Although The Maurice Einhardt Neu Gallery (30A Redchurch Street, London E2 7DP) has set opening times, it doesn’t always stick to them. I was curious about their William Blanchard show (24 April -6 May 2009), but whenever I turned up to see it, the joint was closed. Fortunately, at 15,24 on 4 May 2009, I got the following text message: “William Blanchard show open now for 3 hours. Sexton.” The message was from Martin Sexton who runs the Artwars Project Space on the opposite side of the street, and who’d kindly agreed to text me when the Blanchard show was viewable.
Stopping only to finish the cup of coffee I’d just made, I jumped on my bicycle and peddled furiously all the way from the Isle of Dogs to Shoreditch. Once more the space was locked but after I’d banged on the door for a bit, gallery director Martin J Tickner opened up. He apologised for the fact that there were amplifiers and other pieces of musical equipment immediately in front of the single wall on which Blanchard’s work was hung, explaining: “The boys came back from doing a gig last night and we haven’t stored their gear away yet.” I’d heard the gallery was also used as a music rehearsal studio and knew that Tickner’s partner in the gallery was Sean McLusky, who’d had five minutes of fame with the hit song Boxerbeat in the 1980s, when he’d been in boy band JoBoxers.
Moving on, William Blanchard’s work is very punk rock, being both slapdash and not very good. The pieces were assemblages and/or crude collages within box-like frames, plus a solitary sculpture entitled Rocking Unicorn (price £199.99). The two best pieces are American Buns (18.3′ x 13.7′, price £199.99) and Tiger Bruce Lee (16′ x 12.5′, price £99.99). The later shows a still of Bruce Lee from the fight scene with Han at the climax of Enter The Dragon with his teeth bared in anger, and pasted next to this is a roaring tiger! American Buns features a photograph of a nude model holding her breasts collaged over a shooting target, above the model’s bleached hair is a fragment of newspaper with the headline ‘This Is America”, on either side are pieces of a paper US flag and, at the bottom of the work, a wrapper emblazoned with the words ‘American Buns’ that incorporates the US flag into its design; finally there is an empty can of coke with a small American flag protruding from it, sitting on a shelf on the left-hand side of the assemblage. The classic red, white and blue colour scheme is one of the factors that help this piece almost work aesthetically; likewise. the predominant yellow of Tiger Bruce Lee is what lifts that collage from being simply bad, to being so bad it is good. Other pieces, such as Bugz 1 and Bugz 2 (both 19′ x 17′ and priced at £199.99), which consist of rubber bug toys arranged in lines in a box, are merely crap.
I’d wanted to see Blanchard’s show because a press release claimed his inspiration came from Joesph Cornell and Wallace Berman. The Cornell influence I could just about see, albeit filtered through the prism of punk rock failure, but where Berman came into the equation wasn’t evident to me. So I asked Martin Tickner about this:
TRIPPY: I can’t really see the Wallace Berman influence in this, and that was why I wanted to see the show, because it supposedly took up his esoteric interests. Berman has a very specific relationship to Jewish mysticism.
TICKNER: I suppose it’s more Joseph Cornell in the work. I don’t know much about Wallace Berman myself.
TRIPPY: Did you see the Wallace Berman show at Camden Arts Centre?
TICKNER: No, but there’s a Berman show on in Spitalfields right now.
TRIPPY: Really? Where?
TICKNER. In Spitalfields, in the place owned by the son of J. Sainsbury.
TRIPPY: You mean Alex Sainsbury’s gallery Raven Row. That’s not a Berman show, that’s a Ray Johnson exhibition.
For me, what Tickner had to say summed up everything that is good about The Maurice Einhardt Neu Gallery; in short, its total disconnection from the London art world. The space is pure grunge with black walls, strip lights and other than a grimy window, absolutely no other illumination. Despite the gallery’s self-evident status as a rock ‘n’ roll toilet, there is nonetheless an aura of fakery about the place, since its famous art world friends – as listed on its website – allegedly include figures such as Robert Motherwell and Dieter Roth, both of whom died before it was even founded. Assemblage is absolutely the most ridiculous exhibition I’ve seen for some time, and that’s high praise indeed for a show in which a few works are so bad they are good, with the rest being simply… well shit!
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!