FRANKIE’S CHOICE plus two more Rotterdam exhibitions

Gerben Mulder The Devil Wore White Leather Boots And Was Utterly Innocent, 2017, Oil on canvas, 144 x 164 cm at the Frank Taal Gallery

We hadn’t reviewed any gallery shows in Rotterdam for a few weeks – in fact I hadn’t seen any of the galleries since they were at Art The Hague at the beginning of October. So, I went down to see what was happening.

I like exhibitions where galleries show all their artists, they identify the policy and give a feel for the place much more than a one-man show can ever do. This is demonstrated by Frank Taal Gallery’s end of year showcase Frankie’s Choice II. Mr Taal has an eclectic mix of artists in his stable, utilising a wide range of techniques of which painting is rather in the minority. I have seen several shows at the Van Speykstraat space but seeing all the gallery artists together offered a new and informative perspective. The show really is a pot pouri of techniques, ranging from hand-made papers to coloured glass, from photography to pseudo-architecture, from collage to painting.

Jan Ten Have’s works are quite small, measuring only about 50cms square but the juicy red blobs of glass make compulsive viewing. His project Blood on the Floor takes its inspiration from Mark Rothko and Francis Bacon and, like the works of those two artists, there is something disturbing and unsettling about them.

I really liked David DiMichele’s large photographic works which deal with the absurdities of scale, often depicting a tiny, lone figure overwhelmed by a giant work of art in a hangar-sized gallery. Despite being in the minority, painting certainly held its own and for me Gerben Mulder’s The Devil Wore White Leather Boots And Was Utterly Innocent was one of the outstanding pieces in the show. I also liked Chemical Atmospheres, Mike Ottink’s dribbly oil and acrylic work on paper .

Other participating artists are Bram Braam, Daan Den Houter, Dimitri Kruithof, Erik Sep, Geert Baas, Hester Scheurwater, Lennart de Neef, Marilou van Lierop, Midas Zwaan, Pontus Willfors, Stephen J. Shanabrook, Ties Ten Bosch and Wolfgang Ganter, along with some artists who are being introduced – Daniel Mullen, Pieter Jan Martyn, and the artist collective New Spirit, consisting of Woody van Amen, Evelien de Jong, Pim Top and J&B (Jacob and Bert Frings). Frankie’s Choice II continues until 21st December.

Just across the Rijnhoutplein, in Josephstraat, the Contour Gallery is showing Golden Light Green, the work of Rotterdam sculptor Petra Laaper. It is often difficult to take soft sculpture seriously. That is not meant in a pejorative way, it’s just that the form itself, being soft, induces in us a need to touch and feel it, to cuddle it even, almost as if we were confronting giant adult toys. There is also the fact that the works are malleable and therefore are never going to be exactly the same after they have been touched or moved. Ms Laaper’s work is quite formal and, this is not a criticism, lacks the playfulness often associated with the medium. The largest piece on show is a grouping of two-meter-high columns and, despite the pure white or pastel shades of their material, gives the impression of great age like a petrified forest or standing dinosaur bones. The exhibition continues until 29th December.

Muriel Mager’s Contour Gallery often/usually shows photographic work but there is a Rotterdam gallery that specialises in that medium. The RAW Streetphoto Gallery in Coolsestraat is dedicated to photography and specialises in showing candid photos of people going about their normal lives. Their current exhibition Let the Lonely Shells Dream shows the work of two French artists, Youri Cayron and Romain Rivalan. This multi-media installation consisting of projections, videos, free-standing panels as well as conventional photos, sets out to show the adverse effect of brutal and aggressive urbanisation on our environment.  Working together over several years, they have amassed a wealth of material which demonstrates that architects and town planners have their own agendas which do not necessarily correspond with those of society as a whole. While there is some excellent work and motive here the installation does not really benefit from the cramped, low space that is the tiny RAW gallery and consequently is possibly not seen at its best. Let the Lonely Shells Dream continues until 24th December.   Michael Hasted   30th November 2019