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by Jane Gang
|Three years ago, the Royal Academy in London fostered an art-world revolution with "Sensation," the show that introduced Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas, Tracy Emin and the rest of the Brit brat pack to the wider world. Now, as 2001 fast approaches, the RA brain trust -- namely, curator Norman Rosenthal and Max Wigram, artist and former curator of exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts -- has launched another, even more grandiose art fusillade with "Apocalypse: Beauty and Horror in Contemporary Art," a show of 41 works by 16 artists that promises to arbitrate nothing less than the end of the world.
Centerpiece of the show is a life-size model of Pope John Paul struck dead by a meteorite, a subtly blasphemous conceit by Italian Maurizio Cattelan. Also not to be missed is the vast toy battlefield of mutilated soldiers laid out in the shape of a swastika by Jake and Dinos Chapman. It's titled Hell. Another hit is kooky new-ager Mariko Mori's Dream Temple, an interactive work that has visitors queuing up to go inside and be subjected to a virtual-reality video projection.
A new face in the show is Chris Cunningham, an acclaimed music video director (he did Bjork's Dancer in the Dark) who is now enjoying art-world success with his video Flex, a kind of roller-coaster ride of intimate relationships that includes music by Richard James and, oh yes, a naked couple on screen. The German artist Gregor Schneider contributes Cellar, a claustrophobic yet fascinating journey through the house which he has been pathologically building and rebuilding for the last 15 years.
Other favorites include Jeff Koons' giant Balloon Dog, made of high chromium stainless steel, from now legendary "Celebration" series. At the low-tech end of the spectrum are the videotapes of Angus Fairhurst, looped performances and animations that serve a metaphor for the absurdity of life: we wake up, we go to work, we eat, we sleep, we die.
"Apocalypse" is sponsored, by the way, by Eyestorm, the online seller of high-end contemporary art editions. The show is on view until Dec. 15, 2000.
Andy Goldsworthy at the Curve
Long known for his quirky Minimalist sculptures in nature, for the Barbican Goldsworthy constructed Clay Wall, measuring six meters tall and 25 long. It's made from 1,850 kg of London clay with binding provided by human hair gathered from local hairdressers.
Midsummer Snowballs is a four-screen video projection of surveillance-style footage of 13 one-ton snowballs slowly melting in different locations around the city in June. Goldsworthy employed a super-kiln for Torn Stones, a video installation that shows rocks actually melting. Similarly, Rock Pools is an installation of 32 melted sea boulders placed on the gallery floor. Visitors squat down and inspect these weird mutated rocks just like children poking about on the beach.
The Barbican cinema premiered Rivers and Tides, a documentary on Goldsworthy by Thomas Rhiedlesheimer.
Ron Mueck at d'Offay
Upstairs at d'Offay is work by Chris Cunningham, the aforementioned music video director. One can't help but admire the quality of finish that he brings to the art world from film and advertising.
Happy at the Jerwood, Nylon, more
Paula Kane's works give plastic and glass bottles, stripped of their brand name labels, a majesty and melancholy befitting such objects that have been so hyped through advertising. George Shaw relies on photographs and memory to replicate and record finely detailed cityscapes of the desolate areas surrounding the housing estate of his childhood in the provincial town of Coventry.
Ian McLean has spent the last five years painting two young women. Obsessive in surface-quality only, the slick sweep of paint application keeps the '90s Brit-pop girl stylized and at bay.
Over at Nylon, a commercial space in West London established by gallerist Mary Jane Aladren in the front room of her Shepherd's Bush flat, Roger Kelly showed four new landscape paintings. Kelly's images of tornadoes ripping through the city -- made using photographs as well as invented elements -- are strangely emotionally detached. They have something of a "paint-by-numbers" quality, though they are still visually stimulating.
Kelly is one of five young artists in their late 20s or early 30s who are becoming recognized as new and innovative British landscape artists. Michael Raedecker, one of this year's Turner Prize nominees, is another, as is George Shaw. Aladren tells me that they are all mates, and very supportive of each other. No doubt lots of male bonding goes on over the hues and tones of trees and skies.
JANE GANG is an artist who writes on art.