Picasso is reputed to have said, “good artists copy; great artists steal.” At first sight Eva and Franco Mattes, whose work is currently showing at Carroll/Fletcher in the heart of Soho, appear to have taken this advice literally. Stolen comprises some 40 or more different fragments of artworks from different museums in the US and Europe. They are each encapsulated in a little perspex box and, on the wall, nearby is a key so that you can work out what you are looking at.
It is like a Who’s Who of contemporary art; some artists might be quite peeved to be left out. Among those included are Wahol, Andre, Segal, Beuys, Kandinsky. Very few women, you notice; Robert Rauschenberg’s bed is included rather than that of Tracy Emin. Rauschenberg himself famously erased a drawing by de Kooning but that was with permission.One wonders what he would have thought. Looking at the tiny trophies, a few threads here, a label there, some strangely sizeable items like the metal plate from Cesar, one is torn between admiration at their audacity and middle class horror at the vandalism, even if on a small scale; “what if everyone were to do it?”
Finally, despite the video above the reception desk showing the pair appropriating a thread from a painting by Alberto Burri, doubts surface. “What is this? A fragment of porcelain from Marcel Duchamp’s fountain? ” But the whereabouts of Duchamp’s fountain are unknown. Only replicas exist. I conclude that Eva and Franco are only guilty of breaking the ninth commandment, rather than the more serious eighth. I am almost disappointed.
The exhibition “looking at one thing and thinking of something else.” has been in four parts and this is the last of the series , entitled Disrupt/Disorder/Display. It certainly succeeds in making you think about the nature of art. I wish I had seen the earlier ones. The world has been turned upside down in another of the Mattes’ work. This time in a very different form; a disconsolate cat has been caged by a canary.
Natascha Sadr Haghighian’s I can’t work life this was first produced in 2007 in response to a gallery’s invitation to contribute a work for an art fair. The words are spelt out by gaps in the hammered nails. The abandoned tools and bent nails lie on the floor beneath clearly expressing her frustration with the commercialism of the art world.
Downstairs, I particularly enjoyed the video by John Wood and Paul Harrison, Semi Automatic Painting Machine. Framed by articles apparently hanging out to dry, we watch items being spray painted, sometimes to the point where they can hardly be distinguished from their surroundings.
It is more interesting than it sounds. The sound of the paint being sprayed is particularly effective. Once again I found myself looking at one thing and thinking about something else – in this case, ” how did they do it?”
Looking at one thing and thinking about something else is showing at Carroll/Fletcher,56-57 Eastcastle Street,London W1W8EQ until 29 April