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EXHIBITIONS

REVIEW

Erich Mendelsohn; Graham Ellard & Stephen Johnstone; Bridget Smith All at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, until 2 July

Previously seen at Manchester's CUBE (AJ 04.11.04), and originating in Germany, it's apt that this Erich Mendelsohn exhibition has at last reached his most celebrated British building - if in a reduced form.

The show is subtitled 'Dynamics and Function', but the dynamic side of Mendelsohn's work was better reected in the installation at CUBE, which had real air, than in the staid, rather cramped display at the De La Warr. It's not helped by the fussy, framed montages of small-scale photographs that line the walls, and the blocks of inelegant text. Photos are of course a problem for curators of Mendelsohn exhibitions as many of his best buildings are lost, but it must be possible to give archive images more impact than they have here.

Fortunately there are plenty of sketches, which are very easy to like, though as Peter Blundell Jones pointed out in the catalogue to a 1987 Mendelsohn exhibition, they're in a way misleading - cementing the idea of him as an Expressionist at the expense of 'the subtlety of his planning and the quality of his detailing'.

Best of all there are some two dozen models on show, spanning Mendelsohn's career from the Einstein Tower to the late Russell House in San Francisco (1950), which revisits earlier themes. They leave you in no doubt of his talent, though remind you too that its owering was cruelly frustrated by politics and exile.

Neatly complementing this exhibition is Graham Ellard and Stephen Johnstone's Motion Path: videos shot in four Mendelsohn buildings, including the Schocken department store in Chemnitz and the De La Warr. Each is presented as a triptych, the scenes split onto three screens at the end of a low table, the central one a little in front of the others. Conceived as 'a form of video sculpture', they gleam in the darkened room like little high-tech altarpieces.

The images sometimes echo, more often supplement each other, as the sinuous route of one camera offsets the slow drifting or stasis of another.

Ellard and Johnstone say that the 'uidity' of Mendelsohn's architecture more or less determined their shooting script; the results here are certainly absorbing.

In the high first- oor gallery at the De La Warr is the third show: photographs taken by Bridget Smith during John McAslan's recent restoration of the building. Only in passing do they record technical aspects of the work; they're not detail pictures of, say, exposed reinforcement, as in Le Corbusier's Stuttgart double villa (see Building Study pages 25-37), but pictures of a place in temporary disarray.

The art they recall is various (Duchamp's ready-mades, Aaron Siskind's photos of disfigured walls) and they're becoming something of a cliché; Mark Power did the same thing at the Treasury, Oliver Godow at Camden Arts Centre. But interacting as they do with the De La Warr Pavilion itself, they can be telling - a reminder that all three shows have a special rapport with the building in which they're housed.

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