Critics’ Picks

View of “Art Now: Clunie Reid and James Richards,” 2010. From left: Clunie Reid,
Your Higher Plane Awaits, 2010; James Richards,
Call and Bluff, 2009. 


Clunie Reid and James Richards

Tate Britain
September 4–December 12

Although collage and video come from very different art-historical canons, the pairing of works by Clunie Reid and James Richards in this exhibition presents some striking aesthetic affinities between the media. Both artists explore the recent past through their choices of subject matter and methods of presentation. Richards’s Call and Bluff, 2009, a montage of found material from feature films and instructional VHS tapes, is displayed on four Hantarex monitors, a once-common gallery fixture superseded by the flat-panel monitor. The interplay between the footage (including excerpts from A Nightmare on Elm Street [1984] and photographic lighting tutorials) and the patchwork of audio emanating from the piece builds an abstract narrative that references the heritage of UK video art through a nostalgic nod to the obsolete media.

Richards’s work challenges the inherent linearity of video with its edits and multiple screens. This attribute is also found in Reid’s expansive collage Your Higher Plane Awaits, 2010, which consists of a mass of monochrome prints taped to an entire wall in the gallery. Each individual print features images lifted from popular culture: Cartoon characters, celebrities, and handwritten statements are jumbled in nightmarish combinations. Reid’s work echoes the manic gathering of information symptomatic of the Internet age, and her anti-aesthetic use of tape adds to the works’ rebelliousness. Overall, the mining and combination of existing material in both of these strong pieces makes this modestly scaled exhibition a cohesive success that holds up a mirror to contemporary culture, questioning the nature of the image and its role in society.