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University of Cambridge

Open: Tuesday–Sunday, 11am–5pm

We are closed on Bank Holiday Mondays

Please note the house will be temporarily closed for 4 weeks from 14 March 2024

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Open: Tuesday–Sunday, 11am–5pm

We are closed on Bank Holiday Mondays

Please note the house will be temporarily closed for 4 weeks from 14 March 2024

Exhibition

Modern Times: Responding to chaos

16 January – 14 March 2010

An exhibition of drawing and film selected by Lutz Becker as part of the Modern Times exhibition series. Modern Times was a series of exhibitions where we invited creative people to trace pathways through the 20th and 21st centuries. Exhibition by exhibition, the series built an informal, accumulative history of the art of our times.

Lutz Becker is a film-maker, painter and curator of exhibitions. Born in East Berlin, he came to London to study at the Slade and stayed on. For this exhibition he combined drawing, the oldest and most fundamental medium, with film, one of the most modern. Both, in their own ways, embody time and a sense of the transient.

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The subtitle ‘responding to chaos’ reflected the predicament of artists addressing a period marked by totalitarian regimes, world wars, the threat of nuclear or climatic extinction, and accelerating technological and social change. Theirs was a distinctly urban art, largely uninvolved in the contemplation of nature. As the novelist Malcolm Bradbury has observed: ‘Modernism is our art; it is the one art that responds to the scenario of our chaos.’ Lutz Becker explored the urge towards abstraction and its ongoing dialogue with figuration, and the conversation between the geometric and the gestural.

While being presented non-chronologically – to explore links across time and geography – the exhibition ran the gamut from Italian Futurism and Russian Constructivism via Abstract Expressionism to Minimalism and Conceptualism. It included work by well known artists such as Boccioni, Malevich, Mondrian, Grosz, Klee, Pollock, de Kooning, Giacometti, Bourgeois, Beuys, Serra, Judd and Twombly, as well as artists sidelined in the mainstream of art history.

The exhibition was accompanied by an illustrated catalogue with essays by Lutz Becker, Iain Boyd Whyte, David Elliott and Nicholas Wadley. It also provided the context for programmes of talks, music and films.