February might be the shortest month of the year, but it’s certainly not the quietest where exhibitions are concerned. Moreover, there’s real variety amongst the shows opening this month, with poster designs, photographs and prints making it onto the billing alongside paintings and drawings.
In London, Poster Art 150 opens on Friday 15 February and runs until late October. The exhibition, one of the many events organized by the Transport Museum to celebrate the London Underground’s recent anniversary, showcases 150 designs from the Tube’s long history of commissioning innovative artwork for its publicity. Chosen by a panel of experts, the posters date from the late nineteenth century to the mid-2000s and are the work of such lauded artists as Paul Nash, Graham Sutherland, Edward McKnight Kauffer and David Shrigley. One famous design featured is Man Ray’s Keeps London Going from 1938. Man Ray’s (1890-1976) work is also the subject of the National Portrait Gallery’s latest exhibition, which opens today, 7 February. Focusing on the period Man Ray spent in Paris and the USA between 1916 and 1968, Man Ray: Portraits is the first major museum retrospective of the artist’s work in this genre. It explores Man Ray’s place at the centre of an international network of artists associated with Surrealism and Dada as well as his personal relationships with figures from the worlds of film and fashion. Man Ray’s peripatesis has qualified him for inclusion in our forthcoming book, Displaced Visions: Emigré Photographers of the 20th Century. In fact, the cover image, by Man Ray, is one of a number of previously unpublished photographs which the book brings to light.
This month marks the centenary of the birth of modern British painter William Scott (1913-1989). Currently on display at Tate St. Ives is the first iteration of a retrospective of the artist, which will evolve as it is re-installed in May and October at, respectively, the Hepworth Wakefield and the Ulster Museum in Belfast. At Tate, the show consists of a series of thematic rooms, which examine Scott’s shifts between still life and landscape and abstract and figurative work as well as his preoccupation with ‘significant forms’ (as per Clive Bell’s formalist theorization of aesthetic judgement). Another Scottish-born painter active in St. Ives in the mid-twentieth century was Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912-2004). The show at City Art Centre in Edinburgh exploring her Cornish work closes on 17 February, so visit this weekend or next if you’d like to see it.
While William Scott’s interactions in the early 1950s with Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Yves Klein reinforced his sense that his place was within the European tradition of representational painting, Albert Irvin’s (b.1922) renown is unquestionably as an abstract artist. Albert Irvin: Gouaches, 1976-96 at the University of Northumbria Art Gallery in Newscastle (15 February to 28 March) presents a collection of Irvin’s mid-career gouaches: small-scale pieces which were nonetheless crucial to the development of his oeuvre insofar as they allowed him test out the visual language of painterly motifs, geometric shapes and lines which achieves its maximum expression in his monumental canvases.
Richard Hamilton: Cut, Paste and Print opened at the Art Gallery of Ontario on 26 January and runs until early June. An exhibition of the artist’s late paintings closed recently at the National Gallery in London. Quite different in tone to the UK show (on which Hamilton worked up until his death in late 2011), the Canadian exhibition is centred on prints and collages from the 1960s and ’70s. In particular, it investigates Hamilton’s reliance on the mass media as a source for his pieces – both literally, as he tore strips from newspapers and magazines for use in his 2D assemblages, and conceptually, as he turned his sly wit on a then incipient culture of celebrity-obsession. UK-based fans of British Pop Art might like to check out Peter Blake and Pop Music, which runs for two more weeks (until 24 February) at the Lowry in Salford.
Celia Dunne, Publishing Assistant