Urban and urbane…

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Having taken our eye off the ball these past few months its good to get back to the hard business of reviewing whats about. And where better to start than the home of the Premiership Champions?   So away from the A52 south to Leicester. It’s here that De Montfort University have picked up the University ball as far as gallery spaces go (excepting the Djanogly at Nottingham – clearly our best HE gallery in the region by a country mile) by opening this lovely new space in the Vijay Patel building.

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The opening show cleverly and wittily picks up the theme of what’s happening outside, viz. extensive on going landscaping activity that currently means that one has to enter the space from the rear rather than the main entrance. Indeed Simon & Tom Bloor’s installation – Urban Studies might almost be part of the external H&S doings…obviously part of the point. At first its tempting to write off this work as just another example of ‘stuffism’ and there is a whiff of the facile about some of the thinking at play here. It’s plainly lazy and absurd to argue that the row of brightly splashed plaster coke cans represents the ‘idea’ of “the crushing of a can is a creative gesture equal to chisel on marble” as is claimed in the accompanying blurb. But, to be fair to the artists, they may have had nothing to do with that.

img_9795The mainstays of the display are the dotted about arrangements of the (albeit over elegantly coiffeured) security fences decked out with canvases on which paintings have been made. Curiously these are styled as ‘graffiti’ in the text panel but they actually seem altogether more ‘aesthetic’ in their construction and could, at a pinch, have come out of any savvy Bushwick atelier over the past twenty years. I suspect that there may even be a specific referent at work here as that seems to be the lads usual MO. Indeed I may be over egging the pudding but the gaily coloured sandbags that weigh down the base blocks of the fences suggested to me a nod in the direction of dear old Barry Flanagan’s early outings before the hare production took over. Overall however despite the lack of real depth the work did have a brash, indeed urbane and witty feel to it and played well in a space that will suit free standing pieces well enough but be a tad more problematic for those of us wedded to more traditional and old fashioned wall based outputs.

img_9801Still fair play the DMU – this is an impressive space in a lively building on what is rapidly becoming a very stylish campus. And a welcome addition to the few spaces for contemporary art in the ‘Premier’ city in the region!

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