Review: Modern and Compelling Post-War Art Exhibition in London

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Sculptures and paintings on display at the Postwar Modern exhibition in London.

Presented at the Barbican Center in London is an exhibition titled ‘Postwar Modern: New Art in Britain 1945-1965‘ and here the period of post-war reconstruction is seen through the eyes of a diverse number of artists and through the use of different mediums, from painting to sculpture and collage to architecture.

One of the themes of the exhibition is the passage from the artistic perspectives of the immediate post-war period, between destruction, doubt and uncertainty, to the hope promised by the 1960s and the rise of mass consumption.

This evolution materializes in multiple exhibition halls because art is not classified by artist of an era, but by different artistic currents. The only commonality is modernism and the 20-year period chosen by the Conservatives.

Independent of each school, there is one overarching artistic goal – to make sense of the world and provide a new alignment with the experience and values ​​of modern industrial life.

Every area was interesting, even the exhibit called “Concrete” which was about brutalist art. Can something be functional and aesthetic? This is one of the questions that comes to mind when considering the pieces in this part of the overall exhibit.

An example of construction after post-war destruction is an iron sculpture of Lyn Chadwick. The appearance is a floating arrangement of welded rods, lighting a torch towards a new era of reconstruction and industrial ingenuity.

A sculpture by Lynn Chadwick on display at the Barbican. Image by Tim Sandle

Magda Cordel was an abstract painter who often depicted representations of women’s bodies. His art is known for its sensual, aggressive and primitivist qualities.

Abstract painting by Magda Cordell. Image by Tim Sandle.

Made from scrap wood and designed to look precarious, are by Kim Lim chess pieces (1960). Kim is recognized for her abstract wood and stone sculptures that explore the relationship between art and nature.

Kim’s wooden abstract chess pieces on display. Image by Tim Sandle,

Something so textured is by Leon Kossoff depiction of a London rail junction, done with large amounts of paint designed to show the rapid movement of trains. Kossof produced many London cityscapes during his career.

Kossof’s textured painting of railroad tracks and moving trains. Image by Tim Sandle.

Among the final pieces, in the section entitled “Horizons”, is the work of Gustave Metzger (who developed the concept of self-destructive art and art strike) called Liquid crystal environment. It is a series of visual and dynamic sculptures created using heat-sensitive chemicals encased in glass. These are meant to represent both the horror of nuclear war and the possibility of more informed change.

Metzger’s Liquid Crystal Environment, presented as an immersive space. Image by Tim Sandle.

Postwar Modern makes for a fascinating exhibit, and well worth a visit at the Barbican Center in London, UK. There are 48 artists and around 200 works of painting, sculpture, photography, collage and installation exhibited.

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