In the 30 ft painting Philip Herbert, 4th Earl of Pembroke, and his Family 1635, Van Dyck created a dazzling visual essay on the nature of wealth, power and family unity, all set against an Arcadian backdrop. However, the world he depicted was on the edge of collapse, disorder and decay. The notion of entropy has permeated the history of Western art, no more so than in the twentieth century. You could argue it has been its most persistent theme. Robert Smithson wrote and made work on the subject of entropy, and believed its most ‘succinct’ definition was the story of Humpty Dumpty.
Reflecting on her visit to the studio of Katja Strunz, Charlotte Klonk notices how the theme of entropy has informed Strunz’s work, not just in the occasional presentation of her sculptures in run-down settings, but in how she has borrowed from artists such as Malevich and El Lissitzky, as well as Smithson, to create playful yet ‘ghostly illusions’ – a description that some critics have applied to Turner’s late works. Observers might refer to this refreshed attention to the previous century’s art movements as ‘playing the ruins’, but Martin Herbert argues that such plundering doesn’t necessarily mean absorbing the aesthetics and ideals of the past.
Instead history, memory and myth are, as the artist Adam Cvijanovic puts it, ‘hopelessly garbled together in our own personal and political narratives’ – an idea that surfaces in Nicolas Bourriaud’s Altermodern: Tate Triennial exhibition. However, as Bourriaud’s Altermodern describes art made in today’s global context which is in part a reaction against cultural standardisation, one could argue that this approach is actually fighting against the ‘graduation equilibrium’ that Smithson saw entropy forcing upon us.
Bice Curiger and Simon Grant
In this issue
From Gabriel Orozco’s exhibition of yoghurt pot lids to Rirkrit Tiravanija’s transformation of a gallery into a kitchen to serve visitors food, when David Hammons set up a stand selling snowballs in downtown New York, he cannot have imagined that 25 years later the subject of the everyday would be so popular.
On the eve of Glenn Brown's solo exhibition at Tate Liverpool, Rochelle Steiner and Alison Gingeras talk about the enduring appeal of the painter's work.
Is Anthony van Dyck a British artist? Jeremy Wood charts the continental shift of a peripatetic man who spent two influential periods of time in England.
Why was Otto Meuhl's 1970 performance Manopsychotic Ballet forgotten?
‘New Modernism is rampant,’ argues Martin Herbert
On the eve of Tate Britain’s Triennial, Andrew Hunt explores the themes proposed by its curator, Nicholas Bourriaud.
Tourette’s – an ongoing project by Will Holder and Stuart Bailey – has taken the form of magazines, a series of lectures, films, readings and performances. Tate Etc. publishes the recent exchange of letters between the two protagonists.
The work of Russian female artists under Stalin in the 1930s has been largely forgotten. Many, as Kiaer writes, ‘Saw themselves as every bit as revolutionary as the previous generations’.
Can a book with no text paint a portrait of a writer? Elisabeth Lebovici examines the challenging representation of identity in Roni Horn’s work.
The artist has said: 'If you were to ask me what I do, I would say that I draw – this is the primary activity.' Mark Godfrey examines how the enquiry into the process of their making is part of the rewarding experience of her enigmatic drawings.
Turner’s late pictures were dismissed as works of ‘senile decreptitude’ and questioned even by his most devoted disciple, John Ruskin. Sam Smiles looks at a change in perception since the early 1900s.
Charlotte Klonk visits Katja Strunz in her Berlin studio and hears how the early influence of Robert Smithson and his interest in entropy has fed into her sculptures and drawings.
Individual reflections on a work in the Tate collection
On a visit to the Tate Archive, Susie Gauntlett discovers a postcard written by a young Lucian Freud.
William Kentridge was invited to make a projection on the fire screen of the Fenice opera theatre, which was primarily seen while the orchestra tuned up before each nights performance. His project – (REPEAT) from the beginning / Da Capo – features a series of sculptures rotated on a table by the artist, that on turning reveal their shape at certain points in their rotation. Art historian John Lloyd asks the artist about the project for Tate Etc.
Each month, Tate Etc. publishes new poetry by leading poets such as John Burnside, Moniza Alvi, Adam Thorpe, Alice Oswald and David Harsent who respond to works from the Tate collection.