In 1976, the then young gun of cultural criticism Peter York wrote an article trying to unpick the aesthetics of the time. He described the artists of the era – which included Andrew Logan, Derek Jarman and Duggie Fields – as “Them”. According to York, their aesthetic was defined by a desire to sell camp to a non-queer audience. Roxy Music, Zandra Rhodes and Nicolas Roeg’s film starring David Bowie as The Man Who Fell to Earth are all perfect examples of this pre-punk idea.
Now curator James Birch has put together an exhibition that reconsiders “Them”, showing more than 20 works – paintings, collages and sculptures that span the 1960s to the ’80s – at Cork Street gallery Redfern. Some works veer to the pop and kitsch, such as Duggie Fields’ stylised reclining girls in Fireside Cookies (1969) and Luciana Martinez de la Rosa’s postmodern, graphic take on Manet’s Olympia. A profound counterpoint is provided by Derek Jarman’s tar-covered sculptures from his Black Painting series, made soon after he was diagnosed with Aids in 1986.
The show also brings deserved attention to artist and jewellery-maker Andrew Logan, one of the true great British eccentrics still thriving today. The founder of the Alternative Miss World competition is represented here by a set of Pegasus sculptures – a form he has revisited over the years – from 1981. “The time these artists spent in the spotlight was fleeting,” concludes Birch, “but the art they created remains fresh and exciting – almost timeless.”