6th October 2006 — 4th November 2006
Jeez. Nothing as likely to bring
me out all Daily Mail as an exhibition
such as this. Yet it is hard to
write about, because, although
much of the work is so hideous
as to defy belief, disconcertingly,
the very next pieces might be things
of curious exploratory beauty.
It strikes me that Saatchi might
be suffering from a kind of visual
bi-polarity in the way he buys,
because [in my humble opinion]
much of what he has collected is
awful cobblers: shallow, sloppy
and poorly executed. And he has
collected it. In previous centuries,
a collector, a connoisseur, bought
items as an indication of his/her
rarefied sensibility. One moved
through the country pile getting
a sense of the owner’s life
and travels and acculturation.
But in Saatchi’s case, one
doesn’t sense that these
works do anything other than move
from storage area to exhibition
space. Which I think, shifts the
connection between the owner and
his collection to something more
dispassionate, less interested,
which shows in the profusion of
deliberately ugly work. Few pieces
bear lingering over well. Many
one scurries from, as they are
just too revolting or irritating.
It is as though he has moved towards an insanely recherché way of buying, which encompasses work by artists like Albert Oehlen, the ‘champion’ of ‘bad’ painting, currently exhibiting at the Arnolfini. As though he’s looking for the mote to put in his eye, gravel to mix in his granola, for work that exudes ennui and self-revulsion. The outstanding example of this, a piece that made me very bloody angry at the time – it still makes my toes curl and want to dig my nails into my palms until they bleed – is a painting by Daniel Hesidence, ‘Painting R.A.M.’ I can’t even bring myself to describe it. I think it’s the ugliest painting I’ve ever seen. If it’s still making me feel nauseous, it must be good, I suppose, I just hate it, not least for the nasty lazy brushwork and colouring. Peculiar territory for an artist to choose to inhabit. And there seemed to be a general consensus that poor execution was in some sense a ‘comment’: Elliott Hundley’s inarticulate collage, Aleksandra Mir’s big vapid marker pictures (the combined waste of time of so many anonymous technicians), Ryan Trecartin’s grotesquely chaotic and lurid papier mâché Art-Brut style ‘World Wall’, and, though I assume such was his intention, Jules de Baillancourt’s naïve art style paintings often looked careless, adding to an overall sense of scrappiness pervading the show.
But in the middle of this there was some great stuff: Kristin Baker’s large collages of Formula One racing cars smashing into verges, bits of expensive high-tech metal flying off in a rush of chaos are from her memories of going to races with her father as a child and you get that sense of pure excitement in the spectacle of danger and destruction unmediated by any concern for the survival of the driver. Dan Colen’s squat wall collage was playful and crafty, and the idea that Rama Lama Ding Dong, a bit of graffiti sprayed on some MDF, was something Saatchi actually paid money for, must hearten every struggling trendy artist. And Dana Schultz’s lurid canvases are funny on the messy business of being a horrible teenager, with one huge purple reclining male nude, who manages to be simultaneously majestic and hilarious. Matthew Day Jackson’s ‘American Odyssey’ feels like a riddle: a wall of pictures of sphinxes with knitted heads, doctored images of defining moments in American history, architectural drawings and religious pastiches (though one can never be sure in America); it felt like a well-crafted cryptic clue, but I was beaten. Gerald Davies’s canvases were superb, the much-talked about ‘paedophilic’ painting feels genuinely searching and quietly confessional, despite its large size, due I think to its secretive palette, and his pink and green teenage girly scat fantasy written in a Beyoncé diary is only brilliant; I was smitten. Florian Maier-Aichen’s photographs were oases of precision, using heavy inks to exaggerate the heavily urbanised Californian coastline and the poisoning of the wilderness. Serendipitously, the last piece, Adam Cyanovic’s large, pale-blue triptych, ‘Love Poem (ten minutes after the end of gravity)’, is a dreamy meditation on the end of America painted in ‘Flashe and housepaint on Tyvek’, its pastel slatted wood houses, Pontiacs, fridges filled with fluo foodstuffs, motels, Pringles, Coke, nylon nighties, palmy fronds, all uprooted and floating away, to make you think how we would miss the whole mess if it suddenly wasn’t there.
Royal Academy of Arts
London W1J 0BD
Late night Friday until 10pm