A shuttered window with a patriotic Stars and Stripes stuck on the dirty glass, along with an “Open” sign suggesting a hotel or lodging house that has seen better days. The other building is more modern, constructed from concrete bricks, possibly also a hotel as it is at a road junction and, at the bottom, concrete-block road paving has weeds growing up through it. Perhaps there are too many vacancies and not enough guests so things have been declining and decaying, waiting for those invisible guests to come.
The road sign points to Route 41 and to State Road 739, so this must be Florida, but here is confusion for the stranger. Route 41 runs all the way up from Miami up into Michigan, while State Road 739 covers a short 17 miles from San Carlos Park to Fort Myers in Florida, but is actually known as US Route 41 Business for the northern 6 miles of its route. No doubt, local people understand what the signs mean, but what about strangers? Perhaps this is why the hotels are empty – the occasional traveller may well be confused and keep driving on. Watching the junction, the only sign of life is the dog who is watching out for his owner to return or to see what happens, perhaps hoping that someone will stop and stay and also give him a hug and some tit-bits.
American artist Robert Rauschenber’s work “Page 10 Paragraph 3” is from his “Short Stories” series where each work is titled with a page and paragraph number as if it is part of a story which the viewer is invited to complete, as also with some of the other works in the group exhibition at the Waddington Custot Gallery.
Several of the portraits from the popular “Peter Blake: Portraits and People” exhibition have been retained, but supplemented with additional works in particular “The Twins in their Tea Garden” (1991). Staring at the viewer are two very powerful, impassionate, but sad images of the twins with a slightly run-down house in the background, suggestive of the southern states of the USA, and a quiet peaceful garden with one apple on the tree, hinting perhaps at the Garden of Eden. A similar painting a few years later (but not in the exhibition) is radically different and the viewer has to imagine how things have changed in such a short time. The whole atmosphere is more optimistic, more fun, with the twins in the same place, but semi-naked, and in the background are many other groups of twins, all children, while there is a sign on the house advertising tea for 2p (it had to be 2 didn’t it), already weathered as if the tea garden has come and gone.
In front of Rausenchenber’s Short Story is a large ball, knitted together of strips of coloured metal from crushed automobile parts, sprayed, stencilled and airbrushed, ready to roll out into the street. What stories would the occupants of the cars have to tell, of love, of speed, of enjoying the sun and wind in their faces?
Barry Flanagan creates a world of leaping and dancing hares – here two of them bounce joyfully on top of the Empire State Building adjacent to Antoni Tàpies’ “Black Square” which may be black in colour and in mood, but it is the canvas which is square, not the black shape. Tàpies’ works reflect on physical and spiritual pain – the black geometrical shape appears to be a coffin lid in a church setting, waiting to be closed over the coffin in which the arm of a corpse is seen waiting for its final resting place – or is it trying to escape?
Waddington Custot’s group exhibition of British and international artists, including Josef Albers, Patrick Caulfield, John Chamberlain, Ian Davenport, Barry Flanagan, Peter Halley, Patrick Heron, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, Antoni Tàpies and John Wesley invites the viewer to engage and join with the artworks and be the author of their own stories around them.