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
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
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.

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test