Swinging Sixties' art in the spotlight
Kaleidoscope: Colour and Sequence in 1960s British Art, The Mead Gallery, Warwick University, until December 9. An Arts Council Touring Exhibition. Entering the exhibition space at the Mead Gallery, the human scale of the works on display is reassuring. The proportions of the sculptures and paintings curated by Sarah Shalgosky are accessible both physically and emotionally. Her placement and balance of the works is deceptively seductive. Many of the artists on show have been represented in the grounds and collections of faculty buildings of Warwick University over many years. Reading the exhibition guide the great and the good of post-war art school Britain are gathered, as are the great London schools themselves. St Martin’s, Goldsmiths, the Slade, Chelsea, all have alumni and ex staff showing here. It is fitting that the first comment in the visitors’ book calls it a giant Foundation Course (hardly!) The Sixties are having a bit of a moment in Warwickshire at present with the recently ended Seurat to Riley: The Art of Perception at Compton Verney. Bridget Riley and Peter Sedgley share space in both exhibitions, perhaps more fittingly here with the Perspex and chrome reflecting their shimmering patterns. Many of the materials used are familiar from fashionable retro interiors and film images of the period. David Annesley’s “Narrow Blue Circle” frames the browsing patrons with its da Vinci inspired radius. Equally nostalgically there are lots of primary colours on display as one would expect, but Biba browns and purples are also referenced. The exquisite lighting causes many bright flares and shadows that disguise where solid edges finish and light takes over. As the guide states: “The works shown look across media and movements - to find a common language shaped by sequence and symmetry in art of the 1960s”. This is demonstrated aptly in Richard Smith’s painterly abstract “Trio”.
If the exhibition has a centrepiece, Tim Scott's “Quinquereme” embodies all the delights of the show: scale, materials, repetition, geometry, symmetry, transparency and reflection. It can be circled up close or glimpsed from afar, behind and through other pieces. The exhibition is well annotated and supported by talks and tours and there is a fully stocked Creative Area with enough materials to satisfy any urge.
The show is certainly worth a visit, and it's free.