Fifty Shades of Lazy Grey

The exhibition Making Traces at London’s Tate Modern, has been developed precisely, there is no doubt about it.

The space, in its meticulously order, seems to stands in stark contrast to the very elusive and ephemeral themes of the show: the trace, the shadow, the body.
It’s a journey into the shadow’s colors and the constellations’ nuances. Making Traces falls into the Tate’s modern and contemporary collection effortlessly.
Within its ten rooms hosts several international artists, the prime of our times.
From Magda Cordell and Lee Bul, to the chromatic power of Rothko’s works; from the pointed shapes of Rebecca Horn’s sculptures, to the cosmic canvas made by Mark Bradford.

Untitled (Cravings White) 1988, reconstructed 2011 Lee Bul born 1964 Purchased with funds provided by the Asia Pacific Acquisitions Commitee 2014 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T13992
Untitled (Cravings White) by Lee Bul, 1988, reconstructed in 2011

It starts with soft, delicate illustrations. A few beats on the surface that houses them.
The star of the show, is one particular soft, listless and lazy shade. An almost melancholic grey that drags on, languid and silent. It is the color of sleep, of the muffled rest after a Sunday lunch.
The space is impregnated by this slow, rhythmic pace.
The audience, proceeding slowly, is enveloped by a spontaneous silence, flowing into a rest in a bed of clouds from which they immerse.

Suddenly, the monochrome’s harmony breaks. The grey disappears, or rather, its gradient saturates and intensifies into black. Now, heavy colors dominate the space and the listlessness is replaced by a dense geometric rigor.
It almost seems like a step-by-step process set to acclimatize the eye of the audience, gradually pushing its gradient towards the powerful color of the room below, the room that houses paintings by Rothko.

Red on Maroon 1959 Mark Rothko 1903-1970 Presented by the artist through the American Federation of Arts 1969 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T01168
Red on Maroon by Mark Rothko, 1959

The protagonist here is a strong, violent color. It is a purplish red, difficult to categorize. This hybrid color is surrounded by contours in black and brick red. The atmosphere in the room is shady; it seems like the theater, a few seconds before the show begins. That moment it gets dark and the audience finally stops chatting, silently waiting for the actors to make their appearance onscreen.

Until this point, the exhibition seems to have a contra climax. Instead of being brought into the light, we are gradually immersed into obscure darkness.
With George Condo we reach, to quote an oxymoron, “the fall’s culmination.” Here, the black is no longer a mere background undertone, instead it becomes the artist’s subject and main inspiration. Condo’s works introduce the black bodies that are carried on, into the next room housing the works of Rebecca Horn, a controversial artist with a sensitivity somewhere between the gothic fetish and the feminism provocation.

Arm Extensions 1968 Rebecca Horn born 1944 Purchased with assistance from Tate Members 2002 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T07857
Arm Extensions by Rebecca Horn, 1968
Moveable Shoulder Extensions 1971 Rebecca Horn born 1944 Purchased with assistance from Tate Members 2002 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T07860
Moveable Shoulder Extensions by Rebecca Horn, 1971

The tools that have been exposed are sharp, thin and disturbing. The color combination that dominates is the black-red.
Its velvet surface is inevitably linked to the taboo world of fetishism, with its chains, studs, and bodies squeezed in electrician clamps .

Pencil Mask 1972 Rebecca Horn born 1944 Purchased with assistance from Tate Members 2002 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T07847
Pencil Mask by Rebecca Horn, 1972

And what remains after the excess? The present.
In the remaining rooms, we are surrounded by street art, large pop art canvases, silk-screen prints and photographic illusions that depart from the concrete to get to the abstract, and vice versa.
This organized chaos of subjects, works, and periods finally gets broken down in the tenth and final room.
Here we find the works of Gerhard Richter, considered one of the fathers of contemporary art.
With him and his colossal paintings we meet back with our old friend, that lazy grey.

Here we come full circle.

richterpainting

 

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