art

Horses: Patti Smith and her Band

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40 years on and Horses, the debut album from Patti Smith is given a visual tribute. As Mac Randall wrote in The Observer, 

"The historical importance of Horses is inarguable, above and beyond any particular aesthetic considerations. It introduced, fully formed, a daring new mystic voice in popular music. It referenced a classic persona, that of the androgynous poet/rocker, and gave it an exciting twist: the poet/rocker in question was a woman. And for listeners outside of New York, it was the first real full-length hint of the artistic ferment taking place in the mid-’70s at the juncture of Bowery and Bleecker. "

I remember when this came out and I recall all of us listening over and over to what was a revelatory musical gift. I've loved Patti Smith over the years for her albums, for her books, for the fact that she walked away from rock stardom to live in domesticity with her husband Fred 'Sonic' Smith, and for returning to music after his death and making great albums all over again.

Live she is electric, her romantic and poet belief that transcendence could be found in rock and roll still firmly held in her outstretched arms and a voice that roars and screams and rages. "before rock and roll you only had God," said David Bowie and you can't help but know that captures some of Patti's perspective as well. It might seem naive in these cynical times where all the ideals and romanticism of the early decades of rock and roll seem trite and silly, but she still believes and she'll make you believe too.

The documentary is fairly straightforward. A few occasional backstage outtakes give us glimpses behind the scenes but this is a documentary about an eight track album that inserted itself into the rock pantheon and still thrills today. "Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine," is the opening line and that is not the best one on the album. There are moments in this documentarty where the electricity is palpable. It's streaming on AppleTV.

Let There Be More Light

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One of the UK's richest people, Mike Platt, a hedge-fund investor, is also a patron of many contemporary artists and has taken over a deconsecrated church in Marylebone as a base for his collection.

The work of sculptor Paul Fryer was supported by Platt and in 2008, Fryer put on a solo show of his amazing sculptural works. The show was called, Let There Be More Light, and featured a series of sculptures, all exploring the dual themes of agony and human folly. These themes were worked out by the artist through the appropriation of religious themes and symbolism. The striking image above is, Lucifer, and pictures the fallen angel, trapped in a web of telephone wires, fallen to earth and fallen to technology. The works were lit to amplify the play of light and shadows and each of the sculptures showed a character in some degree of self-generated agony-the 'terror and chaos of one's own making' as one reviewer noted. 

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The formerly religious space, with it's stained glass windows and curved walls and arches only seem to amplify both the dynamism in the sculptures and the troubling issues the artist is exploring. Of course, the use of religious imagery in the service of contemporary art is contested by many, and cries of blasphemy are usually hard from some quarters.

I am exploring the role of religion and religious imagery in the contemporary arts in a book I am co-writing which is called, The Aesthetics of A/Theism. I am looking at the notion of making revelation out of profanation, an idea drawn from the poetic works of French philosopher/poet, Michel Deguy. The profane is not always a resistance to the sacred and in these times it seems that the profane might be the place where the sacred is most apparent. It seems that art has taken up some of the slack in a post-religious world to address the dilemmas and dichotomies of human existence. As Mark C. Taylor notes, religion is the most interesting where it is the least obvious.

Fryer continues to create spectacular sculptures, most of which explore religion and science in a variety of ways designed to confront the viewer with the complexity and beauty of life.

Hydromorph, Murano crystal.

Hydromorph, Murano crystal.