Monday, 11 January 2010

A brief comment on "Angels of Anarchy"

A review of the Angels of Anarchy exhibition by Kenneth Cox of the Leeds Surrealist Group can be found here:

Having read the review of the Angels of Anarchy, I find I agree with it, not only in its sentiments, but pretty much word for word. It is precise and true and right. If I had written it I might have come up with different examples, but that would only have been to do with my different mental habits, the concerns of the moment or whatever, not with any meaning or with either the intent or form expressed, except with one very slight exception.

I’m thinking of the case of Francesca Woodman. It is hard to gauge how I’d feel about her work if it was presented in a different context, but I have been quite solidly unexcited about it. Kenneth Cox's judgement on her work is, as such, about right, but I feel a great unease about the way in which the exhibition, and several papers on her, have been attempts to shoe-horn her into the surrealist pantheon. In fact there would seem to be a definite attempt to use surrealism to promote Woodman. While it is clear there is an influence, it is one among many such influences in the work of a young artist who, it seems to me, had yet to arrive at the kind of self-definition that would allow her to regard herself as a surrealist. (Quite apart from her complete lack of contact as far as I can see, never mind about engagement, with the surrealist movement). See the following bit of tosh:

The curious effect of this promotion of Woodman is that it seems to be at the expense of several women who have really engaged with surrealism in a meaningful way and in many cases are still doing so. This means that they still lack the exposure they might well deserve and it is the academic establishment, not the surrealists, who are guilty of this.