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ICA: In Numbers, Reviewed

A homage to serial publications

Written by . Published on February 6th 2012.


ICA: In Numbers, Reviewed

FOR many, the term ‘artistic’ refers to something that sets about questioning the world, its notions of reality, normality and even the observer’s own sense of self. Art has advanced from mere categorical depictions of beauty, society, or history, for all of those things are far too mutable and subjective to be turned into something remotely tangible.

Whether the designs are from young artists working around ‘the peripheries of mainstream art cultures’ or established artists seeking re- entrances into the marketplace, there is one thing the publications all have in common: their distaste and distrust of mainstream ideals.

The ICA celebrates the kind of art that steps out of the box and two, new exhibitions, In Numbers: Serial Publications by Artists Since 1955 and Lis Rhodes: Dissonance and Disturbance, are a sure testament to this.

In Numbers is a survey exhibition that seeks to pay homage to serial publications and the production of magazines and postcards. The collection features around 60 works from international artists, ranging from 1955 to present. Whether the designs are from young artists working around ‘the peripheries of mainstream art cultures’ or established artists seeking re- entrances into the marketplace, there is one thing the publications all have in common: their distaste and distrust of mainstream ideals.

Mark Blowerphotos by Mark Blower for the ICA

The exhibition itself is made up of waist-height white box cabinets containing diverse sets of publications. Observers are forced to walk in circles around each box, as the items inside are deliberately placed so that you cannot see them fully when stationary. The effect being that you create your own pattern of movement as you edge, shuffle and circulate, mimicking the repeated movements of print and production. As the exhibition highlights, “serials blur the lines between traditional notions of artistic and curatorial practice.”

Remaining as informative as possible, yet without including an overly exhaustive number of items, the exhibition makes it easy to take away the memory of an individual publication. Buster Cleveland’s ‘Art for Um’ uses collages that invoke the power of familiar advertising icons, faces such as Marilyn Monroe, Elton John, Princess Diana, Sid Vicious, Bugs Bunny even, as well as art-world celebs and repeat motifs of the lucky strike logo. Robert Heinecken manipulated mass-market magazines specifically (1969 – 1972).

photos by Mark Blowerphotos by Mark Blower for the ICA

Frank Gaard’s zine, entitled Art Police, (1974 – 1994) is a sinister set of cartoon comic strips, comprising of skulls, sphinxes and even a subversion of Jesus and the devil. One page reveals a faceless shadow looming over an unsuspecting artist at an easel. The shadow has a bag of ‘emotional baggage’ hanging from his shoulder, highlighting the implication that it is often the darkest emotions that drive art, whether the artist is aware of it or not.

Similarly, Günter Brus’ ‘Körperanalysen’ signifies the transcendence from artworks that are glorified pretty pictures to artworks that showcase the capabilities of human thought. Brus was the first artist to use bodily fluids. He lacerated himself, smeared himself in his own faeces and masturbated whilst singing the Austrian national anthem, for which he received criminal charges and was sentenced to six months in prison. 

Institute of Contemporary Arts
12 Carlton House Terrace
London
SW1Y 5AH

Click here to read the review of the Lis Rhodes exhibition

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