Norman Rockwell – first ever exhibition of original works in the UK at Dulwich Picture Gallery 15 December – 27 March

Norman Rockwell was America’s best known and best-loved illustrator for over six decades of the 20th century.  Astonishingly prolific, he is best known for the 322 covers he created for the Saturday Evening Post; but he painted countless other magazine illustrations and advertisements, capturing images of everyday America with humour and power of observation that spoke directly to the public, whose love for his work never wavered.  These good-natured , often very funny , occasionally sweetly sentimental images picturing America as he wished it to be, rather than as it perhaps was, gave rise to an adjective, “Rockwellesque” which in some critics’ minds became something of a dirty word.  But his ouput was not all sugar and spice- he recorded political events, portrayed presidents, and on one occasion painted searing images in support of the civil rights movement.

Although Rockwell himself was happy to be described as ‘ an illustrator’, his illustrations were executed with considerable technical skill in oils, and these original paintings have increased dramatically in value since his death in 1978.  Recent years have seen a critical reassessment of his work.  In 1999, The New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeidahl led the way with his bold statement in ArtNews; “Rockwell’s terrific.  It’s become too tedious to pretend he isn’t.”

This exhibition will be the first of his original works in this country.  It will include all 322 covers of the Saturday Evening Post created between 1916 and 1963, along with illustrations for advertisements, magazines and books – providing a comprehensive look at his career.

Manon de Boer at the SLG 3 December – 23 January

The South London Gallery is presenting the first UK exhibition by the Dutch artist Manon de Boer, bringing together a selection of works from recent years and a new work, Dissonant, 2010.  A parallel selection of de Boer’s longer films are featured in a series of one-off screenings, including the premiere of Think about Wood, Think about Metal, 2011, which takes the percussionist Robyn Schulkowsky as its subject.

Using 35mm and 16mm film, de Boer’s works explore the nature, impact and nuances of memory.  Her technique combines a documentary approach with a subtle editing process and an acute attention to sound in relation to image.  Situated at the intersection of cinema and film making, de Boer’s cinematography inverts the rules of formal cinematic composition.  Through her editing, often dictated by music, voice or silence, the sound of breath, or steps, she suggests the existence of another space, one which expands beyond the image itself and is comprised of sensations.  Dissonant 2010, for example, shows dancer Cynthia Loemij performing a ten minute response to Eugène Ysaye’s Three Sonatas for Violin.  Here the dominance of sound over image is emphasised through moments in which the screen goes blank but the soundtrack continues as the artist changes reels.

Two Times 4’33’’, 2008, depicts Jean-Luc Fafchamps, performing the famous musical work by John Cage, twice.  First the musician is filmed performing the piece and then the camera shifts to capture the reactions of the audience as they listen.  In this way the work offers a double interpretation of the performance, revealing the impossibility of accurate objective representation, just as Cage’s composition demonstrated the impossibility of absolute silence.

De Boer’s interest in avant-garde music, dance, literature, film and other conceptual artistic productions stems from her fascination with the 60’s and 70’s.  De Boer is drawn to this era when “celebration of a certain artistic freedom” thrived in parallel to the radical political.  The choice of actors, dancers and musicians as her subjects stems from her proximity to the dance and music scenes in Brussels where she lives.

Please note that due to the screening programme, two works – Presto Perfect Sound and Two Times 4’33’’ – will not be on view on Wednesdays from 6-9pm

Screenings

This series presents works in de Boer’s trilogy on the 1970’s.

8 December 7pm free  Sylvia Kristel – Paris

15 December 7pm free   Resonating Surfaces

5 January 7pm £5/£3 concs Think about Wood, Think about Metal

Manon de Boer was born in India in 1966.  She currently lives and works in Brussels.  Her recent solo exhibitions include The Time That is Left, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt 2008; Witte the With, Rotterdam 2008; Dissonant, Jan Mot, Brussels 2010.  Her films are presented at international film festivals.

South London Gallery, 65 Peckham Road, SE 5 8 UH.  Open Tuesday-Sunday 11-6pm except Wednesdays until 9pm. Closed  Mondays

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