"So let us all be citizens too," at David Zwirner

Install Shot of "Lovingly at Mercado de peixe" by Cassi Namoda, Oil, charcoal and cotton poly, 2022. On show at David Zwirner as part of the exhibition.

David Zwirner opened the exhibition ‘So let us all be citizens too’ on the 20th of April at their London location on Grafton Street. The exhibition is curated by Ebony L. Haynes and it celebrates American artist Bob Thompson (1937 - 1966) and the impact he has had on artists both contemporary to him and to us. Artists shown in the exhibition include Emma Amos, Michael Armitage, Betty Blayton, Vivian Browne, Beverly Buchanan, Lewis Hammond, Cynthia Hawkins, Marcus Jahmal, Danielle Mckinney, Cassi Namoda, Chris Ofili, Naudline Pierre, George Nelson Preston, Devin Troy Strother, Peter Williams, and of course, Bob Thompson. 

With these artists in conversation with one another, the exhibition results in an explosion of vibrant colours and dynamic figures and forms, that in some instances seem almost cartoon-like.

Despite his short life and consequently short career, Thompson’s work has surely left a mark, especially due to its distancing from abstract expressionism that was prevalent in American art at that time. “His paintings boldly appropriated compositions from the art-historical canon and featured a vibrant colour palette and flat, interlocking planes, recasting classical figures and forms into fantastical guises that revealed the pleasure and turbulence of the human condition.” (‘So let us all be citizens too’ press release.)

Beautifully curated, the London show is on until May 26th and it is free to visit.

Simultaneously, there is another show with the same concept: “Bob Thompson: So let us all be citizens,” hosted at 52 Walker in New York, also curated by Ebony L. Hayne, senior director of the site.

"Hilma af Klint & Piet Mondrian: Forms of Life," at Tate Modern

Install shot of 14 Hilma af Klint paintings on show at the exhibition.

In this large exhibition it is particular to see Hilma af Klint and Piet Mondrian in conversation - despite being alive and working at the same time the two never met, however they did work on similar thematics on nature and geometry. The delivery of these is quite opposing for the works we recognised them both for, yet some earlier experimentations create stronger ties.

Piet Mondrian for example, before focusing on the linear figures filled in with colour we now all know him for, would also paint natural scenery, flowers, and more figurative pieces as showcased in the exhibition. Similarly, af Klint used to focus on the geometry of nature, with forms and curves aiming to represent natural balance. There is no better example of this interjection between nature and mathematics than the logarithmic spiral, of which we can also see representation of in one of af Klint’s paintings present at the ‘Forms of Life’ show. Going down this route sparks a whole different conversation, which both their works might ignite. 

Surely a curious pairing, it does indeed highlight the importance of art history and the thought-process behind curating a different and thought-provoking exhibition.

The show is on until the 3rd of September 2023. For more info and tickets click here.

"The Rossettis," at Tate Britain

Install shot of three Dante Gabriel Rossetti paintings on view at the exhibition.

The exhibition at Tate Britain ‘The Rossettis’ focuses on the group artists (and family members) Dante Gabriel, Christina, and Elizabeth (neé Siddal, married Rossetti), and draws on aspects of their practices in painting, drawing and poetry that influenced one another. The exhibition does not only focus on the art they created, but also on their rebellious lifestyle and the impact it might have had on art for years to come. Perhaps, indirectly, the Rossettis might have had an influence and paved the way for today’s artists, and for how they are now able to express themselves being able to create whatever it is they wish, without worrying about what is considered ‘good’ by institutions or academies.

In fact, The Rossettis went against the standardised ideal of beauty of the Victorian times, creating a counterculture showcasing their idea of what they deemed to be beautiful and worth creating, through poetry, painting, photograph and design.

Dante Gabriel was also the founder of the Pre-Raphaelites Brotherhood, whom famously sought to return to create detailed and true-to-life art as it was made in the Italian Quattrocento, denouncing artists that succeeded the likes of Raffaello. Critic and writer of the time John Ruskin, who championed Pre-Raphaelite art, would agree with the Brotherhood’s ideals and would urge artists to “go to nature in all singleness of heart… rejecting nothing, selecting nothing and scorning nothing; believing all things to be right and good, and rejoicing always in the truth.” (Modern Painters, 1843).

The show also highlights the Italian heritage of the family. The children grew up in London but their father was an Italian revolutionary exile. This had a substantial influence on their upbringing, apparent in their source of inspiration as well: Italian medieval and early-Renaissance art and poetry was at the core of their practices, mostly depicting scenery drawn from literature of that time. The influence is even more so obvious knowing that Dante Gabriel had the name ‘Dante’ added as his first name later on during his life as homage to Il Sommo Poeta Dante Alighieri.

The exhibition is on until the 24th of September. For more info and tickets click here.

I have also done a short interview for the Press Association on the opening day sharing my thoughts on the exhibition. You can check it out here.