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Modern Times is a new series of exhibitions where we invite creative people to trace pathways through the 20th and 21st centuries. Exhibition by exhibition, the series will build an informal, accumulative history of the art of our times.
Lutz Becker is a film-maker, painter and curator of exhibitions. Born in East Berlin, he came to London to study at the Slade and stayed on. For this exhibition he combined drawing, the oldest and most fundamental medium, with film, one of the most modern. Both, in their own ways, embody time and a sense of the transient.
The subtitle ‘responding to chaos’ reflects the predicament of artists addressing a period marked by totalitarian regimes, world wars, the threat of nuclear or climatic extinction, and accelerating technological and social change. Theirs is a distinctly urban art, largely uninvolved in the contemplation of nature. As the novelist Malcolm Bradbury has observed: ‘Modernism is our art; it is the one art that responds to the scenario of our chaos.’ Lutz Becker explores the urge towards abstraction and its ongoing dialogue with figuration, and the conversation between the geometric and the gestural.
While being presented non-chronologically – to explore links across time and geography – the exhibition runs the gamut from Italian Futurism and Russian Constructivism via Abstract Expressionism to Minimalism and Conceptualism. It includes work by well known artists such as Boccioni, Malevich, Mondrian, Grosz, Klee, Pollock, de Kooning, Giacometti, Bourgeois, Beuys, Serra, Judd and Twombly, as well as artists sidelined in the mainstream of art history.
The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue with essays by Lutz Becker, Iain Boyd Whyte, David Elliott and Nicholas Wadley. It also provides the context for programmes of talks, music and films. You can buy this catalogue here.