When Attitude Offend Form
The Van Abbemuseum Collection consists of over 2800 artworks. We publish texts and images on an ongoing basis, but this record is currently in the process of being documented.
'When Attitude Offend Form' is one of the 158 prints which the Van Abbemuseum owns of Barry Flanagan’s works. These prints (etchings and linoleum cuts) clearly reveal the multidimensional aspect of Flanagan’s work. The subjects are very diverse. In a number of prints Flanagan confronts the viewer with something or someone from his immediate environment, for example portraits of artists who are friends, household objects or landscapes he has seen. In other prints he harks back to old masters such as Rembrandt, refers to drawing itself or makes studies of animals. A number of prints contain references to people or events in literature or the history of art. The cash box in “When Attitude Offend Form” is an ironic comment on the much talked about exhibition “When Attitude Become Form” organized by Harald Szeeman in 1968-69.
Flanagan studied sculpture at St Martin’s School of Art in London from 1964 to 1966. With a number of fellow students, including Long, Fulton and Gilbert & George, he reacted against the traditional views about sculpture which were taught there, and a new generation of artists looked for new possibilities in sculpture. Flanagan did this in a playful and investigative way using unconventional materials such as jute and sand. For him the creative process was of central importance: he allowed himself to be led by the specific character of a material or technique. This applies to his graphic work as well as his sculptures. In the graphic work the emphasis is on the line; the line as a defining element or boundary.
Usually Flanagan only used form very sparingly. A landscape, animal or situation was depicted with just a few precise lines. The attention and sensitivity with which this was done gave the work a poetic strength. In fact, Flanagan’s source was life itself, rich and inexhaustible and he freely used anything that was available. His work was at the same time serious and light-hearted. Flanagan’s drawings and graphic work often have the character of sketches and look like notes more than carefully considered works of art. Even when he used heavy and “serious” materials such as bronze or stone, his sculptures have the same light-hearted vitality. The theme of the hare, a symbol for the lively and unexpected, regularly recurs in Flanagan’s work.
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