IoS visual art review: 1913: The Shape of Time, Henry Moore Institute, Leeds
Tracing the Century, Tate, Liverpool

A study of a single year in early Modernism is more insightful than a century of drawing

How long a century of art is, and how short. In 1913, Jacques-Ernest Bulloz photographed a bronze cast of Rodin's Burghers of Calais being lowered gingerly into place next to the House of Lords. As the sculpture swung earthwards, Eric Gill was chipping away at Christ on the Cross in Ditchling and Roger Fry was making lampstands for the Omega Workshops in Fitzroy Square. It was the end of an era, and the beginning of one.

In Moscow, in 1913, Alexander Archipenko, fired up by the Matisses he had seen at Sergei Shchukin's house, sculpted The Dance; in Paris, Giorgio de Chirico painted The Tower. Around the corner, two men were making work whose impact is still being felt today. Picasso's Bottle of Vieux Marc flicked a pair of rude Spanish fingers at the aforementioned Matisse by using a piece of wallpaper in its collage. In the process, it paved the way for Pop Art. More brazen yet, Marcel Duchamp made 3 Standard Stoppages by dropping metre-long threads on to strips of wet canvas, gluing these to glass slides, putting the slides in a box and declaring the result art. Next stop, Conceptual Art.

You can see all the above in a brilliant little show entitled 1913: The Shape of Time at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds, clever not just for being small but for being subtle. Of course, my first paragraph was nonsense: in art, as in most things, eras don't begin or end in a neat 12 months. Nor was 1913 the only epochal year in early Modernism. If the HMI's curators had had access to them, they could have shown Malevich's first Suprematist pictures alongside bits of early Dada and a Picasso Harlequin or two and called their exhibition 1915. But they didn't. I suspect this show, using largely easy-to-borrow works, was cheap to put on, and none the worse for it.

What makes 1913 so elegant is that it tells a very long story in very few words – a kind of History of Early Modernism in 24 Objects. Some artists got what was happening, some didn't; some, such as Duchamp and Picasso, were too busy inventing it to care. Wryly across from a case of Fry's lampstands is a lampshade, painted by the Italian Cubist (and future Fascist) Ardengo Soffici: Soffici gets 1913, Fry does not. Four small bronze busts on four white plinths run the whole gamut of getting and not-getting. Emil Filla deeply gets it with Cubist Head, while his fellow-Czech, Otto Gutfreund, deeply does not with Viki. In the same year, Gutfreund has another go at modernity with the optimistically named Cubist Bust. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

An oh dear, too, for Tracing the Century at Tate Liverpool. There seems to be a vogue among curators at the various Tates for trying to force connections between palpably unconnected works or genres. Maybe it's a leftover from the whole Dream/Future/Multistorey Car Park thing at the pre-new-hang Tate Modern. Anyway, it's time to stop.

Like a provincial restaurant, Tracing the Century's menu talks the talk but doesn't dish up the goods. It starts from the unsurprising premise that drawing was a catalyst for change in the art of the past 100 years, which is certainly true, although it was also true for the century before that and pretty well every century since the caves at Lascaux. Narrowing the focus, the show's rubric goes on to promise an "opening up [of] the conversation between figuration and abstraction that characterised art in the 20th century". That certainly sets the taste-buds tingling. Alas, what arrives at your table is curatorial fusion food of the very worst kind.

The first wall offers an ominous foretaste of what is to come. In sequence are drawings by artists born in 1839 (Paul Cézanne), 1879 (Paul Klee), 1922 (Richard Hamilton) and 1931 (Lee Bontecou). A sign notes that Hamilton was thinking about the flatness of Cézanne's 1905 watercolour Montagne Sainte-Victoire when he made his own, Out and Up, in 1951. Given the centrality of Cézanne to Modernist thought, this seems reasonable enough. But so what? What new understanding are we meant to take away from this about Hamilton, or Cézanne, or Modernism or, come to that, about drawing?

I really cannot say. In a show this big – around 100 artworks – there were bound to be lovely things, and there are. The curators have cast their net wide, so that we get drawing in and/or on a variety of media, including film (William Kentridge), ceramic (Grayson Perry) and iron filings (Cornelia Parker). But, irritatingly, Tracing the Century manages to be both arbitrary and over-organised at the same time – rambling vaguely from room to room while stopping to suggest implausible connections between unlike artists. I'm still scratching my head over the gluing-together of Andy Warhol and Marlene Dumas with the word "intimacy". Feel free to explain.

'1913: The Shape of Time': Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, to 7 Feb 2013. 'Tracing the Century': Tate Liverpool, to 20 Jan

Critic's Choice

New Chinese work is coming sharply into focus in the capital this winter. At London's Hayward Gallery, Art of Change: New Directions from China features nine artists who've been working for the past 30 years. It's heavy on installation and live work (till 9 Dec). The Notting Hill gallery Themes & Variations, meanwhile, is showing Chinese Design Today, as a new generation of designers reinterpret their cultural heritage (till 8 Dec).

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor