Wednesday, 28 April 2010

THE FUN OF THE FAIR IN BRUSSELS



Brussels is just two Eurostar hours from London, and its Art Fair (23-26 April) made for a relaxed and high quality visit. Some 170 galleries showed in two spacious and easily-navigated halls, and while volcano ash problems prevented some of the more distant would-be-participants from making it, the mix was still good. The supplementary programme of special shows, performances and events was also sensible in scale and well-vetted. The more striking interventions were a ten room installation of different smells by Peter de Cupere and the daily sight, courtesy of Emilia Lopéz-Mechero, of several construction workers attempting to connect everything up by carrying round a 15 metre section of piping – yes, the layout was spacious, but this was an awkward enough action to emphasise that it really was a pipe. Talking of which, the very popular new Magritte Museum was among the institutions which joined in; and the commercial galleries, many of which are impressively large, opened until ten on Friday night. There were also two subsidiary hotel-based fairs, patchier in quality but of some interest. In fact, the figure above, courtesy of Jemima Brown, rather appropriately greeted me at the Trajector Fair on the Sunday morning after the excellent Saturday night art parties. Jemima, acting as artist and excellent curator of a room for the weekend, cunningly exploits our tendency to fill in gaps so that it's surprisingly easy it is not to notice that one leg is made of by flowers, so wasted is her mannequin character...

If there was an overall bias it was perhaps towards the painterly but thoughtful abstraction which the Belgians - and many of the 40-odd Belgian galleries present- seem to like, but it was hard to identify any particular trends. As for the specifically Belgian flavour, I didn’t see a single Tuymans painting: the most prominent Belgians were Jean-Luc Moerman, whose abstract swirls derived from his tattoo-orientated work covered the Fair’s catalogue and bag; and Wim Delvoye, shown by no fewer than seven of the galleries present. Gallerists reported measured but positive responses from collectors, and the content of their stands was balanced, too.

The whole Fair put me a in a good mood, then, and perhaps that’s why I found myself drawn towards several works which were upbeat, if not downright jolly (though lots I liked didn't fit, of course, eg at Boltelang, Feinkost, Perrotin, Esther Schipper and Sorry We're Closed, to stick to impressive non-British galleries). That set me musing on how, while in literature it is a commonplace that happiness tends to ‘write white’, there seems less of a parallel problem in visual art. Anyway, without pretending it was a statistical trend throughout the fair as a whole, here are eight works which impressed me with both quality and good humour – which isn’t to say they weren’t serious, and some indeed are quite morbid beneath the surface.


Christoph Ruckhäberle: Installation view @ Sutton Lane booth

Three galleries showed the German artist Christoph Ruckhäberle to advantage, the stand-out being Brussels/Paris/London based Sutton Lane, whose booth consisted of three big untitled works against a zingy wallpaper of Ruckhäberle’s own design, thus ramping up his predilection for bright patternings within the paintings. His people seem to be playing at being Picasso paintings, with primitive, carnivalesque and op art influences also thrown in to construct stylized persona which combine the abstract and representational to fairly fizz with theatrical effect.


Ruth van Haren Noman: 'Polychrome' (2009) @ Maes & Matthys Gallery, Antwerp

How happy can an abstract painting be? Objectively, perhaps, not at all – but subjectively I fell instantly for the cheerful vibe of Belgian artist Ruth van Haren Noman’s ‘Polychrome’, thinking it just such an abstract. Then I realised, looking more closely and reading back through her previous work, that she starts from plant forms and this was actually a cactus. So how happy can a cactus be? That might sound an odd question, too, but one of my favourite paintings in Ryan Mosley's recent London show was called… ‘The Happy Catcus’. So maybe there is an evidence base building up.




Pascal Bernier: 'Struggle for Afterlife' (2008) and 'accident de chasse'(2009) @ Galerie Toxic, Luxembourg

There may well be a case to be made for an art moratorium on skulls and bones, so often have they featured in recent years. But rarely are they quite as entertaining as young Belgian artist Pascal Bernier’s pair of skulls apparently scrapping over a bone, one remnant eye in each mad with jealous desire. The bone stands in for the afterlife, as if getting to heaven is just another market-driven process with limited supply. I also enjoyed his sculpture of a lion bandaged with ‘hunting wounds’, so undermining the world-be perfect world of the soft toy.




Jonathan Monk:'1969-2012' and '1969-2038'(2009)@ Nicolai Wallner, Copenhagen.

Talking of death (and how did that get into this list so much?), arch-conceptualist Jonathan Monk had several from a new series of twelve paintings at Copenhagen’s Wallner Gallery, all of which present his date of birth with possible death dates to match in a spin-off from Alighiero e Boetti. That for 2012 was smallest and darkest, but most were cheerfully colourful and expressive, and tended to get bigger as Monk’s putative lifespan increased. Despite giving me pause to check that, no, I wouldn’t want to know my own death date however good that would be for planning purposes, I enjoyed the mixture of the ludicrous and the self-mocking in the idea of producing such alternative memorials in advance.




Ann Craven: A 'Puff puff' @ Conduits, Milan - together with a studio view of their production

American artist Ann Craven paints large series of generic subjects such as birds, flowers and moons which explore near-repetition and the boundaries between knowing and kitsch, beautiful and ugly। The emphasis falls on colour and expression, as if they are abstracts which just happen to depict something (and, indeed, Craven does also paint stripes). Conduits showed two of the seven ‘Puff Puff’ paintings of absurdly big (1.5m high) and cheerfully attention-grabbing baby birds. The studio shot gives an idea of the multiple production, complete with standardised palletes on display.




Harland Miller: 'If The Phone Don’t Ring – It’s Me' (2010) @ Galerie Alex Daniels - Reflex Amsterdam.

A good joke does no harm, and internationally-based English writer-artist Harland Miller provided several ahead of a full show and book due in the autumn at Amsterdam’s Reflex. Miller is known for his far larger-than-life paintings of classic book covers, given a painterly twist by riffing on colour field abstraction and a quirky spin by his invented titles. In this particular watercolour, the penguin, which varies between paintings, looks unusually jolly and I liked the mordant twist to the joke as a reductio ad absurdum of the consequences of inaction.


Folkert de Jong: 'Trader’s Deal #7' (2010) @ André Simoens, Knokke, Belgium

The Amsterdam sculptor of tableaux, Folkert de Jong, showed a group of pirates in his distinctive and somewhat macabre language using industrial Styrofoam and pigmented Polyurethane insulation foam. They were dancing and strutting on top of what looked half like wine barrels, half like anachronistic oil barrels. No doubt there were messages to be read about greed, immorality and the nature of trade in our modern economy, and about how nation states attempt to control matters now as opposed to 400 years ago – but with their ramshackle forms, barter-ready bright blue necklaces and gunpowder round their own necks, these pirates were also immense fun.

Sofia Hultén: still from ‘Fuck it Up and Start Again’(2001) @ Meessen de Clercq

Berlin-based Swede Sofia Hultén isn’t one to let the world be. She either tries to make it (or herself in several amusing videos) disappear, or is equally tempted by smashing and repairing things. And that’s what she does, rather satisfyingly, to a guitar in the video piece ‘Fuck it Up and Start Again’: smash it, then repair it – seven times in different ways. A parody of rock star theatrics combines with a determination to put the world to rights, even knowing that you might undermine your own efforts. Meessen de Clercq's gallery, incidentally, was the best I reached, fitting in Jannis Kounellis, Martin Vanden Eyende and young British artist Damien Roach across three floors - and Roach had three large rooms in each of which he showed similar but subtly different content.

Photo credits: the relevant galleries and artists + Anders Sune Berg (Monk) + White Cube (Miller).

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

SCULPTURE MAY RULE

Is sculpture in a better state than painting? Maybe so, or maybe it's just Henry Moore in the air, but either way I found myself drawn to several sculpture shows recently. It wasn't then hard to go further and make this something of a sculpture special for late April into May. And you don't even have to go inside galleries to see it: you could for example catch an established masterpiece, a striking recent work by a master and an impressive piece by an up-and-coming sculptor as follows: Richard Serra's 1987 corten steel 'Fulcrum' behind Liverpool Street station; Richard Wilson's 'Square the Block', the crumpled-up corner of apparently missing pavement added to the LSE’s New Academic Building on Kingsway; and Alison Gill's 'Procession', designed for the window of the newly-opened Charlie Dutton gallery just off Theobalds Road. And half of my shows to look forward to are sculptural, too.




Comma 21: Martin Honert @ Bloomberg Space, 50 Finsbury Square - Moorgate

To 15 May: www.bloombergspace.com

This is the 21st in Bloomberg’s admirable ‘Comma’ series of extensive new works made for the space in its business HQ. The shows have typically given two artists half the space each for just three weeks. The German sculptor Martin Honert, however, has it all to himself for six weeks, and this is well-merited, even though I wouldn’t say his maximum concentrate of Proust is ideally suited to Bloomberg’s high and glassy corporate setting. Honert has shown little in Britain, but should by rights be as well-known here as his former classmate, Thomas Demand. He makes tableaux from his childhood, not in order to tell stories but, in his words, ‘to redeem the image to its purest state’. Most of this show concentrates on schooldays, and in particular the ritual of the midnight feast in the dorm, circa early 1960s. The major piece recreates that dormitory, but as from a photographic negative – itself an evocation of a redundant process and a possible allusion to a negative era in German history. The effect is resonantly achieved by using fluorescent light to stand in for shadows, revealing the unknown yet telling us nothing about it. ‘It embodies’, says Penelope Curtis’s acute catalogue essay ‘the innocence of the boy and the ignorance in which he, and his kind, were allowed to grow up, along with the sense of an awakening…’.




David Rickard @ The Mews Project Space, alley off Osbourne St behind Whitechapel Gallery – Aldgate East

Open Sun 25 April & Sun 2 May 16.00-19.00, and by appointment to 9 May - email Carlos Noronha Feio on mail@The-mews.org to arrange viewing: www.the-mews.org

This is an obscure yet potentially convenient choice. The Mews is an artist-run two-room space with Portuguese links which is open mostly by appointment only, but is literally stuck on the back of the Whitechapel Gallery. The current projects are by New Zealand sculptor David Rickard and Portugal's Romeu Gonçalves. Rickard characteristically uses logical processes sharpened by chance. For the installation ‘Borderlines’ he contradicts the normal function of plumb lines (ie to act as a vertical reference) by suspending a range of plumb-bobs on varying lengths of lines, covering them in ink and swinging them repeatedly against the walls and ceiling. A surprising number of different marks result, depending on the varying angles of impact (governed by distance from the wall) and the plumb-bob’s shape – oddly, there is no standard for that, and they themselves make an interesting part of the installation. I particularly like how, collectively, those marks form patterns which are radically site specific: not just made for, but resulting from, the space.


Superstructure

Cerith Wyn Evans: ‘Everyone's Gone to the Movies, Now We're Alone at Last’ @ White Cube Mason’s Yard – Central

To 22 May: www.whitecube.com

Cerith Wyn Evans started by making films, but now tends to work with their light rather than their images. He can be somewhat theoretical in the way he seeks to construct a space for open consideration of the interplay between cinema, literature and art, but his new show has four pieces with a direct impact. One of them picks up on another mode of site specificity: building the space’s historic resonance into the work. The combination of Marxism, engineering and emotion in the title of ‘S=U=P=E=R=S=T=R=U=C=T=U=R=E (Trace me back to some loud, shallow, chill, underlying motive's overspill ...)’ spells itself out, perhaps a little self-mockingly, with a quote from poet James Merrill. Its impact lies in the heat and light of some 2,500 light filaments in seven ceiling-high columns, surging and flaring like a ghostly revisitation of the electricity substation which once occupied what is now the lower gallery at Mason’s Yard. Not comfortable, not green, but hypnotising. I don’t think the pulsing is Morse Code, which Wyn Evans does often use, but it doesn’t need to be to hint at indecipherable messages from beyond.




Jennet Thomas: All Suffering SOON TO END! @ Matt’s Gallery, 42-44 Copperfield Rd – Mile End

To 6 June: www.mattsgallery.org

Several artists have recently shown an interest in the conventions of new age religious and spiritual impulses, mining them for parallels with artistic aspirations, the challenge they present to conventional lifestyles, and the humour of the absurd. Shana Moulton, Nathaniel Mellors and Krysten Cunningham come to mind, and Jennet Thomas fits right on trend with a wonderfully silly-serious video-come-sculpture-come-performance in which her bemused parents are visited by a kookily convincing Purple Man. He has an extravagant evangelical power to persuade, and is abetted by an equally green nun. The Purple Man’s upbeat if somewhat discomforting message runs through three iterations in half an hour (it’s best to start on the half hour). After that you enter the purple and green world for yourself... Matt’s isn’t the easiest place to reach by public transport, but a stroll south from the tube or bus through Mile End Park on a sunny weekend can all be counted part of the visit.


Goddess

Anthony Caro: Upright Sculptures @ Annely Juda, 23 Dering St - Central

To 2 July: annelyjudafineart.co.uk

’I just keep going’, teased Sir Anthony Caro at his opening on 14 April, ‘the quality doesn’t matter’. He certainly shows huge energy for an 86 year-old, having made 43 big new works in the last 18 months, 13 of which are shown here – and all that in parallel with the major project of his Chapel of Light at Bourbourg. When I say ‘big’ I mean up to 2.7 tonnes, requiring Caro to use assistants and a forklift truck; and making very full use in turn of the winching equipment by means of which they were lowered through the roof into the beautiful 3rd and 4th floor spaces. The forms, being mainly upright and given as much interior as exterior life, aren't as straightforwardly representative as the Barbarians of 2002, but do suggest more figuration in their abstract and architectural languages than was typical of Caro in the 60's - 90's. Perhaps they are sentinels for times which need watching closely, a spirit which reminds me a little – full circle style – of the ‘Geometry of Fear’ work of the 1950's, which Caro’s own radicalism displaced. And the quality? I think Caro's was a safe enough tease.


Installation view

Michael Samuels: Clusterfuck @ Rokeby, 5-9 Hatton Wall – Farringdon

To 19 June: www.rokebygallery.com

Michael Samuels makes maximum use of Rokeby’s recently-expanded new space with an installation of sculptures made purely from reconstituted elements of 60s-70’s formica tables, cupboards and chairs, enhanced by added light. Not only are original uses deconstructed, but several pieces end up resembling windows rather than furniture; one combination - mostly of table legs - pretends to be a flying buttress yet can clearly support nothing; and 'Cluster 1'looks like the saw involved in making the rest of the show and, I suppose, itself. So what about that provocative title? It’s not some sort of group sex, but a military term for an operation in which multiple problems interfere with each others’ solution, now more broadly used for any situation with a large scale of disarray. And yet Samuels actually wrests a good deal of order from what may seem an anarchically comprehensive duffing up of furniture, as part of which the formica brings its own consistent, period-infected colourworld. Feels like a clusterfuck which went paradoxically right…




Kate Davis & Roy Voss @ The Russian Club Gallery, 340-344 Kingsland Rd – Dalston

To 8 May: www.therussianclubgallery.com

This artist-run gallery isn't hard to find once you know it’s down external stairs to the basement. The Russian Club specializes in allowing two artists to play off each other, and also arranges for very affordable editions as part of those paired shows. Kate Davis is previously known to me mainly for her drawings made from pricked-through holes. Here she shows ‘Riff’, a floor-seizing sculpture of unpointed but needle-like forms, along with a section (or should that be a ‘note’?) from one such form, a similarly-shaped gessoed baguette in the office, and an edition of 100 slightly differing drawings (also Riffs) derived from musical notation. Those are foreground and context in turn for Roy Voss’s paradoxically wall-dwelling sculptures ‘Carpet’ and ‘Rug’, and his limited edition sign saying ‘Edition (Ltd)’. All of which provide fodder for Ian Hunt’s stimulating essay on how their various sculptural presences operate…




Simon Tegala: Undivided & Indivisible @ Aicon, 8 Heddon St - Central

To 8 May: www.aicongallery.com

Aicon runs a very broad programme within the general rubric of art from the Indian sub-continent, and at present Simon Tegala’s high tech show upstairs contrasts with more traditional fare below. Tegala, born in London but of Indian origin, shows four conceptual but visceral video and sculptural elements. Two are forms of self-portrait: his own MRI brain scan in digital cross-sectional animation, and the record of his pulse from lived days past. Two deal with responsibility, individual and collective: a set of knives engraved with the artist’s signature, with which purchasers can apparently murder with impunity, as Tegala declares that he will take the rap as part of the contract of sale; and two spinning water vortexes which rise and fall with the rate of change in the projected birth and death rates as recorded on the UN’s website, to which they are linked (currently, by the way, about 20 people are born annually per 1,000 people living and only 8 die, leading to an annual population growth rate of just over 1%). If On Karawa was a Chapman Brother, you might end up somewhere round here. How exactly do the four connect? Tegala himself will explain on 27 April.



Naama Tsabar: 'Sweat'

JaffaCakes TLV @ 33-34 Hoxton Square - Hoxton

To 15 May: www.jaffacakestlv.com

Three young curators have shown great energy in pulling together wide-ranging sponsorship for a group show of seven artists with connections to Tel Aviv-Jaffa, as it is officially known. It is presented in a space donated by Kenny Schachter (whose car dealership atmospherically retains most of the ground floor) and comes complete with a stylish catalogue with slip-in short story by writer Etgar Keret, who helps set the themes, and an impressive programme of talks. Four women steal the show, I think. Two may well be familiar to London audiences: Nogah Engler contributes hauntingly resonant paintings, and Mika Rottenberg a typically spunky video in which a muscleman’s sweat is fried. But I was also impressed by two sculptors I didn’t know: Michal Helfman, who makes an implausible-sounding success of combining the registers of ballet and pole dancing; and Naama Tsabar, who has rather wonderfully designed a case to carry a broken guitar, and also picks up on the sweat theme – only it’s cognac sweating into silk sheets. As that suggests, Tel Aviv is famous for its night life; and as that illustrates, this show gets well beyond any lazy assumption that all Israeli art is directly driven by political conflict.


Clutter VI with White Blanket

Angela de la Cruz @ Camden Arts Centre, Arkwright Road – Finchley Rd & Frognal

To 30 May: www.camdenartscentre.org

Painting gets close to the condition of sculpture in this fifteen year summation of London-based Spaniard Angela de la Cruz’s torn, crushed and broken canvases and stretchers. Maybe it crosses the line when tables, chairs and wardrobes are pressed into service. Such work may speak of the embattled state of painting itself, but at the same time it generates a powerful aesthetic of destruction which gives the lie to such doubts. The paintings also contrive to be abstracts with stories to tell: ‘Ashamed’ shrinks into the corner; the ‘Ready to Wear’ series teasingly reveal their half-hidden stretchers in fashionable colours; those called ‘Nothing’ are crumpled on the floor; the ‘Clutter’ series incorporates bits of discarded paintings and evoke body bags, just as the use of wardrobes suggests coffins.


Still showing from previous lists: Laure Prouvost @ Tate Britain to 2 May, Ben Rivers to 2 May, David Burton, Ruth Ewan, Brian Moran to 8 May, Tondo to 8 May, Mat Collishaw to 9 May, Krysten Cunningham to 15 May, William Tillyer to 15 May, Bharti Kher to 15 May, Chris Ofili to 16 May, Céleste Boursier-Mougenot to 23 May, Ilya & Emilia Kabakov To 29 May, Steve McQueen to 18 July.

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

TEN FOR THE FUTURE

Pyllida Barlow @ Studio Voltaire: 23.4 - 29.5

Jannis Kounellis @ P3: 23.4 – 30.5

Noa Lidor @ Green Cardamom: 23.4 - 11.6

Georgie Hopton @ Poppy Sebire: 24.4 - 29.6

Gerry Fox @ Eleven: 29.4 - 5.6

Ximena Garrido-Lecca @ Civic Room: 29.4 - 30.5

Rachel Thorlby @ Madder139: 29.4 - 30.6

Stephen Willats @ Victoria Miro: 7.5 - 12.6

Shana Moulton @ Gimpel Fils: 13.5 - 3.7

Michelle Grabner @ Rocket: 14.5 - 19.6


Photo credits: relevant artists and galleries + Manolo Verga (Rickard), John Riddy (Caro), Beate Sonnenberg & Roberto Rubalcava (Samuels)

Monday, 12 April 2010

NINE SINGULARITIES AND A RECONSIDERATION

It's always nice to think: well, I've never seen that before! Here, then, are nine current shows likely to provoke that reaction. They feature a pavement artist in the gallery; sixteen giant bindified mirrors; paintings flying through the air; the most stamps you've ever seen in a gallery; a group show of paintings without a corner in sight; water bottles as fetish objects; an invitation to look under a painting's skirt; the possibility of a fourth dimension; and, of course, zebra finches playing guitars… On the other hand you've probably seen quite a few paintings propped on elephant dung: my tenth recommendation is more likely a chance to consider the substance behind a spent surprise.


David Burton: Untitled, c. 1936

David Burton, Ruth Ewan, Brian Moran @ Rob Tufnell, 1 Sutton Lane – Clerkenwell

To 8 May: www.robtufnell.com

This is Rob Tufnell’s second turn in the timeshare arrangement whereby he uses Sutton Lane’s space, tucked in between Clerkenwell Road and Great Sutton Street. Rob is remarkably good at rediscovering the forgotten, in this case paintings produced at a wellwisher's prompting by London pavement artist David Burton. Hardly seen since he was one of Mass Observation's 'Unprofessional Painters' in a show which toured extensively in 1938-39, they're astonishingly fresh in condition, colour and the energy of their naïve and patriotic style. Burton is shown with Brian Moran’s cold war oriented redrawings of a wide range of source materials; and Ruth Ewan’s 34 postcards of the flags of former colonial powers, which she asked Bolivian children to deface with white paint. Result: a very lively treble take on aspects of imperialism.


6/18 of indra’s net mirrors

Bharti Kher: inevitable undeniable necessary @ Hauser & Wirth, 196a Piccadilly – Central

To 15 May: www.hauserwirth.com

One of the most successful British-born artists today is Bharti Kher, who left Newcastle for New Delhi in 1992, where she met and married the now famous Subodh Gupta. Bharti has stand-out work in the current Saatchi survey of Indian art, and now has her own varied, imaginative and extensive run of Hauser & Wirth - three floors plus the sculpture park behind the gallery. The show as a whole builds metaphysical explorations out of the application of everyday ritual: an automated singing bowl; a confessional room; a gently rocking unicorn; and the teeming application of stick-on bindis, which has become Kher’s trademark means of combining the symbolism of a ‘third eye’ while subverting the traditional expectations of female and national identities. She was first attracted by the more old-fashioned sperm or snake-shaped bindi – dual symbols of fertility which rather neatly unite male form with primarily female embellishment. Here she uses those on 21 medical charts, while a separate room seethes with the commoner spot bindis as partial cover for 16 large cracked mirrors. Spectacular, husband-trumping stuff.


Flying #13 - one of those in Paris, as it happens

Ilya & Emilia Kabakov: The Flying Paintings @ Sprovieri, 27 Heddon St – Central

To 29 May: www.sprovieri.com

Twenty years after emigrating to the USA, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov – surely the most significant living Russian artists – are still musing on the possibilities and impossibilities of utopian dreams. They have often used the idea of people flying to represent both the idealism of the communist system and attempts to escape it in either body or mind. See, for example, ‘The Flying Komarov’, as currently installed in ‘Star City’ at Nottingham Contemporary. They have also made paintings (‘Under the Snow’ 2004-06) which combine fragments of an idealised society with areas of blankness which suggest censorship, suppressed memories, and potentially counter-revolutionary abstraction. Their new series combines those two ideas by depicting paintings literally flying through white space, the implications being all the above plus opportunities to distort matters tellingly through inversion, scale differences, overlapping and anamorphic foreshortening. Sprovieri have a mini-retrospective of the Kabakovs plus three of the twenty flying paintings – enough to give you a flavour of their inventiveness, though either a flick through the catalogue or, utopically, an immediate visit to Thaddaeus Ropac in Paris is recommended for more.




Steve McQueen: Queen and Country @ the National Portrait Gallery, St Martins Place – Central

To 18 July: www.npg.org.uk

The NPG has become a very worthwhile contemporary art venue in recent years. Among the current offerings is Steve McQueen’s well-publicised project-come-campaign proposal to issue stamps showing all the British service personnel killed in Iraq in 2003-09. I hadn’t really thought about how it would be displayed, but the answer is an effective one: through 14 x 12 stamp sheets for each of the 160 soldiers featured in vertically pulled out philatelic presentation drawers. I make that 26,880 stamps in total. It’s a serious and moving display which remains topical in the context of the mounting casualty count in Afghanistan, yet there remains something diminishing, maybe almost childish, about art on stamps. That may be why I found myself rather inappropriately thinking that McQueen has just the name it would suit to be the first black Scottish transsexual monarch…

Jeremy Butler: 'Death Star'

Tondo @ Fine Art Society Contemporary, 148 New Bond St – Central

To 8 May: www.fascontemporary.com

Here a dozen mostly monochrome and completely round abstract paintings make for an unusual and surprisingly varied show. The format naturally suggests a whole world, but of what? Rubbish, in the case of Jeremy Butler’s Death Star, which is a blackness made of miniaturised binbags, tyres and detritus. Perceptual conundrums for Oliver Marsden, who has plenty of previous as a tondophilliac. Changing light for Rob and Nick Carter. Gestures for Jason Martin, whose brushy abstractions have entered a florid gold phase. And Fernando Mastrangelo crams in the sociological, religious and economic issues by colouring staple foods like sugar, beans and corn so they resemble precious stones, all in the shape of ceiling medallions from opulent homes and in the colours of Aztec gods. You probably need rectangular stuff to buy them with, though.


'Death Star Mk II' - for Ducker and, oddly enough, for this blog...

Richard Ducker: Null & Void @ Oblong, 69a Southgate Rd – Dalston

To 25 April: www.oblonggallery.com

Actually I suppose it may be that more galleries are oblongs than classic white cubes, but this year-old space’s name presumably signals a desire to be different. Never mind the width not equaling the length, though, what about the quality? Pretty good in the case of Richard Ducker’s domestic yet sensual sculptures, which seem to be able to make a fetish of anything – plastic water bottles by covering them with a black flock which would hardly play well down the throat, lumps of concrete by gold-plating them and adding the finishing touch of a brass drawer knob - and even of nothing: his ‘Sybaritic Suggestions’ appear to be no more than empty black bags on shelves, their titular love of luxury all in the absence. The titles pretend to ham things up through wry overstatement: ‘Eternity’; ‘I’m Not Unhappy Enough’; and ‘Hilarious’, which, of course, wryly isn’t.


'Look behind the picture...'


Laure Prouvost: all these things think link @ Flat Time House, 210 Bellenden Rd – Peckham Rye

To 25 April: www.flattimeho.org.uk

The house in which John Latham lived and worked is worth visiting in its own right, but the experience is enhanced for three weeks by the interventions of Laure Provost, who assisted Latham (1921-2006) in his last years. She has installed five short video loops which play off her own spry rearrangements of, and additions to, the house’s contents – for example by leaving teabags to dry on a radiator, as Latham was wont to do, and inserting her own secrets behind a work with the subversive-sounding video instruction to ‘look behind that picture – when they’re not looking’ (it’s OK, you can). Elsewhere Prouvost seems to smash the vase we can see on a shelf, indulges in warped narratives and gives a massage to a book on Latham, who was more inclined to slice books up, as evidenced all around. Latham’s art reflected his belief that time and events were more basic building blocks for the world than space and matter. If Prouvost supports the thesis, it is by slyly undermining both time and events. This is fun, but might turn to chaos on 24 April, when she invites five other artists to make a show in her show in Latham’s show…

See also my previous entry on Laure Prouvost’s ongoing (to 2 May) presence in Tate Britain’s Lightbox. For more John Latham, visit the Whitechapel (to 5 September) and Lisson (May 5 – June 5) galleries.


Still from '3 to 4'

Krysten Cunningham: 3 to 4 @ Ritter Zamet, Unit 8, 80A Ashfield St - Whitechapel

To 15 May: www.ritterzamet.com

Look carefully to track down a first floor industrial unit just south of Whitechapel tube station, and you'll also find more of the recent trend towards sculpture with a video context. Krysten Cunningham has worked as a technician in a physics lab at the University of California over the past decade. In ‘Hypercube’ she re-narrated one of the lab’s educational films - of computer-generated cubes multiplying - to speculate on the possibility of a fourth dimension. This argued that there are four dimensions, and so if we have only three dimensions then all our thoughts and experiences must take place in the mind of a higher being. If we don’t agree with this, says the voiceover, we must recognise ourselves as beings of four dimensions - albeit we may not be conscious of the fourth. All of which feeds into a new video, in which up to six figures in red, green and blue demonstrate similar geographies in a kind of pose-dance with rods through which Cunningham hopes “we might ‘touch’ or glimpse a new spatial dimension”. The sculptures echo those concerns while mixing readymade and woven forms in a hippy meets op art meets native Indian style. So: equal parts science and mysticism, new age and Bauhaus pushing at the borders of craft and daft. Somehow it all coheres rather hypnotically, as we wonder how much is aesthetic and how much is cod. In a way, quite Lathamesque…


from here to ear

Céleste Boursier-Mougenot: @ Curve Gallery, Barbican - Farringdon

To 23 May: www.barbican.org.uk/artgallery

Boursier-Mougenot is a French musician and artist who explores unexpected means of making sound. His best-known previous works are a paddling pool with floating crockery which chimes as it collides, and a fleet of hoovers attached to harmonicas. The Curve features close up film of guitar players but to the ‘sound of the images’, ie derived from the video signal, leading into the main event: a flock of 40 zebra finches, kept in place by light levels alone, create a soundscape as they hop on and off guitars. Their movements are largely in response to the 25 visitors allowed to wander among them at any one time, and the resulting chirpy-chirpy thrum-thrum works remarkably well - and much more consistently than you might expect. Aurally it ends up somewhere in the middle of John Cage’s use of chance, Messian’s bird song transcriptions and an outcrop from Sonic Youth’s unorthodox tunings. The whole ensemble may well be the most memorable in a London gallery now.


From 'Afromuses'

Chris Ofili @ Tate Britain – Millbank

To 16 May: www.tate.org.uk

It's a while since Chris Ofili's use of poo was a 'well I never' moment, and maybe most who fancy this show will have seen it by now... But it's on for a few weeks yet and I’d like to dissent from what has emerged as the conventional critical view. That seems to be that Ofili is spot on with his decoratively disgusting mix until you get to the Upper Room (started 1999) – which is the pinnacle or excess of the early elephant dung style, depending on taste – but then fails to find a convincing new language, especially since his move to Trinidad in 2005. Certainly the early work has kept its pzazz, but Ofili’s subsequent output includes the red, black and green series shown in Venice in 2003; most of his zingily relaxed watercolours; the subtle and persuasive drawing language of ‘7 Brides for 7 Bros’(2007); and the gloweringly deep ‘blues’ of 2006-08. All of that is full throttle stuff. Only in the last room and last couple of years of a big exhibition did I feel that a new direction remained to be worked through to the success which, the record suggests, Ofili will make of it.

Still showing from previous lists: David Korty to 17 April, Annie Albers to 17 April, Nathaniel Rackowe to 23 April, William Tucker to 24 April, Bas van den Hurk to 24 April, Benjamin Beker to 24 April, Henning Bohl to 25 April, Mob Remedies to 25 April, Laure Prouvost @ Tate Britain to 2 May, Ben Rivers to 2 May, Mat Collishaw to 9 May, William Tillyer to 15 May, Céleste Boursier-Mougenot to 23 May.

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

TEN FOR THE FUTURE

I am looking forward to:

Jean-Luc Mylayne @ Sprueth Magers 16.4 – 6.6

Leigh Ledare @ Pilar Corrias 16.4 – 6.6

JaffaCakes Tel Aviv @ 33-34 Hoxton Square 16.4 - 15.5

Lisa Yuskavage @ Greengrassi: 20.4 - 29.5

Martin Mull @ Ben Brown 21.4 – 5.6

Antoni Tàpies @ Waddington 21.4 – 15.5

Pyllida Barlow @ Studio Voltire: 23.4 - 29.5

Jannis Kounellis @ P3: 23.4 – 30.5

Gerry Fox @ Eleven: 29.4 - 5.6

Ximena Garrido-Lecca @ Civic Room: 29.4 - 30.5

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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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