Get out of the rain and get cultured in 2017. Here is the definitive list of what’s worth seeing in the capital this February/March.
Robert Rauschenberg at the Tate Modern: 1 Dec 2016 – 2 Apr 2017
If you see one thing this February, make it this Rauschenberg retrospective. The first major exhibition since his death in 2008, the work on show really gives the audience an idea of just how unique and varied this artist really was. Rauschenberg left no stone unturned, starting with his own unique take on the abstract expressionist movement of the 1940s, with work that stands out from Pollock, de Kooning, and Rothko by rejecting the idea of paint altogether and using ink-saturated newspaper to create a series of textured black paintings. This was the start of a rebellious theme that was explored throughout his life; Rauschenberg pushed the boundaries of art in all its forms, and explored every medium available, including choreography, machinery, printing, painting, even erasing other prominent artist’s work. On Rauschenberg’s request, de Kooning provided a complex drawing which took Rauschenberg 3 weeks to erase, but apparently was less happy when Rauschenberg poked fun at the process by displaying the work in an elaborate frame with the typed caption ‘Erased de Kooning Drawing. Robert Rauschenberg. 1953’. A highlight of the show is Rauschenberg’s iconic silkscreen prints, made in part from newspaper cuttings from the time. Because of this, they are a reflection on 1960s America, and feature instantly recognisable motifs like JFK mid-speech, space shuttles, and Martin Luther King.
Hot or not? Smoking. Get down there as soon as you can. Rauschenberg’s expansive career has breached a huge variety of art forms, which means the exhibition covers pretty much all forms of media, with something different in every room. Rauschenberg’s importance as one of the seminal artists of the 20th century, his screen-print reactions to the culture and politics of the tumultuous 1960s, and the fact that his work is just really, really great means that this exhibition is a must-see for anyone.
Richard Serra at the Gagosian (Britannia Street): 1st October 2016 – 10th March 2017
Immersive art in a very literal sense, you can get lost in Serra’s giant earth-tone sculptures that tower over visitors like a kind of rusted, post-apocalyptic maze. The angled walls of metal are just about wide enough for two people to squeeze through at once, and frequent twists and turns mean it is easy to feel consumed in Serra’s labyrinthine world. There are three sculptures on show at the Gagosian this spring, including NJ-2, made of weatherproof steel and with the formidable dimensions 4m × 14.5m × 8.25m (pictured). They are reminiscent of Serra’s previous work, which also plays with scale and manufactured materials, for instance, his permanent exhibition in the Museo Guggeheim, in Bilbao, Northern Spain, called ‘The Matter of Time’. This features a variety of maze-like sculptures in different shapes, all of which invite exploration.
Hot or not? We’re a big fan of Serra’s derelict but graceful models, which require you to get involved with the art. Serra takes you on a literal journey, in contrast to other canvas-based works that you often only interact with from one static position. If you hate the stiff back that comes from standing in front of paintings for hours on end, or the compulsory slowed-down ‘gallery walk’, then NJ-2 will be a refreshing change. They have already extended the exhibition to March 10th, and it will undoubtedly be popular throughout.
David Hockney at Tate Britain – Thursday February 9 2017 – Monday May 29 2017
Escape dull February days through Hockney’s brighter-than-life, quirky masterpieces. There is a wide range of his work on show at the Tate Britain, which includes colourful, cartoony swimming pools in LA and nostalgic Yorkshire landscapes, along with drawings, print, and photography from different areas of his life. Hockney is nearing 80 and still creating new pieces, which means the exhibition has six decades’ worth of material to draw from. Hockney’s use of colour means the paintings jump out at you with an energy that is lacking in the National Portrait Gallery’s Picasso’s Portraits collection. His unique style can be seen in the many portraits of his friends, family, and lovers, where Hockney’s own presence as the observer within the paintings is visible in a Peep Show-esque play on perspective. Most interestingly, the exhibition features some of Hockney’s never-before-seen work, which is hot off the press. Hockney has fully embraced technology in his art, and has created hundreds of portraits and still lifes using the iPad and iPhone app Brushes. This is a great opportunity to see one of Britain’s most prominent artists, as the Tate will be showing his most famous works alongside more recent or lesser-known pieces.
Hot or not? – This one looks to be a real crowd-pleaser, and we all know there’s no smoke without fire. Whether from 1966 or 2016, his paintings offer the same enchanting escapism necessary to survive a winter in the UK. The Tate describes this exhibition as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime chance to see these unforgettable works together.’ We’d have to agree it’s definitely worth a visit. Limited tickets are available on the day, so we’d recommend you call up and book in advance to skip the queue and secure your place.
Have you been to any exhibitions lately? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below or tweet @santmagazine!
Words: Dido Gompertz
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