Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Tim Rollins and K.O.S. , The Black Spot, Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh

22nd August

Talbot Rice Gallery arranges many events around their exhibitions and having been to this Tim Rollins exhibition twice, I was keen to join the audio description of the show in their In The Frame series of events.  This is organised with Artlink Edinburgh and had been re-arranged for Wednesday 22 August (instead of the 21st) on account of a workshop clash with a visually impaired group. 

It’s always challenging when abstract art has to be described to a group of visually impaired people and last year I had enjoyed the description of the Anton Henning exhibition.  On this occasion I was the late comer and Susan Humble from Artlink greeted me at the entrance to Talbot Rice gallery and we went into the White Room, where the group had assembled. 

I think I counted about 8 visually impaired people with 3 other white sticks and I recognised Rita from last year and some of the others from the walk we had done through the Scotsman Steps. 

Zoe Fothergill introduced us to both the Talbot Rice gallery and Rachel Thibbotunumwe, who introduced us to the Tim Rollins exhibition.  This was followed by a description of some of the art works

Zoe started off with a description of the gallery space, natural light, artificial light and dimensions, using terms such as ‘a kitchen table for 6 people’ and picture label metric measurements to give us an idea of the size of works. 

Zoe and Rachel took turns in leading the description of some of the Tim Rollins KOS works, starting with War of the Worlds.  The discussion featured some of the colours used and the flags which may have been inserted into the artwork. 

We then moved on to the piece inspired by Franz Kafka’s Amerika and which is also on the poster and other publicity material for the exhibition.   Zoe described this in graphic detail!  It was almost a Prince Harry moment - though I’ve yet to hear a description of the said third in line to the throne’s genitalia on view in certain websites.  Zoe had picked several items which some of us could observe from a distance. 

The piece is based on trumpets and on closer inspection has many clear lines.  Zoe’s description using terms like ‘shaped like an avocado’ reminded me of a painting by Hieronymus Bosch and even the sketches by Beardsley.  This is a large artwork and as we were up close, I was chatting with one of the group about what we could see.  Sure enough we found the said avocado, trumpet bells and other features which Zoe had described.
We then moved on to the Robert Louis Stevenson inspired piece titled The Black Spot.  While the group was reforming, 2 or 3 of us were discovering the 3-d effect of the work.  Although it has the Stevenson text Treasure Island as part of the work, the black spots imprinted on some pieces of paper taken from the Old Testament have been applied to give it a 3-d reality. 

In the Frame tour of The Black Spot
an exhibition by Tim Rollins and K.O.S
at the University of Edinburgh's Talbot Rice Gallery

Rachel had overheard us discover this on our own and intrigued, started a discussion about books, literacy, literature, tearing up books and sacred texts.  One of the group asked about the artwork which was done by the young people from the Lothians and which is featured upstairs.  I mentioned my discussion with Tim Rollins at the workshop held in the adjoining Playfair library, when Tim Rollins had indeed specifically mentioned visually impaired young people in Philadelphia.  This was a really good discussion with everyone contributing.  

We then went upstairs and discussed the artwork involved using a stamp designed from Charles Darwin’s drawing which he had used for the Origin of Species.  The two works are side by side, and the workshop had used stamping-on as a means of expression.  These stamps are loosely connected to the panel and there is a sense of movement as one walks past them. 

We had time for another couple of descriptions, this time on the Animal Farm theme.  The first was a piece about Jesse Helms; the second had caricatures of the George Bush cabinet/administration in the early 2000s including members of his war cabinet such as Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice.  (My current talking book is Andrew Rawnsley’s The End of the Party – TB017558 over 2 discs -  which has a rather unflattering description of George Bush and Co.)  

We ended at the Information Desk with Zoe taking details of those who wished to get further information by email, including the text file of the exhibition guide.  These are not always easy to find on websites.  Also, I found being on Talbot Rice’s mailing list very useful as they have interesting and varied subjects in their programme to suit all tastes and sensibilities.

Overall, a very interesting and enjoyable afternoon, and many thanks to Zoe and Rachel from Talbot Rice and Susan Humble from Artlink Edinburgh for arranging this and treating a visually impaired group as adults.  Also, thanks to Talbot Rice for allowing me to use one of their photographs in this post.

2nd August

Talbot Rice is part of the University of Edinburgh and is situated in the Old College Quadrangle which had been designed by Adam and Playfair.  The quad has been gradually restored.
Old College, University of Edinburgh
showing Quadrangle with the Playfair Library to the right of the picture
and the Dome lit in late evening sunshine
2 August 2012

On entering the gallery for the opening of the exhibition and reception, Hannah, a new volunteer, provided me with alternative format details and asked if I would like to attend a workshop.  Talbot Rice has attractive posters which are offered on a “roll your own” basis though Hannah rolled 2 up for me and secured them with an elastic band.  These are popular souvenirs from the exhibition.

Banner outside Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh
Tim Rollins and K.O.S.
The Black Spot
2 August 2012

The KOS studio is based on Tim Rollins work with ‘Kids of Survival’. (http://www.ed.ac.uk/about/museums-galleries/talbot-rice/currentexhibitions)  Some work on the Robert Louis Stevenson – Treasure Island concept of the Blackspot had just been completed by young people (aged 13-18) from the Lothian/Edinburgh area.  I was introduced to one of the participants by the gallery staff.

Tim Rollins and KOS had also led an ArtWorks seminar and workshop for Scottish artists and educators.  Works from these workshops were on display as well.  Talbot Rice will make “resources created from this seminar” available on their website later this year.

Tim Rollins made a short speech and I had a chance to go round the exhibition as well as that of Donald Judd.  I was soon chatting to Zoe Fothergill from the curatorial staff.  I had met Zoe last year as she took us round the Anton Hening exhibition and launched Pandora’s Light Box, which I checked out again.  I also said hello to 17th Century Dutch Pictures in the Torrie Collection in the Georgian Gallery. 

There was a drinks party in the adjoining Playfair Library where we were able to mingle before reviewing the works on show in the White Gallery.  This was also attended by other Edinburgh Alumni (I was a student from 1970-1977.)

Notes from the first view:

Amerika – Infinity (after Franz Kafka)
gold water colour, charcoal
book pages on linen

The War of the Worlds (after HG Wells), 2004
matte acrylic on book pages on canvas

Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagony – Act II (after Brecht and Weill), 2010
gold shellac, whiskey, butchers twine, acrylic
music score on canvas, twine dipped in gold shellac

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
(after Mendelssohn and Shakespeare), 2009-10
watercolour, ink, mulberry paper, mustard seed, apple juice

Xmen’68- The Devil has a Daughter
cartoon pages

The Black Spot
(after Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island)

Black Beauty – Liberty
(after Anna Sewell)

Amerika – After Franz Kafka

69 studies on the Origin of Species

I see the Promised Land
4 pieces

4th August 012

A workshop was held in the Playfair Library with Tim Rollins leading a group of members of the KOS studio.  Pat Fisher the curator of Talbot Rice intoduced Tim and said she had wanted to do this show for many years. 

Tim explained how he got started with the Latino community in the South Bronx in around 1980.  Much of the area was a demolition site and had suffered from neglect, arson and social unrest.  Working with literature, art works are made using texts with materials applied.  The effect is quite stunning and my peripheral vision picks up a lot.  I asked Tim Rollins if he had worked with visually impaired children and he confirmed he had, in the Martha Washington School in Philadelphia. We chatted about Kandinsky. 

This was a good chance to get a bigger idea of a project and how a studio system works in practice.  Some of the women in the audience commented on the apparent lack of women in the studio system.  Tim Rollins is plain speaking and uses no jargon or management speak but said “We have to work with what we have” One of the other members cited a story where although his sister had been granted a full scholarship for a boarding school for her education- the Latino culture at the time had not “allowed” it.