Flesh

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Youth by Ron Mueck, 2009. Credit: Anthony Chappell-Ross

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.

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A Study of a Girl’s Head by Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas  scottish national gallery  Presented by Sir Alexander Maitland in memory of his wife Rosalind.  Credit Anthony Chappell-Ross
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Untitled No 26 by Jen Davis, 2007.  Courtesy of Lee Marks Fine Art, IN and ClampArt  Credit: Anthony Chappell-Ross

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.

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Portrait of Henrietta Moraes on a Blue Couch, 1965 (oil on canvas), Francis Bacon, manchester art gallery, UK Bridgeman.  Credit:  Anthony Chappell-Ross

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.

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A vegetarian nightmare in the Still Life section: Berlinde De Bruyckere, Romeu {mu deer}, 2011; Frans Snyder, A Game Stall, approx 1630;  Sam Taylor-Johnson, A little Death, 2002.  Credit: Anthony Chappell-Ross

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.

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A masterclass in stuffed tights. NUD 4, by Sarah Lucas, copyright the artist, courtesy sadie coles .  Credit: Anthony Chappell-Ross

‘Flesh’

23 September 2016 – 19 March 2017

York Art Gallery

Exhibition Square

York

YO1 7EW

Tel – 01904  687687

www.yorkartgallery.org.uk

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