Back to work this week but its always good to see some shows to get the ol motivation going. We headed for The Sacred Made Real show at the National Gallery on Monday, an exhibition of 17th century Spanish paintings and sculpture. Savage stuff. Especially the polychrome sculptures, really reminded me of all those Sundays at mass as a young-fella bored out of my brains staring at all the Catholic imagery on the walls and behind the alter. I’ve never really considered these sculptures as high art before, maybe because I’ve never seen them in a museum or because I just associate them with boring Sundays in the 80s but they are quite real and arresting.
And then across the river to Tate Modern, to see ‘Pop Life, Art in a Material World’. Such a shame they didn’t go with the provisional ‘Sell Out’ title. Anyway, it included much of the expected – Warhol, Koons, Hirst, Murakami blah blah blah but a few interesting pieces from the equally brash but a little less known Martin Kippenberger.
Its a bit of a visual shock to go from looking at Velasquez at the National Gallery to Koons’ larger than life porn photos at Tate Modern but I think the contrast heightened each show, bringing out both the best and the worst of their respective genres with both shows highlighting what people worshiped then and what people worship now. The National Gallery was dark and solemn, the Tate was as busy as Tesco’s with blaring 80’s music. I reckon I spent about 5 times more time in front of each piece at the Sacred show, whereas the energy in the Tate kept us shuffling along to the next piece and the next piece and the next..
The most striking similarity was between Gregorio Fernandez’s Dead Christ (1630) and Jeff Koons’ Dirty – Jeff On Top (1991). Both are relatively real, of similar size and depict quite shocking imagery with strong religious symbolism. Fernandez’s Christ died for our sins, Koon’s shagging self-portrait represent Adam and Eve after she’s eaten the apple but feel anything but guilty. Bring on the sin, hell yeah, high 5’s all round!