Okay, art Beasts, what do you want to think about this month? Class and society? Political protests? Or the true origin of that familiar chair in which you plant your weary arse each day?
We’ll start with at the bottom, so to speak.
You’ve probably seen an “Eames chair” before, or you think you have. We all know the look, once we see it. However, I doubt you’ve ever sat in an original. Chances are what you sat in was fake. Or a pastiche. Or a tribute, or a rip off, or, just that chair that came with your desk, that you never thought about. The real, proper, gorgeous, historic Eames ones, the ones not occupying your thoughts, those are museum pieces. Now. At one point they were just… odd, to the average Joe. And his tired arse. Before the Eameses came along, you had two options – blocky wooden chairs from the Industrial Age for work, and Martin Crane’s chair from Frasier for home.
An exhibition at the Barbican Art Gallery in London, until February 14, outlines the career of two of the most acclaimed designers of the 20th century: Charles and Ray Eames. Their vision and the contribution the husband and wife team made to innovation in design have influenced generations of architects, artists and designers of everything from chairs to hospital equipment in the past, and still do today.
The World of Charles and Ray Eames showcases over 350 pieces, from sleds to interior design, models, correspondence, and works from the “Eames Office”, later forays into education and overseas expeditions. Plus, their photos and interviews show they seemed to have a zest for life and a strong relationship. Makes you want to have been in their creative circle.
Since it is election season, officially, finally, in the US, see what was pissing people off politically forty years ago at the Shapero Modern Gallery, located in Mayfair, London and specializing in modern and contemporary prints, and rare books.
America In Revolt: The Art of Protest, on through the end of the month, is an exhibition of more than 150 original posters and artwork created by University of California Berkeley students and activists during the post-Kent State shootings demonstrations of the early 1970s.
Drawn from the archive of the late publisher, counterculture figure and Lennon-mate (John, not Lenin, Lenin) Felix Dennis, and curated by writer and Beat historian Barry Miles, the collection is comprised of more than 150 posters, each one capturing the revolutionary and incendiary spirit of that time. Expect a lot of anti-Vietnam and anti-secret bombing campaigns posters, along with hastily thrown together signs questioning the humanity, integrity and parentage of President Richard Nixon.
Probably apples and oranges, but the protest marches, slogans, artwork and “logos” if you will, of that period seem so much cooler, and heartfelt, than the ones you see now, from the safety of social media.
Tying together your art options for this month is the somewhat controversial Grayson Perry.
Perry, a transvestite artist working in ceramics, fabrics and mixed media, won the prestigious Turner Prize in 2003 and while having a more limited presence in the US (he has lectured at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, for example) he is a familiar face (look him up, you’ll see he has a face one would not forget) to British art fans and tv audiences alike. Perry’s work is quick to take on the issues of class and taste – he hosts a contest each year at Central St. Martins College for design students to make him the ugliest dress possible – and his latest, bijoux show, currently at the Victoria Art Gallery in the beautiful city of Bath does just that. The Vanity of Small Differences was inspired by William Hogarth’s “A Rake’s Progress” (you remember Hogarth from school, right? while you were sitting in your fake Eames chair, doodling antiwar protests…)
The work consists of six technicolored tapestries, 6ft x 12 ft, that are tableaux of middle-class life. One fictional man’s middle class British life, full of consumerism, success, loss, a few penises, and so many small details that it is easy, and very enjoyable, to just stare at the works for ages. Doesn’t hurt that the gallery is a gem, and located in one of England’s most beautiful places.
The tapestries previously have been displayed in London, the north of England and overseas. Grayson Perry said: “Of all the pieces I have made this was the one I conceived from the outset as a public artwork. I hope that wherever it goes it not only delights the eye but also sparks debate about class, taste and British society.”
it’s not too late to kickstart that New Year’s resolution. A little more culture in your life is a good thing.
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A former ABC National, Dallas and Atlanta radio personality, Martina O'Boyle is now making movies and covering culture in London, Dublin, and as far in Europe as the cheapie flights will take her, for Pop Culture Beast.