A failure of Courage again: London 3

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Rob Matthews reports on art and more in London

Wednesday July 28, 2004

Another English breakfast of Rice Krispies and coffee.

I spent the morning at the British Museum with about 30,000 of my closest friends from around the planet. I think someone spread a rumor that the Rosetta Stone was getting ready to be put away because there were about 5,000 people circled around that in a shoving match to get up front.

I always dig seeing Assyrian wall carvings. The British Museum has a long narrative carving of a lion hunt that kept me occupied for a while.

After that I saw some Greek mausoleum “wonder of the world” stuff and way too many Greek vases that were all great but good grief, put some in storage already. Show some restraint with your collection.

Then of course, there were Egyptian mummy displays and every other culture from the planet in some form or the other. The drawing gallery had a group print show in it of which I really only liked the Freud etchings.

The Elgin marbles were of course on display but I grew up in Nashville. Nashville for some reason a long time ago earned the nickname “Athens of the South”, even though Athens, GA, exists. We are also fortunate enough to have a 1:1 copy of the Parthenon in Centennial Park with casts made from the Elgin marbles as well as a 41’ sculpture of some guy’s version of what the Athena statue would have looked like.

The re-creation of the Parthenon in TN has always been a stranger idea than the Parthenon itself so seeing the real marbles lacked that goofiness that the Nashville Parthenon enjoys. Plus, the end of Robert Altman’s “Nashville” would never have been filmed outside the British Museum.

Ate my first of many prawn/mayo sandwiches for lunch.

After lunch I tried to find some London galleries, which proved to be a chore even with a map. For the first time in my trip, I became frustrated that London is not designed on a grid, but instead an endless labyrinth of short curving streets.

Dream categories

In Soho, I was able to locate the Riflemaker Gallery which is boutique-sized and kind of a mess (image top). Shabby chic or something like that.

The show was work of Christopher Bucklow that he had during a stay at the British Museum. It’s a mixture of responses to William Blake and his own dreams. Being that I’ve made about 60 sleepwalk drawings in the past year, it was nice to see someone else’s interpretation of sleep.

Bucklow has kept a journal of every dream he has had since he was 10 years old. He mapped them into a drawing sort of like tree rings-indicate years. He also subdivided these concentric circles into seasons to further catgorize his dreams not only by year but by season as well. The drawings were engaging but the paintings seemed too much like a deKooning fan trying to figure out how deKooning painted. I think I’m anti-canvas these days and am responding more to works on paper and panel. From what I can tell, Riflemaker has generted a lot of buzz in a short time. The Bucklow show appears to have been their third show. The second show was already completely shipped to the Saatchi Gallery on display there. Look up the Jamie Sovlin link on Riflemaker’s site for more info on that show. It was a conceptual show in which the work was supposed to be that of a 13-year-old girl that had gone missing. There really was no girl. Instead her name was the letters of Jamie Sovlin refigured into a new name. Or maybe “Jamie Sovlin” was the new name. I don’t know. It’s hard to remember. The exhibition at Saatchi was an impressive undertaking.

Gagosian had a photography show on exhibition (image) . Photography…in summer? Surely you jest. Taryn Simon’s “The Innocents” showed wrongly convicted men and women that had since been cleared of their crimes. Simon photographed them in places important to the crime they were accused of– the crime scene, the place of their alibi, the place they were caught, etc. They were a little dry but still interesting– like “The Thin Blue Line” but not moving and minus a Phillip Glass score. There was little passion in them. Everything was very posed and proper. Sucked the life out of them for me. I wandered around Soho for a while looking for more galleries, but most of the ones I found didn’t have anything I was interested in: blurry landscapes, etc.

I headed to East London where the newer spaces are supposed to be located. Either I was lost a lot or the galleries are all 20 blocks from one another. Somewhere in between the two is the truth. I found a Tennessee Fried Chicken place (image) but didn’t go in. Took a photo instead. [ed. note: Matthews is a native of Tennessee]

The only art that I found that I liked was at the Rhodes Mann gallery. Layla Curtis made collages of maps cut-up and reconfigured into new “land masses”. (image)

The maps, when re-combined, try to put together cities with common names. So if one city has a gun in the name and another city has a gun in the name then they get put together to form a new land. Sounds stupid but it was well-executed and these days it’s really hard to do interesting map art.

Tracy was stuck with her co-workers for dinner so I had yet another prawn/mayo sandwich from Pret a Manger- a sandwich-coffee shop that competes with the three other chains in the city: Starbucks, Café Nero, and Costa. For a society supposedly structured on tea, this city is hopped up on coffee. One block contained all four of these places.

I returned to the hotel to watch a BBC documentary called “Sleeping with the Au Pair.” The title speaks for itself.

To sum up one hour of TV: Russian girls don’t know what they have coming to them if they move to England. Once this was over, I watch the “Weakest Link.” Although it did not fare well in the US, this game show seems to be on 24 hours a day here. The TV schedule goes something like this: news, “Weakest Link,” interior design show, “Weakest Link,” news, other game show, “Weakest Link,” news, interior design show, “Will and Grace.” (image, boring BBC lady) After that I joined Tracy and her coworkers for a beer at a pub across the street. Once again, no Courage but Stella.

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