Saturday, 28 March 2015


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

Ydessa Hendeles:  From her wooden sleep… @ The ICA – Central

To 17 May:

Ydessa Hendeles, From her wooden sleep…, 2013 (detail) photo by Robert Keziere

Draw a Venn diagram of two fascinating recent exhibitions -   the Fitzwilliam’s history of the artist’s dummy, ‘Silent Partners’; and the Barbican’s ‘Magnificent Obsessions’ cornucopia of artists as  collectors - and the intersection would contain this dramatic whole room tableau. Canadian Ydessa Helendes might best be described as a collector-curator who presents her finds with a precision which is art. Previous shows, mostly in her own Toronoto Foundation, have included a trove of 3000 photographs featuring teddy bears; here the central feature is some 180 very variously sized articulated artists’ manikins (used to supplement life models), complete with extensive seating, five mountain banjos and 18 fairground distortion mirrors contributing to an atmosphere made childishly menacing by Chopin’s ‘Golliwog’s Cakewalk’. On trend, for sure, but a trend which Helendes initiated… 

Ydessa Hendeles, From her wooden sleep…, 2013 (detail) photo by Robert Keziere


Roman Opałka: The End Is Defined @ Christie's Mayfair, 103 New Bond Street

Polish-French artist Roman Opalka’s amazing 46 year project ‘OPALKA 1965 / 1 – ∞’  used counting as a means to ‘paint irreversible time passing ad infinitum’. He reached 5,607,249 on the 233rd such canvas by the time of his death in 2011, so the typical canvas contains some 24,000 seven digit numbers. After a few years he started adding 1% of white to his initially black paint to move each canvas towards the deathly white on white he’d reached by 2008.  Was this hermetic process just measuring time for its own sake, or moving beyond the proto-modern urge to use time to advantage? Either way, this chance to take in a dozen paintnigs – the most I’ve ever seen gathered in London, and niftily paired with Darren Almond’s clock works – is well worth taking.


Martin Wilner: Making History: The Case Histories 2014 @ Hales,Tea Building, 7 Bethnal Green Rd - Shoreditch

To 16 May :

Five years ago Martin Wilner showed some of a fascinating and somewhat Opalka-like ten year project (2002-12) based on monthly accumulations of a daily drawing of what caught his eye in the newspapers. Now Wilner has embarked on a collaborative version, in which the items are taken from daily correspondence with a different person each month: Wilner transcribes the letter (often rather imaginatively) on one side of the paper, and draws what it triggers on the other. The results form calenders with Monday always top left so that slightly irregular shapes result - as months don't tend to start on Monday and finish on Sunday.  The new project not only forces Wilner out of a decade’s way of working, it also plays more directly into his USP: a half-time job as Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Cornell Medical College. The new work is more layered, and parallels his other professional practice of  asking questions and interpreting answers to understand his subjects.

Images are Recto and Verso of Making History: Case Histories, February 2014: Dr Jorn Gunther, 2014 pen and ink on Bristol board, 41.9 x 43.5 cm copyright Martin Wilner, courtesy of Hales Gallery

Organic Sculpture @ Alison Jacques, 16-17 Berners St – Fitzrovia

Installation view with Janine Antoni's Polyurethane resin to twine, 2014 and behind it 
Pier Paolo Calzolari Untitled, 1988 - Salt, lead, refrigeration unit, refrigerator motor
This isn’t sculpture made from organic materials, but 38 works by 15 artists, all of which arrives at  broadly organic forms, resembling plants, eggs, bodies and their underlying geometries: the predominant media are ceramics and metals. It’s full of highlights, really, but hard not to mention Pier Paolo Calzolari’s refrigeration piece; Alina Szapocznikow’s polished bronze stones fitted cancerously into a tablet; the plaster works of the Slovak Maria Bartusova (1936-96), who only came to prominence in the last Documenta; and Janine Antoni’s twining of two cast spines in a transcendental connection which puts Marc Quin’s mating skeletons firmly in their place.

At the opening, visitors Sissy (left) and Marta made quite a contrast with the aesthetics of Paolo Icaro’s white plaster Window Show, 1974 (and with the rest of the show come to that)

Santiago Taccetti: ISO 9001 @ Hus Gallery, 10 Hanover St & Nasan Tur @ Blain|Southern, 4 Hanover Square

To 25 April:  15 April

Santiago Taccetti: Untitled 15 (Einsatzbereich Innen - Außen), 2015 Household acrylic on canvas 200x145 cm  - I think that would translate as 'Application Indoor - Outdoor'

Two interesting shows from Berlin-based artists either side of Hanover Street show contrasting approaches to presenting conceptual work.  At Hus (say 'Hoos') Argentinian Santiago Taccetti pursues two lines of enquiry into material properties: seven towers of aluminium ashtrays covered in speckly stone plaster become mysterious ash sculptures; and the cheapest possible household acrylic is spread roughly onto what proves to be the back of eight pre-primed white canvases. The point isn’t economy, but the chemical crudity of cheap paint, which makes it the best at crinkling the canvas into intricate patterns as it dries onto it. All that remains is to constrain that sculptural effect in a metal frame engraved with the chemical formula which controlled the unseen paint. 

Compared with that, Blain Southern’s feels like a group show. Is that a Bill Viola slow motion human reaction film of people firing guns for the first time, a Walead Beshty pulping of what proves to be Das Kapital, a Martin Creed neon displaced to the floor, where it blazes a yellow CRISIS? And has that rather creepy collection of marble body fragments come from ancient statuary?  But no, Turkish German artist Nasan Tur is adept at repurposing a wide variety of languages to his own ends, wittily pointing up the slippages between the political and personal and their conversion to art. A wall painting reproduces the results of police covering over graffiti; loss of bladder control is similarly presented as if it were a mere mark-making process; and what do we read into the post-discharge expressions of those gun virgins?

Nathan Tur: Crisis, 2014


Eric Gadsby: Works 1966-1976 @ Austin / Desmond Fine Art, Pied Bull Yard, Great Russell Street

Untitled, 1971 - oil on canvas, 137 x 91 cm

Last year, a 70 year visitor to the Kinetica Artfair mentioned to Emily Austin that he had a stack of old paintings he was thinking of throwing away, as he needed to clear his living room.  You can see why: most of the 13 shaped and layered canvasses from 1966 – 76 are  over 2m across. The represent the bulk of Eric Gadsby’s production: he gave up in favour of teaching as, despite his involvement in the New Generation exhibitions, there wasn’t much of a British market for such work. Think Ellsworth Kelly with a curvy and slightly mysterious dash of the US west coast aesthetic, and you’re not far off: Gadsby’s painting-objects have genuine presence 'in the flesh', and are neatly complemented by contemporaneous Bridget Riley studies downstairs. Good call, Emily!
Rubescence,1976 - Oil on canvas, 198cm diameter

Lucas Simões: Perpetual Instability @ Space In Between, Unit 26 (2nd Floor), Regent Studios, 8 Andrews Road - Hackney

To 11 April:

Gallery co-director  Laura McFarlane demonstrates the give in  Perpetual Instability, 2015

We’re used to neo-concrete Brazilian artists, but this cracking litle show features a concrete one. Inspired by a stay at the iconically brutalist Belfron Tower in Poplar, Lucas Simões has installed a concrete floor over a base of foam, so that over the exhibition’s run it breaks up and becomes a shifting platform under foot: soft social issues impacted by modernism, perhaps, but outlasting it? The concrete is more assertive in the accompanying shelf of sculptures: now the softness is concertinas of paper, and there’s a tension: are they trapped by the structures, or insinuating their lax values into the hard world?

Empty 03, 2014

Flore Nové-Josserand & The Still House Group @ the Zabludowicz Collection,  176 Prince of Wales Rd – Chalk Farm

To 19 April:

Flore Nové-Josserand looking suitably colourful with Flatland 5
The central presentation of New York’s Still House Group of young artists is interesting without being particularly persuasive. But Flore Nové-Josserand’s 'Zabludovicz Invites' multi-disciplinary tableaus are a joy: origins in colourful rhythmic abstraction have led her to paintings of stage-like ‘sets’ which she photographs and then presents in sculptural-come-architectural settings. The photographic flatness is framed and countered, and it becomes a challenge to sort out which medium is which as the viewer encounters a politely unruly streetscape merging private and public, twee and derelict. I also like the walk-through installation by three artists chosen by the Still House Group, in which Joe-Graham-Felsen’s Church, Mosque, Synangogue is the dominant element, merging potentially conflicting houses of worship (and in the Methodist Chapel, to boot) out of the stud walls which would normally support, rather than be, an exhibition. 

Installation shot with Joe-Graham-Felsen’s Church, Mosque, Synangogue

Sunday in the Park with Ed @ Display Gallery, 28 Holborn Viaduct – Farringdon

Rebecca Meanley: Untitled (Dark place), 2015

Energetic artists Cedric Christie and Pascal Rousson have asked 84 (! – count ‘em… I didn’t) artists to choose a work which represents what is transgressive in their own practice, loosely  starting from Manet’s Déjeuner sur l’Herbe. There's plenty of good stuff, but it could easily have been a messy confusion had the gallery not done a fantastic job in setting out what’s what and providing quotes from each artist and some idea of their aims. Not everyone is meaningfully on theme, but of those who are Alex Hudson, Jeff McMillan, John Smith, Helen Maurer and Nathan Taylor impressed me along with the illustrated pair who pick up on the lawn aspect of Manet. Rebecca Meanley says she is immersed in her own past’s ‘sordid encounters’, making her abstracted undergrowth a portal to matters ‘too dark to articulate in words’;   Ackroyd & Harvey – whose material of choice is grass - exhibit seeding turf as a flayed animal fur which I take to compare hunting and land use practices.
Ackroyd & Harvey Pelt (After Living Skin), 2014-15


Maaike Schoorel: Sub-Lo @ Maureen Paley, 21 Herald St - Cambridge Heath

To 12 April:

Shez with disco lights, 2014-15 oil on linen, 165 x 135 cm
London-trained Dutch painter Maaike Schoorel, who recently returned to Amsterdam from a spell in New York, is known for monochromes which push at the limits of our ability to interpret minimal marks as images. That lures us into intimate contact with what turn out to be intimate scenes derived from her own photographs. All that remains true in Schoorel’s latest work, but her mainly white on white and black on black phases have given way to greys with what are by her standards vivid flecks of some of the colours – which is all of them – contained in grey. Moreover, while it remains true that every mark is meaningful when so few stand for so much, there are subjects here, like disco lights or paint in the studio, which carry on reading abstractly even after we’ve decoded them. Schoorel’s effects are pretty much unphotographable, so get down to Bethnal Green!

Lisa in the bath, 2014-15 - oil on canvas, 135 x 175 cm

Petr Davydtchenko: Hard Bass & Jodie Carey @ Edel Assanti, 74a Newman St – Fitzrovia

To 25 April:

Installation view: Jodie Carey

Edel Assanti make the most of their new double space to pull off a resonant pair of shows which contrast sharply even as they tackle the common ground of prehistoric ritual and its recrudescence  in modern society.  Upstairs is all light and balance as Jodie Carey transforms disparate traditions of commemorative craft into a monumental installation of plaster vessels afloat on a sea of the pieces chipped off their blocky origins; woven canvas hangings dipped into plaster; and a delicately obsessive wall drawing. Down in the basement Russian artist Petr Davydtchenko provides a potted history of St Petersburg’s Hard Bass dance craze, executed in animal masks in most of his found footage, the growling sound system pumping out of sculptures into Stygian gloom.

Installation view: Petr Davydtchenko


William Cobbing: The Duddo Field Club Audit @ Tintype, 107 Essex Rd - Islington

Sestriere, 2014 - glazed ceramic

William Cobbing’s previous work has seen him find memorable forms to imply the subconscious: the skeleton of Palindrome, 2003, exchanges pelvis for skull, The Kiss, 2004, sees a couple struggle to smooch through clay…  No surprise here, then, that inaccessible knowledge is memorialised through the books pressed into a version of a monolithic standing stone; that the burden of metaphor is reinforced in  ceramic recreations of various rock-heavy covers from editions of Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus; or that a psychological distance builds up between a woman (collaborator Beth Collar) writing and erasing her fugitive thoughts on one screen while Cobbing seems to pour out his own inner emotions on another (‘You can never give me an unqualified answer’…) 

Beth Collar & William Cobbing: Palimpsest, 2014 - 16.30 mins videos


John Skoog: Shadowland @ Pilar Corrias, 54 Eastcastle Street - Fitzrovia

To 17 April:

Still from Shadowlands, 2014

Swedish artist John Skoog has created a highly effective two-part show which pivots around the transformational ambitions of American cinema. Downstairs is a 15 minute 16mm black-and-white film of 44 locations in the topographical a diverse state of California, each chosen because they were used in films from the black-and-white era to represent other parts of the world. A list enables you to  follow what stood in for where. Upstairs are 21 photographs of US 'movie palaces' from the 20s and 30s which themselves looks to evoke other places architecturally. You could, then, be watching  Big Bear Lake as Japan in St Paul as a Spanish Castle... 

Still from Shadowlands, 2014


CLASSICICITY @ Breese Little (in conjunction with Rupert Wace Ancient Art), 30b Great Sutton Street - Clerkenwell

Alexandre Singh: Number Eight, 2014

What do you do with a PhD in the ancient art? James Cahill and Ruth Allen have found a good answer by curating this beautifully pitched combination of classical artifacts and recent work . The latter combines established and less-known artists to good effect from the new looking old (Edward Allington’s Unsupported Support and one of Ged Quinn’s abstract paintings of craquelure) to riffs on myth (Maggi Hambling and Mary Reid Kelley’s versions of the minotaur) and Rachel Kneebone, Sarah Lucas, Nell Allen and Pfeiffer & Walz's  reminders that there was plenty of sex and kitsch in those once-painted statues we take so seriously. 

Ged Quinn, Nekyia Modern, 2014

Nicole Wermers: Infrastruktur @ Herald St, 2 Herald St - Bethnal Green

To 2 April:

Untitled Chairs CR-O and FXR-1 vintage fur, steel tubing, upholstery, silk and velvet

Nicole Wermers’ new show presents two radical ideas. First, she makes sculptures by merging a vintage fur with the back of chairs from a design by Marcel Breur. having relined the coats to match the browns and greys of the seating. The ten sculptures are named through a code for the type of fur, from Cream Rabbit to a Afghan. The effect as a group was like a high-end version of towels reserving sun loungers. Second, she makes ceramic versions of those tear-off flyers through which to obtain phone number of a potential flatshare, or whatever. Luxury is contrasted with crude utility, but both represent the system of social organisation and an infrastructure of sorts.

Sequences 1-3, painted ceramics

Analia Saban: Interiors @ Spruth Magers, 7A Grafton Street - Central

To 28 March:

Claim (from Chesterfield Sofa), 2014

Analia Saban’s latest London solo sees her upsize - indeed, she gets all three floors! - with her move from Josh Lilley to Spruth Magers, but without reducing the commendably perverse conceptual wit with which she collapses the distinctions between types of work and pushes her materials further than they can be expected to go. Marble folds like a towel. A sofa becomes a painting – no, hang on, a painting becomes a sofa. Photographs of paint are mined for colour which is then used as if it really is paint. A sequence of flower pictures paradoxically ‘fades’ towards  abstraction by getting darker as the brush used gets broader….. A painting swells, pregnant with a sculpture made of paint…

Draped Marble (Fior di Pesco Apuano), 2015

Simon Mullan: Popularis @ Belmacz, 45 Davies Street - Bond St

To 18 April:

Simon Mullan in pristine bomber jacket with 'naked’ versions

This show of facing triples contrasts two streams of work at the art–non-art interface. Simon Mullan’s tile collages exploit the skills he learned as a teenager in the building industry. They may look like bathroom décor, but the relationships of cut tile shapes, the three shades of grout and slightly differing whites à la Flavin (caused by using different tile manufacturers) and the way some tiles sneak around the back to emphasise these ‘paintings’ as objects, reveal that these are art. As are the Berliner’s collaged paintings made from the front of bomber jackets… but not the other triple on show here: the ‘naked’  jackets which remain after his collaging activities. They’re mere collateral, and as such are not for sale, but worn for free by people judged deserving.

'Roger.Samir and Kilian', 2015 - Tiles and wood, 89×116 ×4cm

Meekyoung Shin: Painting Series @ Hada Contemporary, 21 Vyner St – Cambridge Heath

To 29 March:

Painting Series - installation view

The beached whale of Wilkinson and Hada’s lively Asian programme are the remaining reasons to visit the once populous Vyner Street. Meekyoung Shin is known for reproducing classical sculptures and ceramics in soap to undermine their permanence and value. Here she uses her signature material for a radiant salon hang of 82 ‘paintings’ in found frames. That’s a logical way to represent abstraction’s potential to cleanse traditional meanings, but it also turns out that the mixed and monochrome soaps generate various painterly effects, with even a little Burri and Fontana creeping into the cracks as they age.


Thomas Joshua Cooper: Scattered Waters: Sources Streams Rivers @ The Fleming Collection, 13 Berkeley Street - Mayfair

Twilight - Rapids on the River Ness,The Weir, Dochgarroch,Inverness, Inverness-shire, Scotland, 2002-2014 - silver gelatin print, hand toned and printed by the artist

Thomas Joshua Cooper has restricted himself to a narrow process for the past 45 years, 30 of them in Scotland after moving there from his native California: he walks miles with a 30kg kit to makes pictures of the outdoors, one shot per site. He uses an 1898 5 x 7 inch plate camera which he bought from the 70-year-old son of its original owner plus tripod. Cooper prints, avoiding any modern process, onto the world’s last substantial supply of silver-rich paper, which he bought up when Agfa went bust in 2006. Why so? He finds slowness suits him, he explained at the opening of this welcome selection of his Scottish river works, as a way of paying respectful attention to the spirit of things - grass, trees, water, air - and saying thank you for place, time and light – often capturing the dark of dawn or dusk with long exposures. The 15 images here are certainly quick with the sense of water as life force for the land.

Early evening - Near the mouth of the River North Esk St Cyrus Beach, Kincardineshire, Scotland, 2000-2014 -  Silver gelatin print, hand toned and printed by the artist


Henry Wessel: Incidents @ Tate Modern

Tate has a recent penchant for arguably underappreciated American photographers: I can't say I wasn't bowled over by Harry Callahan but Henry Wessel is more impressive. He moved from New Jersey to California in 1971 to chase the year round light, and his pictorially acute affirmations of interest in the world feed into the 27 photographs selected and ordered to make his summary work 'Incidents'. These work persuasively individual images of strangers, replete with shadow play, unexpected tilting and internal rhymes such as between grass and hair, crutch and railing, thoughts and branches; and as a group they emphasise vantage points as they move between youth and age, men and women, singles and couples to build a putative narrative.


 Renata De Bonis & Ruben Brulat: Mapping Continents @ Lamb Arts, 10 White Horse St – Green Park

To 28 March:
The artists with the top of Renata's floor-ceiling piece  and some of Ruben's photos (look hard to see him naked on the rock)

It’s good to see that Lucinda Bellm now has a permanent space, after London various pop-ups, to add to her Sao Paulo links. Its three rooms are well-used for this globe-spanning match of romantic existentialists. Young French photographer Ruben Brulat tweaks his nude-in-wilderness theme with self-portraits from a geologically unstable zone of Ethiopia, including just his sulphured hands from a pool too acidic for full immersion. Brazilian Renata De Bonis exchanges soil between Brazil and England (and heartbeats between her and her boyfriend), paints selected Icelandic rocks and shows kerbstones neither up nor down as they pierce the floor / ceiling. What are we but human clay, elementally connected?


Here's a better chance to see Ruben Brulat in Sous les murmures  (Under the whispers), 2014

 Agostino Bonalumi - Sculptures @ Mazzoleni, 27 Albemarle St - Central 

To  April 4:

Rapporti, 1978 - glass, resin and marble

Two years ago Francesca Pola curated a magisterial survey of Agostino Bonalumi’s earlier decades at Robilant + Voena. Now she’s back at a new Italian gallery with a chronologically fuller sample from the estate, concentrating on Bonalumi (1935-2013) as a sculptor - which is after all only one step out from his constructed paintings. The later years contain such underappreciated experiments as enamelled metal sheets; relational pieces (here one in which a resin formation takes flight over marble); and extravagantly shaped self-standing canvases along with bronze, ceramic and fibreglass variants.

Francesca Pola explains Giallo, 1969 - vinyl tempera and shaped canvas


Gideon Rubin: Delivering Newspapers @ Rokeby Gallery, 16 Roseberry Avenue – Clerkenwell

To 26 March:

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.



Images courtesy / copyright the relevant artists and galleries the artist and Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh (Cooper) + at Breese Little: Alexandre Singh, Number Eight, 2014, Photographer Kate Lacey, Giclee print, 138.75 x 111 cm, © Alexandre Singh, Courtesy Spruth Magers   Ged Quinn, Nekyia Modern, 2014, Oil on linen, 36.8 x 71.2cm, © The Artist. Courtesy the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London. Photography Stephen White.