Thursday, 18 August 2011

Jake & Dinos Chapman: 'Jake or Dinos Chapman' @ the White Cube galleries

At Hoxton Square the first room is busy with several sculptures surrounded by paintings on the walls. 'The Nature of Particles' series of sculptures around the middle of the room are painted bronze that in most cases appear at first to be created using wood. They look like carved African style wooden figures that sit next to constructions seemingly randomly put together using broken pieces of painted wooden planks, with cotton buds strewn around them. These 'carved' figures remind me of the Chapman Brothers' McDonalds sculptures previously seen at the Saatchi Gallery at County Hall. Whereas the idea of recreating 'everyday objects' out of unconventional materials is reminiscent of a Fischli & Weiss installation that has twice been exhibited at the Tate Modern.
The paintings on the walls use a combination of thick brushstokes and watery dripping paint that belies the fact that they all oil on canvas. They also have curious titles, such as 'One Rabbit Contemplating the Moon.'

Although the most striking thing about the latter artwork (above) is the life-like figures of children that surround it. When facing the painting it appears that they are all simply a group of school children (in uniform) standing and sitting whilst staring at the painting in unison. It is only when you walk around to face them that you see that all or part of their faces have been replaced with those of animals. Hence the aptly titled 'Bear Child', 'Chicken Child', etc. Perhaps it is a blessing that they are dressed and have animal faces, as opposed to the more disturbing naked children that had adult genitalia attached to them in a previous Chapman Brothers artwork.

'Mouse Child' sits facing away from a first floor window. If the work is seen from behind, in this case the street, it would appear to be a child sitting (& perhaps having a rest) on the windowsill. It is a shame this piece cannot be inside a ground floor window, so that it can be much more easily seen from outside the building and a similiar trick could be played on the visitor as before.

In the first floor gallery there are 'The Milk of Human Weakness I, II, III & IIII series of installations, one on each wall. Each of the artworks have old (possibly renaissance style) religious paintings and sculptures, a lamp and a table with one or two chairs next to each. It feels as though you are entering a cross between a dirty study (with subdued lighting) and a private room of a neglected church. When you get closer it becomes clear that the walls themselves appear to be cut away from four different rooms, with parts of doors, skirting, etc ending abrubtly on each end of all four artworks. What also becomes evident is the mutilated faces of the sculptures, with skin cut away, reptilian tongues or worms coming out of mouths and a swastika carved into the forehead of one figure.

In the shows press release it is stated that 'in the essay accompanying their survey show at Tate Liverpool in 2006, Christoph Grunenberg described the work as existing between that which repulses and that which attracts the viewer.' This is certainly the case in the Hoxton Square part of this show, such as with the children downstairs and this first floor gallery. The initial feeling of being intrigued by the 'unusually attentive' children without an adult present and being drawn into the 'private space' on reaching the top of the stairs, before realising what you are actually seeing.

The first room of the Masons Yard gallery unfortunately lacks the previous contrast between attracting and repulsing the viewer and between illusions and what is real.

'Somewhere between tennis elbow and wankers cramp' (above) is a series of painted cardboard sculptures that each is labelled with at least one word. These words do not offer more of an explanation of these almost abstract forms and also lack the simple wit that would accompany similiarily crudely made artworks by Fischli & Weiss for example.

In the Basement/Lower Ground Floor gallery the impact on the viewer is far more obvious. One of several figures dressed in Nazi SS-style uniform stares wild eyed at the visitor. Like all the figures in the middle of the room, the black mannequin has no skin on its hands and face, so the blackened muscle and tendons can be seen as you move closer. It also becomes clear that all of the figures have a smiley face, as opposed to a swatsika on their armbands. Each of the four groups of them surround another artwork as part of the piece, such as those that surround a juvenile dinosaur that is simply cut out of painted steel. This 'child-like' (albeit jet black) dinosaur contrasts with the overtly dark nature of the figures around it.
The 'Human Rainbow 1 - 38' series of etchings (on the left hand wall) may offer the viewer an interesting glimpse into the mind of the artist(s). Although perhaps the same cannot be said for 'From the blackened beyond' on the rear wall, they do still reflect the aesthetic across the whole room.
The individually titled drawings (on the right hand wall) at first appear to be half completed dot-to-dot drawings, although it becomes obvious that the finished parts were never numbered. Its interesting to attempt to mentally complete them to see what the image would then represent.

In the final room is 'Oi Pieter, I k-k-kan see your house from here!' These works are the only ones in the show not created this year. There is a similiar blackened figure as before, but made in 2010 and on this occasion dressed in a Klu-Klux-Klan robe (which evidently relates to the title). He is looking at a painting (from 1607) on the wall, with his erect penis abundantly obvious beneath his clothes. It is not clear which artist painted the picture, but the grotesque faces of the figures in the landscape remind me a little of the work of Hieronymus Bosch.

As is often the case with the Chapman Brothers' work, this show has left me feeling like I would like to see & learn more, whilst being slightly concerned with what I may discover when I do.

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