Tuesday, 6 December 2016


Up Now in London
Matthew Darbyshire: Passive Sensor @ Herald St, 2 Herald Street - Bethnal Green
To 16 Dec: www.heraldst.com
This striking installation sets just-above-life-size figures in a garden of crushed stone and broken plastic appliances just big enough to recognise some bits, with park benches to ease the viewing. The figures, of Darbyshire's wife Grace, are elegantly rendered from coils of clay as if she has just been extruded, and are made somewhat creepy by the more conventionally modelled hands and feet, which are her husband's: is he deconstructing the tradition of the artist's muse, or is that a touching sign of love through bodily merger?
Jutta Koether:  Best of Studios @ Campoli Presti, 223 Cambridge Heath Rd - Bethnal Green
To 17 Dec:  www.campolipresti.com
Brooklyn Boogie (Bruised Grid #6), 2016  Acrylic on canvas and wood 
30 x 30 cm (35 canvases)

Most prominent here are the first UK showing of Jutta Koether’s 30 cm square Bruised Grid paintings, which threaten to be geometric abstraction but undermine themselves by irregular thicknesses of canvas and scruffy paint application, then turn out to be on top of figurative sketches which could have formed other work. Their predominant redness is down to their role as brush wipes from Koether's wider practice. Add a self-portrait of sorts (as a K of bodily impasto), passing shots across the bows of landscape and the nude, and still lives in her Berlin and New York studios, each containing plants in  Bruised Grid patterned pots, and you have a balanced tour of Koether’s  paradoxically alluring anti-painting practice and where it takes place. 

K- Bild (version 2), 2016  Acrylic on canvas  130 x 80 cm


Mai-Thu Perret: Zone @ Simon Lee, 12 Berkeley St - Central

To 4 Feb: www.simonleegallery.com

Installation view with Zone, 2016

Genevan artist Mai-Thu Perret has made her name since 1999 through by mapping an imagined women-only would-be-utopian desert community through the writings and artworks attributed to them. Typically they tweak traditional crafts – ceramic, tapestry, wickerwork – towards a constructivist aesthetic which carries an incipient feminism. Zone sees things get darker: it cites a novel about a tribe of lesbian warriors; a faceless armed figure stands guard; inside is a ceramic fountain in the form of a mortuary slab, its tube more suggestive of ritual or abuse than of pleasure. But the total effect is ambiguous: the water babbles pleasantly and the wall-based works package their art historical references attractively, though not quite as perfectly as their systems seem at first to imply...  

Be fearful and alert, as if peering into an abyss, as if treading onto thin ice, 2016 - glazed ceramic

Ingeborg Lüscher: It’s 1 o’clock and the bell tolls 8 times @ White Rainbow, 47 Mortimer St – Fitzrovia


Ingeborg Lüscher at the opening
If you feel the need of some intensely spiritual abstraction, your main choices are Rothko and Newman in the RA’s Ab Ex show, or this first London solo for the German widower of Harald Szeeman, who got to know Ingeborg Lüscher through selecting her work for Documenta V in 1972. These works from 1987-91 make elemental use of sulphur dust (glowing more creamily then you might expect from admixture with acrylic) and ash. That gives her paintings body, and an offsetting darkness. The fire of inspiration and the remnants of its burning out might come to mind, but Lüscher seems sparky enough at 80.

Untitled, 1988 - sulphur, dust, plaster, cardboard



Antonis Pittas: Shadows for Construction @ Narrative Projects, 110 New Cavendish Street - Fitzrovia

Shadows for Construction # 7, 2016

This striking two room installation by the Amsterdam-based Greek artist Antotis Pittas uses a sonorous Malevich red to set up a quadrilogue between the classic constructivism of the utopian Soviet period, current European politics, the artist’s hand, and the space. So, for example, a Judd-like form is made from sub-standard bronze obtained from Greek piping sold somewhat desperately as scrap; the artist’s hands imitate the gestures from speeches by various European leaders in front of the same drawing by Lyubov Popova. And a hand-made hand-come-sofa - has it fallen from a colossal Oldenburg statue of Lenin? – provides a potentially comfortable seat from which to view a wall drawing which quotes a refugee expelled from the Calais camp. The past is our grab-bag, it seems, but still we fail to learn from it… 


Installation view with Throw Hands, 2015 and 3 x Clip (untitled), 2015


Paul Housley: Factory to Palace @ sid motion gallery, 142 York Way – King’s Cross


Factory, 2016

Paul Housley pulls a selection from his crowded studio walls to reflect on his practice, forming an indirect self-portrait which loops back to its making. There’s a van Gogh-ish  chair, an empty frame, England burning, a tiny version of the artist as one-eyed adolescent pirate (aren’t they all, to some extent?), and a paint factory, referring to both Housley’s time in Sheffield and the possibility that the building is now an artist’s studio,  and insinuating a joke – are all painted factories ‘paint factories’? Add some characterful little sculptures such a head of the artist carved in wood, and the forward motion of the new gallery, while it’s hardly a palace yet, continues in this fourth show.

The Artist, 2016

Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970's  from the Verbund Collection, Vienna @ The Photographer's Gallery

To 15 Jan: http://www.thephotographersgallery.org.uk/  (free  10 am -12)

Renata Eisenegger: High-rise No. 1, 1974
This may sound a narrow show until you realise how many excellent artists can be described as avant-garde 1970s feminists: Chicago, EXPORT, Ivekovic, Mendieta, Orlan, Pane, Rosler, Shneeman, Sherman, Wilke and Woodman obviously enough, but they're mostly represented by refreshingly less-often seen work: Mendiata counters her beauty and renders herself other simply by pressing up against the pane of glass, Ivekovic makes herself visibly silent by greeting her show's visitors with a taped up mouth. Moreover, there are 200 works by 48 artists, well marshalled into four themes, and almost everything is of interest. For example, Lili Dujourie makes a naked man look like a woman simply by how she has him pose; Renata Eiseneger irons the floors of her apartment block; and Brigette Lang proposes a headress which prevents intimacy by means of sharp spikes.... In spite of all of which, this is far from comprehensive: Adrian Piper, Chantal Akerman, Dara Birnbaum, Mary Kelly, Niki de Saint Phalle and Natalia LL (who has a solo show at  Roman Road) would all enhance it. 

Sanja Ivekovik: from Inauguration at Tommaseo, 1977 / 2012


Solopreneur @ Kingsgate Workshops,110-116 Kingsgate Road - West Hampstead

Installation view with Wendy and Road Spike prominent

The annual Bloomberg New Contemporaries will run 23 Nov- 22 Jan at the ICA. Having seen it in Liverpool, I can attest that Kingsgate’s less trumpeted selection of a dozen recent graduates is of comparable quality, and attractively presented by curator-selector  Eleanor Davies under the umbrella of the artists as ‘solopreneurs’ managing their own brands.   Billy Crosby has stained the wooden floor in show-infesting carmine evoking, perhaps, the house linked to the work's title, Wendy. Then you realise it’s actually a concrete floor, on which are Sarah Jenkins' wax TV and Kitty Hall’s gloop-drenched cone sculpture Road Spike.  The retro street theme goes on with Wuji Yi  presenting a wittily unlikely taxonomy of the favourite security barriers of the population of Ghullja, China, while Daniela Dyson spunkily asserts her painterly credentials with the text work BIG DICK in letters, I would think, as high as she is.  Prospects for future brand recognition look fair.

Wuji Yi: research documentation from 'The Most Glorious Security Barrier in Ghuja' project


Donna HuancaSCAR CYMBALS   @ Zabludowicz Collection, 176 Prince of Wales Road - Chalk Farm


Where is action painting now? Here’s where… as enacted in slow motion by ten performers during Frieze week (and two thereafter except for a full ten again on 17 December) on three storey glass structure which responds to the religious height of the main hall, and among Huanca's previous works in another room. The upcoming American (or, now, those trained by her) paints her models every day, and their semi-choreographed movements paint the space in turn over the show's long duration. Viewers and models between them trigger an atmospheric soundscape.  

 Zabludowicz Collection Invites: Willem Weismann
To 18 December

Primordial Accumulation, 2016

There’s another good reason to visit the Zabludowicz Collection this coming month: Dutch painter Willem Weismann occupies the project space with a cycle of three large paintings which take us from outside to inside and (after a punctuating ladder painting) down into the basement, with all sorts of cunning connections between the works, such as the recurrence of stylised fire, the way a patch of the surface which acts as his palette recurs in different guises, and the TV image in the second work showing the image from the CCTV on the first. Plus a rather fetching line-up of cushions!



Animality @ Marian Goodman Gallery, 5-8 Lower John St - central

Carsten Höller: Octopus, 2014

This is a remarkable enterprise from commercial gallery, an extensive survey through art and historic illustrations of our relationships with animals with full curatorial apparatus (from Jens Hoffman) and 70 participant 'creatures' unerringly chosen - if this were the Tate and you had to pay to get in, no one would complain. It's a bit futile to select highlights, but hard not to notice John Baldassari's giant white camel ready to pass through a needle,  Carsten Höller's purple octopus, an enormous tiger portrait by Robert Longo, and Steve McQueen's highly charged film of a dead horse. At the other end of the scale, it would be easy to miss Maurizio Cattelan's mouse house or Jacub Julian Ziółkowski high-hung dog's soul.
still from Steve McQueen: Running Thunder, 2007

Leah Capaldi: Lay Down @ Matt’s Gallery, 65 Decima St – Bermondsey

Robin Klassnik’s new – albeit temporary – space kicks off with an immersive video-performance-sculpture by Leah Capaldi. A 21 minute double projection film loop shows the ‘natural horsemanship’ of a Utah cowboy as he cajoles his steed into lying on the ground. Against all the instincts of a flight animal, the horse arrives at what its handler calls ‘a very tender energy moment’. The vast screen is silicone, giving it a horse flank’s ripple potential and allowing the legs and arm of a participant to push through holes cut in it, so complicating our understanding of what is image, what object, and what animal; and emphasising the human parallels to be drawn from the demonstration of how love can generate trust.


The Seasonal Others  

David Salle: Mingus in Mexico, 1990

There are too many good shows to review them all, and I tend to avoid the most obvious: those open over Christmas include:

Picasso at the National Portrait Gallery (to 5.2), a superbly balanced retrospective which happens to focus on known people - plus the bonus ball of Luc Tuymans’ portraits in glasses

The RA’s Abstract Expressionism (to 2.1). True, it’s a mess with an unduly tokenistic female presence, but is still full of great things, and the Still room is a triumph. Luc Tuymans bonus his curation of Ensor.

William Kentridge at the Whitechapel Gallery (to 15.1, plus various extras, none Tuymans).

Paul Nash at Tate Britain (to 5.3), bonus Rachel Maclean

Richard Serra’s third monumental occupation (to 25.2) of the Gagosian space in Britannia Street which was built to the spec of accommodating his work

Parts (30%) of Saatchi's latest show Painters' Painters (to 28.2) - David Salle (taking over from the recent Skarstedt show), Ansel Krut, Ryan Mosley.

If you like the spectacular, Anselm Kiefer at White Cube Bermondsey (to 22.1)

Rauschenberg at Tate Modern (to 2.2), not without a Salle chime at points...

The Wellcome Collection's current double, include Making Nature, a nice counterpoint to Marian Goodman's Animalia.


Robert Rauschenberg: Triathlon (Scenario), 2005

Images courtesy / copyright the relevant artists and galleries 


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About Me

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Southampton, Hampshire, United Kingdom
I was in my leisure time Editor at Large of Art World magazine (which ran 2007-09)and now write freelance for such as Art Monthly, The Art Newspaper and Border Crossings. I have curated five shows in London during 2013-15 with more on the way.Going back a bit my main writing background is poetry. My day job is public sector financial management.