Faces in the Crowd

By Gareth Evans

marcel-broodthaers-the-visual-tower.jpgMarcel Broodthaers, The Visual Tower

A remarkable gallery survey of the relationship between the individual and the city creates a labyrinth of echoes and reflections across the century

Showing, suitably, in the heart of London’s multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, artist accommodating East End, perhaps the city’s most defining point of entry for generations of migrants from across the world, the Whitechapel Art Gallery’s extensive group exhibition ‘Faces in the Crowd’ is a remarkable examination of modern urban life. Considering the relationship between the individual and society and between private space and the public realm, it contains much screen-based work, but what should really excite cinephiles is that the whole premise is inherently cinematic. From spatial enquiries to suggestive implications of narrative, from the sense of framing to the figurative focus, from Vertov to William Kentridge, the imperatives of cinema feed fruitfully into a layered reading.

christian-schad-maika.jpgChristian Schad, Maika

Truly, and appropriately, a multifarious experience, the dozens of artists and artworks featured converse provocatively with each other, throwing up echoes, collisions and reflections across the decades. Perhaps inevitably, it’s the establishing sequence downstairs that really compels. As we move upstairs and into the present tense, any sense of containing the argument becomes impossible, just as cities themselves have expanded exponentially. But this is truly stimulating viewing and, whether street protest or the pleasures of the ball quicken one’s heart, it can all currently be found in Whitechapel’s palace of pictures.

Faces in the Crowd continues at the Whitechapel Gallery, London until 6th March.