Primary Viewing outside Frieze
SALON 003: CALDER ON PAPER: 1960 – 1976
27 September – 8 December 2017
There it is, Alexander Calder’s spiral. Radiant as the sun, alternating primary colours, mostly red, some pops of yellow, and a bold stripe of blue, burn a shape onto your retina. Unforgettable. It replaces all other spirals you have ever seen, and will glow beneath all future spirals you encounter. Placed at the centre of a suite of works on paper in Cadler on Paper: 1960- 1976, for the Saatchi Gallery’s third SALON, it highlights Calder’s sense of playfulness and joy in creating new forms.
“I think I am a realist, because I make what I see. It’s only the problem of seeing it. If you can imagine a thing, then you can make it and ‘tout de suite’ you’re a realist (…). The universe is real, but you can’t see it. You have to imagine it. Once you imagine it, you can be realistic about producing it.”
-Alexander Calder (1898 – 1976) ‘Artists voice, 1962’
Best known for his “drawings in space,” brightly coloured kinetic mobiles, Calder was a master of rearranging his own visual lexicon. His works on paper celebrate the dance of freehand and the joy of releasing the shapes he has found through colour. He did this in his preferred medium gouache, as it dries quickly and gives an immediate vibrancy. First shown in 1945 at the Kootz Gallery in New York, Calder’s most notable works on paper were created in the following decades, and this set of works was brought together in collaboration with the Omer Tiroche Gallery.
Seeing them all united is explosive – Calder’s purity of line, colour and form pierce the senses in the same way I remember first discovering shapes as a child. Once again, Saatchi’s Director Philippa Adams demonstrates her bold commitment to highlighting those spectacular moments that changed the history of art through SALON. ‘Many know Alexander Calder is, of course, best known for his sculptural works, and it is fascinating to witness how these two elements of his practice fed off one another,’ says Adams
JUAN BOLIVAR: HIGH VOLTAGE
September 22nd – 21st October 2017
On the other side of the Thames, at JGM Gallery, Howie Street, SW11 is an altogether different suite of works with painted blocks of colour that speak to the studied mind, Juan Bolivar’s “High Voltage.” Explicitly historical, this is Bolivar’s homage to the cultural icons that have shaped his visual world, namely Malevich and that “Black Square” he cannot un-see.
“Juan’s paintings make no apparent claim at authenticity,” says Graham Crowley in his essay “I heart New York.” Tracing the outline of his most beloved works, Bolivar’s smooth and systematic painting technique suppresses the visceral – every stroke becomes a meditation on the shapes he carries in his mind. However this procedural “banality” is countered by the explosive soundtrack he has set off in your head with the letters ACDC stencilled into “Can I sit next to your Girl” (after Malevich, 1930/31) The heavy metal roar of insubordination – as loud as Calder’s primary colours and as shocking as Malevich’s original Black Square – is amplified across a set of black squares with the stencilled word Marshall.
Curator, artist but above all thinker, Bolivar is questioning the very notion of originality in the context of cultural production. How do you pay homage to those who most influenced you? In “Little Lover” (after Van Doesburg, 1927) the number 7 is stencilled in plum over the central diamond of the same bruised colour, barely visible. It is an interesting choice if you know your art history, as Van Doesburg founded the magazine De Stijl (1917 the same year as the Russian Revolution) with Piet Mondrian, eight years his senior. To Van Doesburg Mondrian had achieved his ideal in painting: a complete abstraction of reality. Profoundly influenced by Wassily Kandinsky’s Rückblicke, 1913, Van Doesburgh believed that abstract art allowed for a “higher more spiritual level in painting that originates from the mind rather than from everyday life, and that abstraction is the only logical outcome of this.” However, Van Doesburg fell out with Mondrian over the diagonal line, the latter refusing to accept as part of his essential grid like minimalism.
So what is going on in Bolivar’s mind and why the number 7? This number is a logo copied directly from Fender electric guitars, another “High Voltage” symbol, there to activate your mental soundtrack. Dig deeper into the history of Bolivar’s icons and you find that Malevich, the revolutionary who seeded an era of graphic imperatives (such as the Fender logo “7”), was forced by Stalin’s regime to abandon abstraction. So sheepishly, he returned to the figurative, and here we begin to see Bolivar’s thesis at work: the postmodern trap in which the radical, the rebel, always becomes mainstream.
NICOLAS SCHOFFER ‘AN IMPLOSION OF TIME’
29 September – 4 November
On this theme, head back over to Maddox Arts in Brooks Mews, Mayfair and discover one of those revolutionary image makers Nicolas Schoffer in the aptly titled “An Implosion of Time.” A forerunner of cybernetic art (think Julio Le Parc’s sensational retrospective a the PAMM in Miami) and media art, his research focused on the programming of time, light and space in a moment long before we all had instant access to technology.
These works come from the mind of someone interested in the idea of “total art,” and this close retrospective is focused on works that accommodate a feedback loop with the viewer, including electronic brains to generate effects and interact with the “humans” looking at them. This is the sort of work that Malevich unknowingly presaged with his iconic Black Square, like a dormant television screen waiting for us all to gather round when the electricity is switched on.