Martyrs on one wall and Samson and Delilah on another. Walking into ‘Flesh’ at the York Art Gallery made me feel a bit bleak.
By the time I reach ‘Youth’ by Ron Mueck I’d cheered up considerably, even though it’s a figure of a teenage boy inspecting his stab wound. His juxtaposition with the saints and martyrs asks who, like St Sebastian, has a saintly eternal life, and who ends up in A&E. They are all victims of violence.
A delightful trio of muted flesh tones: Jan Davis’ photograph of voluptuousness thighs and stomach, Jenny Saville’s Nude 1992 and Edger Degas’ ‘Study of a Girl’s Head’ create mini stories of colour and tone within the theme.
The stand out piece in this room is Francis Bacon’s ‘Portrait of Henrietta Moraes on a Blue Couch’ 1965. Sometimes you instinctively gravitate towards the master, without reading any labels or text panels. The Bacon is that piece. It commands attention.
I walk swiftly through the Still Life section -it’s a bit of a nightmare for a vegetarian. Always a delight to see a Sam Taylor Wood piece – this is ‘A little Death’ with a video of a rotting hare juxtaposed with a genetically modified peach which remains pristine during the hare’s decomposition. I suspect the last bunch of flowers I bought were genetically modified as they were spookily and unrealistically healthy for far too long.
Performance art greets in the “Abstract Flesh” section: Carotee Schneemann’s “Meat Joy” . Nothing quite as subtle as a film including an almost naked man shoving a chicken [cock?] in his pants. Weren’t the sixties wonderful.
Barry Flanagan and Sarah Lucas are both on display here. A masterclass in stuffed tights. “Nud 4” 2009 by Lucas creates curled limbs or maybe a penis poking through thighs and in another angle it seems almost fetal.
23 September 2016 – 19 March 2017
York Art Gallery
Tel – 01904 687687