“Michael Craig-Martin: A is for Umbrella,” Gagosian Gallery, London. Through Jan. 31.
In The Observer, Rachel Cooke writes that Craig-Martin has been turning out work that is repetitive, mundane and just a tiny bit cynical. “Craig-Martin has never stopped being interested in the meanings we invest in quotidian objects: the hope is that by reducing them to a set of formal characteristics, we are better able to scrutinise these meanings. The problem is that I, for one, am getting pretty sick of these objects. I’m bored, too, of his ‘when is a chair not a chair?’ routine. In the Gagosian show the paintings in the first room form what you might call an alternative nursery primer. ‘A is for Umbrella’: do you see what he did there? Against flat backgrounds of Blackpool rock colour, the artist has reproduced his familiar outlines: a lightbulb, a belt, a sandal, a metronome. Over these he has then painted a single letter or, more often, a short combination of letters that spells out a word: GOD, SEX, WAR. These groupings appear to be arbitrary and, thanks to the way they’re painted (overlapping, and in such dazzling hues), it takes a while to work out what makes up each one. But even once your list is complete – on Untitled (War) 2007 are the letters W, A and R, and the outlines of a sandal, a belt and an umbrella – what have you got? The gallery notes (as yet no catalogue is available) witter bravely on about ‘narrative tension’ and the ‘relation between line and colour, word and image’, but this is just a stab in the dark. These paintings defy analysis: Craig-Martin’s only point is that he does not have one. Once, he turned glasses of water into oak trees; now, it seems, he turns gallerists and critics alike into masters of invention.” Read more.
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