was like living in a Communist household. As well as the British party the exhibition opens to the visitor the world of 'Communist' Russia and its influence back here in Britain.

Response Units

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Review of 'A World at War', Millinery Works Gallery, London

The visitor who will expect an exhibition called 'A World at War' to be full of military images will be disappointed. Frances Newman's art works are at least as much to do with how the war resonates at home. 'Another Bloody Sunday', for example, takes the eye across a breakfast tray with a remnant of toast still on the plate to the newspaper behind it. The image - of the father protecting his son moments before the boy is killed by Israeli gunfire - is immediately familiar. Here it is an invasion, an interruption of the everyday rituals - and it is inescapable.

The Language of Art

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Review of 'Dreams and Conflicts, the Dictatorship of the Viewer', Venice Biennale

The 50th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale is an immense event which runs until the beginning of November. It consists of the work of hundreds of artists in exhibitions spread over 64 national pavilions, themed shows in the Arsenale and Museo Correr, and numerous additional exhibitions and events at venues around the city. Established in 1895, one of the original ambitions of the Biennale was to promote a 'universal language of art'.

Meme Me Up Scotty

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Review of Adbusters

'The commodity is, first of all, an external object, a thing which through its qualities satisfies human needs of whatever kind. The nature of their needs, whether they arise from the stomach, or the imagination, makes no difference. Nor does it matter here how the thing satisfies man's need, whether directly as a means of subsistence, ie an object of consumption, or indirectly as a means of production.'

All Style and No Substance

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Review of 'Art Deco' exhibition, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Art Deco embraced the modern world. The exhibition blurb tells us that Art Deco 'reflects the plurality of the contemporary world, unlike its functionalist sibling Modernism, it responded to the human need for pleasure and escape'. So not unreasonable then to expect fun, excitement, excess and speed. It is billed as something of a blockbuster show, and it costs £8 to get in.

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