Wednesday, 28 January 2015

THE PRESENCE OF ABSENCE






A Group Exhibition curated by Paul Carey Kent at BERLONI, 63 Margaret Street - Fitzrovia

30 JANUARY - 14 MARCH 2015

Private View Thursday 29 January, 6 - 9pm

Curator's tours 2 pm on Sat 21 Feb & 2 pm on Sat 7 March

Late opening Tues 10 Feb 


It’s often said that negative space is as important as positive shapes in a composition. The works in this show turn around a parallel feature of content, as opposed to form: namely, what is not present is at least as important as what is present  – and so it is that a key role is played by the paradoxical sounding ‘presence of absence’ in work by fourteen artists across a wide range of media. Films by John Smith and Liane Lang use buildings, outside and in, to animate our understandings of what we cannot see.  Maria Marshall’s films pivot on the removal of substantial elements of the action; while Giorgio Sadotti’s sculptural presentation of found images operates purely through removal. Stefana McClure gives us much the longest film – albeit, it could be said, without images or duration. A sound installation by Bronwen Buckeridge creates an illusory space in the midst of the Berloni Gallery itself. Nika Neelova presents a sculpture which seems to stand in for an absent other work, echoing Rachel Whiteread’s characteristic casting of the negative. Blue Curry’s found object groupings stand indirectly for people and for differing constructions of their self-images.  Alan Magee calls literal attention to two absences by filling them in.  Anni Leppälä and Jason Oddy exploit the uncanny ability of the photograph to freeze what isn’t there, as well at what is, into permanence. Two painters complete the line-up: Martine Poppe’s images come and go as we circle round them, and Ian Bruce plays with the absence and presence of people in their surroundings.

 FILM





 John Smith   (born Walthamstow, 1952, based in London) The Black Tower, 1987 - 22 min. film, starting on the half hour



The Black Tower animates a found object even as John Smith, well known for his films’ witty demonstration of their own structures, persuades us it’s a figment of the imagination. A complicated dance between what is and isn’t there starts from the simple device of filming a water tower from a number of different angles to suggest differing locations. Those images are retro-fitted to a tale of obsession which subverts the notion of a narrative, and yet proves oddly compelling. The depth of blackness on the matt painted surface of the tower particularly interested Smith, and the screen is often filled with it – or with darkness, or with nothing, or with dark thoughts…. A trope which Smith plays with through close-ups of other monochrome colours which are then revealed to have a basis in reality. 




 Liane Lang (born Munich, 1976, based in London) The Last Days, 2012-13 – 7 min. film on loop



The Last Days brings a disarmingly light touch to serious subject matter as Liane Lang focuses on the rooms and objects in an empty building with a forbidding amount of bad blood in its history. Lang’s note states that ‘15 Fontanepromenade in Berlin Kreuzberg was built in 1906 as an administrative building. Its history includes use as a home for neglected children and as the administrative centre of Jewish forced labour during the Nazi Regime. After the war it was used as a place of worship by the Church of Latter Day Saints and is currently standing empty awaiting re- development’. Consequently everything we see in its haunting stop motion – the film is composed entirely from still photographs – appears charged with those pasts, though we’re left to speculate on the link between what we see and the relevant happenings. Often Lang focuses in on what might be termed the signs of those absences, and either selects pareidolian details or else animates the scene – using only what is there – with touches of discordantly diverting humour.

 



Maria Marshall (born Bombay, 1966, based in London) Playground, 2001 (2.28 min. film on loop) and Playroom, 2015 (2.01 min. film on loop)



Playground and Playroom are thematically linked investigations of presence and absence in the context of religious authority.  In the earlier work, we see and hear a boy apparently kicking a ball against the wall of a church – and yet the ball remains invisible, leaving us to question the effectiveness of this ant-establishment act.  Marshall’s new film was commissioned by the Russian Government in association with Manifesta 2014, and this is its world premiere. A ball ricochets round inside a run-down Georgian church, but this time we don’t see its implied bouncer and kicker. We hear Ave Maria and Cantate Domino as well as the ball, on a sound track which suggests, says Marshall, that ‘e ven the music created to celebrate God is in this instant engineered to be competitive’.  Is there, then, a godly agency behind the ball’s movements as it makes merry, knocking over chairs yet not the table of devotional images? Both films might be read as attacks on religious hypocrisy which also draw baleful attention to football as the closest many people now get to religious experience.


SOUND



Bronwen Buckeridge (born Sussex, 1971, based in London) Mid Eye Long High, 2013 – 3.10 min. sound installation with steel stool, headphones, extended wire



This one person at a time installation is typical of Bronwen Buckeridge’s studies in how sound and memories shape our experience of place. Mid Eye Long High creates the illusion of spaces which are actually absent. I think I’ll let her explain: “Mid Eye Long High is constructed from a collection of binaural recordings made in libraries around London - places you might think of as silent but are actually teeming with the creaks and whispers of human presence. The library sounds are collaged together with snippets from film soundtracks which have been played out and re-recorded binaurally to give them a physical dimension and renewed sense of location; footsteps appear and disappear through unexpected doorways, a cat purrs close by and the film score briefly drifts in, hinting at some kind of dramatic event. Blended together this mix of real and cinematic soundscapes creates a model of an impossible architectural space”. 





SCULPTURAL INSTALLATION




Nika Neelova (born Moscow, 1987, based in London) 2011-2015 (the practice of conscious dying), 2015 - packaging from discarded sculpture cast in silicone rubber, jesmonite frame, 115 x 80cm & 85 x 85cm



Russian-born Nika Neelova moved countries every five years until arriving in London to study in 2010. That feels germane to her creation of sculptures which derive from selected past and hypothetical future narratives, referencing the disillusionment of a future state of disrepair. Her latest castings are silicon rubber versions of the packaging from her own discarded sculptures: what normally holds the work, which we can only imagine, becomes the work itself, and the sculptural wrap also plays the role of a painting’s surface in a further twist. This refocuses her way of trapping the past in the present onto her own practice; and the play of possibilities in the unknowable work is echoed by the play of possibilities in the two part work itself, which can be shown in various different formations. 



                         



Blue Curry (born Nassau, 1974, based in London)   Untitled, 2014 - mixed media, dimensions variable



Bahamian-born Blue Curry makes sculpture by combining found elements. Here he presents tasselled T-shirts, cheap watches, feathers and hair extensions.  Here three Perspex plinths – which signal their art status – might stand in for people or for beach loungers on which the shirts and other items have been left, implying that the bodies in question are elsewhere. The shirts are tropical beach wear, so playing - perhaps less explicitly here than in most of Curry’s work - with such questions as: what is the difference between the native and the exotic, given that the exotic in one place is always local in another?  And how does such categorisation affect the way we see things? Emotionally, such components of an idyll seem naturally linked to the possibility of its loss. How long have those watches tracked their owners’ absence? 





Giorgio Sadotti (born Manchester, 1955, based in London) from the Illegitimate Hallucination Series, 2014 - magazine pages in vitrine, Vatican, 2014 - scent



One theme of the ever-mischievous Giorgio Sadotti’s art, seen to advantage in the major retrospective in Milton Keynes which he presented anonymously in 2010, is that two things together always seem to make a third. He has also said that he ‘wants things to be easy’ so that he has the freedom ‘to do nothing’. That’s almost what he does in his radically simple and sculpturally presented method of collage: Sadotti simply takes the staples out of magazines and extracts some pages to allow two previously distant pages to interact in surprising ways. The absence leads to a new presence, and though the effort does seem minimal, Sadotti actually buys and sifts through a huge number of magazines in order to find his combinations.  He’s also responsible for the gallery’s scent, suggesting an unseen event.


 



Alan Magee (born Ireland, 1979, based in London)   Return to Glory, 2014 - plaster filled hula hoops, one on wall, one free-standing – diameters 76cm



Alan Magee’s wide-ranging practice often alters found objects, and he has talked of ‘a sort of existentialism of labour’ whereby much of his practice is about trying to find, and evidence, his place in the world through work. In Return to Glory Magee sort-of-repairs the holes in two hula-hoops by filling them with plaster. That is, of course, a repair which makes them functionally useless – but maybe, the title implies, the hula hoop can aspire to greater things than mere entertainment. After all, by turning their critical central absence into a visible presence, these become art: in which guise one hoop acts the painting, one the sculpture by virtue of their differing placements.





PHOTOGRAPHS


 


Anni Leppälä (born Helsinki, 1981, based in Helsinki)  Evening Embers, 2012 - 31 x 21 cm,  Mirror Painting 2013 - 30 x 41 cm and  Door (interior), 2012 - 29 x 21 cm



Anni Leppälä (born 1981, Helsinki) explores the relationship between the past and present, being drawn towards the 'possibility of being able to make a moment motionless, to make something stand still.' Here she finds an apparent landscape in a piece of wood and an apparent painting in a clouded mirror. Her characters typically appear absented in their own thoughts, and their hair often acts as a barrier to guessing what those might be – even when the face is viewed from the front. Evening Embers puts me in mind of Thomas Hardy. Take the opening of Night in the Old Home:



When the wasting embers redden the chimney-breast,
And Life's bare pathway looms like a desert track to me,
And from hall and parlour the living have gone to their rest,
My perished people who housed them here come back to me.



Jason Oddy (born London, 1967, based in London) three photographs from the series  
The Pentagon, Washington D.C., USA, 2003 - 102 x 163cm and 102 x 127cm 


Jason Oddy's work examines the relationship between humans and the built environment, typically in dissecting spaces with compositional rigour, but not showing their inhabitants directly. Here he has photographed rooms with an aura of power – the army section of the Pentagon – in a way which suggests that the absence of the actual generals, who were to convene around that table for their daily meeting just after Oddy’s image was taken, might stand for the increasing limitations on their practical power. The room with a picture of a plane is was itself hit by a plane on 9/11. Oddy took these photographs 18 months after the attack (by which time the room had been reconstructed) and a fortnight before the Iran war – set to underline those limits – began. 
 

OTHER WALL-BASED WORK





Martine Poppe  (born Oslo, 1988, based in London)  Analogical Change (Rubin’s Vase), 2015 - Oil on polyester restoration fabric 160 x 120cm and Hide Out, 2015 - paper sculpture,  105 x 60 x 60 cm



Martine Poppe disguises and half reveals what’s represented as the viewer moves around the soft opalescent fracture of her paintings. The title Analogical Change, she says, ‘stems from the linguistic phenomenon of inventing new words through misuse or a misunderstanding of the existing rules. It refers to my process of stretching translucent polyester restoration fabric over full-scale photographs, in order to record what can be discerned of the image directly onto the fabric surface. The resulting paintings balance between being analogies of their sources and records of the process of making’. Here Poppe has applied the technique to achieve an ambiguity similar to the well-known ambiguous depiction of a face/vase, then redacted half the image. The result is a complex investigation of different levels of remove from reality, added to by a sculpture made from – but concealing within itself – one of the photographic sources for another painting. Just what is here and what isn’t?



                

Ian Bruce (born London 1984, based in London) The Holding Room, 2014 - acrylic and oil on board, 47 x 63cm


Artist and musician Ian Bruce's portrait of performer and writer Rachel May Snider directly reflects one particular element of their conversations as he painted her. She showed Bruce a photograph of her father, who died when she was six, paddling off into an aquamarine sea. Bruce overlaid that landscape image onto the portrait by creating an intricate lattice of individually cut strips of masking tape, producing 1,665 squares on the surface of the painting. The masking tape remnants are cast onto the gallery floor, so that the association with Snider's father is fully present, but its legibility as such remains only in her thoughts.  The title is taken from Snider's upcoming novel in which The Holding Room is described as a place where everyone's personal narratives and memories are archived when they die. 


 


Stefana McClure (born Lisburn, 1959, based in New York) Suna no Onna (Woman of the Dunes): English subtitles to a film by Hiroshi Teshigahara, 2004 - wax transfer paper mounted on rag, 59 x 75 cm and South Pacific: closed captions to a film by Joshua Logan, 2008 - blue transfer paper mounted on rag, 59 x 77.5 cm


How do you draw a film? Well, Harald Smykla does pretty well as a performance by speedy renditions of each scene, but the Northern Irish born Stefana McClure, who arrived in New York via Japan, has an answer, too:  ‘Films on Paper’ is  an ongoing series composed of a succession of film subtitles  superimposed on coloured transfer paper. Here the Japanese tale of a man trying to dig his way out of the sand after being lured into a woman’s dune house is sized to the TV screen on which McClure saw it. You don’t get the images, nor can you read the dialogue, so meaning is cleansed. You do, though, get the trace of the film’s passing and a focus on the placement of the text. That’s a combination of what you can’t and what you don’t want to see, given that a subtitle-free film in your own language would be preferable - and yet it amounts to a delicately monochromatic musing on translation between media and cultures.


 



Rachel Whiteread (born London, 1963, based in London) Herringbone Floor, 2001 - laser-cut relief in 0.8mm Finnish birch plywood, edition of 450, 51 x 44 cm 



Rachel Whiteread’s 1993 negative cast of a house due for demolition may be the most famous work in which an absence – of the house’s own structure –  is articulated through presence – of the space it enclosed, with concrete taking the place of air. That itself, of course, is no longer with us, but she has produced a wide range of variations on the theme. One of her subtlest meditations on the domestic interior is this laser cut edition, based on a drawing of a parquet floor. The areas of tile were cut away, so that it’s the pattern of negative space between the tiles which delineates the positive image.







It’s possible to pick out alternative strategies from such a rich stream of works: the presence of absence is just one aspect. Found objects, of course, feature frequently in current art, and there are plenty here… but where Duchamp wanted to emphasise their status as objects, not as carriers of meanings – the stream leading to Judd, Andre and Ryman, for example – Smith, Lang, Sadotti, Curry and Magee and all play with and animate the meanings ascribable to such objects. And if it is an art object, then what category is it in? Poppe, Neelova, Magee, Sadotti and Bruce all blur the line between two and three dimensional forms.  The histories which places imply also recur, most obviously in Lang, Oddy and Buckeridge; and Leppälä, Neelova and Bruce also explore the relationship between past and present. Else one could look at removal as an artistic strategy in Bruce, Sadotti, Marshall and Whiteread. And one of the pleasures of contemporary art is to wonder what something is, and find that its deceptive initial appearance gives way to a satisfying inner logic: so it is in Whiteread, McClure and Poppe.


But to conclude in absence… In addition to the fourteen in the show, I planned to include four additional artists. Normally, one would not mention that, but here it might be thematically apt to imagine them as present. The Approach would not lend one of John Stezaker’s Tabula Rasa series, in which the removal of a part of the image stands in for a screen and simultaneously implies the possibility of other presences; nor are Pace supplying one of Hiroshi Sugimoto’s cinema photographs, in which the effect of opening the shutter for the whole film is to return the screen to its original whiteness, rendering the film present only in its visual absence – an outcome curiously parallel to Stefana McClure’s. That explains why it was a Japanese film I chose from her, to make what is now an echo of absence, as well as referring to her own years in Japan. Thomas Dane did not respond to queries regarding Paul Pfeiffer, who is the artist best known for editing out parts of video footage to great effect – though actually his first works using that approach come from 2001, the same year as Marshall’s Playground.  Finally, Mungo Thomson didn’t reply to my requests to include The Collected Live Recordings of Bob Dylan 1963-1995, an audio work in which all you get is the applause. That proves oddly addictive, and would, I believe, have been a justified presence for those who did accept my invitation.














CHOICES UP NOW

The latest in my rolling top ten, together with previous choices 
which you can still see...


Pier Paolo Calzolari @ Ronchini Gallery, 22 Dering St – Bond St

To 7 March:


 
     Untitled [collage], 2012 -  Graphite, talc, iron, rose petals, lead    Photo: Michele Alberto Sereni

One could lose track of how many Italian artists of the 1960s have been presented as discoveries in London over the past few years. Though pleased to see Pascali, Bonalumi, Dadamaino, Paolini, Schifano, Scheggi and Zorio, we might reasonably have been asking: why not Pier Paolo Calzolari? And here he is, not with the signature frosted works (which hum with refrigeration to produce delicate surface whites) but with a good cross-section of his classically-tinged take on Arte Povera. Calzolari sets up, one might say, delicate pseudo-alchemical processes in search of the absolute: a toy train pushes a feather; flames illumine salt; and the septuagenarian seems to take a literally rose-tinted view of failing sight through a pair of glasses in which the lenses are petals.

Little Trains (Large Paper), 1972 - Paper glued on wood, wax pastel, oil pastel, tempera, iron, tracks, electric wire, feather, transformer Photo: Paolo Semprucci
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The Presence of Absence @ Berloni, 63 Margaret Street - Fitzrovia



Opens 29  Jan 6 pm - 14 March - Curator's tours 2 pm on Sat 21 Feb & 2 pm on Sat 7 March

Anni Leppälä: Evening (Embers), 2013


The last place I look to describe a show is the gallery’s press release, lazily compliant trend as that is. Yet, having written this one, I shall claim with it that ‘it’s often said that negative space is as important as positive shapes in a composition. The works in this show turn around a parallel feature of content, as opposed to form: namely, what is not present is at least as important as what is present – and so it is that a key role is played by the paradoxical sounding ‘presence of absence’ in work by fourteen artists across a wide range of media’. And having chosen such artists as John Smith, Nika Neelova, Giorgio Sadotti and Anni Leppälä, what can I do but recommend it? 

Jason Oddy: The Pentagon, Washington D.C., USA, 2003 


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Kirk Palmer: Remembering Absence @ the Daiwa Foundation Japan House, 13-14 Cornwall Terrace – Baker Street


To 26 Feb: 

Still from War's End: An Island of Remembrance, 2012

A ‘sister show’ for The Presence of Absence might be Kirk Palmer recurrent meditations on what we can and cannot now reach of the nuclear calamity which befell Japan in 1945. The photographs and two of the films in this unhurriable show do that at one remove, by concentrating on the landscape of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. War’s End: An Island of Remembrance proposes, in effect, that the mountainous Yakushima, in the Ryuku Archipelago, be seen as a memorial garden as the mission planes used it as a reference point and circled overhead for 40 minutes before proceeding, due to changing weather conditions, to bomb Nagasaki rather than the original target of Kokura. Primeval views of nature are accompanied by a deep rumbling. That proves to be a recording of the bell from Nagasaki’s destroyed cathedral, but slowed down to last the 40 minutes of the film.

Still from Hiroshima, 2007
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Gideon Rubin: Delivering Newspapers @ Rokeby Gallery, 16 Roseberry Avenue – Clerkenwell

To 26 March: www.rokebygallery.com


Untitled, 2012
Gideon Rubin has such a penchant for blank faces we’ll probably never know if he can paint them in full. The effect is to anonymise, ambiguate and universalise the place and time of his sources. Here he dances around modes of representing people culled from 1950’s magazines hunted down during his recent residencies in Israel and China. Sometimes he paints over the page, sometimes relocates a figure to an independent canvas or transfers it to a different news context. Enough clues remain for us to puzzle out what comes from where, but without the potentially lazy short cut which facial features can provide.

 

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Margo Trushina: Borderlines @ Erarta Galleries, 8 Berkeley St – Central


Margo Trushina with her heatbeat in Waves, 2014

London-based Russian Margo Trushina explores a plethora of borders in the elegant flow between works here, all rooted in the landscape, even – unusually – when they use neon. The boundaries range from the political to the personal. An irregularly  descending line of red light,  which could be the falling oil price or rouble, turns out to be the border which the Russians authorities draw within the Ukraine as their claim on its land. That's in dialogue with a Trushina’s own heartbeat set in neon against the more outward waves of the sea. The wave form is then picked up more abstractly in stainless steel, while sculptural combinations play on the borders between natural and manmade, posing stone against metal, glass against wood.  

Borderline Series, Untitled 4, 2104
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Katy Moran @ Parasol unit, 14 Wharf Rd – Old Street


Rock Face with a Face, 2013 - collage and acrylic on canvas
Katy Moran’s approach to figurative painting is sufficiently un-illustrative she’s often taken to be an abstract artist.  Maybe that’s why, over the decade spanned by this 51 work spread, bits of reality are increasing collaged in directly, and her titles have become more descriptive of what you can see.  Moran doesn’t vary colour and scale drastically, and most of the paintings arrive at a comparable way of balancing their accidents, energies and incidents – yet there’s a freshening sense that they might not have done, that they’re rediscoveries rather than applications of a formula.  All of which reminds me of Morandi.  That said, there are curveballs:  Panther Cat is on glass, the ursine presences of bear fun almost varnish into its board, Travelling Mercy is a triptych on found canvasses, and Slide out of View feels like Howard Hodgkin on the moon.

bear fun, 2010 - acrylic and varnish on board

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Vicky Wright: Poor Joys Asylum Level 71 @ Josh Lilley Gallery, 44 – 46 Riding House Street - Fitzrovia


A Silver Branch Can Drop Without Seeds I, 2014

Vicky Wright, like Moran, is a non-illustrative figurative painter with a distinctive language, but to such different effect that I was reminded of Polke. Wright emphasises her supports by painting on what look like the backs of panels. That suggests a subversive take on more conventional images on the unseen side, and here that's a feminist agenda linked to a 19th century practice of confining women on the grounds of 'hysterical' tendencies. The paintings mash up witch lore, video games and degradations of classic male modernist forms to haunting post-Gothic effect, complemented by painted sticks referencing the geological (and implied psychological) taking of core samples. Perhaps the witch, standing for positive female energies historically repressed, is also the magical mixer of paints. Whatever, the spell is strong.

Installation view with Path of Exile: Poor joys Aylum IV (the sticks) and Path of Exile: Poor joys Aylum II

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Christina Niederberger: Laced @ C 7C Gallery, 18 London Rd - Forest Hill


To 8 Feb:  ccgallery.co.uk

Laced Mondrian, 2010

It’s worth a trip to Forest Hill to see Christina Niederberger tease modernism through several ways of creating large paintings by the laborious method of spraying through lace. To essay cubism, for example, in this way is to refuse its underlying way of thinking; use a domestic material with connotations contrary to the high ideals of modernism; counter male artists with a material traditionally made by women and worn by women to emphasise their femininity; and to suggest that painting is endgame, doomed – albeit with lightness and beauty – to revisiting its own historic themes as kitsch. What’s more, Niederger’s small ‘off duty’ paintings in a side-room are also compelling in a different mode.  

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Michael Williams: Morning Zoo @ Michael Werner, 22 Upper Brook Street - Mayfair

 To 31 Jan:  www.michaelwerner.com

Barf Mother, 2014

New Yorker  Michael Williams (born 1978) aims to make off-kilter paintings which are  ‘straightforward as a noodle’ (to quote one of his titles) and ‘uncomfortable in their own skin’. Here he contrasts two approaches, both of which start by blowing up the sardonic, self-deprecating, drawings he makes on his computer onto canvases over eight feet high. Two remain as pure inkjet, and can be read as showing the artist – rather unattractively in ‘Morning Zoo’ itself as a sort of Zen Pollock figure contemplating his next move. Four benefit / suffer from a blizzard of added spray and other paint markings which almost  obliterate image and space as they tread a line between chaos and order. The sextet forms a strong ensemble which give the overall impression of trying to find a place somewhere between painterly traditions and the digital world.


Installation view with 'Maybe I Wiped A Boogie On Your Coat', and  'Morning Zoo', 2014
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Reiner Ruthenbeck @ The Serpentine Gallery - Kensington

To 15 Feb: www.serpentinegalleries.org

Lighting Attempt, 2004

Contrasting with Julio Le Parc’s somewhat trivial kinetics in the Sackler Gallery, Reiner Ruthenbeck provides more of a funfare for the mind in the Serpentine’s original space. The side galleries contain to the right,  furniture either turned over to deny its function in favour of its aesthetic, and to left sculptures titled as furniture but so flimsy as to be useless. Meanwhile, ladders mate towards higher ends; a barrage of spotlights, grouped like figures, attempts to return a black painting to the condition of its surrounding wall, as if regretting having made it; a landscape emerges from piles of ash in conversation with geometric outlines on the wall; then we walk into a one bulb room and find it’s dusk.

Double Ladder, 1967

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       PREVIOUS CHOICES STILL ON

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Beat Zoderer: Fold & Dip and Other Incidents @ Bartha Contemporary, 25 Margaret St – Fitzrovia


Dip and Fold (detail), 2014

Swiss artist Beat Zoderer has the happy knack of achieving a distinctive aesthetic through an ever-changing variety of methods and a characteristic way of using not-quite primary colours as if they were primaries. This survey includes two of his long-running steel band series together with three main new streams, focused on folding (a circle is squared by that means, and vellum is successively folded and dipped into paint to make chance concatenations with a structural logic); the castings of balls in a range of sculptural ways; and multiple watercolour applications of a templating process which yields intricately colourful results in on Japanese paper, including as the fold-out book shown. 


Leporello, 2012











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Richard Serra: Backdoor Pipeline, Ramble, Dead Load and London Cross  @ Gagosian Britannia St - Kings Cross

To March 5: www.gagosian.com

Ramble, 2014

It’s easy to forget that the Richard Serra show still looms at Gagosian - fair enough, perhaps, given the effort required to install it. Yes, five uniformed guards continue their arduous business of making sure that no one walks off one of the smallest parts, which are mere five tonnes of steel. That said, the combination of weight making space with the seductive surface bloom of the Corten is a winner in each of the four formats adopted: vast walk-through curve; cemetery of super slabs; dangerously balanced overhead cross; and the ultimately heavy sarcophagus. It’s as if the Britannia Street Gallery was built for it - and in fact, it was, being engineered with Serra’s equally imposing show 2008 show in mind. Catch it (and I don’t quite mean  as in Serra’s seminal 1968 video ‘Hand Catching Lead’) in these last two months. 

Dead Load, 2014

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Indeterminacy @ large Glass, 392 Caledonian Road – Barnsbury



Window with Kathy Prendergast: Mt Fuji (2), 2014

John Cage is an empathetic figure for many artists, and Charlotte Schepke is a sensitive curator, so there was paradoxically little chance that 'Indeterminacy' wouldn't be an interesting show. Cage’s spirit is present in the sound of his short stories and invoked by such as Ana Prada’s happy conjunction of plastic spoons; the unknowable time of Roger Hiorns’ crystal-covered clock; John Smith’s film combining cityscapes with lost sounds on the now-lost medium of cassette tape, drifts of which are filmed where it snagged around the streets of London; and the beautiful Penone-echo of Kathy Prendergast’s conversion of the contour map of Mount Fuji into the rings on a tree and a fingerprint, which she's blown up into a big painting for the gallery's - large glass - window.

John Smith & Graeme Miller: still from Lost Sound, 1998-2001

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Shana Moulton & Lucy Stein: Retention @ Gimpel Fils, 30 Davies St – Mayfair


To 31 Jan: www.gimpelfils.com


Still from Polventon, 2013


The main film in this refreshingly ditzy multi-media show might be subtitled ‘Fun with PMS’. Moulton & Stein get ever-wackier from the serious-sounding starting point of trying to track down from where on the cliffs near Polventon, Cornwall, from which Stein’s grandfather leaped to his death. That soon gives way to investigations of such arts as rolling down hills, the wearing of crabs, dancing round a phallic lighthouse, and imitating Barbara Hepworth sculptures (the holes in which get leading roles) – all to sonorous quotes from Peter Lanyon …. ‘A family which lives on the edge of the sea is closest to the land’ seems to echo the pre-menstrual theme of water retention. If, as a text painting on the window declares, it’s all hormonal, then the effects are being reclaimed as druggy fun. The semi-medical japes go on in video-inset massage chair, hemorrhoid pillow and modesty screen; and there are paintings...



Still from Polventon, 2013

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 Images courtesy / copyright the relevant artists and galleries + Mike Bruce (Serra)