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)

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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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