Double Scoop - Wavy Gravy: His Blues Period and Beyond & The Art of Jerry Garcia
14 November - 26 January 2002
A special exhibition to mark the year's end comprising work by two American artists better known for their contributions in other fields - but whose art provides direct insights both into their own lives and into the fascinating years that saw the emergence of the American counter-culture.
Wavy Gravy: His Blues Period and BeyondStill best remembered today as the - voice of Woodstock - (both at the original 1969 event and its 90s re-incarnation) Wavy Gravy has charted an uncompromisingly individual and eccentric course through the history of post-war America. His personal pilgrimage, spanning the hectic years from the 50’s Beat generation to the 90’s X-generation, has seen him operate, by turns, as a raconteur, a poet, an improvisational humourist, a Hog Farmer, a Merry Prankster, an environmentalist, the philanthropic founder of Seva, a group dedicated to helping underprivileged children abroad, a political activist, and much else besides. Throughout these many and varied metamorphoses - Wavy has always been, first and foremost, a clown, spreading laughter and insight liberally on all sides.
One facet of his polymath personality often overlooked, is that of the artist. Since the Greenwich Village of the early Sixties - around the time that Bob Dylan borrowed his typewriter to write A Hard Rain Gonna Fall - Wavy Gravy has created many collages. Many of these collages, made during his helter-skelter years of moving from the East to the West Coast and beyond, chronicle and portray some of the friends and legends who shared his journey; from Lenny Bruce, his one-time manager and always his friend, to Leadbelly, Bessie Smith, John Lee Hooker and other great names of the Blues period. Wavy Gravy’s cleverly assembled compositions denote a shrewd eye for significant detail, treating their subjects with characteristic humour and in a light-heartedly subversive manner. Though employing a variety of different themes, taken as a whole, the collages and prints in this show create a virtual pantheon of blues musicians, who, captured complete with wings, haloes and other symbols of sanctification, are here invested with their rightful immortality, and justly celebrated as the icons that we always knew they were. Besides showing work in this, his first-ever exhibition in London, Wavy will also participate in a series of events, workshops and charitable appearances at venues such as the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children.
The Art of Jerry GarciaTo complement the collages of Wavy Gravy and examine still further the broad theme of the American counter-culture, the October Gallery will also be showing limited edition screen prints of art by another Sixties legend, the former leader of the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia, who died in 1995. As well as being the central pillar of the one American band to achieve real cult status, Jerry was also a writer and an artist of some merit. This exhibition will be the first opportunity for London audiences to see at first hand a variety of prints on diverse themes taken from Garcia’s original work. Seen in conjunction with his friend Wavy Gravy’s series of Blues musicians, the prints provide a unique insight into the colourful, quixotic and hugely inventive world that flowered in America from the 50’s onwards and that was powered by a deeply personal search for new forms of self-expression - as, here, so beautifully illustrated by Garcia’s own prints.
Further depth was added to the Double Scoop! exhibition by the addition of a set of original photographs of the two from the collection of Lisa Law, one of the outstanding photographers who documented the period.
The "Double Scoop!" exhibition takes place in Association with Vince & Gloria Di Biase of the VinGlo Gallery, San Rafael, California and is supported by the generosity of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream.
A Touch of Irridescence - New Pastels and Paintings by Elisabeth Lalouschek
10 October - 10 November 2001
"Each painting is a renewed attempt to get closer to the truth, an existential quest to find tracks that run parallel to the motions of the cosmos." Elisabeth Lalouschek
In this, her sixth solo exhibition at the October Gallery, Elisabeth Lalouschek, Artistic Director of the October Gallery, will present a series of her most recent canvases. This new work - a precise poetics of colour and form - has liberated itself from all pre-conceived notions of painting to become a direct translation of the artist’s visions onto the canvas - without any preliminary sketches. The works show the resolution of particular questions directly on the canvas itself, being spontaneous, raw and utterly compelling.
Having absorbed, in her professional career as a curator, broad influences from contemporary artistic currents from around the world, Lalouschek’s bold and highly coloured canvases confront major themes of transformation and change in surprisingly novel ways. Since graduating from the Royal College of Art in 1983, Viennese-born painter and theatre designer Elisabeth Lalouschek, the recipient of various awards (George Rowney Bicentennial Special Award etc.) and major scholarships (British Council, Austrian State Scholarship etc.), has exhibited in London, Chicago, Los Angeles, Paris and Mexico, and has been an active participant in the October Gallery’s pioneering creation and promotion of the art of , the Transvangarde, the trans-cultural avant-garde.
"She wields a brush like Scaramouche wielded a sword, with deadly aim and incredible flexibility." The News, Mexico City.
On the occasion of Elisabeth Lalouschek's sixth solo show at the October Gallery, it becomes possible to chart, in retrospect, the critical points marking the development of a singular talent during some two decades of experimentation, innovation and transformation. The overall line of development plots a marked transition from the early large-scale figurative work done in oils to a gestural expressionism based on the abstract use of highly coloured acrylics. These exciting new canvases confirm that Lalouschek has now attained a practised ease and spontaneity of expression, and that her habit of working directly on the canvas with no preliminary sketching has matured into a free-flowing gestural style which remains, inimitably, her own.
Lalouschek's early work - which attracted much critical attention as she graduated from the Royal College of Art, in 1983 - concentrated on the male torso. Oversized canvases on which bare-chested, muscular bikers posed and preened themselves upon their gleaming metal mounts bespoke a world freighted with an underlying erotic tension, hinting at broad themes of dominance, bondage and the fetishistic transferences of male desire. On the strength of these self-confidently assertive oil paintings, Lalouschek was invited to present her first show at the October Gallery that same year. Thus began the long association that has seen her move from first-time exhibiting artist to Artistic Director in her own right, a position of influential authority allowing her to develop her own artistic career even as she promotes the careers of others.
The years following graduation saw Lalouschek travelling overseas, spending time in the United States and Mexico and eventually accepting a scholarship to study in Paris. It was the time spent in Puerta Vallarta, on Mexico's Pacific coast, that most influenced the progress of her work during this period. The striking colours of the shifting sea and sky, irradiated by a dazzling sun, the rich earth-tones of the land itself and the brilliant hues accompanying each evening's sunset drenched her palette with a fiery range of colours ranging from brightest orange to deepest violet. Set amongst these swirling primaries the male torso still features, a reminder of earlier concerns, giving a human point of reference upon which to focus attention. Though now no longer the central actor in a thrilling drama matching man against machine, these later figures operate more as a motif, part of the play of symbolic elements, spirals, circles and triangular lines that fracture the picture plane into discrete zones of concern. Within these cut-up planes could be glimpsed, in embryo, the highly mobile clouds, obscuring suns and moons, and other abstract landscapes soon destined to usurp the canvases' centre stage. A line from a poem penned in Puerta Vallarta "the sky: racing clouds torn from huge coloured sheets," suggests that Lalouschek was already aware of the floating masses of colour that were to occupy her next.
In attempting to do justice to those vivid fields of colour captured each evening on the canvas of the skies, Lalouschek began to experiment using pastel crayons and later acrylics, both of which exploit inherent reflective properties to suggest an interior luminosity. When used on heavy black paper the pastels, as well as increasing the contrastive qualities of the colour, had the added effect of supplying textured depth and definition to the stroke allowing a range of different effects, especially where the black background seemed to seep through the vibrant foreground colour. Valuable lessons learnt here would later be applied to the acrylic works on canvas, where, as in Cosmic Blues II, the inky ground is suggestive of the vast reaches of space against which the nebulous veils of interstellar clouds are highlighted.
The intervening years of research have seen Lalouschek's already formidable sense of colour broaden and expand to a point where she is capable of making colours that oughtn't work together, do just that, and strikingly so, by the introduction of a third, a mediator that acts as a catalyst in this alchemical process. Besides this long apprenticeship in the realm of colouration, perhaps the single most important advance to the present is a growing facility with the shape of the broad strokes of colour themselves. It is not too much to suggest that in this area she has been subtly influenced by the work of many non-western artists with whom, in her professional capacity as a curator of exhibitions of exciting work from other cultures, she is constantly in contact. Of particular importance in this respect is the work of the Jordanian artist, Wijdan, whose colourful works of abstract Arabic calligraphy, give many subtle pointers. Again, from a calligraphic perspective, her early championing of the Japanese work of Kenji Yoshida and of the much younger Masahito Katayama are both fruitful sources of study as to the way the brush-stroke itself - it's power and continuity, it's life energy - becomes a vehicle for meaning. In these most recent works the electric intensity of the whole is the product of the emotional drama of the colour multiplied by the gestural vitality of the brushwork.
To see available works and biographical details
Koumy - Contemporary Art from Togo
12 September - 6 October 2001
The artist, Koumy, was born in Lomé, the capital of Togo, West Africa, in 1961. He attended the National School of Fine Arts, but eventually left to follow his own, more personal, creative path. A chance meeting with a Belgian artist, who encouraged him to travel to Europe to develop his career as a painter, saw him move to Belgium in 1990, where he has lived and painted ever since. To date, Koumy has mainly exhibited in Belgium, France, Monaco and the Netherlands. His work figures in the private collections of Princess Caroline of Monaco, the British Red Cross and the London-based art-collector Olivier Doria d’Angri. This exhibition represents Koumy’s first ever showing at the October Gallery and the first major presentation of his work in Britain.
Koumy works in acrylic, gouache and inks on paper. His colourful and exuberant canvases detail his constant search for beauty and his continuing explorations of the mysteries of life. Visual references abound to the ceremonies performed in vibrantly-coloured costumes in the villages of his homeland - where his grandfather was formerly an important chieftain. Large, organic forms, intricately patterned, coalesce in his work to form compositions that unfold as a series of dynamic transformations. Heads and other human forms emerge, dissolve and re-emerge against these fluid background forms to create an ever-changing palimpsest of constantly evolving shape and colour. The subtle metamophoses of line and shape against a background that owes much to the techniques of African printing-making constantly surprise one by their sheer 'modernity:' hints of Picasso, Braque and the early Russian modernists appear with unexpected frequency. When one considers, though, that the source of much of the early Twentieth Century creativity unleashed in Europe resulted from a growing familiarity with African forms of expression, it becomes clear that these 'echoes' of Western art may in fact be the exact opposite, for Koumy's work operates squarely within the ancient traditions of the fertile visual culture that gave rise to European modernism itself.
New Works by the Renowned Ghanaian Artist
20 June - 28 July 2001
Glover's painting encompasses a wide range of subjects, but all reveal his passion for activity and colour. Using warm pigments reminiscent of the sun and heat of his country, he depicts vibrant scenes of Ghanaian life - the brightly attired crowds, the bustling market stalls, the whole exuberant variety of Africa today.
To see available works and biographical details
Legends of the RV Heraclitus
16 May - 16 June 2001
This exhibition traces the path of the RV Heraclitus from its launch in 1975 through to its Planetary Coral Reef and Cultures Expedition (2000 - 2010). The exhibition is accompanied by an educational programme introducing local school-children to life aboard ocean-going vessels and current concerns relating to the marine environment and ecology.
Contemporary Art of the Khoi-San of South Africa
28 March - 12 May 2001
Over the last two years the October Gallery has mounted an ongoing series of exhibitions from shamanic cultures which have explored the art produced by Aboriginal Australian, Huichol Indian and Peruvian Amazon artists respectively. Between late March and early May 2001, the Gallery presented a rare opportunity to view the art of another shamanic culture, the San people of the Kalahari desert region of Southern Africa.
Now understood to be one of the oldest cultures surviving into the present from very ancient times, the San people are best known today as direct descendants of those earlier groups whose highly stylised rock art is found decorating rock walls and caves throughout Southern Africa. Some of these rock paintings have been dated to 27,000 years BP, and the highly evolved tradition of this very ancient and beautiful form of painting was maintained until relatively recent times.
Formerly semi-nomadic groups of hunter-gatherers, the San have seen their ancient ways severely disrupted ever since the first arrival of Dutch settlers on their ancestral lands. Treated in ways recalling the manner in which the American Indians were abused on their own sacred territories, the San groups that survive today have been further divided and scattered due to recent political conflicts, having been forced from one country to another by the succession of liberation struggles taking place in Angola and Namibia. Today they exist as semi-political refugees forcibly resettled in some of the most barren areas of the Kalahari where they continue to practice what remains of their traditional culture, eking out the barest of existences from an arid and hostile environment. Unlike the elegant pictures of eland hunting and the highly spiritualised world that their ancestors depicted on the rock faces in former times, the art of the San of today tells of a displaced culture caught between the familiar world of the past and the harsh exigencies of the present - yet still somehow capable, in their expressive paintings and strikingly simple linocuts, of sounding a message of hope in the face of continuing adversity.
This exhibition took place in association with Melt 2000 who, during the months of April and May, brought a number of San musicians to the UK to perform a series of concerts and give workshops, both at the October Gallery and elsewhere in London, under the project title of SanScapes. The art exhibition, celebrated one of the oldest cultures alive today, and served as a curtain-raiser to the Celebrate South Africa festival that the South African High Commissionorganised to focus attention on the unique and highly diverse patchwork of different ethnic groups that make up the complex weave of that ‘rainbow nation.’ The exhibition proved to be a tremendous success with many of the works being sold. Articles about the exhibition appeared in many newspapers and magazines, including a major write-up in Germany's Frankfurter Algemeine.
28 February - 24 March 2001
Xu Zhongmin moved from China to England in 1992 and has been the recipient of many prestigious awards. Much of his work is a reflection of the vibrancy and noise of modern cities, where architecture and people intermingle to form dynamic cityscapes.
News From the Front:
The Transvangarde in 2001
24 January - 24 February 2001
This exhibition provided a platform for a truly international dialogue by juxtaposing outstanding cutting-edge artworks by artists from Africa, Asia, Australia, the Americas Europe and the Middle East.