Magazine article The Spectator

Brave New Worlds

Magazine article The Spectator

Brave New Worlds

Article excerpt

Land of the Free, Home of the Brave (Crane Kalman, 178 Brompton Road, London, SW3, till 16 September)

The Crane Kalman Gallery is gaining something of a reputation for mounting high-quality summer exhibitions at a time when most other galleries are closed or are content to hang a fairly random selection from stock. Andras Kalman has long been known for his broadly European perspective, and for showing artists we might otherwise not see in Britain, and his son Andrew is continuing and enlarging on this tradition. Born in Hungary, Andras Kalman was himself an immigrant to the UK in 1939, so it is deeply appropriate that his gallery should now host this galaxy of artist immigrants in America.

And galaxy it is. Among the brilliant company assembled here are Rothko, Guston, Gorky, Hofmann, Grosz, Steinberg and Hockney. In his wide-ranging catalogue preface, Bryan Robertson points out that, although American art was `received more generously and with greater comprehension' in London from the mid-1950s on than in any other European city (he himself was responsible for a series of groundbreaking exhibitions, including the first UK showings of Jackson Pollock, Rothko, Motherwell and Kline, when he was director of the Whitechapel Gallery from 1952 to 1968), we still know very little of the true richness of American art.

What is refreshing about this exhibition is the diversity of art it brings together, from abstract to social realist, from a decorated bronze portrait bust to an assemblage of wooden offcuts, as well as the generations it bridges. The most senior figure here is Joseph Stella, who was born near Naples in 1877 and arrived in New York in 1896, while the most recent immigrant included is Francesco Clemente, born (coincidentally) in Naples in 1952, who took up residence in America in 1982. With more than 20 artists in the show, it is at the very least an intriguing selection.

There is real beauty to be seen. Downstairs is an exquisite Gorky pencil drawing on a sheet of bright yellow paper, of which it occupies only the top half, yet manages to meander vigorously through a gamut of inventive soft forms. It is to my mind much more interesting that the elaborate `Pink Drawing', touched in with blue and red crayon, hanging next to it. There's a third Gorky on the stairs: a black-and-white study for `Night-time, Enigma and Nostalgia', hard-edged and altogether more anguished. …

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