Valparaiso; how absurd you are...

The Chile port of Valparaiso is a marvel of corrugated iron and colour, one of the oddest, most delightful cities in South America. Share my thoughts on; www.independent.co.uk/travel/americas/valparaiso-city-guide-street-art-tours-and-funicular-rides-a6970096.html

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Might - or right?

Artist and Empire” at London’s Tate Britain gallery (until April 10, 2016), sets out to explain how colonial Britain was portrayed from the late 16th century to the swaggering power of the 18th and 19th centuries and on to the present day. Read more.

Retribution by Edward Armitage

Retribution by Edward Armitage

Really Healey

In the 1980s I commissioned the late Denis Healey to write a piece - and take the photographs - for the Sunday Mirror about a trip he was to take in South Africa. The negotiations over deadline and content were conducted by his ‘secretary’ who had a suspiciously vaudevillian falsetto. It dawned on me eventually that it was the great man himself who perhaps wanted to keep his distance from the sordid business of negotiating a fee (£1,000). He wrote a very perceptive piece on apartheid with pictures to match.

Bitter sweet taste of New Orleans

Ten years on from Hurricane Katrina tearing apart New Orleans I received a note from one Stephen Perry, President andCEO of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, thanking ‘all of you who took us in when we had no place to go, helped us tell our story when we had no voice, helped us rebuild our homes and our city from ruin.’

He doesn’t know me from Adam but it coincided with several stories about the new wave of restaurants and cocktail bars in the city. A sign of regeneration though not a proof - New O is still a complex city of poverty, crime, glamour and music. And food.

My favourites include Bayona’s in the French Quarter, Irene’s and it is hard to resist Galatoires because it represents a past and a history that is woven into the city even if the food is over-rated. Best of all Dooky Chase’s down home cooking and for breakfast - even if the tourists are queuing - Mothers. 

Five years ago I talked to the editor of the Times Picayune, the city’s newspaper which had done so much to reflect the anger and pain which followed in Katrina’s deadly wake. 

This is what he had to say:

A taste of New Orleans

Ten years on from Hurricane Katrina tearing apart New Orleans I received a note from one Stephen Perry, President andCEO of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, thanking ‘all of you who took us in when we had no place to go, helped us tell our story when we had no voice, helped us rebuild our homes and our city from ruin.’

He doesn’t know me from Adam but it coincided with several stories about the new wave of restaurants and cocktail bars in the city. A sign of regeneration though not a proof - New O is still a complex city of poverty, crime, glamour and music. And food.

My favourites include Bayona’s in the French Quarter, Irene’s and it is hard to resist Galatoires because it represents a past and a history that is woven into the city even if the food is over-rated. Best of all Dooky Chase’s down home cooking and for breakfast - even if the tourists are queuing - Mothers. 

Five years ago I talked to the editor of the Times Picayune, the city’s newspaper which had done so much to reflect the anger and pain which followed in Katrina’s deadly wake. 

This is what he had to say:

Come on you whites

One of the most disappointing features of the England performance in the West Indies was not so much the efforts or skill of the team but the complete wit and originality of the not-very-Barmy Army. I was expecting many happy hours of boozy insults, witty one-liners and clever chants. Bit like a football match. Sometimes. Instead, apart from the tremendously inventive ‘Jimmy, Jimmy Jimmy Anderson’ and the depressingly derivative ‘Roooo’ for Root the best they could offer was the morning ritual of the first few verses of Jerusalem.

For the most part they sat around in stolid inebriation. How odd it is that the flags and favours worn at the games are for football teams, not an MCC tie to be seen; a group of Sunderland here, a depressed bunch of Scunthorpe fans there - all jealously guarding their flags draped along the perimeter. ‘It’s against protocol to cover a banner’ said one aggrieved West Brom fan when one of our group covered it with a West Indies flag. 

So; cricket lovers as football fans or vice versa. Strange. Still, I was able to catch up on the latest Portsmouth score. Pompey 1, York City 1. I knew where I’d rather be.

Of language and timing

I write the occasional reviews for the New York magazine, ARTNews. They are splendidly  relaxed about deadlines and invariably publish reviews after a show has closed. Makes them that rare thing, a publication of record. Not to be sneezed at, though I did jib at the addition of ‘tween’ in the Epstein piece. Two countries separated only by common language….

 

Adventures of the Black Square: Abstract Art and Society 1915-2015

Whitechapel Gallery, London.  January 15 – April 6

Black Quadrilateral, an undated painting by the Russian-Polish artist Kazimir Malevich (1879–1935) consists of a slightly off-kilter black rectangle on a white field. A mere six and a half by ten inches, the painting is small, slightly scruffy, and unassuming. Yet it was among Malevich’s works that inaugurated the Supremacist movement, whose artists were closely associated with the Russian Revolution.

The painting, which was one of more than 100 works by 100 artists, opened “Adventures of the Black Square: Abstract Art and Society 1915–2015,” which examined the influence of Modernism’s utopian ideals through the lens of geometric abstraction.

    Like Malevich, Aleksander Rodchenko spoke to the Russian avant-garde’s rejection of bourgeois figurative art with the black-and-white photographs, Shukhov’s Tower Moscow, 1929, like a spirograph doodle, and the stark spike of Radio Station Tower, 1929. 

    One of the most radical members of the early movement was El Lissitzky, who regarded art and architecture, design and typography as shared disciplines. His Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge (1920) represents the red, revolutionary Russians overthrowing the old regime and paving the way for cities which were functional, free of elitist pomp and fit for the workers.

    The theme of abstraction’s relationship to society and politics and the purity of the artists’ vision becomes less precise with the later works on show as typified by Mexican Gabriel Orozco’s Light Signs #1 (Korea), 1995, for example, which, with its lustrous coloured circles, is more pretty than political.

 

 

Jacob Epstein; Babies and Bloomsbury.

The Foundling Museum, London. January 31 – May 10

Think Jacob Epstein and you most likely conjure up images of angular modernistic works such as Rock Drill (1913-15), blocky primitivist monuments, or expressionistic portrait busts. But the exhibition “Jacob Epstein: Babies and Bloomsbury,” a selection of likenesses of Epstein’s children and their mothers, revealed an unexpected side to the British sculptor. 

The venue was appropriate. The Foundling Hospital was London’s first home for abandoned children, and between 1914 and 1927, the period covered by the show, Epstein lived in its environs. His life was complicated; his first wife was unable to have children, but he fathered five—three daughters and two sons—with three other women. 

On view were strikingly sensual portraits in bronze of two of these women—Kathleen Garman, Epstein’s longtime mistress and second wife - pouty and fierce - and Isabel Nichols, an art student who lived in Epstein’s household and was the mother of his youngest child, Jacky. But it was the likenesses of children that held one’s attention. Among Epstein’s most appealing sculptures are those of his eldest child, Peggy Jean, which show her as a laughing, pointing infant, and, in Sick Child (1928), a dejected tween. 

Epstein’s interest in depicting the young predated parenthood; the show included two bronze heads of babies made when the artist was only 24. As the exhibition made clear, he had a talent for capturing not only the appearance of children but also, surprisingly, the ability to capture their inner lives with tender insight.

 

Not so grand, National

I used to write pieces for a paper in the Middle East called The National - big on ambition, small on circulation. When I racked up well over £5,000 in unpaid fees I had the temerity to mention it. The result: instant dismissal. 

I was surprised to notice that the paper keeps a record of my works online - just shows how little I go searching. Here it is: http://www.thenational.ae/authors/richard-holledge

The day after I was shown the metaphorical door I started working for Gulf News, just down the dusty road in Dubai. Just as big on ambition; much bigger on circulation. Efficient, charming, a pleasure to work for. 

Here's a selection: http://gulfnews.com/writers/richard-holledge