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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

SEE “INVISIBLE ART” BEFORE IT DISAPPEARS



See “Invisible Art” before it disappears
Anna Somers Cocks explains why this Hayward Gallery show, closing 5 August, should not be missed

By Anna Somers Cocks. Web only
Published online: 26 July 2012

Anyone listened to the 1963 song “Twenty-Four Hours from Tulsa” lately? Did you laugh? So why did it make us feel pleasantly weepy then?

How long can we understand a work of art in the terms of its own time? Fifty years? Twenty? Probably not more than five if it is contemporary art, which is as finely tuned to the mood of the moment as pop music, but usually with an additional load of more or less philosophical baggage that makes it even harder to penetrate after the theory has moved on.

Precisely because of this, I recommend catching “Invisible: Art about the Unseen 1957-2012” at the Hayward Gallery in London until 5 August. For starters, it’s excellent value for money according to a young friend of mine, a graduate of the Royal College of Art, because it forces you to concentrate and read the labels (in self-effacing grey on the walls), otherwise the mysteries remain a mystery.

As its curator Ralph Rugoff says in the catalogue (also printed in pale grey, and completely lacking in bullshit): “Art is about paying attention, and invisible art asks us to pay attention in a different way.” Good for him. This has been a gamble that has paid off and most of the critics have loved it. The show hasn’t got a sponsor—they don’t usually do immaterial—but Rugoff, who is also director of the Hayward Gallery, went ahead anyway. Maybe it’s because he comes from California, home of the whacky.

That old magus Duchamp should be the patron of the whole event, because none of the works could have been made without his influence, direct or indirect. It aims to explain the various reasons why artists have made invisible art, from the idea that art is in the eye of the beholder to the idea that the market has turned art into a mere commodity so you must purify it of substance, to the idea that you can make almost invisible art and play with people’s sense of space, to the idea that some political issues are so serious that you can only deal with them by absence and allusion. As you see, a lot of ideas.


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