Friday, September 24, 2010
roller skating and the vauxhall bridge road
Here's a new sculpture in Pimlico - by André Wallace, it shows, obviously enough, a six foot tall roller skating woman, with a row of terrace houses and the steeple of St James the Less in the background (not a church I know at all: turns out it was commissioned by three sisters in 1859 - the architect was George Edmund Street, who was also responsible for Bristol Cathedral, and there's a huge Watts mosaic inside. But it was very locked). The sculpture was commissioned to go with a new housing development - which in turn was held up by the economic crisis - so it's emerged later than it was meant to. Pimlico - which I always think of as being the place where Colonel Pargiter, in The Years, visited his rather blowsy mistress - is definitely trendier than it used to be, but still a slightly dicey looking area. I'm not sure what to make of this fearsome answer to skateboarders.
I was walking up the Vauxhall Bridge Road from Tate Britain, where I'd been to the Muybridge exhibition. I'd expected to be fascinated by his images of horses and gymnasts and - yes - a galloping buffalo in motion, but in fact was far more struck by his huge - 17 x 22 ins plate - landscapes of Yosemite. Ever since taking the course in alternative photographic processes this summer, I've looked at C19th photographs with real appreciation, and understanding, of their techniques (ah, so good on some of the movement-study prints to be able to see the silver nitrate brushmarks, the tiny bubbles where the albumen hadn't been applied quite smoothly enough). What one really noticed about these big landscapes, and about the big San Francisco panorama, was how extraordinary the detail on the negative, and then how precise, almost textural in its depth was the printing.
But some of the motion studies were, indeed, fun. A sign at the entrance of the exhibition warned against nudity, for those who might be easily shocked - not exactly titillating, all the same, unless one always wondered what a penis looked like when a guy's doing a back flip, or wanted it confirmed that Muybridge himself was not exactly spectacular Down There. But ... there was one pair of women (fully clothed, unlike the woman sitting down in a chair and smoking a cigarette, or the one shown getting naked into bed) who were photographed walking towards each other, meeting, and then each turning to look back at the other: wonderful, and a kind of C19th lesbian precursor to Duane Michal's Chance Meeting, which I've always loved for its ambiguity - a gay pick-up? or two men who've only previously met in a bathhouse passing each other while fully clothed?