Garrett Prutner and Richie Culver, Cacotopia04 Week three and four at Annka Kultys Gallery, Hackney Road, London E2, Feb 2020 – It would be fair to say that week three and four had a lot to live up to in terms of Cacotopia04, it would also be fair to say that week three and four didn’t quite demand such a such an immediate reaction on these fractured pages as the first two weeks did. That isn’t to say the final weeks of this year’s event featuring Garrett Prutner and then Richie Culver were in any way bad, far from it, they just didn’t quite have that demanding impact that Nicole Coson and to a slightly lesser extent Bex Ilsley had with their respective weeks in the gallery.
London-based American artist Garrett Prutner’s large triptych was surely as much about the technique and the process as it was the the result, the process, the questions his big piece threw up about the nature of art the making of art – “Pruter is renowned for his mosaic-style manipulations of found photographs that alter the meanings of historically and culturally important images; his work revolving around themes of memory and loss and the genesis of a photo being created and deteriorating through its lifespan” – and yes the ideas that revolve around deterioration of an image or the changing of a piece of art or a fading moth-eaten painting a paste-up encrusted wall or in Garrett Prutner’s case a photograph – or in this particular case a big (big) stack of identical photographs. The photograph in question, an inkjet print manipulated while still wet apparently, is a rather unremarkable image that offers very little in terms of anything other than a, well not a lot is offered really, a rather (deliberately?) bland (found?) photograph of a red and yellow arrangement of roses. The photograph is question here isn’t allowed to naturally deteriorate, rather each individual identical copy, seemingly hundreds of them, are destroyed while still freshly printed and wet, the sticky chemical sludge-like substance is applied in a seemingly random way to the three large wooden boards to create the rather abstract rather random piece(s). There’s no evidence of the red or yellow roses left, hardly a fleck of colour, the result is kind of satisfying though, for a while there in the formality of the gallery – there is something in the texture, the fragments, the gelatinous gloop left where it has dried, the hints of almost metallic photograph dried in the sludge,, in truth its the kind of result a teenage first year textile student might have achieved while messing about, a kind of beige, grey, black dried sticky “mess” that from afar looks vaguely like a rather dull rather energy-free Jackson Pollock piece. Apparently the artist has achieved the “average colour” of the original photograph.
There is something satisfying about the final piece when you get up close and really look, there is something when you get in to the detail of the fragments and the shards there in the peace and quiet of the gallery, but then you really need to be armed with the information about the process and what went on and it is far more about the process and the decisions made and the questions the work throws up than what in all honesty, once you’ve spent ten minutes examining the detail and yes, enjoying it, really isn’t anything that rewarding in terms of the final piece hanging there on the white gallery wall. Sure, there a debate about the nature of art and art in a gallery and an artistic process and what is art anyway, there are lots of questions, they’re not really new questions though and really, once you step away and leave the gallery is there anything there in the work that really warrants pondering those questions beyond the minutes it take to reach the end of the Hackney Road? .
The final week of this year’s Cacotopia offered up some rather bold works by Richie Culver (b. 1979, Hull, England; self-taught; lives and works in London). “Culver grew up in Hull, where his interest in art expressed itself through photographing the people around him, drawing parallels with the work of artists Larry Clark and Nan Goldin, leading exponents of social, and particularly sub-cultural, documentary photographic styles”. Now week four really does throw up questions, questions about art, questions about relationships, gender, generation, about fathers and sons, people, about so many things, and the questions this time are augmented by the strength of the actual pieces hanging on the very white gallery walls. Richie Culver’s art is as powerful on the gallery wall as it is on a social media feed, it is something to question, it is something that questions you. The artist was keen to talk, soliciting questions, the paintings, the pieces. the combinations did the questioning for him though, or at least ignited the questions as well as the simple enjoyment to be had engaging with (most of) the pieces as nothing more than good looking pieces of art hanging on the walls, before you even thing about the questions thrown out the pieces are enjoyable – as nothing more than exciting images on a gallery wall they more than do, well besides the rather dominant “white male” piece, that does nothing nut demand and confornt and throw out questions.,, both the obvious and the not so obvious
This is a strong closing show and in his own way, Richie Culver probably is the most exciting of the four rather strong rather questioning artists Cacotopia offered up this year, but then it surely isn’t about the best or the worst and if forced then Nicole Coson is the artist that really excites while Bex Ilsley has us curious for more, it isn’t about that though, who cares about the best or the winner or what the judges might think. Four challenging artists, four strong artists, four and yes that does include Garrett Pruter, four that demand you watch out for more. Once again Cacotopia and Annka Kultys Gallery have come up with the goods, following last year was always going to be a challenge, the gallery has somehow done it.
So far, the decade really hasn’t kick off in terms of London art, Condo 2020 was in all honestly an abject disappointment, nothing much outside of the offering of Annka Kultys has really ignited anything much so far this year, several visits to Fitzrovia and the warren around Cork Street have failed to really excite us, East London has been quiet, likewise over the river, the news of Blain/Southern is a major disappointment but Cacotopia04 really has been a beacon, Cacotopia, in that small gallery upstairs behind the red glass door on the Hackney Road has delivered again, the pressure is surely already on for 05 and the rest of the year, you kind of feel the team at Annka Kultys Gallery can handle that pressure, that you need to keep on going just to see what they have for us next, I love is when art delivers.. (sw)
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