Retrospectives have an unfortunate tendency to diminish a renowned artist’s work. Indeed, their very inclusiveness tends to cut a figure down: What you once thought of as single-minded purpose comes across as mere habit; what once seemed amiably various seems like meandering lassitude. So it is a rare pleasure when a retrospective actually succeeds in aggrandizing its subject, and, if only in this regard, the Hayward Gallery’s “Lucio Fontana” is a triumph. Highly selective, the exhibition nevertheless encompasses work from 1929 to 1968, the year Fontana died; at every turn of the gallery’s two
Generally, the most basic fact about an artistic activity or object is the distinction between it and whatever is not art. But in his artmaking, Alighiero e Boetti (1940–1994) was continually demonstrating that he had only ever been making art, even before he was self-consciously an artist, or so it seems from his autobiographical statement of 1967:
In 1948 I tore a large sheet of brown paper to get little rectangular pieces that I piled up and with which I erected a rather unstable column. In 1954 I straightened out a piece of corrugated cardboard with a surface area of a square metre. Since
Sir John Soane’s Museum
Sir John Soane’s regular guests share a deep affection for their long-dead host and become protective, even proprietary, about his remarkable home. Architectural historian William J.R. Curtis writes of each return visit as a measure of “what point one has reached, as if re-consulting an old friend.” The Soane Museum is a Wunderkammer, a labyrinthine treasure chest stuffed full of cast-plaster gargoyles and goddesses, crockets, cornices, and Corinthian capitals; trick walls that open and shut; built-in mirrors producing virtual vistas to infinity; tombs, sarcophagi—oh, and yes, a “monk’s parlor”
Gary Hume appears to have entered his Midsummer Night’s Dream period. His recent paintings conjure up a world of enchanted woods haunted by evanescent spirits, where nothing is quite what it seems. His principal subjects are things that fly, hover, hang, float, swim—birds, flowers, angels, nests, reflections in running water. Here, the laws of gravity and identity are in abeyance.
Hume is by no means the first British artist to be interested in this kind of subject matter. When I interviewed him in 1995, just about the only bit of biographical information he gave me was that he takes his son to