26 June 2015

Sprayed at Gagosian Gallery was playful and provocative

There is something invigorating about modern art that makes me love it. The Shock of the New is part of the attraction but a good exhibition delivers more than that.

I also love the way that exhibitions, unlike scripted events such as plays and operas, let you enjoy the experience in any order and at any pace and with the opportunity to revisit sections.

On my most recent visit to the Gagosian Gallery (in Britannia Street by Kings Cross) I went around the exhibition three times; firstly to see how it was laid out and where I needed to spend most of my time, secondly to enjoy the art and thirdly to take some arty-farty photos of the pieces that I liked the most.

The title of the exhibition was Splayed which, their press release informed me, spanned four generations exploring the myriad ways in which artists have employed the impulsive yet de-personalised and non-gestural forces of spray.

I got off to a bad start by walking on the first one which had the utterly clear title Two Minutes of Spray Paint Directly Upon the Floor From a Standard Aerosol Spray Can. The floor it was sprayed on was just inside the entrance and I missed the attendant's warning because I still had my earphones in. Luckily I appeared to do no damage to it.

The gallery was not that large with just four rooms and the corridor that connected them. The works were presented as is the norm these days, far apart against white walls. It may be conditioning but that is how I like it.

Modern art needs big bright rooms but it does not need many of them, as places like White Cube also demonstrate. Big galleries, like Tate Modern and Saatchi, are great for days out and it is nice to also have a collection of smaller galleries available for shorter visits.

The pieces varied in form and format and it was the large paintings that had the immediate impact with me despite them being very different, they are both shown here. One was mostly black and arranged in horizontal lines (like a landscape) while the other was a riot of colour and curves.

To prove that it was not just the size that impressed me, the third large painting left me completely cold and to show how subjective art is that was the painting selected to advertise the exhibition.

Another surprise came from the inclusion of a small work by Paul Klee. This was little more than a few lines, something like a geometry lesson, but it was good to see it there. As if to make the point, on the wall next to it were some pieces drawn on graph paper. I liked those more.

There was little disputing the most popular pieces as almost of the pictures posted to Instagram of the exhibition, including mine below, were of the same ones. There was plenty of variety in the angle of the shots and the distance that they were taken from but they all included the remarkable inflatable animals trapped in stacking chairs, Seal Walrus (Chairs) by Jeff Koons, in front of swirling colours, Abhorrence by Albert Oehlen. Two works of art working as one.

I found Splayed to be a playful and provocative exhibition and Gagosian was an effective space for it. This is what lunch breaks are for and this is why I like working in London.

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