Category Archives: Visual and Material Culture

Alfred Cohen: An American Artist in Europe

by Max Saunders, Professor of English at King’s College London

Max Saunders shares the story behind the exhibition Alfred Cohen: An American Artist in Europe which was due to open at The Arcade at Bush House in March 2020. The exhibition had to close to early due to COVID-19, but is now available to view online.

When my step-father, the painter Alfred Cohen died in 2001, my mother, Diana Cohen, and I decided that rather than having a funeral or memorial service, which he’d have hated, we’d celebrate his life with a memorial exhibition in his studio instead. As I started tracking down his earlier work for the show I became fascinated with how different it had been and how many different but equally engaging styles and techniques he had evolved. He was a much more versatile and mercurial artist than I’d realised.

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“Time is the Enemy”: The Wristwatches of 1917

Still from 1917 Official Trailer, Universal Pictures (2019)

PhD researcher Lizzie Hibbert reflects on Sam Mendes’s First World War epic 1917. Please note: this piece contains spoilers!

Sam Mendes’s 1917 (2019) is as much a film about time as it is about war. The first indication of this comes in the film’s trailer, which is set to a soundtrack of ticking clocks. It opens on a wide shot of an un-helmeted British soldier running perpendicular to advancing troops towards the camera. The reedy ‘tick… tock…’ of a watch is just audible beneath ominous music and accelerating bootsteps. Suddenly we are underground by torchlight, and the ticking has transformed into the weighty, echoing hands of a pendulum clock. There is a split second of silence and then an explosion.

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Jerome Caja’s ‘Cosmetic Miracles’ and ‘Post-Apocalyptic’ Drag in 1990s San Francisco

To celebrate the launch of the new Queer@King’s goes to Church series, in collaboration with KCL Chaplaincy, Victoria Carroll reflects on the sacrilegious artwork and drag performance of Jerome Caja (pronounced Chi-a), an important figure in the queer arts scene that flourished in early 1990s San Francisco.

Jerome Caja, The Last Hand Job (1993). Collection Anna van der Muelen.

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Queering the obscene: how the archives shaped my PhD

From books banned in Boston to films cut in Maryland: in the summer of 2019 PhD candidate Katie Arthur visited five archives in four US states to grapple with questions of queerness and obscenity in the censorship cases of author William S. Burroughs and filmmaker John Waters.

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Ronald Moody: Between Concrete and Wood

To celebrate the English Department’s acquisition of Val Wilmer’s portrait of Ronald Moody, Luke Roberts reflects on the life and work of the Jamaican sculptor and KCL alumnus.

For us history was the carrier of no absolutes and conformed to no overarching scriptural commandments. Nothing was ever codified as having its correct place and time. In a suitably paradoxical formulation, displacement moved to the centre.
– Stuart Hall[1]

Val Wilmer, Portrait of Ronald Moody (1963) © Val Wilmer.

In Val Wilmer’s portrait of Ronald Moody the artist sits framed by two sculptures: the carved wooden head Tacet (1938) and the concrete and fibreglass figure The Man (1958). He holds a pipe in his left hand, gently resting on his right. His eyes are fixed on something out of shot. Although nothing in this picture returns our gaze, everything holds it. It’s a study of texture and material, balance and weight: the heavy fabric of his sweater, the flesh of the hands and the human face, the greying beard, the exposed brickwork of the studio wall, the concrete phallus, the dome of the skull, triangles of newspaper and just-visible handkerchief, light moving in and out of darkness. Moody himself is the centre of gravity, but it’s a restless centre.

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