The Critics: Dumb, dumber and dumbest

Dumbpop Jerwood Space, SE1 Rosemarie Trockel Whitechapel Art Gallery, E1

Many people are curious about the Jerwood Space, and a visit to "Dumbpop" tells us something about the Jerwood Foundation's support for the visual arts. The Jerwood Painting Prize has never really taken off. It often looks dutiful and uninspired. But "Dumbpop" is different, being clever, stylish and undemanding. The 12 contributors to the show fill the new Jerwood Space in Southwark with bright confidence, and perhaps its organisers are right to claim that this is the sort of art we'll see in the next century.

"Gone is the brash hedonism, the commodity nightmare of the Eighties; gone is the anecdotal pessimism of the early Nineties," says the "Dumbpop" publicity. This sounds like good news, though it might be all in the head of the person who put the exhibition together. Some shows give the feeling that they belong to their artists. Others are markedly the property of their curators. "Dumbpop" is one of the latter. It displays the excellent talents of Stephen Hepworth, who has assembled the artists. He plays them off against each other, and neatly allows them to say no more than they need to say. And furthermore - this is delightful, and, I hope, a sign of art to come - doesn't ask the visitor to watch any boring videos.

Because it's such a curator's show, you don't get the impression that the artists know each other. If they do, they may meet only in airports: Sybille Berger is German, Ana Genoves Spanish, Jun Hasegawa Japanese, Sarah Morris American, Jean-Michel Othoniel French. I'm not sure about the others. The Jerwood Space provides none of the usual biographical information about its artists. They may have decided that the usual catalogue entries ("Born Manchester 1964, educated Trent Polytechnic etc etc ...") lack panache. But most of us like to know who an artist is and where he or she comes from.

The Jerwood exhibition is indeed a holiday from knowledge and reality. The only person who shows any sign of meditation on her art is Sybille Berger. Her paintings - which have been around for some time now, and are usually seen in quite different company - employ four or five deep horizontal bands of different colours. These colour relationships speak of her artistic disposition, which is deadly serious and slightly severe. The point is that Berger is a developing artist with classic modernist concerns. Her paintings get better the more she considers the past, while the other people in "Dumbpop" show little sign of knowing that the past ever existed. One or two of them recall their childhood. Hence their brittle, ephemeral charm.

This is combined with formidable technical expertise. Everyone in the show has a total and precise command of their materials. The painters seem to belong to non-painterly forms of contemporary human skill. It's as though the best young graphic designers or computer technicians had been invited to have a go at art. In not one work is there a feeling of the human hand. The "Dumbpop" style invites the thought that paintings might be manufactured by nyone, or anyone's assistants, so long as you're ahead of the game.

The best performers in this game are Paul Morrison, Sarah Morris and Jun Hasegawa. Morrison uses a small format, so that his black-and-white pictures of landscape are even more like book illustrations or magazine advertisements. Feld has a top half which looks as though there's an abstract sky above its apple tree. It's the most successful picture in the show, though I wouldn't like to live with it. Hasegawa is even closer to illustration. Her Second Hand Shirt is more "pop" than other pieces in the exhibition, and is endearing for a little while. Morris has a merciless take on sign language. She makes numbers or words, in 45 or Please, into abstractions. The abstract forms in these paintings aren't good enough, so she does better with a picture of wire fencing - more accurately, a picture of a denotation of wire fencing, repeated time and again.

The "Dumbpop" manner doesn't extend to sculpture because it requires an instant image, and three-dimensional work takes longer to consider. Graham Little tries to make stripe painting into sculpture. He hasn't got the right feelings for scale or volume, but it's a brave attempt at an impossible problem. For he wants to make sculpture speedy - instantaneous, even - and this cannot be done. A shallow, half-cheerful instantaneity of effect is essential to "Dumbpop". That's why there's no video in the show. It takes too long to consider.

Videos are a prominent, lengthy part of the exhibition by the German artist Rosemarie Trockel at the Whitechapel Gallery. As always, we see the cliches of this supposedly liberating medium. People hit each other over and over again or read incomprehensible texts aloud (Andy Warhol's thoughts spoken in German!). I suddenly wondered what tortures of the spirit must be endured by people who marry video artists. Obviously it would be good if they all married each other, then went off to found a colony in some remote part of the world, or preferably outer space. Then we would be free of the absurd idea that video adds anything to the aesthetic life of humankind.

Video does not contribute to art. It subtracts. What still from a video ever makes a good photograph? None. Even television is better to look at. Why does video never give us a proper narrative? Because it would then be in pathetic competition with film. Why are video artists so pretentious? Because they are uneasy about their abilities. I often like them when they are students, but not when they're grown up. And here one parts company with Rosemarie Trockel, born 1952. For every single thing that she does is like the work of an art student of the 1970s.

Trockel tries everything. Besides her videos, there are a couple of paintings in wool, photographs of naked people in sexual poses, very bad drawings, more photographs (in colour) of people whose faces have been made absolutely symmetrical, and some cases of material that seems to be memorabilia from her adolescence. None of these things give us an individual artistic creation. The heavy programme of talks and discussions at the Whitechapel will no doubt take a different view.

'Dumbpop': Jerwood Space, SE1 (0171 654 0171), to 17 January; Rosemarie Trockel: Whitechapel Art Gallery, E1 (0171 522 7888), to 7 February.

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary charm: Clive Owen and Keira Knightley in 2004’s ‘King Arthur’
FilmGuy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle the legend
Arts and Entertainment
Corporate affair: The sitcom has become a satire of corporate culture in general

TV review

Broadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: There are some impressive performances by Claire Skinner and Lorraine Ashbourne in Inside No. 9, Nana's Party spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Glastonbury's pyramid stage

Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair

Arts and Entertainment
Ewan McGregor looks set to play Lumiere in the Beauty and the Beast live action remake

Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie feels the lack of food on The Island with Bear Grylls

TV

The Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts and Entertainment
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, in a scene from Avengers: Age Of Ultron
filmReview: A great cast with truly spectacular special effects - but is Ultron a worthy adversaries for our superheroes? spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Ince performing in 2006
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Beth (played by Jo Joyner) in BBC1's Ordinary Lies
tvReview: There’s bound to be a second series, but it needs to be braver spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, the presenters of The Great Comic Relief Bake Off 2015

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Harold Ramis' original Groundhog Day film, released in 1993

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence