It would be strange if regular readers of art columns did not occasionally wonder what antic chance decides which shows — of the dozen or more that open each week — each reviewer chooses to review. There are, of course, the command performances — anything at the Tate, the Hayward, or the Royal Academy is a must. And any gallery clever enough to surround a new show with provocative advance publicity will find me snooping around. For the rest, exhibition visiting is often an accidental thing. The trick is not to let the job interfere with your life style. Take last week.
Saturday: On my way to the May Fair Hotel to meet an overseas visitor for coffee, I passed along Old Burlington Street, which is the location of Nigel Greenwood's new gallery, and I couldn't resist the parking space available right by No 29. In the basement was the work of the American conceptualist, Barry le Va. Whitewashed walls (not part of the exhibition) set off le Va's floor (which is the exhibition), a pattern of chalk ridges, looking like two converging seas. Should I be imaginative and talk about the fantastic freedom of the rhythmic patterning, or shall I risk being accused by Duncan Fallowell of showing "frigidity in approaching creativity in the avant-garde" by confessing that the work interested me less than the practical questions it inspired? Does it pay the rent? Who orders a floor like that for his own basement? Has anyone from Shelter seen the show?
Sunday: In preparation for a dinner party that evening, I rushed off to see Carnal Knowledge so that I would be able to keep up with the conversation. I got out of the cinema early enough to take in the ICA before drinks before dinner. Derek Southall's large 'wall hangings' look like unstretched Jackson Pollacks. Southall contributes a complicated statement of intent, in which he elaborately explains the significance of not stretching the canvas. I don't mind, really. Complete with accidental folds and creases, the huge spattered pieces of cotton duck are colourful and attractive, just the thing for anyone requiring an arras, either for private use, or for a production of Hamlet.
Monday: I quite deliberately went along to see John Doubleday's exhibition of sculpture and drawings at the Waterhouse Gallery, 28 Sussex Place, because I had seen a show of his earlier in the year at the Wivenhoe Arts Centre, and liked his work. Actually, I bought one of his drawings from that exhibition, and if you're in a cynical mood you could say I was just checking on my investment. Happily, it seems gilt-edged.
Tuesday: Driving through St John's Wood to pick up my newly-repaired typewriter, I was close enough to the new Fieldborne Galleries, 63 Queens Grove, to attend the opening exhibition of paintings and drawings by septuagenerian Emmanuel Levy. A note in the catalogue compares him to Picasso. True, they both paint, but I could tell the difference. A series of paintings, The Chessmen, uses chess pieces as allegorical figures : The Establishment, Race Relations etc. It is a trifle heavy-handed. There are three large portraits, corny but likeable, of Churchill, Bertrand Russell and Martin Luther King. The drawings are accomplished.
Wednesday: Lucy Milton rang, telling me how much she would like to meet me, and suggesting that while she was having that pleasure, I could amuse myself seeing the papier mache and cardboard reliefs of the Dutch artist, J. J. Schoonhoven, at her new gallery at 125 Notting Hill Gate. Flattery will get me anywhere — I went. The gallery was still being finished, with Miss Milton a picture of vulnerability in her black, fur-trimmed midi, surrounded by workmen, papier mache and a small electric fire. Schoonhoven's work is nice decorator stuff, just the thing for texture lovers who fancy something white and waffle-patterned, or corrugated. I promised I would let her explain the philosophy of a gallery owner next time.
And of course I should mention that one is influenced by the number of words allotted to the art column in any week.