Archive for category Publisher: British Museum

The World Exists to be Put on a Postcard || Jeremy Cooper

We don’t send postcards any more. Social media and increasing costs have put paid to those snippets of holiday life that were at once intriguing, informative and frustrating. If you want to know that the weather is frightful, that the dog has a cough or Mavis a new top, you’ll have to turn to Past Postcard on Twitter (please do, it’s great fun). Those cardboard rectangles depicting sunny beaches, donkeys in hats, the shopping centre or new roundabout have been consigned to history. And maybe that’s a good thing.

But postcards have also been a part of the art world for several decades – this book and its accompanying exhibition at the British Museum covers the period from 1960 to the present day. The mood is always a bit left-field, revolutionary or subversive. This isn’t superfine art, but rather a semi-private world where the message is more personal. Mavis may not have a new top, but, in Art News Revisited (1976), Hannah Wilke has none at all – it’s part of a series where she uses her own body to make a feminist statement. A decade later, Michael Langenstein presents surreal images that include the Statue of Liberty in a yellow vest (how very now) and a parking meter on the moon.

The whole is basically art as non-art, but in an entirely artistic way. Yes, that is contradictory, but that’s the point of the form and, seeing what is largely a fragmented movement (if it was even that) together demonstrates that there was and is a theme and that art can, and probably should, be controversial and ask awkward questions.

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Maggi Hambling Touch || Jennifer Ramkalawon

It’s fortuitous that, given its title, this is such a tactile book. To handle it is to want to open it and betokens the care that has gone into its production. Your optimism will not be unrewarded, either as this is a well-selected view of Maggi Hambling’s works on paper from the 1960’s to the present day. Primarily intended to accompany an exhibition at the British Museum, the book nevertheless stands well on its own and is certainly not a catalogue. This is something the BM is particularly good at and their publications enhance the visitor experience rather than merely reflect it, sometimes adding material that wasn’t on show as well.

Jennifer Ramkalawon, the exhibition’s curator, adds a useful, incisive and insightful biographical introduction that includes plenty of quotes from Hambling herself, providing a glimpse of her creative processes and working methods.

If you’ve visited the exhibition, the chances are you’ll want this. If you haven’t, or can’t, it makes for a very useful substitute.

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