The Barber Institute at Birmingham University is a small gallery that punches well above its weight. The permanent collection would be your ideal introduction to Western Art from the thirteenth century. The original acquisition policy restricted the trustees to art before 1900 only but this was modified in 1960 to a thirty year restriction. Consequently the gallery now puts on very good exhibitions featuring modernism and the latest also including international ideas in mid twentieth century Cornwall.
Naum Gabo(1890-1977) is the star of the show. The Barber recently acquired his exquisite 1942 sculpture Linear Construction No.1, below.
Constructive art was the theme of this Russian sculpture combining ideas of art and science and employing modern materials, in this case Perspex and nylon filament. He claimed to work on space rather than volume and this piece reveals his ideas where the strings create new parabolas and hyperbolas in space, and the centre opens up a utopian future based on abstract constructivism.
The Jerwood Foundation have partnered the Barber for this exhibition with fourteen of their paintings from mainly post war artists based in St Ives. The theme is abstract or non representational works based loosely on the Cornish landscape – hence the title Cornwall as Crucible. The linking relationship is Naum Gabo’s staying in St Ives as guests of Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson from 1938 – 45, on his way to America. The proposal is the St Ives artists produced ideas influenced by internationalism through the likes of Gabo and the American abstract artists such as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko in the fifties.Below is a selection of some of the works in the exhibition.
As always the Barber was a great day out and we were treated to an impromptu guided talk by the curator as an extra bonus. Cornwall as Crucible is showing from 19th February to 17th May at The Barber Institute of Fine Arts at Birmingham University.