Where Else But In London!
Copyright Vladimir Kagan October 2011
Only in London can you find two totally disparate art exhibits derived from the same subject: Art created by disturbed minds.
One is low key and probably missed by 99% of the museum going public: THE MUSEUM OF EVERYTHING AT SELFRIDGES, (the clever upscale department store that is taking some of the wind out of Harrods’s sails). This show is hailed as Britain’s only home for unintentional, untrained and undiscovered artists – (this is Exhibit #4), featuring 400 works from studios for artists with developmental and other disabilities. It is not simply an art show, it is a creative revolution led by some of the world’s most invisible makers, creating images both abstract and through perceived realism – some bordering on great – all expressing their inner disturbances.
The other is at the vaunted V&A (Victoria & Albert) Museum, attempting to define POSTMODERNISM: Style and Subversion 1970 - 1990. Unlike the invisible creators of the EVERYTHING show… this exhibit is laced with celebrity names such as Andy Warhol, Grace Jones, Karl Lagerfeld, Ettore Sottsass, Jeff Coons, Charles Jencks, Michael Graves and many, many more.
Both shows see the world through a distorted lens.
Selfridge’s curatorial and decorating staff created a deliberately down-scale environment in a dilapidated setting reminiscent of the artist’s own working milieu; small stalls devoted to one or two artists, obliging the viewer to delve deeper into their complex expressions.
The V&A’s exhibit is a lavish affair meandering over many levels and into cubicles, some cavernous - others small and intimate. Some vividly colorful and awash with blaring music, others in subdued tones to fit the apocalyptic expressions of the artists.
Throughout the ages, art has transitioned through different mood-sets: The Renaissance following Byzantium, German Impressionism after the First World War and Abstract Expressionism after the Second War and. Each has left its impact and the world has moved on.
Postmodernism is no different. Itcelebrated disenchantment, but it ignited a creative spark - a laser-beam that shines into the future. These were the visionaries of the 70’s and 80’s but their impact is felt in the 21st Century.
Modern: had become stale – infatuated with itself, drowned in its own abundance and self-aggrandizement. Creativity needed a jolt and the Postmodernists gave it just that. Their radical, often grotesque deformation of the accepted (a German world best describes it as gewolt – belabored) moved us into a more creative free-spirited interpretation for the 21st Century.
I have been an early devotee of deconstructionist design. It has obliged me to think outside of the box - stimulating new solutions and aesthetics. My first encounter with this new philosophy was Frank Gehry’s edgy Vitra Museum and Zaha Hasid’s Fire House for the same complex.(It was also the begining a wonderful friendship with Zaha.) In Prague I saw the exaggerated treatment of The Dancing House named Vltava, by Frank Gehry and Vlado Milunic. It is the most striking, and famous, modern building in the Czech capital. In Vienna we discovered Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who started as a painter in the early 1950s, however, increasingly became focused on architecture. In 1972 Hundertwasser created a controversial housing complex advocating “natural forms of decay”. He attempted to demonstrate his ideas of forested roofs; he called "tree tenants" and the "window right" of every resident to embellish the facade around his windows. In these buildings Hundertwasser developed new shapes, such as the "eye-slit" house and the "high-rise meadow house"… Interesting, provocative and an eye to the still to be defined green movement in building. He was a visionary…. albeit a crazy one. In the same timeframe I met Charles Jenks in Scotland and saw his magnificent manipulations of the landscape.... these were all eye opening moments for me.
I still live by my dictum that if a design is to be good, function must be its driving force… I am not a devotee of change for the sake of change!
Sadly we barely had time to see the delightful little chez d’oeuvres titled THE POWER OF MAKING,at the V&A... a wonderful gem celebrating craft, materials and technology…. We'll allow more time -Next visit!
The Memphis gang carousing for a potrait
The Museum of Everything at Selfridges
MY CONVERSION TO DECONSTRUCTIONIST DESIGN
Frank Gehry's Vitra Museum - inside and out
Zaha Hadid's Fire House at the Vitra Museum
The Dancing House in Prague Hundrertwasser's controvercial nature houses
Charles Jenks' manipulated landscaped