Sunday, 17 December 2017

Review of Jeanne Mammen: The Observer. Retrospective (1910-75) at the Berlinische Galerie

Jeanne Mammen: The Observer. Retrospective (1910-75)
Berlinische Galerie, Berlin
6 October 2017 – 15 January 2018

Outside the sphere of art historians, Gertrud Johanna Louise Mammen, known as Jeanne, is not a well-known name – not in Germany and certainly not in the rest of the world. Yet her output was prodigious, as the current retrospective at the Berlinische Galerie amply demonstrates. She was born in Germany in 1890, but her family moved to Paris where she enjoyed a carefree and progressive upbringing (including art studies at the Académie Julian, as well as at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels). In 1914, she returned to Germany and, from 1919, worked from a small fourth-floor, two-room living-quarters-cum-studio at Kurfürstendamm 29 in Berlin for more than 60 years, until her death in 1976.

During her lifetime, she gained a reputation beyond Berlin as a chronicler of life in the city, providing for herself largely by designing film posters for the then booming UFA studios and selling her illustrations to fashion and satirical magazines, including Simplicissimus, Uhu and Jugend. Especially during the 20s and 30s, when out and about, she was never without her sketchbook – several of which are included in the exhibition – capturing the goings-on in cafes, bars and on the streets. Her graphic work from this era might be likened to the new objectivity of Otto Dix or George Grosz, but whereas their works tend towards the satirical, with an underlying political critique, expressing pity or disdain for their subjects, Mammen’s drawings and watercolours, while still often employing grimace and caricature, are far more empathetic and, dare I say it, feminine, imbued with emotion, both of her own, as onlooker, and of the relationships between those depicted. The titles are often almost conversational, as, for example, You Have Beautiful Hands (c1929), depicting a chatty scene at a manicurist.

Read the full review here

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Book review of Firecrackers: Female Photographers Now

Book review of Firecrackers: Female Photographers Now
By Fiona Rogers & Max Houghton
Published by Thames & Hudson

There has been no shortage of books on female photographers appearing over recent months, so what does this compendium, published by Thames & Hudson this autumn, add to the library that its predecessors haven’t already provided? Certainly many of the artists included have been represented elsewhere, and some of the images are beginning to feel a little overly familiar – but, in a world where Helmut Newton’s vampy erotica or Robert Doisneau’s iconic Le Baiser de l’Hôtel de Ville (1950) are recognisable in the flash of an eye, why shouldn’t Juno Calypso’s saccharine pink Honeymoon series nymphets (2015-16) and Natasha Caruana’s faceless brides (Fairytale for Sale series, 2011) be just as familiar and ubiquitous?

Read the full review here

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Interview: Pamela Schilderman

Interview with Pamela Schilderman
Maidstone Museum
17 October - 16 December 2017

Born in Holland to a Dutch father and Brazilian mother, Pamela Schilderman (b1982) spent her early years in Rwanda before moving to Rugby in the Midlands when she was five. Questions of identity and language thus played a key role in her formative years and it is unsurprising that they now permeate her artistic practice. Her current project, Casket (2017), comprises a Victorian-style wrought iron and glass jewellery box (bespoke, as, indeed, is everything in this work), containing the artist’s thumbprint, DNA profile and hair follicles, a drawing of a photograph of her retina, and a copper cast of her teeth. Each item has been painstakingly handmade and carries with it symbolism on numerous levels. Created as a self-portrait, the work has been shown anonymously in most of its venues: Schilderman hopes this will raise questions about identity and portraiture and what it is that defines each of them.

Read the interview here

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Review of Anni Albers: Touching Vision at Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

Anni Albers: Touching Vision
Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
6 October 2017 – 14 January 2018

In 1949, Anni Albers (1899-1994) was the first fibre artist to have a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, followed by an extensive tour across the US. This event was key in elevating fibre art to the canon of classical artistic disciplines. Now, nearly 70 years later, Guggenheim Bilbao, together with the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, is putting on a retrospective of nearly six decades of the artist-designer’s work, starting with her early Bauhaus preparatory drawings, and moving through her hand-woven works and tapestries, to her later graphic prints.

Read this review here