Seven from the Seventies

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SEVEN FROM THE SEVENTIES Seven from the Seventies brings together the work of seven influential abstract painters from the decade, featuring Colin Cina, Bernard Cohen, Noel Forster, Derek Hirst, Michael Kidner, Jack Smith and Richard Smith.

Seven by Seven in the Seventies Mel Gooding

The eighties, for those who can remember, was the decade when painting returned from exile, as Thomas McEvilley reported, to take its place once more in the mainstream of art. The seventies had been the decade when Conceptual and Minimal art had triumphantly consolidated themselves within the international discourse. Critically, they had been more-or-less universally validated, and their resort to diverse media – photography, video, pose and bodyactions, installation, documentation and the word, neon, industrial fabrication (anything but the hand-made) − had made painting seem redundant and hobbyist. As the story went, it was simply irrelevant. A worn-out art at the end of its tether, and of its usefulness, painting had become impossibly self-regarding, selfimportant, essentially uncritical in its engagement with the visible: an arty retreat from the relativity of material, political and social realities into a puristic (and puritanical) idealism. The so-called ‘new spirit’ painting of the early eighties gloried in its defiance of the modernist abstract (or any other established) aesthetic. Its products were often messy and childishly ‘bad’; it thrived on gesture and/ or an obvious pictorial symbolism; it was illustrational and figurative; it was parodic, inflected by irony, self-aware, reflexive, and happy to accommodate any stylistic nuance, or material accretion from the ‘real’ world. It was deadly serious, mind you: post-modern, but also accessible. Anything went. Oh yes, it was fun! But, of course, painting in the traditions of modernism had never really gone away, its ‘exile’ was nothing but a vivid rhetorical conceit. Abstraction was sixty years old, and continued to be astonishingly diverse and infinitely

changeable; figurative invention and re-invention had persisted and thrived. Out of the international limelight, painting, here and elsewhere, had simply got on with its business of adaptation, experiment and development. Painting perversely persisted in its perennial philosophical concern with visual perception and its critically tricky relations to the real. This selection of British abstractions from the early seventies is a brilliant demonstration of that persistence of intent and diversity of method. What do these paintings have in common? (For they seem to me to be wonderfully coherent as a group, even as they are each quite distinct from the others.) In the first place they are not concerned so much with the pictorial as with the unpredictable and purely visual outcome of a predetermined process. We are presented with an image that is implicit in an idea, but which does not exist until the idea has been realised in the painting, and the final image might at any point have been different, given a variant in the procedures of its realisation. These are artists who work with minimal rules but tight material and technical constraints. (Heidegger reminds us that the Greek techne, from which we derive the word technique, originally meant ‘to make appear’.) In each of these paintings, the making of the work discovers what is hidden in the logic of its starting point. What is discovered − brought into the realm of the visible – is necessarily unpremeditated: in every case, a marvellous surprise! (And of a kind that only painting can give us.)

Derek Hirst Summer, 1975

Cryla on canvas 213 x 183 cm | 82 3/4 x 72 in

Noel Forster 3 Piece, 1974

Oil on linen 152.5 x 304.5 cm | 60 1/4 x 120 in

Richard Smith Maryland, 1972

Acrylic on canvas 215 x 200 x 37 cm | 84 3/4 x 78 3/4 x 14 3/4 in

Jack Smith Sounds and Silences No. 4, 1970

Oil on board 106.6 x 106.6 cm | 42 x 42 in

Michael Kidner Column (no.2) in front of its own image, 1970

Oil on canvas with bronze column 213 x 320 cm | 84 x 126 in

Bernard Cohen Resting Place, 1974-75

Acrylic on linen 213.5 x 213.5 cm | 84 x 84 in

Colin Cina MH39, 1973

Acrylic on canvas 168 x 251.5 cm | 66 x 99 in

SEVEN FROM THE SEVENTIES 16 January - 21 February 2015 82 Kingsland Road London E2 8DP Tel: +44 (0)20 7920 7777 Tuesday to Saturday 10am - 6pm

ABOUT THE ARTISTS Colin Cina (b.1943) has previously shown at the Serpentine Gallery, Whitechapel Gallery, Institute of Contemporary Arts, and Barbican Art Gallery, London. He was the Head of Chelsea school of Art from 1997 until his retirement in 2003. Bernard Cohen (b.1933) has shown at Hayward Gallery, Tate Gallery, Serpentine Gallery, the Royal Academy of Arts and Whitechapel Gallery, London; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver. Derek Hirst (1930- 2006) exhibited at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; Camden Art Centre, London; the Museo Municipal, Madrid; and he was included in two exhibitions at Tate Gallery in the 1970s. Noel Forster (1932-2007) exhibited at Kunstalle, Basel; Camden Arts Centre, Hayward Gallery and the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Michael Kidner (1917-2009) exhibited at the Betty Parsons Gallery, Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Serpentine Gallery, Whitechapel Gallery, Hayward Gallery and the Royal Academy of Arts, London. He was elected as a Royal Academician in 2004. Jack Smith (1928-2011) exhibited at Whitechapel Gallery, Serpentine Gallery and Tate Gallery, London. Richard Smith (b. 1931) was awarded the prestigious Harkness Fellowship in 1959, which facilitated his move to New York, where he has remained ever since. He has shown at The Museum of Modern Art, Oxford; Hayward Gallery, Tate Gallery and the Royal Academy of Arts, London; the Guggenheim Museum, New York; and Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. The works of these artists are featured in many international public collections, including the Victoria and Albert Museum; Arts Council England; the British Council; Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark; Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; National Gallery of Canada, Ottowa; and Tate Gallery, London.