The dog days for London’s commercial galleries come slightly after the dog days of actual summer. This weekend, I walked around Mayfair as usual, knowing not much would be open - and, sure enough, most of the galleries were in darkness, or with white paper or blinds on the windows, the early autumn exhibition in the process of being installed. Only during Christmastime is there less on offer to the dedicated gallery-goer.
Rodeo was open, but only thanks to a commercial deal with a creative agency, from whose hilariously snooty website you can buy a made-to-order pair of trousers for £2,800, among other “pieces”. The show features a set of pretty paintings from Bernat Klein, a famous mid-century textile designer whose work was used by a who’s-who of fashion houses at that time, as well as more down-to-earth retailers like Marks & Spencer that went unmentioned in the show notes.
Klein’s success allowed him to build a fine Modernist house in the rural Scottish Borders; his artistic practice was inspired by the nature around him. The small paintings on show at Rodeo are of flowers, thickly worked in oils, and painted directly onto Klein’s textile prints, an imaginative artistic reworking of the mass-produced patterns that helped him hit the big time.
The patterned polyester backgrounds give the sense of a habitat for the flowers; they’re slightly jarring in their 60s grooviness. The flowers were likely painted later, the dates given by Rodeo are from between 1995 and 1998. The works reveal Klein’s talents as a decorative colourist, and the strong floor lighting (the work of the agency, rather than the gallery - according to the gallerist) lends a bit of drama to the compositions.
Perhaps it’s appropriate to say goodbye to the summer with works like these - pretty but ephemeral. And to look forward to greater challenges - in the galleries and outside - as autumn approaches.
Bernat Klein: His Garden is at Rodeo (London). 29 June - 01 October 2022