Monday, 28 December 2009

NEW YEAR CHOICES


For the most part this just rounds up what's still on of the shows I recommend ahead of the mid-January openings, but with pictures!
Meanwhile, in the bigger places, head to Trafalgar Square for a threefold dose of charged sculptural realism. The rightly lauded National Gallery show ‘The Sacred Made Real’ isn’t just a chance to see seven stunning paintings by Francisco de Zurbarán (though it is that, and suffice it to say that he fully measures up to the four from Valasquez),it also makes a strong case for how the art of polychromy – painting votive wooden statues – fed into the those Spanish works. Superbly-preserved examples by forgotten Spanish sculptors such as Juan de Mesa and Juan Martínez Montañés are shown alongside the tenebrous masterpieces which they influenced. Spotlit in gloom, the wooden figures teeter – often very effectively – on the edge of kitsch and surreal in the relish with which they recreate details such as Jesus’ flayed back.

The Chapman brothers may come to mind, or even Marc Quinn’s quinquennial cycle of heads cast from his own blood – and as it happens the National Portrait Gallery is now showing its recently-acquired version of 'Self'from 2006. And there’s some of the same spirit and crepuscular viewing conditions back at the National Gallery in Ed and Nancy Kienholz’s ‘The Hoerengracht’, a monumental restaging of the Amsterdam red light district in the 1980s complete with prostitutes life cast from visitors to the Kienholz studio – it’s magnificently seedy, and all held together by light, framing devices and resinous gloop. The installation seems to have got a bad press, not for the presence of such content in such an august institution, nor for the parallels drawn with Dutch paintings from the Golden Age, but for finger wagging attitudinising – maybe so, but I couldn’t work out what message was being preached.






The Epoch of Perpetual Happiness

Peter Davies @ The approach, 47 Approach Rd – Bethnal Green

To 17 Jan: www.theapproach.co.uk

If you like lists and quizzes you’ll love Peter Davies’ big painting ‘The Epoch of Perpetual Happiness’, which provides a pictorial spin on his well-known lists of a hundred hot or cool artists. It presents a huge range of art and pop references – the press release lists some 150 for you to spot but you can also gain bonus points for discovering unlisted inclusions: one of them is Gerhard Richter, represented through the filter of his candle on the cover of Sonic Youth’s ‘Daydream Nation’. Richter is also a presence in the show as a whole in the way in which Davies pursues parallel but very different strands of painting which themselves interrogate the nature of painting. The other two large canvasses here are an obsessively detailed take on colour field abstraction via thousands of small squares, and the conversion of gestural abstract expressionist marks into an anally retentive equivalent using carefully ruled straight lines.


Jessica Lagunas: The Better to Kiss You With

The Body in Women’s Art Now @ Rollo Contemporary Art, 51 Cleveland St (Fitzrovia)

To 20 Jan: www.rolloart.com/

The first part of a three-part survey of work created by women artists this century in which the body is central, ‘Embodied’ combines Regina José Galindo and Sigalit Landau’s recent video classics with less well known but also interesting work by Jessica Lagunas (who, like Galindo, grew up in Guatemala) and young British photographer Lydia Maria Julien. And there is an excellent catalogue. I recommend you start downstairs, where Lagunas piles on the beauty to edgily comic excess by applying lipstick and nail varnish for an hour, and then drop back between the shorter works to see how she’s getting on…


Ornulf Opdahl: 'Mood Paintings of the North' @ Kings Place gallery, 90 York Way - Kings Cross

To 26 Feb: www.kingsplace.com

Kings Place is very much worth a visit: not only is it a spectacularly appointed new building with a high quality music programme and a good café, it also has lots of visual art, courtesy of the Pangolin and Kings Place galleries. The former is unusual in showing primarily sculpture and being linked to a foundry, and exhibits many sculptures outside the gallery (a leaflet takes you round a trail, and there are striking front window displays).

The Kings Place Gallery spreads its wares across three levels outside the large but rather tucked away room of the gallery itself. Currently it is showing no fewer than 50 recent oils and watercolours by Ornulf Opdahl, who paints the mountains and fjords of Alesund on the west of Norway. If that sounds like a recipe for traditional romanticism, it is: in the accompanying ten minute film Opdahl himself talks about his recurring fascination for 'a landscape which always reflects my mind'. But he also says that he 'tries to be abstract all the time', and that is what gives his dramatic explorations of light and mood a modern inflexion - in another context, you might not guess the subject of 'The Mountain, Ramsen, Winter'...


Cecily Brown: Aujourd'hui Rose

Visible Invisible: Against the Security of the Real @ Parasol unit, 14 Wharf Rd - Hoxton

To 7 Feb: www.parasol-unit.org

Veteran Hans Josephsohn's figures dotted around the Parasol unit's elegant and considerable space are the counterpoints to four painters - Cecily Brown, Shaun McDowell, Katy Moran and Maaike Schoorel - who work in the space between figuration and abstraction. This show would be worth visiting just for the opening room of Katy Moran's intimate and astutely-judged apparent hesitations. But you also get Cecily Brown’s punning modulations between people and skulls; the flickeringly fleshy evocations of Shaun McDowell, rapidly emerging as the best known of the Hannah Barry Gallery's South London set; and Maaike Schoorel making a portrait of Roger Hiorns almost disappear into blankness as if she knew that he would fail to win the Turner Prize.


Painting 15 from 'Under the Snow'

Ilya & Emilia Kabakov: Under the Snow @ Sprovieri Gallery, 27 Heddon St – Central

To 17 Jan: www.sprovieri.com

Sprovieri is tucked away on the first floor behind the phone box (which features on the cover of Ziggy Stardust, incidentally) at the end of Heddon Street. It opened ten years ago with the New York based Russian émigrés Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, and has shown them regularly. If you think of the Kabakovs as producing hardcore conceptual installations turning on the legacies of Soviet history, then this gently lyrical set of large paintings from their extensive ‘Under the Snow’ suite will surprise you. They show a world blanketed in snow, varying gaps in which reveal people and landscapes. These play on memory, scale, and what is and isn’t hidden. There’s a hint, perhaps, of Ilya’s original career as a children’s book illustrator. White, say the Kabakovs, 'is the space of pure contemplation’ that ‘suddenly turns out to be inserted into the visual world' in the form of snow. There is also an intriguing extract from the complex project ‘The Teacher and The Student: Charles Rosenthal and Ilya Kabakov’, which consists of work shown as the products of a fictional version of Ilya and his teacher.


Eva Hesse & Katja Strunz @ Camden Arts Centre, Arkwright Rd

To 7 March: http://www.camdenartscentre.org

Camden has two strong shows at the moment. No surprise in the case of Eva Hesse’s tensely ambiguous, appropriately provisional ‘studioworks’ – poised between mathematical and organic, pictorial and abstract, male and female, prison and home: these tabletop displays got rave revies in Edinburgh. But German sculptor Katja Stunz fits in well with her ‘Sound of the Pregeometric Age’, a room full of instrument or musician-like found sculptural combinationals. They are set up stands, and wired for sound to give off the crackles, shrillings, rustles and bleeps of their world as if testing the acoustics of the space. This works especially well when the traffic outside joins in. Meanwhile the title points to echoes from the deep past – the ‘pregeometric age’ is not art before minimalism, but a scientific term for the time before the big bang.



Untitled (74-8)

Donald Judd: ‘Progressions 1960’s and 1970’s’ @ Simon Lee, 12 Berkeley St – Central

To 29 January: www.simonleegallery.com

The purest pleasure currently available in a London gallery may well be this series of six horizontal mounted wall works by the late American master of anti-illusion, Donald Judd. It’s a chance to track the subtle changes in shape and means from 1967 to 1975 in what, colour aside, may look near-identical works. In fact, Judd sought increasing perfection in line with the improving manufacturing capability, moving from galvanized iron painted with lacquer to highly polished brass to anodized aluminium, in which an electrical process maximizes the adhesion of the paint.


The Journey

Gordon Cheung @ Room, 31 Waterson St – Shoreditch

To 31 Jan: www.roomartspace.co.uk

Gordon Cheung has surfed the zeitgeist from one recession to the next with his imaginings of the end of civilisation with his characteristic integration of stock listings into paintings: here the close-up heads of those market beasts the bull and the bear ram home such themes. But is it time for a change? Cheung provides three with laser-burnt subversions of Durer etchings, and new lines in sculpture and video animation: the latter in particular are mesmerically well-suited to his psychedelically apocalyptic colours. And the four screens of cowboys come with the bonus of The Doors' seminal 'The End' as a soundtrack.


Bee Painting, Small Screen III, 2009

Klaus Weber @ Herald St, Bethnal Green

To 17 Jan: www.heraldst.com

And perhaps the weirdest pleasure, if pleasure it be, are these shit paintings. Not mere bad paintings; nor paint pretending to be shit as in Dan Colen; nor genuine balls of elephant shit as in Chris Ofili; nor even the canvases placed in the Swedish forest by Henrik Hakansson, who waits for swallows to make abstract patterns - that’s close, but not quite weird enough. The highly imaginative German artist Klaus Weber (you may have seen his people with fountains sprouting from their orifices on the South Bank or his vacuum sculptures) has radically delegated artistic control by exploiting the fact that bees are bunged up in the hive all winter, and then take a ‘cleansing flight’ during which they defecate on anything which is unnaturally white. Canvases placed in a bee-keeper’s yard were thus anointed by delicate yellow and light brown marks to become ‘bee paintings’. You can compare the bees with bomber planes. You can muse on how it must feel to be liberated from such a burden. You can ponder the bees’ easy desecration of the modernist purity of the white canvas. Or you can just say: well, that’s weird.



Hans-Peter Feldmann @ Ancient & Modern, 201 Whitecross Street – Barbican

To 16 Jan: http://www.ancientandmodern.org/

How often do you see 174 paintings of nudes in a contemporary gallery? Especially one with Ancient & Modern’s particularly modest scale? Well, it turns out to be an exact fit for Hans-Peter Feldmann’s installation of stamps, each showing just that. It’s a well-worn topic for thematic stamp collectors, but the gallery context alters their reception, just as it has that of the multifarious other selections the wide-ranging German has presented in the past in addition to his photographs.

TEN FOR THE FUTURE

I am looking forward to:

Ori Gersht @ Mummery & Schnelle 13.1 – 27.2

Oliver Laric @ Seventeen 13.1 – 13.2

Ryan Mosley @ Alison Jacques 13.1 – 13.2

Danny Rolph @ Poppy Sebire 14.1 – 20.2

William Eggleston @ Victoria Miro 15.1 – 27.2

Max Mosscrop @ Five Years: 16.1 – 31.1

Waseem Ahmed @ Laurent Delaye 22.1 – 27.2

Magali Reus @ Ibid Projects 22.1 – 7.3

Michael Landy @ South London Gallery 29.1 - 14.3

John Gerrard @ Thomas Dane 3.2 – 6.3

Sunday, 20 December 2009

BEST OF 2009 + VENICE SPECIAL

Looking back at 2009, hardly a good year due to Art World closing, I nonetheless see that I saw impressive art in Bexhill, Eastbourne, Brighton, Southampton, Oxford, Birmingham, Manchester, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Berlin, Basel, Berne, Zurich, Paris, Copenhagen, Malaga, Venice and New York. But even sticking purely to London and strictly to contemporary, I am spoiled for choice, and shall allow myself a more than excessive 2 x 20 memorable shows in no particular order:

Non-commercial 20:

John Baldessari @ Tate Modern (& Spruth Magers)
Roni Horn @ Tate Modern
Ed Ruscha @ the Hayward
‘The Russian Linesman’ @ the Hayward
Design High @ Louise Blouin
Francis Alys @ NPG
Jeff Koons @ Serpentine
Robert Kusmirowski @ Barbican
‘My Yard’ @ Whitechapel
Richter Portaits @ NPG
Altermodern @ Tate Britain
Jeff McMillan @ Peer
Roger Hiorns for Artangel
Rebecca Warren @ Serpentine
Anish Kapoor @ Royal Academy
Iza Genzken @ Whitechapel
Michael Snow @ BFI Southbank
DJ Simpson @ Bloomberg
‘The Photographic Object’ @ The Photographer’s Gallery
Mat Collishaw @ The Freud Museum

Commercial 20:

André Butzer @ Alison Jacques
Tala Madani @ Pilar Corrias
Philip Allen @ The Approach
Cinthia Marcelle @ Sprovieri
David Claerbout @ Hauser & Wirth
‘In Between the Lines’ @ Trinity Contemporary
Alexis Harding @ Mummery & Schnelle
Caragh Thuring @ Thomas Dane
Phyllida Barlow @ One in the Other
Glenn Brown @ Gagosian
Keith Coventry @ Haunch of Venison
Richard Serra @ Gagosian
Leonardo Drew @ FAS
Cedric Chistie @ Flowers East
Marnie Weber @ Simon Lee
Sara Haq @ Alexia Goethe
Carter @ Hotel
Adeela Suleman @ Aicon
Oliver Laric @ Seventeen
‘Supersurface’ @ Laurent Delaye (Robyn Denny, Michael Stubbs,
Danny Rolph, Perry Roberts, Shaan Syed)

Mummery & Schnelle deserve a special mention, as Maria Chevska, Carol Rhodes and Robert Bordo were all top shows as well as Alexis Harding. It was tempting to include the current London and Oxford double of Miroslav Balka (or even treble as he showed at White Cube in January) as one show. I also liked several shows about – well, nothing really: parts II and III of Laure Genillard’s ‘Presque Rien’, ‘Beyond these Walls’ at the South London Gallery and not so much the retrospective of various voids initiated by from the Pompidou Centre and which I caught in Berne (how can voids go on tour?) as the fascinating catalogue which justified the show. Also Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom as the most interesting new emergent, at both Primo Alonso and Josh Lilley, and Vanessa Billy and Ryan Mosley as rapid riders.

The best new galleries were Poppy Sebire (kicking off jointly with Alan Cristea through a lively two-location show of Boo Ritson), Josh Lilley, East Central and Calvert22 in a year in which, despite the recession, there was no reduction in the total number of spaces in London. And after something of a drift west in 2008, the trend reversed a bit in 2009, with the excellent Rokeby (star show Tom Badley)and Ritter/Zamet (star show Dolly Thompsett) moving east, and Vyner Street enhanced by the arrival of two of the liveliest galleries: Madder 139 and (imminently) Vegas.

So what about outside London? That’s a bit more arbitrary, but I liked:

Martin Kippenberger @ MOMA, New York
Vanessa Beecroft: VB64 @ Deitch Projects, New York
Kirsten Ortwed @ Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen
Beat Zoderer @ Bartha Garage, Basel
Giuseppe Penone @ Ikon, Birmingham
Alberto Giacometti @ Foundation Bayeler, Basel
Joseph Beuys @ de la Warr Pavilion, Bexhill
Chema Cobo & Wilhelm Sasnal @ CAC Malaga
Susan Collins @ de la Warr Pavilion, Bexhill
Clay Ketter @ Daniel Templon, Paris
Subversive Spaces @ Whitworth, Manchester
Shaun Gladwell (Australia), Martin Boyce (Scotland), John Gerrard
(collateral event) @ Venice Biennale - more on this below
‘Deterioration, They Said’ @ Migros, Zurich (mainly for the wonderful Shana Moulton)

Phew! And that’s not even to mention the best show of the year: the less contemporary Seurat survey ‘Figure and Space’, which I caught in Zurich.


WATER & LIGHT IN VENICE

The Venice Biennale closed on 22 November. With 77 national pavilions, Daniel Birnbaum’s colossal ‘Making Worlds’ exhibition (which itself featured 90 artists) and 44 collateral events, there can have been few artistic themes or approaches which were not covered. But Venice is the classic city of water and light, and there was certainly plenty of both in some of the best work to be seen.



Mike Bouchet: Watershed, 2009 in ‘Making Worlds’ - the house as it sank, and as it was later reinstalled

But we start with a problem. Two artists aimed very directly to occupy the waters of Venice. Mike Bouchet had what Daniel Birnbaum called the megalomaniac idea of building a replica of a typical American suburban home which would float incongruously on pontoons in the basin of the Arsenale, allowing the historic backdrop to highlight its modular repetition. Appropriately, perhaps, the house sank during installation. When reinstalled, it was with a little extra meaning to its take on the American dream.



Alexander Ponomarev: ‘SubTiziano’ from the ongoing cycle ‘Utilisation of Packs’ (1999-2009) in Grand Canal @ Universita Ca’ Foscari

Alexander Ponomarev, one of many Russians putting on a strong showing, took fewer risks in bringing a submarine to the archetypal Venetian light of the Grand Canal. Ponanarev sees this as a tribute to both Leonardo, original conceiver of he submarine, and Titian, conqueror of colour for whom it is painted with colourful ‘negative camouflage’. It is also the ninth in a series which turns a deadly weapon into a marker of aesthetic connections, emerging around the globe to demonstrate the power of art.



Aleksandra Mir: ‘VENEZIA (all places contain all others)’, 2009, in ‘Making Worlds’

The Italian-based Pole Aleksandra Mir chose a hundred images of watery scenes from around the world, over which she had the word ‘Venezia’ teasingly overlaid in a range of typical postcard styles. A million of these postcards are to be given away to Biennale visitors so that they can activate the work by posting them across the world. ‘The idea of waterways as a supra-national entity’, says Mir, ‘mirrors patterns of globalization, the erosion of the nation state through the growth of travel and communication and its reemergence as a brand to be marketed’.



Miquel Barceló: ‘Djoliba (Riu de Sang)’, 2009, for Spain

Newer media dominated in the national pavilions, but the Spanish featured the paintings and ceramics of Miquel Barceló, fresh from his controversial ceiling painting for the United Nations in Geneva, which used a hundred tons of paint in icicle forms. His newest, near-abstract, series shimmeringly capture the foam of waves off Mali in an all-over surface which exploits paint as a natural force: Barcelo visibly plays with how the application of wet and mobile paint leads to a dry and static result which looks wet and mobile.



Poitr Uklański: ‘Untitled (Dancing Nazis)’, 2008, in ‘Mapping the Studio’ @ Palazzo Grassi / Punta Della Dogana

New York / Warsaw based Pole Poitr Uklański featured in both halves of Francois Pinault’s vast presentation of just 20% of his collection – and infiltrated much of the Palazzo Grassi with the sound of his Untitled (Dancing Nazis). It combined portraits of actors playing Nazis with the rather un-Venetian light of a flashing disco floor as modernist grid. Whether it was about the role of the audience, the artificial construction of meanings, the aesthetic appeal of fascism or how close creation and destruction may be in human nature, this was a striking piece. Cheekily, too, this ‘new work’ was made out of reinstalling Uklański’s two signature pieces Dance Floor (1996) and The Nazis (1998).



Nikola Uzunovski: ‘My Sunshine’, 2007-09, for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

An ‘unlikely country award’ for the charming and generous project by Macedonia’s Nikola Uzunovski. He is studying how to make ‘artificial suns’ in polar areas to give their people more hours of light in winter, and presented serious-looking physics and video documentation of his ongoing experiments. They involve launching flying spheres so that they reflect sunlight and take on something of the sun’s appearance. An absurdist poke, perhaps, at the politics of global warming – while suggesting how hard it will be to solve those problems though technological means.



Iván Navarro: ‘Resistance’, 2009, for Chile

Iván Navarro grew up under Pinochet’s dictatorship but is now based in New York. For 'Resistance' he showed a chair made of fluorescent tubes, which itself adds a threatening edge to minimalist form: light is a symbol for hope but here suggests a machine for killing, too. The chair was attached it to a bicycle so that the chair was illuminated by pedaling the bike, and a video showed it being ridden around Times Square in New York, bringing a political edge to the comparisons between bodily-generated and commercial light. What kind of power was being criticized?



Spencer Finch: ‘Moonlight (Venice, March 10, 2009)’ in ‘Making Worlds’

American Spencer Finch combines light and dark and grids more poetically in paying homage to his ‘favourite Italian, Galileo Galilei’, who 400 years ago became the first to train a telescope on the moon. Finch shifts the colour of sunlight to that of the Venetian moonlight, which he measured using a colourometer at midnight on 10 March, 2009, by applying coloured filters to the windows of the Arsenale. The pay-off is that what sounds a dry scientific translation of our subjective experience actually proves decidedly beautiful.



Martin Boyce: ‘No Reflections’, 2009 @ Palazzo Pisani

Martin Boyce, for Scotland, also replaces one light source with another, swapping the elegant chandeliers of the 15th century Palazzo Pisani for metal lights. They use a set of forms derived from a 1925 concrete tree which Boyce has said represents ‘a perfect collapse of architecture and nature’. Seven rooms re-imagine the Palace as an urban garden, creating an atmosphere of displaced but atmospherically resonant decline. There is no water, but its former presence is implied by the visitor needing to use stepping stones to cross a room covered in crepe paper leaves left by evaporated pools – hence the title, ‘No Reflections’.



Bruce Nauman: ‘Three Head Fountain (Juliet, Andrew, Rinde)’, 2005, for USA

Quite apart from providing the key work for the ‘Mapping the Studio’ presentation of the Pinault collection, Bruce Nauman won the prize for best national pavilion for America with a retrospective across three buildings. Thus his aggressive explorations of our collective neuroses permeated the city. The works were linked by three threads, one of which was the water and light combination of ‘Fountains and Neons’. And the water gushed – oddly enough – from everywhere except the mouths - in two Three Head Fountains in a glass extension to the Gardenia Pavilion.



Tatsuo Miyajima: ‘Spirits in the Water with Cuban Artists’, 2009, in ‘In-Finitum’ @ the Palazzo Fortuny

The Japanese installation artist Tatsuo Miyajima is known for his sculptural use of repeatedly counting LED numbers. This work, well-suited to the Fortuny’s atmospheric and darkened display of old and new on themes around the infinite, is part of Miyajima’s ‘Time in Water’ series, which set the numbers in a pool. It relates specifically to a visit to Cuba following the hurricane in 2008, after which Miyajima paid tribute to the potential recuperative value of art by timing the counting to match the heartbeats of 300 Cuban artists. ‘I believe the greatest artists are not those participating in international art exhibitions’, he has said, ‘but human beings who inspire and who give hope to society’.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

CHRISTMAS CHOICES

CHRISTMAS CHOICES

Just a brief update to replace those shows about to close: partly as I’ve been in London less than in Malaga (for the Chema Cobo show at CAC Malaga, which I strongly recommend - but admit that I wrote the catalogue!) and Paris (cunningly timed to coincide with the Pompidou Centre being closed by a strike) rather than London.

Ornulf Opdahl: 'Mood Paintings of the North' @ Kings Place gallery and Jon Buck @ Pangolin London, both 90 York Way - Kings Cross

Opdahl to 26 Feb: http://www.kingsplace.com Buck to 24 Dec: www.pangolinlondon.com

Kings Place is very much worth a visit: not only is it a spectacularly appointed new building with a high quality music programme and a good café, it also has lots of visual art, courtesy of the Pangolin and Kings Place galleries. The former is unusual in showing primarily sculpture and being linked to a foundry, and exhibits many sculptures outside the gallery (a leaflet takes you round a trail, and there are striking front window displays).

The Kings Place Gallery spreads its wares across three levels outside the large but rather tucked away room of the gallery itself. Currently it is showing no fewer than 50 recent oils and watercolours by Ornulf Opdahl, who paints the mountains and fjords of Alesund on the west of Norway. If that sounds like a recipe for traditional romanticism, it is: in the accompanying ten minute film Opdahl himself talks about his recurring fascination for 'a landscape which always reflects my mind'. But he also says that he 'tries to be abstract all the time', and that is what gives his dramatic explorations of light and mood a modern inflexion - in another context, you might not guess the subject of 'The Mountain, Ramsen, Winter'...

Until Christmas Pangolin is showing the characterful bronzes of Jon Buck, which present a range of animals, people and hybrids (the bird-people are particularly effective) using an unusual combination of line drawing on the sculptures and intense supersaturated colouring so that the bronze looks smooth and glossy enough to be plastic. Buck has arrived at that look via cave painting, tribal art and the Dutch zoologist Nikolaas Tinbergen, who proved that animals’ responses are heightened if natural stimuli are exaggerated, such as by increasing the saturation and contrast of pre-existing markings. And there’s a perfect work-by-work guide using the artist’s comments to take you through the show, plus a couple of very small affordable editions which would allow you the rare move of putting a bronze sculpture in a Christmas stocking!

Visible Invisible: Against the Security of the Real @ Parasol unit, 14 Wharf Rd - Hoxton

To 7 Feb: www.parasol-unit.org

If Jon Buck makes bronze look almost plastic, veteran Hans Josephsohn's brass figures dotted around the Parasol unit's elegant and considerable space have the look of rough cement. They are the counterpoints to four painters - Cecily Brown, Shaun McDowell, Katy Moran and Maaike Schoorel - who work in the space between figuration and abstraction. This show would be worth visiting just for the opening room of Katy Moran's initmate and astutely-judged apparent hesitations. But you also get Cecily Brown punning modulations between people and skulls; the flickeringly fleshy evocations of Shaun McDowell, rapidly emerging as the best known of the Hannah Barry Gallery's South London set; and Maaike Schoorel making a portrait of Roger Hiorns almost disappear into blankness as if she knew that he would fail to win the Turner Prize.

André Butzer @ Alison Jacques, 16-18 Berners St – Fitzrovia

To 9 Jan: www.alisonjacquesgallery.com

My favourite all-around room of colour in London now must be the one in which German master of high wattage gestural bravado André Butzer sets up his assault with one vast abstract-tending painting per wall in his four personal primary colours: red, blue, yellow and flesh. The abstraction, incidentally, has emerged from and still alludes to a fascinating personal mythology which has important places for Donald Duck, NASA, Henry Ford, the Siemens electronic company, Adolf Eichmann and Edvard Munch. The self-sufficient intensity of that one room is emphasized by the smaller downstairs gallery being left empty – but ask nicely and you’ll also be able to see a smaller multi-coloured painting upstairs, along with drawings in which Butzer achieves a surprising proportion of the same hit with contrasting economy of means.


Nathan Danilowicz: Une Oasis d’Horreur dans une Désert d’Ennui @ Crisp,3 Newman Passage – Fitzrovia

To 9 Jan: www.crisplondonlosangeles.com

Here the title reference is to Baudelaire finding that every oasis is only a mirage. In a parallel move, young LA multimedia artist Danilowicz brings death to the surface of life through a mash-up of everything from minimalism to Viennese actionism via various points between. If that makes him sound mad, maybe so: he has previously had his teeth extracted to show as a work, and produced an obsessive cycle of 1,000 3 x 3 inch black geometric drawings on 1,000 successive days. But it’s good mad, which ranges here from the World Trade Centre made from staples (there’s boredom meets horror for you!), to drawings made by blood-letting whihc are installed in a third floor garden oasis, to the imposition of black tape versions of his obsessive geometries onto pornographic images (so much for sex as liberation!). Hilary Crisp’s adventurous transatlantically-programmed three-storey-yet-cosy gallery is, incidentally, handily placed once you know where it is: hidden just down the passage which links Newman Street with Rathbone Street.

Ilya & Emilia Kabakov: Under the Snow @ Sprovieri Gallery, 27 Heddon St – Central

To 17 Jan: www.sprovieri.com

Sprovieri is tucked away on the first floor behind the phone box (which features on the cover of Ziggy Stardust, incidentally) at the end of Heddon Street. It opened ten years ago with the New York based Russian émigrés Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, and has shown them regularly. If you think of the Kabakovs as producing hardcore conceptual installations turning on the legacies of Soviet history, then this gently lyrical set of large paintings from their extensive ‘Under the Snow’ suite will surprise you. They show a world blanketed in snow, varying gaps in which reveal people and landscapes. These play on memory, scale, and what is and isn’t hidden. There’s a hint, perhaps, of Ilya’s original career as a children’s book illustrator. White, say the Kabakovs, 'is the space of pure contemplation’ that ‘suddenly turns out to be inserted into the visual world' in the form of snow. There is also an intriguing extract from the complex project ‘The Teacher and The Student: Charles Rosenthal and Ilya Kabakov’, which consists of work shown as the products of a fictional version of Ilya and his teacher.

Cory Arcangel in ‘Lisson Presents 7’ @ Lisson Gallery, 29 & 52-54 Bell Street – Marylebone

To 16 Jan: www.lissongallery.com

The Lisson has settled into an amenable pattern of gallery artist solo show plus a more widely-based group show in its two contiguous spaces. The current solo show, the latest stage in Tatsuo Miyajima’s suitably obsessive 20 year build-up of LED count-down sculptures tracking our heartbeats towards death, has been well-received. Nonetheless, I prefer the group show, in which Stephen Willats and Ceal Floyer stand out along with a substantial selection from an American guest from the Max Wigram Gallery, Cory Arcangel. He wittily subverts and plays with technological processes, here by abstracting the Dennis Hopper film ‘Colors’ into one row of pixels at a time; having the American high school film ‘Dazed and Confused’ dubbed into Indian-accented English; presenting damaged film stock sourced online as if – as seems likely in the gallery context - it is a structuralist film; and allowing photoshop demonstration software to determine his printed images.

Peter Davies @ The approach, 47 Approach Rd – Bethnal Green

To 17 Jan: www.theapproach.co.uk

If you like lists and quizzes you’ll love Peter Davies’ big painting ‘The Epoch of Perpetual Happiness’, which provides a pictorial spin on his well-known lists of a hundred hot or cool artists by presenting a huge range of art and pop references – the press release lists some 150 for you to spot but you can also gain bonus points for discovering unlisted inclusions: one of them is Gerhard Richter, represented through the filter of his candle on the cover of Sonic Youth’s ‘Daydream Nation’. Richter is also a presence in the show as a whole in the way in which Davies pursues parallel but very different strands of painting which themselves interrogate the nature of painting. The other two large canvasses here are an obsessively detailed take on colour field abstraction via thousands of small squares, and the conversion of gestural abstract expressionist marks into an anally retentive equivalent using carefully ruled straight lines.

Donald Judd: ‘Progressions 1960’s and 1970’s’ @ Simon Lee, 12 Berkeley St – Central

To 29 January: www.simonleegallery.com

The purest pleasure currently available in a London gallery may well be this series of six horizontal mounted wall works by the late American master of anti-illusion, Donald Judd. It’s a chance to track the subtle changes in shape and means from 1967 to 1975 in what, colour aside, may look near-identical works. In fact, Judd sought increasing perfection in line with the improving manufacturing capability, moving from galvanized iron painted with lacquer to highly polished brass to anodized aluminium, in which an electrical process maximizes the adhesion of the paint.

Belén Rodríguez González: ‘Mixtilinea’ @ Josh Lilley, 44-46 Riding House Street – Fitzrovia.

To 20 Jan: www.joshlilleygallery.com

Belén Rodríguez González is a young Spanish artist whose first solo show anywhere is in London now. ‘Timeline’ is a circling model train on which a camera is mounted so that it relays live film made from trackside photographs of every five minutes over the artist’s day (along with a commendably short tunnel of sleep). The live feed is projected back to life-size as time becomes space and the past scrolls into a future which looks bound to repeat it… A neat loop, though I was more drawn into a related set of works suggesting that photocopiers and notebooks are less neutral methods of recording than we might suppose. Rodríguez González has deconstructed 40 notebooks with various patterns of lines and squares and reconstructed them so that each cover contains a sheet from each book, replacing their routines with a succession of minimalist surprises. Those pages are then picked up in photocopies of apparently normal lined notebook sheets which are in fact copies of patterns of thread placed across the screen, both in a working copier (free art!) and her plans to do the same for a whole range of copiers. Writing on the track of a line will never seem so straightforward again…


Gordon Cheung @ Room, 31 Waterson St – Shoreditch

To 31 Jan: www.roomartspace.co.uk

Gordon Cheung has surfed the zeitgeist from one recession to the next with his imaginings of the end of civilisation with his characteristic integration of stock listings into paintings: here the close-up heads of those market beasts the bull and the bear ram home such themes. But is it time for a change? Cheung provides three with laser-burnt subversions of Durer etchings, and new lines in sculpture and video animation: the latter in particular are mesmerically well-suited to his psychedelically apocalyptic colours. And the four screens of cowboys come with the bonus of The Doors' seminal 'The End' as a soundtrack.



And still showing from previous lists: La peinture est presque abstraite to 23 Dec, Presque Rien III to 9 Jan, Robert Kusmirowski to 10 Jan, Hans-Peter Feldmann to 16 Jan and The Body in Women’s Art Now to 20 Jan. So there’s plenty of good stuff on!


www.newexhibitions.com gives full address and opening time details of most shows. I've taken the view that adding images to the blog might make it unwieldy given that they tend to be on the linked gallery websites, but am happy to take views on that...

TEN FOR THE FUTURE

I am looking forward to:

Ori Gersht @ Mummery & Schnelle 13.1 – 27.2

Oliver Laric @ Seventeen 13.1 – 13.2

Ryan Mosley @ Alison Jacques 13.1 – 13.2

Danny Rolph @ Poppy Sebire 14.1 – 20.2

William Eggleston @ Victoria Miro 15.1 – 27.2

Max Mosscrop @ Five Years: 16.1 – 31.1

Waseem Ahmed @ Laurent Delaye 22.1 – 27.2

Magali Reus @ Ibid Projects 22.1 – 7.3

Michael Landy @ South London Gallery 29.1 - 14.3

John Gerrard @ Thomas Dane 3.2 – 6.3

Sunday, 6 December 2009

TEN NEW CURRENT PICKS

There are just as many interesting galleries as there ever were out east, and plenty more to explore in the west end and the south – but in the run-up to Christmas I’ve focused on the new clutch of shows around Fitzrovia, which certainly make for a varied but intense art walk and could feed you north onto Marylebone High Street or less wisely south onto Oxford Street to finish off the seasonal shopping. I include four below to which one could add Laure Genillard, Pilar Corrias, Modern Art, Rollo Contemporary and the David Roberts Foundation. All good stuff, even if the best shows in town remain Baldessari at the Tate Modern, Ruscha at the Hayward and Kusmirowski at the Barbican…


Juan Uslé: Mo-Hi-Na @ Frith Street Gallery, 17-18 Golden Square - Central

To 19 Dec: www.frithstreetgallery.com

Eccentrically named after Uslé’s pet donkey, this is an entrancing show of abstraction by the mid-career American and Spanish based painter. I felt their atmospheres alternate between urban and rural - consistent with Uslé’s own statement that ‘from the urban net of Manhattan I see Saro (my village in northern Spain) as a small paradise surrounded by calm nature, but when I’m living in the Spanish countryside for more than three months I miss the crossing energies, the grids, the poison, the speed and active pulse of the city’. Those contrasts feed, via cues taken from such details as the play of light through Venetian blinds or aspects of the subway, into fluent paintings in which Uslé brings varying opacity to his own particular colours (which he makes himself from dry pigments with vinyl or acrylic as a base).


Alexis Harding @ Mummery & Schnelle, 81 Great Titchfield St – Fitzrovia

To 19 Dec: www.mummeryschnelle.com

My favourite wall of colour in London now must be the one blitzed by no fewer than 120 of Alexis Harding’s ‘Bi-product Depositaries’. These initially casual studies, made on the back of a handy stock of old catalogues of his work, developed into an independent range of partly figurative motifs which play off Harding’s usual more abstract style and draw you in through witty titles: from ‘Studio Dancing Trousers’ to ‘Small (Monday to Friday) Green Spasms’; from ‘Profile Dollop’ to ‘Turd Island (Winter)’. There are also three of Harding’s characteristic oil and gloss paintings in which gravity is allowed to drag household gloss down over its base coat of oil paint: they’re good, but here the byproducts are definitely the main thing.


André Butzer @ Alison Jacques, 16-18 Berners St – Fitzrovia

To 9 Jan: www.alisonjacquesgallery.com

My favourite all-around room of colour in London now must be the one in which German master of high wattage gestural bravado André Butzer sets up his assault with one vast abstract-tending painting per wall in his four personal primary colours: red, blue, yellow and flesh. The abstraction, incidentally, has emerged from and still alludes to a fascinating personal mythology which has important places for Donald Duck, NASA, Henry Ford, the Siemens electronic company, Adolf Eichmann and Edvard Munch. The self-sufficient intensity of that one room is emphasized by the smaller downstairs gallery being left empty – but ask nicely and you’ll also be able to see a smaller multi-coloured painting upstairs, along with drawings in which Butzer achieves a surprising proportion of the same hit with contrasting economy of means.


Nathan Danilowicz: Une Oasis d’Horreur dans une Désert d’Ennui @ Crisp,
3 Newman Passage – Fitzrovia

To 9 Jan: www.crisplondonlosangeles.com

Here the title reference is to Baudelaire finding that every oasis is only a mirage. In a parallel move, young LA multimedia artist Danilowicz brings death to the surface of life through a mash-up of everything from minimalism to Viennese actionism via various points between. If that makes him sound mad, maybe so: he has previously had his teeth extracted to show as a work, and produced an obsessive cycle of 1,000 3 x 3 inch black geometric drawings on 1,000 successive days. But it’s good mad, which ranges here from the World Trade Centre made from staples (there’s boredom meets horror for you!), to drawings made by blood-letting whihc are installed in a third floor garden oasis, to the imposition of black tape versions of his obsessive geometries onto pornographic images (so much for sex as liberation!). Hilary Crisp’s adventurous transatlantically-programmed three-storey-yet-cosy gallery is, incidentally, handily placed once you know where it is: hidden just down the passage which links Newman Street with Rathbone Street.


Donald Judd: ‘Progressions 1960’s and 1970’s’ @ Simon Lee, 12 Berkeley St – Central

To 29 January: www.simonleegallery.com

The purest pleasure currently available in a London gallery may well be this series of six horizontal mounted wall works by the late American master of anti-illusion, Donald Judd. It’s a chance to track the subtle changes in shape and means from 1967 to 1975 in what, colour aside, may look near-identical works. In fact, Judd sought increasing perfection in line with the improving manufacturing capability, moving from galvanized iron painted with lacquer to highly polished brass to anodized aluminium, in which an electrical process maximizes the adhesion of the paint.


Klaus Weber @ Herald St, Bethnal Green

To 19 Dec, then 5-17 Jan: www.heraldst.com

And perhaps the weirdest pleasure, if pleasure it be, are these shit paintings. Not mere bad paintings; nor paint pretending to be shit as in Dan Colen; nor genuine balls of elephant shit as in Chris Ofili; nor even the canvases placed in the Swedish forest by Henrik Hakansson, who waits for swallows to make abstract patterns - that’s close, but not quite weird enough. The highly imaginative German artist Klaus Weber (you may have seen his people with fountains sprouting from their orifices on the South Bank or his vacuum sculptures) has radically delegated artistic control by exploiting the fact that bees are bunged up in the hive all winter, and then take a ‘cleansing flight’ during which they defecate on anything which is unnaturally white. Canvases placed in a bee-keeper’s yard were thus anointed by delicate yellow and light brown marks to become ‘bee paintings’. You can compare the bees with bomber planes. You can muse on how it must feel to be liberated from such a burden. You can ponder the bees’ easy desecration of the modernist purity of the white canvas. Or you can just say: well, that’s weird.


Belén Rodríguez González: ‘Mixtilinea’ @ Josh Lilley, 44-46 Riding House Street – Fitzrovia.

To 20 Jan: www.joshlilleygallery.com

Belén Rodríguez González is a young Spanish artist whose first solo show anywhere is in London now. ‘Timeline’ is a circling model train on which a camera is mounted so that it relays live film made from trackside photographs of every five minutes over the artist’s day (along with a commendably short tunnel of sleep). The live feed is projected back to life-size as time becomes space and the past scrolls into a future which looks bound to repeat it… A neat loop, though I was more drawn into a related set of works suggesting that photocopiers and notebooks are less neutral methods of recording than we might suppose. Rodríguez González has deconstructed 40 notebooks with various patterns of lines and squares and reconstructed them so that each cover contains a sheet from each book, replacing their routines with a succession of minimalist surprises. Those pages are then picked up in photocopies of apparently normal lined notebook sheets which are in fact copies of patterns of thread placed across the screen, both in a working copier (free art!) and her plans to do the same for a whole range of copiers. Writing on the track of a line will never seem so straightforward again…


Gordon Cheung @ Room, 31 Waterson St – Shoreditch

To 31 Jan: www.roomartspace.co.uk

Gordon Cheung has surfed the zeitgeist from one recession to the next with his imaginings of the end of civilisation with his characteristic integration of stock listings into paintings: here the close-up heads of those market beasts the bull and the bear ram home such themes. But is it time for a change? Cheung provides three with laser-burnt subversions of Durer etchings, and new lines in sculpture and video animation: the latter in particular are mesmerically well-suited to his psychedelically apocalyptic colours. And the four screens of cowboys come with the bonus of The Doors' seminal 'The End' as a soundtrack.


Cory Arcangel in ‘Lisson Presents 7’ @ Lisson Gallery, 29 & 52-54 Bell Street – Marylebone

To 16 Jan: www.lissongallery.com

The Lisson has settled into an amenable pattern of gallery artist solo show plus a more widely-based group show in its two contiguous spaces. The current solo show, the latest stage in Tatsuo Miyajima’s suitably obsessive 20 year build-up of LED count-down sculptures tracking our heartbeats towards death, has been well-received. Nonetheless, I prefer the group show, in which Stephen Willats and Ceal Floyer stand out along with a substantial selection from an American guest from the Max Wigram Gallery, Cory Arcangel. He wittily subverts and plays with technological processes, here by abstracting the Dennis Hopper film ‘Colors’ into one row of pixels at a time; having the American high school film ‘Dazed and Confused’ dubbed into Indian-accented English; presenting damaged film stock sourced online as if – as seems likely in the gallery context - it is a structuralist film; and allowing photoshop demonstration software to determine his printed images.

Peter Davies @ The approach, 47 Approach Rd – Bethnal Green

To 17 Jan: www.theapproach.co.uk

If you like lists and quizzes you’ll love Peter Davies’ big painting ‘The Epoch of Perpetual Happiness’, which provides a pictorial spin on his well-known lists of a hundred hot or cool artists by presenting a huge range of art and pop references – the press release lists some 150 for you to spot but you can also gain bonus points for discovering unlisted inclusions: one of them is Gerhard Richter, represented through the filter of his candle on the cover of Sonic Youth’s ‘Daydream Nation’. Richter is also a presence in the show as a whole in the way in which Davies pursues parallel but very different strands of painting which themselves interrogate the nature of painting. The other two large canvasses here are an obsessively detailed take on colour field abstraction via thousands of small squares, and the conversion of gestural abstract expressionist marks into an anally retentive equivalent using carefully ruled straight lines.

And still showing from previous lists: Wayne Thiebaud and Tom Badley to 18 Dec, Mustafa Hulusi and William E Jones to 19 Dec, Stephen G Rhodes to 20 Dec, La peinture est presque abstraite to 23 Dec, Presque Rien III to 9 Jan, Robert Kusmirowski to 10 Jan, Hans-Peter Feldmann to 16 Jan and The Body in Women’s Art Now to 20 Jan. So there’s plenty of good stuff on!


www.newexhibitions.com gives full address and opening time details of most shows. I've taken the view that adding images to the blog might make it unwieldygiven that they tend to be on the linked gallery websites, but am happy to take views on that...

TEN FOR THE FUTURE

I am looking forward to:

Eva Hesse @ Camden Art Centre 11.12 - 7.3

Peter Campus @ BFI 11.12 – 14.2

Ian Kiaer & Dorothy Cross @ Bloomberg Space 15.12 – 16.1

Ori Gersht @ Mummery & Schnelle 13.1 – 27.2

Ryan Mosley @ Alison Jacques 13.1 – 13.2

Danny Rolph @ Poppy Sebire 14.1 – 20.2

William Eggleston @ Victoria Miro 15.1 – 27.2

Waseem Ahmed @ Laurent Delaye 22.1 – 27.2

Michael Landy @ South London Gallery 29.1 - 14.3

John Gerrard @ Thomas Dane 3.2 – 6.3

Sunday, 22 November 2009

TEN TOP CURRENT PICKS

Baldessari, Ruscha and Kapoor are still going strong, to which one could add the racy Wild Thing at the Royal Academy and the apparently surprising incursion of the Kienholzs’ Hoerengracht at the National Gallery – albeit the red lights of Amsterdam’s brothels give their replication ‘a sensuous, almost painterly feel’ according to the catalogue. And Hirst tries again with his critically-panned paintings across both White Cubes (or does he? Is the work actually the theatre of his switch to painting, rather than the paintings themselves?). Among the less well-publicised shows, those at Ancient & Modern, the Barbican and Swallow Street may not seem like art (discuss) but whether they are or not they are powerful in contrasting ways. And the first two make a neat little triangular walk along with Rokeby…


Wayne Thiebaud @ Faggionato Fine Art, 49 Albemarle St - Central

To 18 Dec: http://www.faggionato.com/

San Francisco’s master of painterly pop surely has a lower British profile than he should. This show may help rectify that with its good mix of still lives, signature cakes, landscapes and vertiginous cityscapes, but a large scale museum show would be welcome. Worth noting that Faggionato opens Mon-Fri only, and is fairly well-hidden on the first floor.

Tom Badley @ Rokeby, 5-9 Hatton Wall – Clerkenwell

To 18 Dec: http://www.rokebygallery.com/

It’s well worth seeking out the new Rokeby space near Farringdon rail/tube for young British artist Tom Badley’s first solo show, which combines what is becoming a very distinctive way of mediating between fragmentation and coherence (video using internet sourcing + repetition + speed variation + organization by sound + smashed monitors…) with a mesmerizing sculpture which gives magnetic permanence to the spin of a coin. Not that cash would ever crash…

Mustafa Hulusi: ‘The Worshippers’ @ Max Wigram, 99 New Bond St – Central

To 19 Dec: http://www.maxwigram.com/

A triple bill from the British-born Turkish Cypriot: characteristically hyper-real paintings (outsourced from Hulusi’s photographs) heighten our consciousness of oranges; black marble replicas of Roman statues from Salamis poke at the survivals of colonialism; and he combines with Mark Titchner to make ‘The Worshippers’, an animation which combines the Ayatollah Khomeini with psychedelia and the styling of corporate capitalism. And Hulusi has more work at Civic Rooms, the East End artists’ cooperative which he helps run…


William E Jones: ‘Tearoom’ @ Swallow Street, 3-5 Swallow St – Piccadilly

To 19 Dec: http://www.swallowstreet.com/

Never mind Hauser & Wirth’s main Piccadilly site – alright, I exaggerate, as ‘After Awkward Objects’ is a fine show, especially the Alina Szapocznikow – but while you’re there be sure to pop into their sponsored but independent project space just over the road. ‘Tearoom’ consists of police surveillance footage taken through a two-way mirror in a public toilet in Ohio in 1962. We see urination, washing, combing and sex, mostly half-hidden in the cubicles. This is poignant – the film was used to prosecute the men – and its flickering and grainy, refreshingly not-for-camera reality generates its own aesthetic resonance.

Stephen G Rhodes: ‘Reconstruction or Something’ @ Vilma Gold, 6 Minerva St – Cambridge Heath

To 20 Dec: http://www.vilmagold.com/

Rhodes is one of the most interesting inclusions in Saatchi’s current survey of new work from America, and this impressive sculptural installation with multi-screen video collage combines high visual impact with underlying complexity (ie best to ask for more explanation than the press release) in considering the USA’s relations with Iraq. And the simultaneous, as opposed to successive, collaging of film elements seems very much of the moment.

La peinture est presque abstraite @ Camberwell Space, 45-65 Peckham Rd - Peckham

To 23 Dec: www.camberwell.arts.ac.uk/camberwellspace

A very coherent group of paintings which use representational motifs to make abstraction, with four French and four British painters and curated by Claude Temin-Vergez, who though born in France counts as one of the Brits (he teaches at Camberwell). True, this is a far-flung off-tube space, but then again it’s right next to the South London Gallery and so can be combined with the videos of Omer Fast (to 6.12) or Susanne Burner (10-18.12).

Presque Rien III @ Laure Genillard, 2 Hanway Place – Tottenham Court

To 9 Jan: lauregenillard.com

What is this French title trend? The third (!) instalment of Laure’s group show of almost nothing amounts to quite something, largely through drawing you into objects which turn out to be something else: a kebab is a sculpture, books are wings, a ball of dust is a planet. Plus a chance to see David Batchelor's classic slide show of found white monochromes. Worth noting that the gallery doesn’t do mornings!

Robert Kusmirowski: Bunker @ The Curve, Barbican

To 10 Jan: www.barbican.org.uk/artgallery

Perhaps by being a deliberately rather than accidentally awkward space, The Curve often works better than the Barbican’s main gallery. Or maybe its just the quality of commissioning and installation: Richard Wilson and Peter Coffin have been particularly memorable there, as will be Kusmirowski and, I would bet, Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, the French artist who is next up but as yet absurdly little-known in England. Kusmirowski is a Pole who became famous for his recreation of a 1940s railway carriage in a former Jewish girls school at the 2006 Berlin Biennale. Here, inspired by how the Barbican rose out of the blitz, he takes us deep inside the inter-connected rooms of a second world war bunker, on several levels and complete with a railway track which runs round the whole 70m semi-circle of the space. It comes ready-aged in rust and grey tones and generates a powerful combination of amazement and historical resonance.

Hans-Peter Feldmann @ Ancient & Modern, 201 Whitecross Street – Barbican

To 16 Jan: http://www.ancientandmodern.org/

How often do you see 174 paintings of nudes in a contemporary gallery? Especially one with Ancient & Modern’s particularly modest scale? Well, it turns out to be an exact fit for Hans-Peter Feldmann’s installation of stamps, each showing just that. It’s a well-worn topic for thematic stamp collectors, but the gallery context alters their reception, just as it has that of the multifarious other selections the wide-ranging German has presented in the past in addition to his photographs.

The Body in Women’s Art Now @ Rollo Contemporary Art, 51 Cleveland St (Fitzrovia)

To 20 Jan: http://www.rolloart.com/

The first part of a three-part survey of work created by women artists this century in which the body is central, ‘Embodied’ combines Regina José Galindo and Sigalit Landau’s recent video classics with less well known but also interesting work by Jessica Lagunas (who, like Galindo, grew up in Guatemala) and young British photographer Lydia Maria Julien. And there is an excellent catalogue.I recommend you start downstairs, where Lagunas piles on the beauty to edgily comic excess by applying lipstick and mascara for an hour, and then drop back between the shorter works to see how she’s getting on…


http://www.newexhibitions.com/ gives full address and opening time details of most shows

TEN FOR THE FUTURE

I am looking forward to:

Drawing Form @ Green Cardamom 20.11 – 22.1

Benoit Maire @ Hollybush Gardens 20.11 – 24.1

Kendell Geers @ Stephen Friedman 27.11 – 16.1

Nathan Danilowicz @ Crisp 25.11 – 9.1

Tatsuo Miyajima @ Lisson Gallery 25.11 – 16.1

Alexis Harding @ Mummery & Schnelle 27.11 – 19.12

Andre Butzer @ Alison Jacques 27.11 – 9.1

Klaus Weber @ Herald Street 28.11 – 17.1

Neo-Concrete Experience @ Gallery 32 (the Brazilian Embassy) 9.12 – 13.1

Peter Campus @ BFI 11.12 – 14.2

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

EARS FOR THE EYE

LEND ME YOUR EARS

 

Or maybe not...

We think naturally of sound when considering the ear, so there's a certain wilful perversity in making it the subject of a show of paintings, drawings and photographs with no sound directly featured. It does mean, though, that the walls have ears. And that provides an opportunity for different perspectives, looking at the ear as a design, signifier, analogy, symbol etc, and always with the sense that there is something beyond what we see...

Consistent with that, rather than write about what is in the show,  here are a few things which aren't, but which came to mind in putting it together. Let's start with what I would guess are the three most famous paintings on the theme.







Hieronymus Bosch: Detail from The Garden of Earthly Delights, c. 1490-1510

Two enormous ears, pierced by an arrow and cut by a knife, are prominent in the bizarre goings-on in Bosch's Hell. Interpretations of his symbols are speculative, but this       contraption has been said to symbolise man's deafness to the New Testament exhortation: 'If any man have ears to listen, let him hear.' Sadly, Bosch's great triptych never leaves Madrid.



Johannes Vermeer: Girl with a Pearl Earring, c. 1665

Not many paintings have inspired a best-selling novel... I suspect it's the way the pearl earring echoes the eyes which makes this the most subtly erotic painting, a well as the most famous, to draw attention to the auricular zone.


 

Vincent van GoghSelf-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, 1889

The outcome of the most notorious ear incident isn't far way - the Courtauld owns  this painting - but arranging a loan might have been awkward...   The latest research confirms that Vincent cut off the whole ear, so giving an automatic art reference to the various more recent sculptural treatments of an ear.
 




Kelvin Okafor: Identity Series - Ear, 2014

Kelvin Okafor is known for his stunningly achieved graphite and charcoal portrait drawings of his friends, such as the exhibition's  Katherine's Interlude. Here though is a self-portrait which, paradoxically, shows only his ear, posing the question: how many people could you recognise from such a view?



       


Vincent van Gogh: Ears of Wheat, 1890

There are actually two strands to van Gogh's ear works, as he painted wheat fields consistently during 1885-90: drawn to biblical parables, his empathy with manual labourers and colour in nature: 'Are we not ourselves very much like wheat... to be reaped when we are ripe?', he asked.  This, from his late Auvers-sur-Oise months, is one of his most  'all-over' compositions.





 
Emmanuel Sougez: Three Ears of Wheat, 1929/30


While we're on cereal, Emmanuel Sougez (1899-1972) was a French photographer known for an intense metaphysical focus on still life objects, as in this monumental, almost architectural, gelatin print of three partial ears of wheat.         









   

Meret Oppenheim: Giacometti's Ear, 1935

Oppenheim befriended Giacometti when she arrived in Paris in 1932, and may be referring to his use of cast body parts in the elegant construction of this ear from other elements.  Comparison with photographs of Giacometti suggests, however, that is a far from accurate portrait in terms of his earshape, rather normalising the sculptor's own elongated form.


Guillaume Leblon: Portrait, 2016
I can't vouch for the accuracy of French artist Guillaume Leblon's portrait of his young son through the synecdoche of his ear, but I'd be surprised is such a tender portrayal were not accurate in its opaline rose glass. It gives rise to the thought: how many other parts could one use similarly without it looking rather more disturbing than affecting?




David Shepherd: Wise Old Elephant - unlimited print  from his 1962 painting

This was the world's best-selling print in the 1960's, launching  David Shepherd's career as a wildlife artist and conservationist. His commercial success was built on two failures: when, on leaving school, he travelled to Kenya hoping  to become a game warden; and when he was rejected by the Slade on his return to England. Critical acclaim has eluded him, too, but few paintings have such a high proportion of ear. 



Joyce Pensato: On the Way, 2008

Mickey Mouse probably has the most famous ears in popular culture, and many artists have used him. Joyce Pensato deconstructs pop art's cartoon icons by crossing them rather brutally with  Abstract Expressionism. The battered energy of her charcoal and pastel here leads to a typical balance of humour and grotesquery.
 

Rachel Maclean: still from Germs (2013)

The ears are often striking parts of Rachel Maclean's many ways of dressing herself up to appear as the only actor in her super-saturated worlds. As a germ, appearing in parody adverts for killing them, does she have five hands, three of them oddly placed - or three hand-like ears, only one curiously  located? 




Euan Uglow: Marigold, 1969 

 

Typically, this night painting  reaches what Lawrence Gowing termed Uglow's ‘subversive traditionalism’ by forcing  close examination through the process of measurement. Unlike any other Uglow work, though, Marigold features a black model - and centres on her ear.



Suzanne Dworsky:  Sea Breeze, 1978

This is from the American photographer's a set of close-cropped images of Cape Cod. What's nice here is  the intimacy of focus, enhanced by the rainbow heart, and the implications teed up by the title: of action - through the blown hair - and sound: breeze, breath, waves.

         

Clive Hodgson: Untitled, 2014

Only in the context of the other works is this abstraction likely to appear auricular. Hodgson certainly had no such intention, but its typically prominent signature (calling knowing attention to its making) might then make it a self-portrait of sorts, so I relate it to van Gogh, whereas the following has more of a Vermeer connection...

            

Jonathan MonkPierced Portraits (#22) (Woman with gold earring), 2004

In typically mischievous style, Monk has simply pushed a red drawing pin  into a series of found vintage drawings of women, a violent subversion referencing Fontana, playing with the differing realities of image and object, and suggesting some sort of rebellious intent to this mid-20th century subject's earwear. Or is it just that the drawing is sold?





Georgia O'Keeffe: Red Hill And White Shell, 1938     

Not so much a word in your shell-like as a suggestion that the landscape might be listening to us, just as we should listen to it. That aside, one of O'Keeffe's best meldings of geometry and colour in the guise of representations in which the body never seems far away.


    

Colin Crumplin: Ear (Evander Holyfield), 2000
               
At 286x238cm this was just too big for the space, but it references perhaps the second most famous ear wound  in history - Mike Tyson taking a chunk out of Evander Holyfield's ear in 1997. It also illustrates Crumplin's unique process of matching a semi-randomly generated abstraction with a found image which he then paints in realistic manner - it often takes him years to find a match, so this was pretty quick.

      

Tony Cragg: We, 2016

This is a somewhat atypical Tony Cragg, given he's known for suggesting the face only on careful examination of his 'Rational Beings' series. It's very much the royal we of self-portraits, with 250-odd cragg-heads built into a giant conehead. It may well have more ears than any other sculpture. So much listening power put me in mind of...


 
Nedko Solakov: Ears, 2016

Nedko Solakov tells stories which may or may not be literally true, though he has said that he didn't invent his youthful involvement with the Bulgarian Secret Service. That inspired his Top Secret installation made just after the fall of the Berlin Wall, which gained attention at Documenta 12 in 2007, and lies behind this combination of aluminium casts and text as we approach Documenta 14.







Femmy Otten: The discomfort of rationality, 2016 


Upcoming Dutch artist Femmy Otten mixes mythologies and eras liberally, and there's something of Gaugin's sculpture in this oil on burl wood face-of-sorts. The theme of ear inversion recurs: has the mind gone beyond normal physiognomy as well as its awkward rationality to reach a  transcendental space of dream colour?  


                

Eva Kotátková: image from Anatomical Orchestra, 2014

Back at East European listening, the Czech Eva Kotátková explores how conditions constrain the individual. She says the installation and performances of Anatomical Orchestra explore 'an ill or disabled body, one whose senses are not functioning, as a result of which the body becomes a partially empty shell not able to fully use its potential, or one missing sense becomes replaced by another that’s far more sensitive and developed' - as when a blind man develops enhanced hearing. 


John Baldesarri: Beethoven's Trumpet (With Ear) Opus # 133,  2007   


This stick-your-head-in sculpture was inspired by Beethoven's own collection of ear trumpets, and is silent until the viewer speaks into it - then a random section from a late Beethoven quartet is heard. It's as if a communicative link has been made, yet if this is the composer's deaf ear, then the surreal absurdity extends from how it looks to what it does...



    




Richard Deacon: Tall Tree in the Ear, 1984



This two part sculpture isn't so much tree and ear as, according to Deacon, a title which fits the work as 'the shiny metal could be aerial and the blue could be sky or water, and the shape could be an ear or whatever, and the height is the height of the tree'. But it was 'the difference between the inside and the outside as the material gathers on the inside' that he thought was the interesting bit - which does suggest how what we hear isn't simply what arrives. 



Pieter Hugo Escort Kama, Enugu, Nigeria, 2008
This is from South African photographer Pieter Hugo's 'Nollywood' series, for which he asked a  prolific director to help him work  with actors from the world's third largest film industry - Nigeria makes 1,000 films a year. The scenes are staged melodramatically as myths in which everything is exaggerated - here including the ears - yet that could be just the documentation of a highly theatrical movie.


Roger Ballen: Dersie and Casie Twins , Western Transvaal,1993

Yet perhaps that wasn't such an exaggeration... It's hard not to focus on the ears in the most famous of Roger Ballen's images of rural white South African communities in the apartheid years, which focused on the failure of the regime to treat equitably even the whites who didn't fit the agenda of the privileged class. One was working inside, one outside when Ballen came across them, hence the contrast in shirts.

 

David Lynch: still from Blue Velvet, 1986

Cathy Lomax, who invited me to put together 'Ears for the Eye', combines the worlds of film and painting, so it seems only fair to conclude with the most famous cinematic organ of hearing: Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) discovers a severed ear in Blue Velvet's opening scene, and it triggers a journey into the seedy underbelly behind suburban appearances. You never know where an ear will lead...


POEMS

 
Earring

I love the time of dangle-down -
my flesh in her flesh, my movements
her movements, my panorama hers -
the days when his whispers are mine.

 
I hate the time of jumbled up.
Unjewelled by the dark, I sweat:
why should she take me off by night?
What rumours are these about studs?

Paul Carey-Kent
____________________

Her Peculiar Oblations

sorted it weeks ago
so I don't have to pour oil
down my ears. I do anyway.
 
'Twice a day, twenty minutes'
said Nurse Florid in April
and then quite dreamily
 
as if considering the eye of the needle
'April is the cruellest month.'
Then she heaved herself
 
around the Treatment Room
in a miasma of giggles
'Oh, I do love ears!'
 
shooting her syringe
towards the ceiling
like the cowgirl in a B-movie
 
who gives it hard
and takes it hard
and who, by the end, is just one of the boys.
 
When I walked out
of Nurse Florid's Treatment Room
in dazzling April
 
my ears were so clean
I thought of banging out
an Alleluia with the Baptists.
 
I miss Nurse Florid
and her peculiar oblations.
I do it for her mostly.
 
Julian Stannard
 
____________________

A Charm for Earwigs 

Witchy-beetle, forkin-robin,
no one heard you as you clambered
up the nursery slopes of pillow,

felt your way in heaving darkness
where a dreamer breathed siroccos,
scaled the north face of an earlobe,
 
stumbled on the antihelix
where the cartilage was ruckled
into an upended mizmaze,

teetered round its corrugations,
to the vortex where the tragus
overhung a bloodwarm grotto.
 
There was curl-room in the concha
but the scent of earwax drew you
through a straight and oozy burrow,
 
thrumming with a distant heartbeat.
First the walls were soft, then bony,
then antennae scratched a membrane.
 
Arrywiggle, horny-gollach,
you awoke me from my stupor,
rasping with a chitin stylus
 
on my mind’s long-playing vinyl,
ratcheting my taut tympanum
with your cacophonic tarsi,
 
set my ossicles percussing
with the clangour of rough music,
dustbins, copper saucepans, kettles.
 
Now I smear a linen poultice
with the pulp of roasted apple,
press it, wincing, on my pinna.
 
Malic steam pervades my chambers
to entice you with a perfume
sweeter than November compost.
 
Clipshears, codgybell, twitch-ballock,
lift your bristles from my eardrum,
let the sea of cochlea settle,
 
turn back from the labyrinth.

 
Matthew Francis

 
witchy-beetle, forkin-robin, arrywiggle, horny-gollach, clipshears, codgybell,
twitch-ballock = dialect words for earwig - MF



____________________

 

Hear

I am reading a poem about silence
where Beethoven appears in the last line,
straining to hear his own symphony.
The waiting room is full of muffled coughs,
whispered conversations, soft tread
of the intern’s surgery slippers on the tiled floor.


The doctor looks deep inside, probes a thin needle
into the inner chamber, applies suction,
I can hear a long ball, then pop. The room is full
of creeks and songs, a sonic hum
I've never heard before, the low tone of dog whistles.
I am Super Ear. The doctor’s voice resonates
inside my body. I carry his clear vowels home
 
and on the way I try to remember everything
I didn't hear, the thousand daily sounds
that just washed over, or disappeared,
in case I have lost something important,
a phrase that might have changed my life,
the music of a new language.



Tamar Yoseloff
____________________

Hear in the Art

Jump red tick
Drum my rib

Jump red tick
Ear in the heart

Jump red tick
Sound me out

Jump red tick
Herd this us

Jump red tick
Bug lug vamp 

Claire Crowther


'I saw a red tick and I have a friend with Lyme disease, which has kind of ruined his life except he’s anything but a ruined person, and the tick jumped and looked to me like a heart - shape, colour, jump-jumpiness.'  - CC


____________________
 
Her Earrings

Cautiously - is that the door? -
I quantify her habit:
three boxes with thirty four

pairs (admittedly five from me),
two lonely extras (one mine -
a parrot whose mate flew free

in high winds at Devil’s Dyke)
plus the six she always wears.
Eighty-odd, of which I like

especially the bamboo
drops which, looking so heavy,
yet fall light; the dangle-zoo

with lizards and swinging apes;
the yellow shells - with the surge
of the sea on tap, perhaps -

and the abstracts which make her
a miniature gallery.
But enactments talk louder

than taste; and more than suggest
that of all her adornments
I love this repertoire best -

for what do I tend to buy
as proof? And what does she wear
that I never even try

to take off? In ears we share
a mild imbalance - with which
we’re happy, being a pair.

Paul Carey-Kent

 
Poems to follow by Saradha Soobrayen, Joan MacGavin and Steph Carey-Kent.

Writing to follow: EJ Major on Deleuze and cinema, Alli Sharma on echolocation and Cathy Lomax on the ear in film.
 
WORKS IN THE SHOW


Cathy Lomax: Audrey's Ear, 2017


____________________


 
 

Clare Price: t.h.10, 2016
 
oil and acrylic on canvas,  31x36cm

____________________
 


 
EJ Major: Matiére Signalétique
 
Selected film stills, 2017


____________________
 
 
 
John Banting: Dead Gossip, 1931
 
Gouache on card - 48 x 63.5 cm (courtesy
Austin Desmond Fine Art)

____________________
 
 

  

 

Alli Sharma: from the Bats series, 2009,
 
each oil on board, 20 x 15 cm

____________________
 
 
 
 
 
Adam Dix: The Collectors2013.
 
Ink and oil on paper - 72 x 52 cm
 
 
____________________
 
 
 
 
 
 
Kelvin Okafor: Katherine's Interlude, 2016
Graphite, charcoal & black coloured pencil on archival paper 79 x 67 cm 

____________________
 
 
 
        
 
 
Jonny Briggs: Forward Slashes Series # 1, 2013

Altered family photograph, 15 x 18cm

____________________
 
 



Clare Price: t.h.9, 2016

acrylic on canvas,  31x36cm




About Me

My photo
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.

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