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

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About Me

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

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