In this review, both artist, Robert Motherwell, and gallery, Bernard Jacobson, are the stars of the show.
This is the centennial year of Motherwell's birth. So very, very much has been written about him, including, this year, a book, by Bernard Jacobson, Robert Motherwell: The Making of an American Giant.
To see that blackest of black Motherwell signature script stencilled onto the whiter than white back wall of the gallery, is to reacquaint oneself with acrylic paint laid down with an energy that is almost demonic. Art as sex? Motherwell in his own unique way invented it. Great money shots of paint that has clients in a polite drool of desire. The power of black and white. Motherwell himself likened it to the dialogue between life and death.
This newest exhibition, Robert Motherwell: Black – of paintings, works on paper and limited edition prints – surveys the importance of this dialogue in Motherwell's work, including his Elegy series to the Spanish Republic and the Spanish Civil War, a series the artist worked on throughout his career.
As for the exhibition space, the home of the Bernard Jacobson Gallery for the past 6 months, not only is it in the beautiful mid-20th-century French Railways House, it is the result of a conversion that has turned an underground car-park (forgive the italics) into offices, exhibition space and viewing rooms.
|Photo: Courtesy of Nick Gowing Architecture|
The architect of the gallery space is Nick Gowing. The conversion provides a magnificent setting for art. Take the side entrance in Duke Street St James's (opposite the side entrance to Fortnum & Mason) to enter the gallery.
In residence at No.6 Cork Street since 2004, I imagine the Bernard Jacobson Gallery, like others prized from their historical base in Cork Street, suffered the pain of loss with stoicism. But all is spectacularly well in the new place: magisterial two-storeyed entry staircase, a well-chosen palette of materials, hi-tech LED lighting. The resulting light and airiness is not only beautiful but highly functional. Motherwell's biggest painting in this show (A View No.1, 1958, oil on canvas) measures 206.1 x 264.2 cm (811/8 x 104 in). Held with the professional caring skill of the handlers, it will have gone down those stairs not only safely but with a sense of belonging.
Bernard Jacobson Gallery
28 Duke Street St James's