Whitechapel Gallery, named by the Financial Times “the centre of the most vibrant artistic community in Europe,” is famous to host the most innovative, daring and cutting-edge exhibitions in town. That of British artist John Stezaker’s works is not an exception to those qualities and indeed confirms the attitude of the East End’s Art Gallery towards arts.
Fascinated by the lure of images and brave enough to tear them apart, cut them in pieces and rebuild them in a totally new outlook, John Stezaker creates works from existing material – advertisement posters, famous cinema’s pictures, vintage postcards, – according to the pop culture tradition of making art from mass media.
The Whitechapel Gallery’s exhibition hosts 90 of his best works from the seventies to today. Displayed on the ground floor of the building on a series of panels lit by a low, warm light, the pictures lead visitors through the eerie and at times bewildering atmospheres created by the artist.
At the base of Stekazer’s works, always meant to overturn reality by introducing external and unrelated elements in it, a series of fixed techniques can be traced according to which he intervenes on his material.
It is by subtraction for instance that the very fascinating series called “Tabula rasa” is made from. In this case, Stezaker takes out of the picture an entire part, leaving at its place a blank square that seems to call on the observer’s imagination to be filled up again.
But the work of this artist gets more tangled and complicated when he cuts pictures in pieces and he overlaps them on the original framework.
While people walk through the exhibition can’t help stopping for little longer in front of the “Masks” – Stezaker’s most famous series – where he inserts a landscape’s picture in the middle of a portrait. It is in this series that waterfalls get the place of a young lady’s eyes; the profile of two lovers looking at each other is replaced by that of two huge rocks edging a river and the close up of a woman is overlapped by the picture of two Roman arches resembling her face.
At the end of the exhibition one has the feeling that everything in this world – human beings, rivers, rocks and nature generally speaking – is part of a whole made up of details the relationship of which is often obscure and inscrutable.
Definitely worth checking out, this exhibition takes advantages from being part of the whole gallery which hosts a wide range of events, including ballet shows in the exhibitons’ rooms.