Sunday, July 22, 2012

Stop Press: Historic Chess Picture in Town

Apologies if you've just tuned in hoping to catch Saturday's post (ejh's creepy A Literary Reference - linked here), but I just had to mention that a piece of chess art history is in town. I only discovered this yesterday, and it is only on show until Saturday 28th July - hence this rather breathless post.

The work is at the Alison Jacques Gallery in Berners Street (off New Oxford Street) and it is the original of Dorothea Tanning's "Chess Tournament at the Julien Levy Gallery January 6, 1945 - a collage with three photographs by Julien Levy".

We have blogged about it before, where you can get the details of the event, and the story of Dorothea's encounter with chess. The composite picture shows Koltanowski giving a blindfold simul against six surrealist artists involved in Levy's The Imagery of Chess Exhibition at the turn of 1944/5. Koltanowski is the fourth figure from the left (seated, back-turned). Standing, back to us, is Marcel Duchamp playing Kolti's moves. Dorothea Tanning is seated next to husband Max Ernst (at the end of the row) with whom she lived for over 30 years. The flame effect, created by inverting an image of an ivy, "alludes to the intensity of the encounter" says the Gallery's Press Release.

What's so riveting, when seeing the collage for real, is that it is so small (just 8 x 14 cm) and so "pre-digital". Although it is composed from photographs, they don't behave as we nowadays expect: they are visibly stuck together, and make no pretence of being anything else; you can see the joins and the aged, curling edges. Nothing is air-brushed out. It both records and makes an art-work of that unique event, and so has an "aura", a resonance, that you don't sense when looking at an electronic reproduction (such as the one above). Which is the reason for getting to the exhibition, and experiencing it, before it is too late.

Dorothea Tanning made it to 101 (she died in January this year) and in her long life she was a biographer, novelist, poet, and artist in many media - but always inflected with surrealism. The exhibition shows her early collages (Chess Tournament amongst them) and, in the main gallery space, later ones composed in her 70s and 80s (!), which exercise a dark fascination. Follow the links on the Gallery's website to get the flavour.


ejh said...

I was in London last week and I'd have gone to this if I'd known (went to Munch at Tate Modern instead). But I didn't see this in the Time Out online guide!

Morgan Daniels said...