Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Pair of Exhibitions

Hey, a real content post! I haven't been idle; far from it. I hit Warwick while Chad was here, have yet to upload the pictures to Flickr, and last weekend the Beautiful Competition and I did Hampstead Heath. No picture from that since I forgot my camera. Doh.

Today I felt the urge to get out of the flat since I spent most of yesterday avoiding bright lights and loud sounds. The B.C. took off in search of shoes and tops, so I headed toward the Victoria and Albert museum, one of the awesome free museums London offers its residents (and visitors.) The 'V&A,' as it's known to the hip insiders, is a museum of design - but that mission is interpreted in many different ways, from clothing to sculpture to various forms of art and invention throughout history. It sounds a little helter-skelter but it is extremely well-organized and the rooms often pair pieces together you might not at first pair; one sculpture hall was devoted entirely to different interpretations of the human form, including modern statues, ancient Greek and Roman works, and funeral effigies.

My main purpose in visiting was their pay-to-see exhibition "Cold War Modern: Design 1945-1970." Chad lucked into a preview day by sheer coincidence when he visited, and it sounded really awesome - and guess what, it was. Cold War Modern covers the influence the cold war had on design from post-WW2 to the late 1960s, and it is as comprehensive and extensive as you'd want such a thing to be. They have all-plastic cars, visions of utopias and dystopias, propaganda posters, Dr. Strangelove and 2001 playing on loops, photographs from the Prague Spring, computers, sculptures, paintings, plans for bomb shelters and more.

This is far more than 'turn on, tune in, drop out.' After my less-than-stellar experience at the Hadrian exhibit, I was a little skeptical, but the V&A really did right by themselves with this one. I even dropped a few quid in the gift shop, something I'm not prone to do at museums much anymore. When you walk in, you are quite literally greeted by the most famous symbol of the cold war: a full-sized replica of Sputnik in flight just over your head, forcing you to look up and feel it broadcasting down on you and the rest of the world. You then meander through a labyrinth of images and objects, and you leave feeling slightly overwhelmed but a lot more enlightened.

I should note that the cold war is a major area of personal interest for me, specifically a lot of the design aesthetic of it, so my review of the exhibit may be colored by personal enthusiasm.

I was only a stone's throw from Harrods and another exhibition, Comic Timing. I was vaguely aware of it from a blog post, but a review on Londonist reminded me to go check it out, so I figured 'hey, I'm close enough!' and walked down. I'd never been to Harrods before and in some ways it was not dissimilar from the V&A. Imagine if Las Vegas put on museum of modern design and you could buy anything from any exhibit, except for the tacky faux-Egyptian architecture; the extremely tacky Princess Diana fountain; or the throngs of tourists photographing either. That's Harrods.

I had to ask someone how to find Comic Timing, which turned out to be housed between two escalators near the menswear. The exhibit itself was impressive; a wide range of Alan Moore stuff, some Judge Dredd and Judge Death, Tank Girl, a few indie artists I didn't recognize (and a few I did), and even some older stuff. It was strange seeing comic art outside of an artist's portfolio at a convention, but refreshing seeing it hanging on walls with interpretive plaques.

My only disappointment was that for the half-hour I browsed through the exhibit, not a single other person stopped to look at the art. Unless they stopped in the few minutes I was out of sight of the main entrance to the area. It wasn't easy to find and unless you were specifically looking for it, you wouldn't have found it, so the passers-by were few. But I expected to see someone else there, especially on a weekend with questionable weather. There were plenty of people taking pictures of the Egyptian escalator though (yes, an escalator.) Go figure.

Definitely a good time. I'll start updating this blog more; I've got things to say and may finally have time to say them!

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