Hello all, the Archive Gallery is opening on the 15th of September and Bob has been really busy painting the walls of the space. See below for the films of weeks 2 & 3 of his residency. What’s next is that the cases will be installed in the next few weeks and we can begin to put the archive material alongside Bob’s fantastic wall pieces. I hope that you can make it along on the 15th, 6-8pm, free and all welcome.
Week 2 – Bob’s History of Art
Week 3 – Epstein’s Travels
Bob has been up at the gallery this week to start his work painting the Archive Gallery on Floor 1 of the Garman Ryan Collection. Inspired by the Festival of Britain, the room is very colourful and has a distinct 1950s feel, which sits well with the time period of the Epstein Archive. See the below film for an explanation of the project from the man himself…
The danger after the success of The Life of the Mind exhibition was always that the Epstein Archive would quietly slip back into obscurity in the basement of the gallery. Not so. We are now at the start of the next exciting installment of the gallery’s relationship with Bob and Roberta Smith. We were always aware of the need for a legacy for the New Ways of Curating project and the Archive Gallery on Floor 1 of the gallery is the best place to cement the outcomes of the project into the fabric of the building.
So, what next? Bob and Roberta Smith’s Epstein Archive Gallery is now closed for the summer and will open again in mid-September, completely transformed. The new archive gallery will be the antithesis of the White Cube, extremely colourful and rammed to the gills with material from the archive, art, film and interactives. The room itself will be transformed into an artwork as Bob will be painting directly onto the walls. The gallery’s technicians are making new display cases for the space and Bob has chosen a colour scheme inspired by the 1951 Festival of Britain. The FoB was a huge exhibition, much like a World’s Fair, designed to celebrate everything good about Britain and also raise the nation’s morale as wartime restrictions, such as rationing, continued into a new decade. An anniversary exhibition of FoB is currently on at the Southbank Centre – I’d really recommend it if you’re in London.
This week saw the gutting of the old room, removing all of Bob’s works – though a large chunk of it will be included in the new room. All of the paint has had to be specially mixed as 1950s colours are obviously not the public’s first choice for their living rooms – their loss. The room will be painted next week ready for Bob to paint directly onto the walls.
While the gallery is closed, you can still look into it, so have a look next time you’re there – you never know, there may be an artist at work! I will be updating the blog at each stage of the process, so check back to see how we’re getting on.
The book collection in the Epstein Archive have been sitting on a few shelves in the basement of the gallery for a number of years. A few researchers have studied these books, but it is only now that I have come to catalogue them and some real discoveries have come to light. The books themselves were taken out of the house that Kathleen Garman lived in until her death in 1979. The collection covers 4 generations of the Garman and Garman-Epstein families, dating back to Kathleen’s parents in Wednesbury, books belonging to Theodore Garman and to those given to Kathleen by her grandchildren, Anne and Annabel Freud.
Amongst the collection we have a large selection of Shakespeare, a 1st edition of Bleak House by Charles Dickens and one or two James Bond books for a bit of balance. The books themselves are fascinating as they reveal the reading habits of the family. However, what is really interesting are the inscriptions in many of the books – these little fragments of writing give a unique insight into the world of the family. I would like to share just a few examples of the discoveries that I’ve made today – things are appearing all the time, far too many to write about here, but 2 inscriptions that were found this morning are particularly interesting – not in any great revelatory way, just in their insight into normal life that they give us.
From Esther Garman to her mother Kathleen, inscribed in Dante’s La Divina Comedia.
This book was particularly unusual as it contains some pressed flowers, which are very fragile. We have no may of knowing if the flowers were part of the gift from Esther to her mother, or if they were added later, but this was a really nice find and the flowers are certainly very old indeed. It is always slightly special when we find something new relating to Esther, as Bob and Roberta Smith have taken such an interest in her and her story when creating works of art inspired by the archive. The exciting thing is that there is more information on her in this archive, waiting to be discovered.
From Ralph Gustafson and ‘Ian’ to Sally Ryan, inscribed in Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.
This is a particuarly great inscription as you can decipher a surprising amount of information from it. Sally Ryan was a friend of Kathleen Garman and she helped create the Garman Ryan Collection that the gallery houses. A few of the books in the archive were Sally’s that may have found their way into Kathleen’s bookshelves through Sally’s will. The above inscription reads:
“To Tammy Ryan
a rummy prize winner, from the defeated
October 22, 1938
Ralph is Ralph Gustafson, a poet and friend of Sally Ryan, Ian is unknown and Tammy was Sally’s nickname. Also included in the picture is a feather that was inside the book. What we can gather from this is that the book was a prize given to Sally after she had beaten Ralph and Ian at rummy, a card game. The time on the inscription suggests that it was written after an evening’s cards had ended, with Sally emerging victorious with her copy of Dostoyevsky as her prize. This book has made the remarkable trip from Silvermine, Connecticut, to Walsall and all because Sally Ryan was a good at cards.
Hello all – there’s been frantic activity in the Epstein Archive over the past few months. I haven’t posted anything in a little while, so we have a lot of ground to cover…
Firstly, some good news. We were delighted to hear that we’ve received funding to extend the project for another 6 months, taking us to September 2011. A huge thank you to the Museums Association and the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation. This will give us the opportunity to create a lasting legacy for this unique project.
Eppy Daddy Battle Bot
The colossal Eppy Daddy Battle Bot was the product of Bob’s residency at the gallery in September. Bob began constructing Eppy Daddy in his studio in Ramsgate and worked on the painting of it in Walsall. A reimagining of Jacob Epstein as a large robot, Eppy Daddy will be displayed in the foyer of the gallery as part of The Life of the Mind exhibition, which opens on the 21st of January (more info below). Bob states that “Jacob Epstein invented the robot” – a nod to Epstein’s famous sculpture Rock Drill. Eppy Daddy tells the story of Epstein’s career and specifically the trials that he faced particularly with some of his earlier work.
I travelled down to Ramsgate to collect Bob and the sculpture and we made a little road movie. Enjoy.
The Life of the Mind
The opening of The Life of the Mind exhibition fast approaches – 21st of January 2011. For those that don’t know anything about the exhibition, which is being curated by Bob and Roberta Smith, I’ve included a little descriptive blurb below:
Inspired by Jacob Epstein’s sculpture of his then 15 year old daughter Esther in which she seems to be resisting the artist’s gaze, The Life of the Mind seeks to expose the myth of the great male artist who has special insight into the minds of his more frail female subjects. This exhibition will look at predominantly female artists who give form to the interior world. Each artist resists easy interpretation and in Bob’s words, “sticks a sharp pair of scissors into the soft underbelly of male hegemony.”
We have some really amazing artists confirmed already for the show, Louise Bourgeois, Helen Chadwick and Sarah Lucas to name but a few.
From the ideas surrounding Esther Garman that Bob has been developing for much of the residency, Esther’s Law has been born. Esther’s Law is Bob’s vision of truly proportional system of government, where every part of society is fairly represented in parliament, what Bob has referred to as ‘real proportional representation.’ There is much more to follow on this one, so get behind Esther’s Law!
It’s been a while since my last Epstein Archive entry, so I thought it best to give you a little update. As you may have seen, I had a ‘moment’ the other week (which can be viewed here) but I’m ok now. Fully calmed down. That whole thing started quite a few months ago when Bob and I were going through a load of miscellaneous items in the archive and some of it was, frankly, absolute rubbish. I know the archivist is supposed to remain impartial about the subjective value of any item, but if anyone requests a research visit to view Beth Lipkin’s hoover warranty, I will eat my shoes.
Anyway, I was having a bit of a moan to Bob about it all and one particular item, an advert for Russian binoculars, was, I thought, a totally pointless thing to keep. From then on, ‘the Russian binoculars’ became a bit of a buzz word for anything rubbish, or anything that irritated me – not that I’m a particularly irritable person or anything. And, eventually, the film was born.
But now, after some time has passed, the advert for Russian binoculars has taken on a whole new meaning – I wouldn’t dream of speaking ill of this little newspaper clipping now. It has relevance because we gave it relevance. I think that’s one of the most interesting things about having an artist involved in a collection – really unexpected connections and items can come to the fore.
So, to Bob’s residency. I spoke to Bob a few days ago and his latest creation, Eppy Daddy Battle Bot, is being built as we speak in Bob’s new studio is Ramsgate. Eppy Daddy Battle Bot is a reimagining of Jacob Epstein as a 5 metre high 1950s style robot. We’ll collect him just before the residency and then you will see the final stages of Eppy Daddy’s creation in the Arists Studio during the last two weeks of September.
If Eppy Daddy were to speak – what would he say? Answers on a postcard.
After the first load of See Esther Walsall’s Mona Lisa posters were snapped up, there is a new batch printed and ready to go. You can find them in the resource area of the foyer (where the films are played). Help yourself, they’re free!
Some of the highlights from the fantastic Freshly Squeezed event that took place at the gallery on the 10th of June. Enjoy…
That’s right. You too could be the proud owner of an exclusive Bob and Roberta Smith “See Esther Walsall’s Mona Lisa” poster. These are completely free but are in limited supply, so act fast! Just ask for your poster at the front desk at The New Art Gallery Walsall. Why not see Esther while you are here?
The lucky first recipient of the poster was Mr. I. Ioannou of Walsall. “This is the best thing I’ve ever seen – thank you Bob and Roberta Smith!” said Mr. Ioannou.