Friday 30 September was a hot night in London and the meteorologists were already promising us that the late summer heatwave was going to produce record October temperatures. Likewise, after the August lull, the art world was back in full party/opening mode. Since I didn’t want to be running all over the city, I decided to pick one event and to screw all the other invitations I’d received. The Serpentine private view that night was bound to be mobbed, so I quickly dismissed any thoughts of going there. I decided not to go anywhere too ‘institutional’ because I wasn’t in the mood for sweaty crowds. Flicking through the smaller shows it was clear the only game going for a dedicated blogger like me was Richard Grayson at artist run space Alma Enterprises in Southwark. Since Grayson shares a name with Batman’s sidekick Robin, it would give me an opportunity to shamelessly recycle the superhero joke I’d used in my headline when I last wrote about one of his openings in May 2009.
Grayson’s latest exhibition – The Objectivist Studio – takes as its starting point the long dead right-wing fuck-wit Ayn Rand. Pro-‘free’ market and anti-socialist quotes from Rand’s writing have been painted on canvases, paper, walls and even handmade furniture in Alma’s two rooms. The texts have been fragmented into pseudo-Italian futurist cum English vorticist style works. Graphically the pieces resemble classic modernism, but the choice of colours is pure po-mo kitsch. The results are arresting, and if the show had been a riot, a lot of people would have been nicked. That said, the painted text at first proves hard to read. However, by vocalising the slogans letter by letter, it is possible to arrive at Rand’s intended meaning. Grayson is as ever deadpan about his work, but he looked cheerful and spoke excitedly about the joys of taking up painting once again. I’ve known Grayson for some time, and I understand his political views as lying somewhat to the left of Rand. However, you wouldn’t be able to guess this from the press release accompanying his show:
Ayn Rand (1905-1982)… was the author of the novels Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead and the founder of ‘Objectivism’ – a philosophy that holds that ‘the purpose of one’s life is the pursuit of one’s own happiness or rational self-interest.’ She expressed these ideas in her fiction and in publications such as The Objectivist Newsletter, The Objectivist and The Ayn Rand Letter, and her books Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology and The Virtue of Selfishness…
After puffing Rand’s book sales, and the widespread and continuing popularity of her leaden prose, the press release continues:
In an interview with the New York Times in 2007 John A. Allison, the chief executive of BB&T, one of the largest banks in the US said: “I know from talking to a lot of Fortune 500 C.E.O.’s that Atlas Shrugged has had a significant effect on their business decisions, even if they don’t agree with all Ayn Rand’s ideas… It offers something other books don’t: the principles that apply to business and life in general. I would call it complete.” he said… Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the US Federal Reserve who oversaw the program of deregulation and embrace of the ‘free market’ approaches that have shaped contemporary banking and finance was a devotee of Ayn Rand. Greenspan first met her when he was 25 and working as an economic forecaster…
Given all this, I was left wondering if Grayson’s game plan was to see if he could sell his paintings with their ugly Rand slogans to bankers and other finance scum, who are possibly the only people sufficiently greedy and grasping enough to even contemplate hanging such works in their homes. The crowd gathered for Grayson’s opening ddn’t look like they were sympathetic to Rand’s message. Among the artists present were Susan Hiller, Mike Nelson, Suzanne Treister and Mark Wallinger; the gallerists and curators I clocked included Roger Malpert from The Hayward, Alice Motard from Raven Row, and Ingrid Swenson from Peer; and crowding the beer table were theorists such as Peter Suchin and Pauline de Souza. The gallery and courtyard outside was packed with liberal and left art world cognoscenti: there wasn’t an Ayn Rand style right-wing arsehole – or a single banker for that matter – in sight!
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!