Education (eradication) of the masses

The Red Star over Russia: A Revolution in Visual Culture (1905-55) exhibition at Tate Modern is a fascinating collection of visual works collected by the graphic designer David King. Set mainly in the aftermath of the 1917 October Revolution of the Bolsheviks when the Russian Empire was reshaped by communism into the USSR, it documents the visual culture that emerged under the radically new way of life. There are some really positive things to take from this exhibition and the way it documents the hopes and ideals of a new industrial nation forged out of civil war and revolution from urban and rural fiefdoms with few shared values. The avant-garde used art and architecture as tools for social change capable of creating a new order for citizens. No longer was art – often iconic – restricted to the ruling elite and the wealthy. Instead prints, posters, journals and photobooks became accessible to all. This shared visual imagery dominated Soviet life and appeared in public places, factories and workers’ clubs. It used bold imagery and colours, and short, punchy text, as large swathes of the population (almost three quarters) were illiterate and only a quarter of children ever went to school.…

Shrills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches

I’ve never been a big fan of Hockney. I admire his eye for colour and his prodigious work rate. And I wish I could paint every day. So I went along to the retrospective of his work at Tate Britain on the opening day with limited expectations. I’d read Adrian Searle’s review in the Guardian:  “Thrills contrast with the shrill“.  Searle believes Hockney was only any good really in the 1960s. I can see why he was popular in that period and how he became the poster boy for queer British art – sticking one up to the establishment. The artist equivalent of Joe Orton. But I’ve always been singularly unimpressed. And his transcendence into something of a national treasure fails to impress me too. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this retrospective spanning 60 years. I really enjoyed the riot of colours, textures, tones, and the mixture of abstraction and reality. Some of the canvasses really stood out for me. In room 1, I was most pleasantly surprised by “Rubber Ring Floating in a Swimming Pool” painted in 1971. It’s surprisingly abstract and striking. Room 2 is called “Demonstrations of Versatility” because that’s precisely what it does. I really liked the works…