Nick Hackworth

Imageless Icons, Gagosian

Essays & Reviews Evening Standard

For the art world, consumed by its schizophrenic love-hate relationship with money and power, few figures attract more intensely morbid interest than American super-dealer Larry "Go-Go" Gagosian.

A one-time poster seller on the beaches of Los Angeles, his empire comprises one gallery in Beverly Hills and two apiece in New York and London. His shows tend to be spectacular and highly commercial.

In the King's Cross gallery, London's largest commercial space, Imageless Icons brings together museum-quality abstract work by almost the entire Who's Who of Modern Art, from Kazimir Malevich to Gerhard Richter, encompassing Rauschenberg, Warhol, Stella, Rothko, Kline, Twombly, De Kooning, Lichtenstein and more.

Among such uniformly distinguished works, not all of them for sale, several stand out. In Dissolution of a Plane, a bold and vibrant piece, full of movement, painted by Malevich in 1917, a red rectangle dissipates as it apparently traverses the white background. In heavy contrast, on the opposing wall, hangs a late Rothko, in typically dark, brooding colours, evoking a gloomy sense of mass and depth.

Less impressive are the Bilotti paintings of the four evangelists by Damien Hirst, on display in Britain for the first time. They are owned by Italian collector Carlo Bilotti who intends to install them in a disused chapel in Rome.

In Hirst's signature style of absolute literalness, the works consist of open books set into bright monochrome backgrounds of household gloss, garnished with sprinkles of earth, a smattering of dead butterflies and, in a conceptual coup de grace, finished with ballpoints and ink pens stuck on to the lumpy surfaces to identify the subjects as authors of the Gospels.

In Gagosian's smaller West End space, American photographer Philip-Lorca diCorcia captures the rhythms and movements of power and money in the form of 12 Las Vegas pole dancers, shot in isolation and frozen in contorted poses around their poles.

His aim is to express something of the world around us in often deceptively neutral scenes, which he achieves with these subjects whose bodies belie the blankness of their faces.

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