Magazine article Art Monthly

A Plea for Tenderness

Magazine article Art Monthly

A Plea for Tenderness

Article excerpt

Seventeen Gallery London 17 January to 25 February

At first blush, this exhibition, curated by artist David Raymond Conroy, appears to be all about the soft touch. One enters the gallery to newly pink lighting - an intervention of coloured gels on a gallery light named Late Sunlight, 2011, by Paul Lewis. And here is Andy Holden's Tender, 2011-12, a kind of mountain made of soft-looking, lumpy blobs dripped on top of one another. The material is a mixture of plaster and Homebase 'Vintage Range - paint shades - the closest I can come to describing the colour set is to mention the sherbet shades of Swizzles - Love Hearts sweets. One almost expects Vaseline on the windows. But it is this kind of near-mawkishness - a genuine befuddlement of genuine emotion and arched eyebrow - that gives the exhibition its power. Is Homebase 'Vintage - really so terrible if it is put to tender use? If it is treated well?

Much of the work here, in fact, cuts both ways, a stand perhaps best demonstrated by Holden's MI!MS Manifesto, 2012, which is framed on the wall (the acronym stands for Maximum Irony! Maximum Sincerity). 'It is ridiculous how much we are moved by art! MI!MS is not emotionally cynical', it cries. Describing the classic ending to a romantic film - swelling strings, boy kisses girl as the sun sets - the manifesto points out that these things still move us. 'Through acknowledging the infinite potential we have for failure MI!MS creates a product that succeeds in spite of, and because of, our ridiculous dreams.' There are two other significant manifestos here: Lee Lozano's General Strike Piece, 1969, a document which states: 'GRADUALLY BUT DETERMINEDLY AVOID BEING PRESENT AT OFFICIAL OR PUBLIC "UPTOWN" FUNCTIONS OR GATHERINGS RELATED TO THE "ART WORLD"'; as well as that of Laurie Parsons, an artist who disappeared in the 1990s to concentrate on her social work and other work in psychiatric hospitals. Parsons's name is nowhere: her name is not present in the list of artists on the press release and no. 3 is missing on the gallery guide, but an article about her is available to read. These genuine absences and rejections are as frustrating as they are uplifting. There is a small stab to them: 'Come back!', we think, 'We can do better this time around, I promise.'

Still, this show is also full of the kind of odd humour that doesn't completely give itself over to us, but which strangely touches us in a place close to funny. Sean Lander's sound work The Man Within, 1991, perhaps comes the closest to outright comedy. To the emotional, string-led crescendo of 'Jupiter' from Holst's The Planets Suite Landers slowly and bombastically informs us that, while the rest of us might all lead meaningless lives with only a mortgage on a house we didn't even build to show for ourselves, we can rest easy (phew) because of his own exemplary life of creativity. The artist, in his ability to make real things in the world, will create 'objects so poignant that my life will not have been lived in vain ... Be at peace, because I, Sean Landers, exist in your time and I have great love for you. All of you. ' The delivery is like that of a US president or military leader giving a rousing speech at a crucial moment in a Hollywood war movie, and it is amusing because we think that Landers can't possibly feel this way, really. …

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