Sunday, 30 May 2010

HIDDEN IN FULL VIEW AT 176

'Hidden in Full View' @ the Anita Zabludowicz Collection, 176 Prince of Wales Road - Chalk Farm - Sunday 6 June @ 3pm Free, but booking via www.projectspace176 is recommended.

These are the notes for my tour of a selection from the 217 works from the Zabludowicz Collection in 'The Library of Babel' at 176, as covered on 6 June.

I'll pretty-much ignore Borges, fascinating as he and 'The Library of Babel' may be. Instead, I'll experiment by applying a rigorous schematic to nine works from the collection. There are, of course, other ways to look at them, but it’s interesting to see what happens with a constraint – an approach which can work well in art itself. I do anyway believe that the best contemporary work is quite often amenable to the following three stages of examination:

1. We are struck by a feature which initially draws us in to wondering: just what is that?

2. We explore further and understand what's been done, and how – we get, if you like, ‘the trick’

3. We then ask: what thoughts lie behind that? That's a key stage, because if the work simply provides a trick for its own sake, it won't satisfy for long.

Often we have to probe to get to levels 2 and 3, even though there's nothing we can’t actually see. They are hidden in full view.




Foyer: Susan Collis ‘I dreamed I had it all’, 2007

1. Susan Collis is a not-all-that young – she was late starter – British artist who has come to prominence in the last four years or so. She shows with one of my favourite galleries, Seventeen. Her work often provokes initial puzzlement as expressed by the question: 'where’s the work?' Thus, when you walked into her first major show at Seventeen Gallery in 2007, it seemed you had got the opening time wrong. There was a stepladder covered with drips of paint, more drips on the floor, a broom, fixings on the wall with nothing attached to them… it seemed the previous show had just been taken down and the gallery was being whitewashed ready for Collis's installation.

2. But things were not what they seemed. Careful inspection revealed that the paint drips were carefully inlaid mother of pearl, the rings and marks on the table were, according to the almost biblical list of materials, made of diamond, pearl, opal, howlite, fossil coral and magnecite. 'I dreamed I had it all' (which is from a 176 edition, and not strictly part of The Library of Babel)has an extra ‘where’s the work?’ effect, as the screw in the wall is, to put it mildly, unobtrusive. It’s made with hand-cut garnet and black onyx.

3. So there is a kind of sculptural trompe-l'oeil in play. But that isn’t Collis's primary interest – in fact, though it’s fun, it’s a bit of a distraction. Her main interest is in issues of value. Making something of nominal value out of precious materials is one way of making the dichotomy between the worthless and the valued. Her laundry bags, hand-drawn in biro, make that point without precious materials - ludicrous labour to produce something commonplace. The invisibility also relates to the idea of hidden labour in consumer products. I also like the way in which her paint splashes make something which looks spontaneous and accidental out of a process which is the very opposite.




Work 21: Jason Savalon: 76 Blowjobs, 2001

1. Chicago-based Jason Salavon (born Indiana, 1970) has worked as a programmer in the video game industry, and is known for his use of custom computer software to manipulate and reconfigure media and data. He admits to having “weird nerdy fun” manipulating the computer. Obviously something of that sort is going on here, but up close this is a somewhat vague image.

2. In fact, '76 Blowjobs' comes from one of the main strands of Salavon's work, which is to overlay multiple photographs so that the result is a visual amalgamation – examples being the ‘averaging’ of tourist photos and of the looks of playmates across each decade. Actually he precedes Idris Khan, who is better known in Britain, in using this technique – but applies it quite differently. This is from that body of work: it simply blends 76 blowjob scenes from pornographic sources to make a vague average, resulting in the softest possible hardcore.

3. Savalon himself has said that he aims ‘to distill the complexity of life to make it more understandable.’ In fact he makes it all look rather uncertain and unspecific. I would sooner read into the project as a whole some commentary on the generic and interchangeable nature of our experiences. But what I like about this particular image is how, led by the title, it looks as if it could be made out of smoke: it could have been a construction from 76 shots of smoke – blow jobs of one sort – in order to make a blow job of a different sort, and that in turn makes 76 ‘small deaths’ into one large one. That is reinforced by the Sean Dack video, visible in the background, which does show smoke…




71: Jim Lambie: Psychedelicsoulstick # 30, 2001

1. Glasgow-based Jim Lambie (who shows with The Modern Institute in Glasgow and Sadie Coles in London) uses eccentric materials. He picks stuff up from market stalls and jumble sales, manipulates such items as records, trainers and handbags. There’s a punk glamour, very rock ‘n’ roll feel to his work, which has been termed 'pop alchemy'. Even with that background, though, this seems a mysterious object.

2. Psychedelicsoulstick # 30 is from a series of bamboo sticks around which thread has been wrapped to capture discarded items like watches, guitar plectrums and cigarette packets. So those typical Lambie materials are present, but hidden. I’m reminded of two artists strongly associated with the 1960’s: Andy Warhol, who made ‘time capsules’ - boxes into which he shunted all the trappings and detritus of his life – and Joseph Beuys, the shamanistic German artist, one of whose symbols was the walking stick.

3. Lambie is interested in bringing the experiences of countercultures and music in particular into the gallery. We see that most clearly in the ‘gallery to disco’ move of his ‘Zobop’ series, which makes psychedelic floors of stripes with tape, mapping the architectural space while overwhelming it. Here there is the suggestion of a chrysalis, plus the Beuysian ritual, plus the time capsule, plus the title ‘Psychedelicsoulstick’. It all points to how hidden elements have power, and to the ongoing power in our lives of the artistic and musical cultures from the past – of their near-ritualistic importance to our lives now, how we're largely the sum of such influences…




53: Damien Roach: Chapter 1: Appearance and Reality, 2007

1. Damien Roach is a very varied, conceptually-based young British artist. He chooses not to have a British gallery at present, but is represented in Dusseldorf and Brussels, where I recently saw a three room installation of his which apparently had the same set of works in each room until you started to look more closely… Clever stuff, then. And here we have the cover of Bertrand Russell’s ‘Problems of Philosophy’ along with some alphabetically-ordered lists of words.

2. The title gives us a fair clue about what is going on: Roach has rearranged Chapter 1 of the book, so we see the right words but in different order. Interestingly, that idea has been explored by other artists recently, albeit to different ends: Kim Rugg’s rearrangements of newspaper front pages, and Simon Popper’s alphabetical version of Joyce’s Ulysses. This work is particuarly close to the Borges story 'The Library of Babel',whihc decribes the hopelessness of trying to find meaningful answers in a library which contains every possible book, ie whihc would therefore include not just this rearrangement of Russell's book, but every other one.

3. One of Russell’s central philosophical concerns was how to break down the world as it appears to its basic underlying constituents. He pursued that through, for example, an attempt to demonstrate how set logic underlay mathematical truths in the forbidding 'Principia Mathematica', and an analysis of the primacy of sense data in a logical construction of objects in ‘Our Knowledge of the External World’. Roach has satirically applied Russell’s techniques to his own analysis, breaking down Russell's text into its constituent parts - only to reveal that it is then senseless: it was the manner of combination which constituted the meaning. Perhaps we can read across to a critique of any attempts to reduce art-making to the formula of its elements.




96: Luke Rudolph: Portrait Number Eight, 2009

1. Luke Rudolf graduated from Goldsmiths College only last year, and his first solo show is on now at Kate MacGarry. This is typical of the work in that show, which looks – at least up close -like a complex, multiply-layered abstract painting combining various painterly languages - drips, taped-off hard edges, metallic effects, prominent brushstrokes - and uses both acrylic and oil. A kind of compendium of mark-making.

2. We see the trick pretty soon, though, as pointed to by the title ‘Portrait Number Eight’. It's pareidolia, if you want a word for it: Rudolf forces together the visual language of abstraction and the figurative tradition of portraiture by exploiting how easily our tendency to recognise a face can be triggered. They are, though, generic faces, not based on particular individuals, so they aren't really portraits or abstractions. Here there's a clownish look to the mouth and ears, complementing the somewhat comical treatment of the abstract.

3. This painting is, I think, simple fun. But it's also about the history of art. It uses the clichés of both figurative and abstract impressionism – combining them vigorously enough to make them fresh – but reverses the typical move whereby the artist abstracts from a representation. Instead, the mannerisms of abstraction are used to construct a representation; as if to point out how the artist himself is never rendered abstract, however much his paintings may be.




134: Marc Quinn: Garden2, 2001

1. Marc Quinn (born 1964) is a ‘YBA’ best-known for his frozen 'Self' series (from 1991) and for putting Alison Lapper on the fourth plinth. I find him uneven, but I like his current show at White Cube (though few people seem to - see Paul's Art World for why I do). These - 5 from a set of 8 hand-varnished pigment prints - look at first glance like a set of photographs of flowers, which indeed they are – but what else is going on?

2. 'Garden Squared' has frozen origins, linking it to 'Self'. They are photographs of Quinn's 'Garden' (2000), a real botanical garden of 1,000 plants and flowers from all over the world, which was preserved in full bloom by immersion in twenty-five tons of liquid silicone kept at a constant temperature of -80˚ Celsius. The flowers in it could neither grow nor perish. Quinn claims to have found a Permaprint inkjet print process which freezes and fixes the frozen garden in turn – this time as an indelible image.

3. This is a play on the vanitas tradition of Dutch still lives with flowers, designed to remind us of the transitory nature of life. Those paintings were often made over several months in order to include ‘impossible’ combinations of flowers which did not bloom at the same time. Quinn exploits modern international growing methods and freezing technology to make such scene both possible and potentially permanent. Is the result perfect flowers with the enchantment of a continuous spring, or yet another deplorable example of the artificial replacing the natural? We might also make links to genetic engineering and global warming.




182: Martin Boyce: Telephone Booth Conversations (1) , 2006

1. Martin Boyce, who showed for Scotland at last year's Venice Biennale and is represented in Glasgow by The Modern Institute, provides us with the curious site of a payphone booth in a gallery display. Such a booth was becoming rather dated, wherever located, by the time this was made in 2006. It’s no surprise, perhaps, that there is no telephone present, not even a non-functioning one; nor that there are signs of graffiti. Evidently the titular reference to ‘conversations’ is ironic, at least at the literal level. So what’s it doing here?

2. It’s not just any old phone booth found or reproduced. The vocabulary that Boyce has employed is derived from his discovery of a photograph of the concrete trees designed by the Martel brothers for the Art Deco exhibition held in Paris in 1925. According to Boyce these trees “represent a perfect collapse of architecture and nature”. From them he extracted a grid template that has since become the basis for his practice – from sculpture to typography. Thus, once you’ve seen Boyce’s work, you can recognise the distinctive quadrilateral forms which make up the structure of the booth.

3. Boyce is interested in the legacy of modernism corrupted by use and abandonment. Typically, the combination of such elements as trees made from neon, upended benches, slanted waste bins, suspended lighting and phone booths creates a modernist theatre-set, suggesting the marginal zones of the modern city – perhaps a playground at night. Here we have an extract from such installations, which fits neatly with the violence implied by the surrounding works (featuring a bullet hole and a car crash). I think Boyce achieves a futuristic look, albeit derived from the past, which could be read as somewhat gloomy: our futures will be rooted in our pasts, and the old patterns of decline will affect them, too. That, I think, is the kind of conversation to which Boyce refers, and which we might have in front of the work.




186: Anne Hardy: Cipher, 2007

1. Anne Hardy (born 1970) is represented by Maureen Paley. This is on the face of it a photograph of a curious room in a state of some decay and disarray. The erstwhile occupants seem to have been carrying out some obscure sports-related activities. Maybe it's the hiding place of a dangerous obsessive of some sort: 'Cipher' suggests the symbol or secret system of a cult. Perhaps those weights have ritual uses.

2. Hardy is, however, one of those artists (like Thomas Demand and James Casebere) who doesn't photograph reality, but makes a construction which she then photographs and destroys. In her case, she fills her studio in Hackney with objects, typically sourced from the streets or markets round about and implying some seamy narrative prequel. Moths of labour are involved. She never shows the inhabitants directly. The results are desolate and somewhat unnerving.

3. There is underlying concern with deception and the nature of reality. What if, in the manner of Plato's cave, what we believe to be the world is actually a stage set constructed by an omnipotent artist? Or else Hardy might be commenting on how people manipulate their own environments; on how we make assumptions about people from where we find them; or on the real life of the objects to which she gives an alternative life, most of which are rescued from the excessive disposals of a society in which a third of supermarket food purchases are thrown away uneaten. She also reases with potential meanings: what system lies behind the numbers which look like markers from a crime scene? We want to acribe a meaning, but suspect there is none.




183: Vik Muniz: Origin of the World, After Courbet (from 'Pictures of Soil'), 1999

1. Vik Muniz is a Brazilian artist (born 1961) who grew up in the poverty of Sao Paulo before escaping to America in 1983 - after, as Muniz tells it, getting the air fare from a rich man who paid him to keep quiet after shooting him in the leg during a fight in which Muniz was not involved. This is, as we are told, a version of Courbet’s famous / notorious ‘Origin of the World’(1866), and is made out of soil, which Muniz then photographed. So it is, like Hardy's work, a reconstruction; but if there’s a deception, it doesn’t last long, and soon gives way to some wonder at the technical feat involved.

2. Muniz is intensely interested in capturing the past, and in how photographs can misrepresent it. His early work actually links rather neatly to Luke Rudolf’s, as in ‘The Equivalents’ he fabricated and photographed elaborate cotton-ball sculptures to simulate the recognizable images suggested by passing clouds, so playing with the double illusion of photography and clouds, and perhaps suggesting similarities between them. He has worked with a range of unorthodox and transitory drawing materials, which he then turns into a lasting photographic image. 'The Sugar Children' (1996) and 'Pictures of Chocolate' (1997-98) are notably resonant.

3. The Pictures of Soil series tends to show people, reinforcing the moral and religious overtones of soil as the substance from which life emerged and to which it will return – and this particular image makes that point of origin very clear. That links it to the vanitas tradition also explored by Mark Quinn. There is also an tonally different play on the idea of an 'earthy' or 'dirty' picture, which relates it to Savalon. Add the element of trompe-l'oeil which parallels Susan Collis; the breaking down of the image, as referred to by Damien Roach; the bringing of what was once a controversially modern work into a current language, not unlike Boyce's use of modernism - and we can see this is a very rich work which pulls matters together and seems a suitable place to end.

Friday, 28 May 2010

JUNE AT THE DOUBLE



You may have noticed some of the 268 Indian elephants dotted around London as an event to raise funds for charitable assistance for their survival. Few are by artists, but this neatly street-themed street elephant by Rana Begum is in Berkeley Square, and is a nice complement to her exhibition just a few yards away at Bischoff Weiss. I didn't see any elephants in the 'Library of Babel' show at the Anita Zabludowicz Collection, but don't let that put you off attending my tour of it on 6 June @ 3 pm: see www.projectspace176.com


Luis Tomasello: detail from Objet Plastique No. 925, 2009

Rana Begum: Installation shot

Luis Tomasello @ The Mayor Gallery, 22a Cork St - Central

To 11 June: www.mayorgallery.com

Rana Begum: Fractured Symmetry @ Bischoff Weiss, 14a Hay Hill - Central

To 3 July: www.bischoffweiss.com

I link these two excellent shows because the veteran Argentine Luis Tomasello, whose first substantial British appearance this is, and young Anglo-Bangladeshi Rana Begum share common concerns. Both make geometric work which straddles the line between painting and sculpture, which alters in appearance as the spectator moves around it, which exploits the way in which reflections can provide a mysterious source of colour, and which consequently loses much of its point in reproduction. That may sound a lot of similarity, and shows how the same issues are revisited and reinterpreted across the generations, but the works are nonetheless very different. Tomasello, who is still active at 95, emerged as a kinetic artist in the 1950’s alongside Jesus Rafael Soto. He makes hidden colour bleed from under multiple repeated shapes, and also exploits how the same colour can appear different depending on its angle compared with the light source (those are all the same yellow above). Begum’s work comes from the energy of the streets, but gives that a transcendental twist: in these works, by making the frontal view all-white but with mysterious hint of some ‘unplugged’ light; and by the colours blooming and changing as the viewer-as-pedestrian passes by. The comparison between Tomasello and Begum is striking, and the galleries are only some 200 yards apart...

See Bischoff /Weiss site shortly for my interview with Rana.




Bryne & Lau: TEOTWAWKI @ FOLD, 32 Fortesque Avenue – London Fields

To 16 June: www.foldgallerycom

Kim Savage and Sharrine Scholtz are generously hosting a show which contemplates the obliteration of their gallery - for Jamie Lau and EA Byrne’s first collaboration, which goes under the acronymic title for ‘The end of the world as we know it’, centres around a model of FOLD as threatened by a huge boulder suspended above it. TEOTWAWKI’s tightly-related works explore not disaster itself, but the tension and dread which precedes it, and the cultural construction of that state: there’s also a collage of pre-apocalyptic scenes from Hollywood movies; adjusted versions of warning posters; and a sculptural explanation of the impact zones of a nuclear bomb. All of which may suggest a rather heavy visit, however appropriate to the zeitgeist of global warming, terrorism and volcano ash. But not at all: from that absurdly targeted comical rock onwards, Byrne & Lau balance our instinct to panic against our equal tendency to laugh such threats off. Best go soon, though, just in case the world goes first.

I am taking part in a panel discussion and catalogue launch for this show at Shoreditch House on Tues 8 June from 7 pm – email me on paulcareykent@googlemail.com if you would like to attend.

Leviathan

Clay Ketter @ Bartha Contemporary, 136B Lancaster Rd – Ladbroke Grove

To 27 June: www.barthacontemporary.com

This small but wide-ranging show, a hundred yards from Ladbroke Grove tube, will make you want to see more of the mid-career Swedish-based American’s work. Ketter constructs socially-charged photographs, paintings and sculpture at the intersection of art and architecture. He is perhaps best known for images of houses destroyed in Hurricane Katrina, photographed from such a high vantage point on a ladder that they are returned to their origin in architectural plans. There’s one of those here; plus the pre-construction elements of a doll’s house, flattened and blown up big; and a delightfully chaotic yet controlled installation wall. But the biggest works go higher than any ladder: two huge – and hugely enhanced – satellite images of contrasting American communities, both with an island-like independence and self-containment, rendered as lightjet C-Print diasecs ten feet wide. ‘The Garden Revisited’ brings a biblical feel to the baroque patterns of an affluent commuter town in Virginia in which the only small houses are for those who work in the supermarket at its centre. Opposite that, ‘Leviathan’ shows a less well-to-do settlement in the Mojave Desert in Colorado, where the residents work in the southern half, which consists of factories. A large team of software specialists have spent their nights altering all sorts of details under Ketter's direction, and it's fasciating to speculate on what's real and what isn't in front of the full scale works.


Still from Whispering Pines 9

Shana Moulton @ Gimpel Fils, 30 Davies St - Central

To 3 July: www.gimpelfils.com

Gimpel Fils presents episode 9 in New York based Shana Moulton’s ‘Whispering Pines’ series of short films, along with ‘Puzzle Saga’, a theatrically-presented three screen installation which fills most of the gallery and incorporates elements of episode 10. Moulton, who grew up on the Whispering Pines mobile home park in California, has been playing her alter-ego, Cynthia, for a decade now and says the series – which ought to be better-known in Britain - is likely to have just the finale to come. Cynthia is an anxious, unspeaking and isolated hypochondriac whose stories combine mundane activities with the comically surreal as she searches for fulfillment through consumerism, self-help, and new-age remedies. If I tell you that much of ‘Whispering Pines 9’ sees Cynthia wandering around with no apparent legs, wearing as a hat the virtual version of a footbath which she tries to pass off as a valuable Native American bowl, you’ll get some idea of the winningly kooky style with which she sends up how we search for purpose in our lives.


'Given' @ greengrassi

'Untitled' (detail) @ Faggionato

Lisa Yuskavage @ greengrassi,1a Kempsford Rd - Kennington

To 26 June: www.greengrassi.com

You've Gone Too Far This Time @ Faggionato Fine Arts, 49 Albemarle St - Central

To 25 June (not weekends): www.faggionato.com

Lisa Yuskavage currently features in two shows well worth seeing. First, her own solo presentation at greengrassi, which might be described as ‘provocation as normal’: distorted women presented in candy colours with an aesthetic which exploits the sensuality of oil paint to mix registers wildly: the repulsive with the sickly sweet, the girlie mag with the classic nude. The effect is uncomfortably powerful, especially in 'Given', in which various balls lie around to parody the breasts and stomach of the pregnant main subject. You can also see Yuskavage in gentler, watercolour mode – albeit with the bizarre subject of rabbit suckling - as a part of Faggionato’s well-chosen stock show ‘You’ve Gone Too Far This Time’. That brings together eight artists’ representations of the body: Kiki Smith’s five elements of body tissue from tissue paper and George Condo’s typically oddball ‘Nude on Purple’ also stand out.


Poster Sculpture

Matias Faldbakken: Known to Few, Unknown to Fewer @ Simon Lee Gallery, 12 Berkeley St – Central

To 3 July: www.simonleegallery.com

This could be the bravest show in London now… The Norwegian artist (and cult novelist) Matias Faldbakken, who makes a fetish of negativity and destruction of meaning, presents not rubbish – that would be an old provocation – but twelve bin bags. They’re in their mint, grey, folded state; seriously framed to emphasise their supposed desirability and art status; and bear unobtrusive acronyms and graffiti-like marks which themselves only pretend to meaning. Did he know what he was doing? A scattering of bottles of liquor allows us to suppose not. But my favourite work here is of 3,000 male fashion posters bound tightly enough to stand as a sculpture, and so buckled by the pressure that the front image is little more legible than the other 2,999. So much, one presumes, for the power of the image in mass production – but the buckling makes for an attractive aesthetic, albeit one which Falbakken would probably reject along with everything else.



Tacita Dean: Craneway Event @ Frith Street Gallery, 17-18 Golden Square – Central

To 23 June: see www.frithstreetgallery.com for screening times

Tacita Dean’s new film portrait follows the late Merce Cunningham rehearsing his dancers, without music unless you count floorboard creaks and percussive feet, in a disused Ford assembly plant overlooking the San Francisco Bay. It’s a strikingly beautiful combination of light and movement, helped by wide windows, streaming sun and reflective floors. Outside, birds and passing ships punctuate and parallel the inner action. Although edited down considerably by Dean from 17 hours of footage, it remains a fairly testing 100 minutes long with less dance action and fewer choreographic insights than you might anticipate. There is logic to the length, which matches that of the eventual performance, gives us some feel for the dedication required of dancers, and makes for a meditative pace in which a sneeze seems startling. Nonetheless, although ‘Craneway Event’ is screened at set times, feature-film-style, I suspect many people will get what they’re going to get from half an hour.


Two Reclining Figures


Henry Moore and the Chelsea School of Art
@ Chelsea Space, 16 John Islip St – Millbank

One view of The Coral Reef in its previous installation

To 12 June: www.chelseaspace.org

Mike Nelson: The Coral Reef @ Tate Britain

Ongoing: www.tate.org

There are two tales of problematic installation at Millbank currently. Tate Britain’s ongoing big show is of Henry Moore. Over the road at the University of the Arts’ Chelsea Space – in what is the 33rd exhibition arranged there by Donald Smith –you can find a diverting history of Moore’s ‘Two Reclining Figures’, 1959, as owned by the Chelsea School of Art. It ranges from the planning bureaucracy required to relocate it to the practical difficulties of shifting such heavy pieces as imagined in Dudley Sutton’s poem ‘Don’t Do Any More Henry Moore’. The sculpture itself is presented as if in transit. What now seems Mike Nelson’s increasingly seminal series of rooms 'The Coral Reef' was originally shown at Matt’s Gallery in 2000 and then at the Venice Biennale in 2001 (and Nelson will be in the British Pavilion in next year's edition). It's great to see it appear as a recent acquisition - even if, to Tate Britain’s embarrassment, it opened a couple of weeks later than the advertised 17 May due, I was told, to ‘health and safety issues'. Evidently, heavy weights are not the only problem to affect installations…

Blood and Spit

T.V. Santosh: Burning Flags @ Aicon Gallery, 8 Heddon St - Central

To 12 June: www.aicongallery.com

Kerala-born, Mumbai-based T.V. Santosh brings a striking aesthetic to his commentary on media distortion by computer-manipulating source images from the news so that they appear in the negative and scarified by crosses; blowing them up big; and then painting them in a searing palette dominated by orange and green. He maximizes the intensity and reinforces the urgency of the underlying stories by working with just one layer of pure colour on a white ground. Here those characteristic oils are complemented by more intuitive monochrome watercolour treatments, and two white fiberglass sculptures which incorporate ominous messages scrolling past in neon. ‘The Last Command’ does so in a cell-like structure made from cast bones which Santosh says reference South Indian and Czech churches, in both of which bones are sometimes used to decorate the walls. If the medium is the message, he implies, then it may be time to panic.

Untitled (mg-10-5293)

Michelle Grabner: Flapjack @ Rocket, Tea Building, 56 Shoreditch High St - Shoreditch

To 19 June: www.rocketgallery.com

You go years without a good show made up entirely of circular abstractions, then hot on the heels of FAS Contemporary’s ‘Tondo’, another one rolls along… Chicago-based painter Michelle Grabner has worked small, but here she goes big with some of the eight tondos shown being over six feet in diameter. All are black grounds marked with thousands of dots of varying strengths of white, which spiral out to form intricately vibrant patterns. They’re done by hand, with no pre-planning and certainly no computers. The surprisingly wide variations come from such factors as Grabner’s mood, the time of day, and the amount of paint on the brush. You might be reminded of saucers, constellations or aerial views of hats – but probably not of flapjack, until you learn that in America it is a type of pancake.


William Tillyer: Helmsley Sky Study 8A

Tour Feature: People often ask me what I would recommend as an afternoon’s tour of current exhibitions. Right now, the galleries near the Royal Academy have a strong hand: not just Bischoff/Weiss, Simon Lee, the Mayor Gallery and Faggionato as above, but also Richard Hamiton's shit and flowers at Alan Cristea, Nick Hornby at Alexia Goethe, Anton Henning at Haunch of Venison and the final part of the four show restrospective of William Tillyer at Bernard Jacobson. That last includes a brand new set of cloud paintings, made directly onto (in fact, squeezed through the back of, then worked additionally from the front) metal lattice screens. That is a way of substituting what Tillyer sees as the 'passive receiver' which is canvas with an active component, playing its part in what is then simultaneously painting, object, window and modernist grid.

Still showing from previous lists:

Erwin Olaf to 4 June, Leigh Ledare to 5 June, Jennet Thomas to 6 June, Alex Hudson to 6 June, The Library of Babel to 13 June, William Tillyer to 19 June, Michael Samuels to 19 June, Marc Quinn to 26 June, Anthony Caro to 6 July, Steve McQueen to 18 July.

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

TEN FOR THE FUTURE

Emma Bennett @ CHARLIE SMITH London: 4.6 - 3.7

Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom @ Squid & Tabernacle: 4.6 - 26.6

Michael Stubbs @ Laurent Delaye: 4.6 - 24.7

Oscar Tuazon @ ICA: 4.6 - 15.8

PINTA Latin American Art Fair @ Earls Court 4-6.6

Matt Calderwood @ Maria Stenfors 9.6 – 24.7

Merlin James @ Mummery & Schnelle: 9.6 - 31.7

AGGTELEK @ Crisp: 9.6 - 17.7

Miho Sato @ DomoBaal: 11.6 - 19.7

Analia Saban @ Josh Lilley: 11.6 - 17.7


Photo credits: relevant artists and galleries

Saturday, 15 May 2010

EXPLORATIONS CONTINUE

This selection ranges widely: to Peru to Haiti for combinations of Catholic and indigenous traditions, to some of the less-travelled zones of contemporary humanity through Marc Quinn and various others, to ways of looking at the past in Rachel Thorlby and Alex Hudson's work. And there could have been more: I haven't included the weirdly tender world of Miroslav Tichy's obsessive photography at Michael Hoppen; the great British Museum show of renaissance drawings; or Bill Fontana's River Soundings, which immerse you in the soundscape of the Thames while you get to see the subterranean spaces of Somerset House - but those, too, are stimulating explorations of people, time and space. And you can range with me at the Anita Zabludowicz collection on 6 June...


Luke Rudolf: Portrait Eight

The Library of Babel / In and Out of Place @ 176 Zabludowicz Collection, 176 Prince of Wales Road - Chalk Farm

To 13 June (nb: Thurs-Sun only): www.projectspace176.com

This salon-style hang gives an A-Z of Anita Zabludowicz through 217 works by 167 artists, representing around 10% of her collection. The idea is that visitors - and guest tour leaders - can make their own connections to devise a route around this lively cross-section of recent trends. The good news, if you haven't been yet, is that the show has been extended by a month, to 13 June. And whether you've seen it or not, I should mention that I will be leading a tour of my selection of works on Sunday 6 June at 3pm, under the theme title 'Hidden in Full View'. Luke Rudolf's up-to-the-minute abstraction of a face - similar works are in his current show at Kate MacGarry, which is excellent - will be one of them. Allow for bias if you will, but I recommend it - and it's free!




Ximena Garrido-Lecca: The Followers @ Civic Room, 50 Acton Mews, off Dunston Rd – Haggerston

To 30 May: www.civicroom.org.uk

The artist-run Civic Room, tucked away halfway up Kingsland Road, has a high quality programme. Here Ximena Garrido-Lecca, who came to London as a student a decade ago, returns for inspiration to her native Peru. She gives us not work about death, so much as death direct. She has acquired the items to convincingly reproduce an anthology of 40 nichos – stacked cemetery chambers in which the dead are placed, each fronted by a space in which they are memorialized. The contents vary from bareness to kitschy excess depending on what the families can afford, and there is also a mix of real and artificial flowers just as in the Cuzco originals. That results in an overall rhythm which pitches minimalism against the baroque, as well as luring the viewer, chamber-by-chamber, into the detail of a hybrid of Catholic and Pagan iconography. Furthermore, while many of the nichos are celebratory rather than mournful, it’s hard not to think of the political violence in recent Peruvian history, and how many more deaths the 40 tombs might stand in for.


Lherisson: 'Ogou', 2009

Strong Medicine: New Voodou Art from Haiti @ Jack Bell Gallery, 276 Vauxhall Bridge Rd – Victoria

To 30 May: www.jackbellgallery.com

The four floors of the recently-established Edel Assanti project space, two hundred yards towards the Thames from Victoria station, make for a lively visit. On the second floor Australian gallerist Jack Bell, who sources art from around the world, presents recent but pre-quake contemporary art from Haiti. The aesthetic is part Catholic, larger part Voodou. Four Port au Prince artists are featured: sculptors André Eugene, Celeur and Guyodo; and Lherrison, who re-interprets traditional Voodou flags. They use whatever they can get their hands on - hundreds of buttons; bits of computer chipboard; refuse sacks; and high-heeled shoes (rather uselessly sent as aid by the US) play their roles in updating the Voodou tradition. So it is that rubbish from the west is sent back as art. There are also three interesting floors of Asian and European work on show from Bright Treasure Art Projects, chosen by Korean curator Heejin No for their alchemical themes. The highlights are Meekyoung Shin’s vases made from soap and Jang-oh Hong’s diamond of empty Perspex ring boxes.


Long Lost in the Forgetfulness of the Forgotten II

Rachel Thorlby: The Immortality Drive @ Madder 13, 1 Vyner St – Cambridge Heath

To 30 May: www.madder139.com

Rachel Thorlby’s superb second solo show sees her engage with the past through landscapes, enthroned figures and portraits. She creates dialogues across time and art forms by moving fluently between the two and three-dimensional, the grand and the humble, permanent motifs and less permanent materials, the fragmentary and the unfinished. That rich set of resonances is set up by three contrastingly-vandalized busts; two large sculptures which might be called sketches for would-be monuments; a landscape objectified in a box; and a series of collages which reflect on our idealisation of landscapes by combining stock images for travel brochures in such a way that they incorporate and yet smother classical figures in a remarkably economical conjunction of geological, historical and contemporary time.

See www.madder139.com/files/biogs/interview.pdf for my interview with Rachel.


Untitled (Bouquet)

Tom Friedman @ Stephen Friedman Gallery, 25-28 Old Burlington St – Central

To 29 May: www.stephenfriedman.com

Following a short-lived dalliance with Gagosian as his London dealer, the hyper-inventive American sculptor Tom Friedman has returned to Stephen Friedman (not that they’re related!) for his fourth exhibition there in fourteen years. Friedman lurks modestly at the back while Steve Wolfe takes the front space. His five new works are something of a tour de force in the use of Styrofoam, which isn’t the obvious material for realist sculpture but is - along with paint - all that is used in a series of five eccentric still life set-ups. They appear to include pizza, cardboard tubes, a cinder block, flowers, toothpicks, plywood, bones, string, a towel dispenser and even a fake-yet-real Styrofoam crate. By Styrofoam, incidentally, I mean the sky blue extruded polystyrene which resists moisture and is valued for its properties of insulation and buoyancy, as opposed to the white foam used in disposable coffee cups (with which Friedman also has a history, and which he does indeed imitate here with Styrofoam). The world, I conclude, is full of possibilities, for if everything could be made of Styrofoam, then what isn’t feasible?

Buck and Allanah

Marc Quinn: Allanah, Buck, Catman, Chelsea, Michael, Pamela and Thomas @ White Cube, 48 Hoxton Square – Hoxton

To 26 June: www.whitecube.com

The blood heads and frozen flowers aside, I’ve tended to find Marc Quinn’s work a little too… well, ‘crass’ would be a harsh word, but it’s the one which comes to mind. Now, though, he has produced a body of work in which that tendency chimes with the content and his paintings of sexualised flowers fit well as a backdrop. The core of the show is a group of life-sized and bigger sculptures which carry forward Quinn’s theme of democratizing classical sculpture to include the full range of body types, but also gain much of their impact from being found in a gallery rather than on some corner of the internet. They feature people who have modified their bodies in sufficiently extreme ways that Pamela Anderson, presented in a lacquer-covered bronze which catches just the right tackiness, looks decidedly natural. Come see the pregnant man, the varieties of surgical sex change, the cat-man, the implausible breasts of Chelsea Charms. So, are these people now more or less their own true selves? Do the results speak of saddening personality disorders or adventurous creative acts? And can the same question be asked of Quinn for putting them on display here? Crassness, perhaps – but with a thought-provoking edge.


Claire de Jong: Milk Shake

Papyrophilia @ CHARLIE SMITH London, 336 Old St – Hoxton

To 29 May: www.charliesmithlondon.com

Zavier Ellis, who calls his gallery over the Reliance Pub after a family name rather than his own, has collaborated with Chris Westbrook (whose gallery in Fitzrovia is eponymous) to present a fascinating mix of new and old in 40 odd works on paper by 30 artists. Consistent with the obsessive tenor of ‘Papyrophilia’, there is a high proportion of perversity in the works shown: look out for Caro Suerkemper’s beautifully modulated watercolour of a woman bound and trussed; Tim Parr’s ‘Construction’ of chained limbs; James Unsworth’s riotously adolescent nasal fuckers; young Irish artist Keiran Moore’s inter-sexual characters, one of them using anemones as if they were leaches; Claire de Jong's cheekily joggled magazine page; and Miranda Whall’s sensitive ‘lactogenetic’ portrait of one of her recently-productive breasts, which follow on logically enough from her rabbit and bird drawings in which the rabbit is a vibrator. There’s also performance artist Mark McGowan’s first sculpture – a tableau of performance left-overs and documentation, including a chips-up-the-nose photo, which fits right in. Even one of the obituaries drawn by Hugh Mendes is of porn star Marilyn Chambers. True, there’s plenty of other stuff from still lives to landscapes, but I’d just come from White Cube…


Graham Todd: Abstract Nympho

Graham Todd: Blank Frank + Emma McNally in the project room @ Mummery & Schnelle, 83 Great Titchfield St – Fitzrovia

To 29 May: www.mummwerschnelle.com

Andrew Mummery & Wolfram Schnelle’s artists are generally quiet: the only thing likely to be in your face is process. And that can be good, as the well-coordinated pairing of Emma McNally’s intricate graphite drawings with Graeme Todd’s drawing-like paintings exemplifies. Todd mixes abstract and figurative, paint and ink, plywood and MDF in paintings inspired – as the Brian Eno reference of ‘Blank Frank’ indicates – by electronic music. The devices are muted: Fontana-style slashes, but painted; drugs stuck on to indicate altered states in Fred Tomasselli’s manner, but they’re scarcely-noticeable poppy seeds, even though the title 'Abstract Nympho' seems to have strayed in from the preceding trendline. Perhaps the quiet is in tune with Eno’s approach being gentler than his American peers’. McNally’s rhythmic works look at least as musical as Todd’s, but the waves in them turn out to be inspired by the physics of bubble chambers, which then do the micro-macro thing – rather as Todd does – by suggesting planetary activity. I was sorry, though, that ‘Here Come the Warm Jets’ wasn’t playing in the gallery…


Joe Sola: Still from 'Studio Visit'

X Artworks in a Straight Line (Seeking the Perfect Sphere) @ Crisp, 3 Newman Passage - Fitzrovia

To 25 May: www.crisplondonlosangeles.com

This feels like enough material for three shows packed into the three compact floors of Hilary Crisp’s gallery by artist Graham Hudson – and they’re all good! First, it’s an installation by Graham of a 50m tape measure which sneaks cunningly up, down and around to connect the other 30 artists in the show, literally as well as curatorially: they all play off geometric themes in some way. Second, it’s a wide and lively range of other work from an eclectic London-LA mix from promising RCA and Slade students through to such respected names as James Ireland and Eloise Hawser. Third, it’s a concise video and sound exhibition which gives each floor a distinct atmosphere and presents three engagingly witty videos: Nico Vascellari’s ‘Untitled (Song)’ which records a literal drum roll, ie down a hill, making curves and alternative drum noises; Samuel Williams’ ‘Rubber Band’, in which a sculpture is buffeted by said band being flicked at it; and Joe Sola’s ‘Studio Visit’, in which the arcs are those of the artist suddenly diving through his studio window as he disrupts explanations of his practice to a succession of visitors – to reactions ranging from laughter to concern to indifference. And that’s not to mention the sculpture roof…


Delta

Alex Hudson: Golden Mean @ Vegas, 45 Vyner St – Cambridge Heath

To 6 June: vegasgallery.co.uk

Passing seamlessly from one Hudson to another, young British artist Alex Hudson shows a dozen distinctive and richly ambiguous paintings which contrast nature with artificial constructions. Three are small black and white paintings which foreground mysterious, possibly transcendental, geometric forms which slice into landscapes redolent of classical painting - as if Poussin’s mythological action had been replaced by a dream of the modernism to come. The others, newer to Hudson’s practice, are larger views incorporating, or sometimes apparently contained within, fragmentary and presumably failing constructions. There is a less spiritual, more apocalyptic feel to these, emphasised by their colour, which plays off a potentially nostalgic sienna against a toxic yellow. It’s as if we are looking back from the future at what came of our present systems. We find ourselves asking both where man’s relations to nature have come from and where they are headed.

See Vegas news page www.vegasgallery.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/interview.jpg for my interview with Alex

Phyllida Barlow: Untitled (Ramp/Drums)

New Tour Feature: People often ask me what I would recommend as an afternoon’s tour of current exhibitions. Right now, you can cover a lot of stimulating ground through four impressive installations easily accessed along the Piccadilly and Hammersmith & Fulham tube lines. From west to east they are the sculptural face-off between street-rough Phyllida Barlow and penthouse-sleek Nairy Baghramain at the Serpentine; Jannis Kounellis at Ambika/P3; Céleste Boursier-Mougenot at the Barbican (though that closes soon: replace as necessary with Michael Samuels @ Rokeby) and Martin Honert @ Bloomberg.

Still showing from previous lists:

Cerith Wyn Evans to 22 May, Richard Billingham to 22 May, Céleste Boursier-Mougenot to 23 May, Martin Wilner to 23 May, Jean-Luc Mylayne to 29 May, Ilya & Emilia Kabakov to 29 May, Georgie Hopton to 29 May, Jannis Kounellis to 30 May, Phyllida Barlow to 29 May (@ Studio Voltaire)/13 June (@ The Serpentine) Angela de la Cruz to 30 May, Erwin Olaf to 4 June, Leigh Ledare to 5 June, Jennet Thomas to 6 June, Michael Samuels to 19 June, Anthony Caro to 6 July, Steve McQueen to 18 July.

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

TEN FOR THE FUTURE

Shana Moulton @ Gimpel Fils: 13.5 - 3.7

Clay Ketter @ Bartha Contemporary: 14.5 - 27.6

Byrne & Lau @ Fold Gallery: 14.5 - 13.7

Nora Schultz @ Sutton Lane: 18.5 - 28.6

Rana Begum @ Bischoff/Weiss: 20.5 - 3.7

Sameness & Difference @ The Russian Club: 27.5 - 3.7

Emma Bennett @ Charlie Smith: 4.6 - 3.7

Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom @ Squid & Tabernacle: 4.6 - 26.6

Michael Stubbs @ Laurent Delaye: 4.6 - 24.7

Matt Calderwood @ Maria Stenfors 9.6 – 24.7


Photo credits: relevant artists and galleries + Roger Wooldridge (Quinn)

Sunday, 2 May 2010

INITIAL PHOTOGRAPHIC

This selection kicks off with two older artists who are well-enough established to use the initial letters of their surnames to reference themselves as 'K' and 'T' respectively, then moves on to four interesting but totally different shows of photography, before concluding with exhibitions which simply caught my interest. And I'll mention in passing that while not perhaps mainstream art, I enjoyed the Chris Levine / Grace Jones show in a vast empurpled underground space below Vinyl Solutions record shop on Poland Street(a novelty inclusion being a nine screen silent version of the video for her new single!); and also Thomas Heatherwick’s spinning chair at Haunch of Venison (possibly the most fun you can have just now simply by sitting down).


Untitled, 2010

Jannis Kounellis @ Ambika P3

To 30 May: www.sproveri.com and www.p3exhibitions.com

Pretty-much opposite Madame Tussauds is the monumental underground former concrete construction hall of the University of Westminster. It has recently had an impressive exhibition programme, but it is still something of a coup to feature a major new installation of typically ritualistic elements by the veteran Greco-Italian arte povera star Jannis Kounellis. Attracted by the mysterious industrial setting, he has played off the biggest space with double-bed-sized units of steel lined with bottles part-covered by fabric, as if to protect the glass’s hard fragility, and topped by coal. They make a giant ‘K’, standing for Kafka’s character trapped in bureaucracy as well as for Kounellis himself, and which he sees as forming dead ends from one of the labyrinths he has built elsewhere. That heavyweight gesture is offset by lighter touches in the rest of the space, with many hanging coats. The totality sets off dialogues between industrial and domestic, hard and soft, fixed and transformational, all of them open to human interpretation such that you might sense why, according to its author, Kounellis asked for fifty pages of biography in a forthcoming monograph to be reduced to five lines on the grounds that his work should provide the rest.


Three Brushes, 2008

Antoni Tàpies: New Work @ Waddington, 11 Cork St – Central

To 15 May: www.waddington-galleries.com

These works, mostly from 2009, by the great Catalan artist Antoni Tàpies (born Barcelona, 1923) show no reduction in power. His paintings, more like walls than windows in their concrete realism, are known for mysterious symbols and the imaginative use of materials. Here newspapers, brooms, buckets and a knot of cloth get stuck to the canvas, as does Tàpies’ characteristic marble dust in resin, which gives the appearance of the artist having drawn in sand. The equally typical cross, plus or ‘T’ sign gets a full workout in its potentially personal (T for Tàpies or his wife, Teresa), religious, memorial, wound-dressing and mathematical modes. Destruction, reconstruction, time’s ravages and creativity’s resistance to them are all in the mix, I feel, but so naturally there’s no need to force the issues.


Mom and Me in Mirror, 2002

Leigh Ledare: The Confectioner’s Confectioner @ Pilar Corrias, 54 Eastcastle St – Fitzrovia

To 5 June: www.pilarcorrias.com

Sometimes where you shouldn’t go is where you have to be. This astonishing, uncomfortable and beautiful show takes Nan Goldin, Larry Clarke, Tracey Emin and Richard Billingham as read and ups the ante. American photographer Leigh Ledare (say Le-darr) dissects his relationship with his fifty-something ex-ballerina mother from multiple angles. We see her kissing her son in a sexual manner, posing both for fashion shots and pornographically, seeking through the small ads ‘a wealthy husband (not someone else’s) who wants her own private dancer’, and having sex with possible candidates. We also see her by turns needy, weeping, pathetic and physically injured. This is done through documentary and recent images, scrawled notes, filmed footage and even, in what might be termed incest by proxy, photographs of Ledare taken by women whose own personal ads for a man echoed his mother’s desires. It could be exploitative, but his mother is a collaborator. It could be artificial, but the artifice is part of who she is. It could be shallowly shocking, but the depth of their relationship is obvious. Nor does Ledare spare himself, and I had the odd experience of talking to him in front of his naked portrait. You, too, may not know where to look, but look you most certainly should.

Untitled, 2008


Richard Billingham @ Anthony Reynolds, 60 Great Marlborough St – Soho

To 22 May: www.anthonyreynolds.com

Talking of Richard Billingham, he has own show of new work nearby. It’s much more restrained than either Ledare’s or his own early work, as much a portrait of the various cameras used and printing choices made as of his family and travels. Landscapes and animals feature, as they have in most of Billingham’s work over the past ten years, as well as his own young family. Billingham came to fame as a son documenting his parents, and now the wheel has turned to fatherhood. The winning images are those of his toddler son, Walter: laughing in bed, swamped by an adult tracksuit top, padding around in his nappy. They’re the pictures you’d hope would get taken if your father was a photographer – which is a strength, for they are very warmly diverting; but also a limitation, for they are on one level not all that surprising - unless, perhaps, one can read back from his earlier work to detect undercurrents of disturbance. I was more inclined to think that their radical point might be that after so much challengingly brutal art photography, it’s become a more provocative risk to be sweet.


No 508 février mars avril 2007

Jean-Luc Mylayne @ Spruth Magers, 7A Grafton St – Central

To 29 May: www.spruethmagers.com

What may look like rather amateurish snapshots of birds, sometimes out of focus or relegated to the edge of the picture, are printed here on a grand enough scale to generate a more deliberate aesthetic and to signal a back story behind their avoidance of the techniques of the professional wildlife photographer. French artist Jean-Luc Mylayne has been photographing birds obsessively for over thirty years, using a large format film camera with multiple focal points, but without telephoto lenses. Typically he takes months (as reflected in the titles) to research, set up and catch what he wants, refusing to put himself manipulatively at the centre of things. The images, then, come to represent the phenomenology of man interacting with nature: throough making the viewer search out the subject; through how fully the birds are integrated into their environments; and through linking the bird and human worlds in their differing but equally transient timeframes. The results are plangently addictive.


Hotel Milan – Room 607

Erwin Olaf: Hotel @ Hamiltons, 13 Carlos Place – Mayfair

To 4 June: www.hamiltonsgallery.com

The life of a successful photographer is tough: a ceaseless round of different cities and beautiful models… Which the increasingly well-regarded Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf has recorded in a series of hotel rooms around the world by combining muted 1960’s colouring with intricate patterning, narrative-hinting atmospheres, and a very painterly take on the mostly nude models. Or has he? In fact, in a spin which links the traditions of cinematic set design to the model-constructing territory of Thomas Demand or James Casebere, these shots were all taken in Olaf’s studio, in which he made hyper-detailed replicas of hotel rooms in which he has stayed. So the rooms are playing at being hotels (down to the characteristic radio, phone and ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign) just as the models are playing at being their photographic selves. I particularly like how the prominent fire escape plan in ‘Hotel Milan – Room 607’, the most Newtonesque of the ten images on view, triggers and gives an edge to the questions of where and of what the woman is thinking.


Big Potato Pallette

Georgie Hopton: Cut and Come Again @ Poppy Sebire, 232 Kings Rd – Chelsea

To 29 May: www.poppysebire.com

Poppy Sebire pops up - for the third time - in a spacious former Post Office near the Old Town Hall on Kings Road. There you’ll find a delightful and seamlessly interwoven show from Georgie Hopton, who’s Yorkshire-born but now based in upstate New York with her husband, Gary Hume. Hopton’s first London solo outing for some years sees her use the seasonal cycle and output from her garden as the inspiration and creative metaphor for a playful set of works. Photographs of Hopton interacting with vegetables sensually and economically combine the traditions of landscape, still-life, self-portrait and nude. Vegetable prints - colourful, textural and daringly redolent of the primary school classroom - make lively anthropomorphic use of shapes ranging from those of allium stems to pumpkins to produce which is exotic to English eyes: the dinosaur and crown of thorns gourds, for example. Hopton has also made bronze versions of her ‘palette’ – potatoes with surprisingly bright American skins, set on a chopping board and part-painted ready to print – all presented on a canvas on top of a plinth. The total effect is to provide a sophisticated adult context for appropriately childish glee.


Installation view

Phyllida Barlow: Bluff @ Studio Voltaire, 1a Nelsons Row – Clapham Common

To 29 May: www.studiovoltaire.org

Studio Voltaire is a support-worthy gallery attached to 30-odd artists’ studios, and is only twenty Northern Line minutes from Old Street (stroll up the High Street, turn right after Sainsburys). This show is an early shoot in what will be Phyllida’s spring: the energetic recent pensioner has other London shows due soon at the Serpentine (8.5 - 13.6)and V22 (12.6 - 15.8), not to mention recent and forthcoming projects in Seoul, Basel, Bergen and Nuremberg - not even a broken foot suffered while moving a sculpture can slow her down. Studio Voltaire has an installation of six big units; four small sculptures in the office; 31 paintings; and a £50 fund-raising edition. ‘Bluff’ itself – geology meets confidence trick – has big black columns / groynes / barricades like fallen basalt, security cameras made of plaster and scaffolding, and a hut which seems to have got stuck halfway through climbing up the wall. You can stand beneath it and look up at a polystyrene sky. Is that the would-be-escapee hut’s unknowingly cheap vision of freedom? Not that it’s really a narrative show … it's more about bringing materials into conjunction and letting them do their form-finding thing.



The two sides of August

Martin Wilner: Making History: UK @ Hales,Tea Building, 7 Bethnal Green Rd - Shoreditch

To 23 May: www.halesgallery.com

Regular readers (hi Mum!) may recall that I hold Ian Breakwell (who died in 2006) in high regard. So who is now undertaking that witty graphic memorializing of the significance of the mundane? Martin Wilner is the closest I’ve seen: a practicing New York psychiatrist who spends his non-working time either commuting or dissecting the news. On the subway he draws what he sees and sets down what he hears in one concertina notebook per week. At home he sifts the newspapers and chooses a story each day, on monthly themes ranging from cars to murder to fetishism (yes, he should have been in Gagosian’s recent JG Ballard show). He copies the texts in miniature and matches them to a relevant drawing. Each sheet of ‘Making History: 2009’ has a month’s worth of daily drawings on one side and stories on the other and has the extra twist – for one year only – of using British newspapers to give him a virtual presence here. It’s an absorbing anatomy of our national obsessions - and of our take on both countries’ recession.


Not a Mondrian: Theo van Doesburg's 'Composition in Half-Tones', 1928

Van Doesburg and the International Avant-Garde @ Tate Modern - Southwark

To 16 May: www.tate.org.uk

There’s pretty much everything in the Tate’s De Stijl-themed group show: typography, furniture, stained glass, architecture, music… Even if you stick to painting it ranges from Dada to Constructivism. But lighten up: first off you can play the game of speeding round the exhibition and seeing how fast you can spot the six Mondrian paintings in amongst the many less renowned abstractionists on show (don’t, by the way, try to cheat by consulting the catalogue: it gets the list wrong). The game is surprisingly easy, and his work does somehow just feel ‘right’. Next, however, you have to think about why it’s easy. Does that make his work better or just more familiar? And if better than the assorted Van Thisses and Van de Thats, then how and why? That lightening up can only last so long...


Still showing from previous lists:

David Burton, Ruth Ewan, Brian Moran to 8 May, Tondo to 8 May, Simon Tegala to 8 May, Mat Collishaw to 9 May, David Rickard to 9 May, Krysten Cunningham to 15 May, JaffaCakes TLV to 15 May, William Tillyer to 15 May, Martin Honert to 15 May, Bharti Kher to 15 May, Chris Ofili to 16 May, Cerith Wyn Evans to 22 May, Céleste Boursier-Mougenot to 23 May, Ilya & Emilia Kabakov To 29 May,Angela de la Cruz to 30 May, Jennet Thomas to 6 June, Michael Samuels to 19 June, Anthony Caro to 6 July, Steve McQueen to 18 July.

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

TEN FOR THE FUTURE

Shana Moulton @ Gimpel Fils: 13.5 - 3.7

T.V. Santosh @ Aicon: 13.5 - 12.6

Luisa Lambri @ Thomas Dane: 13.5 - 25.6

Michelle Grabner @ Rocket: 14.5 - 19.6

Alex Hudson @ Vegas: 14.5 - 6.6

Clay Ketter @ Bartha Contemporary: 14.5 - 27.6

EA Byrne & Jamie Lau @ Fold Gallery: 14.5 - 13.6

Anthea Hamilton, Mirabele Marden & Dana Schutz @ Brown: 15.5 - 19.6

Nora Schultz @ Sutton Lane: 18.5 - 28.6

Rana Begum @ Bischoff/Weiss: 20.5 - 3.7


Photo credits: relevant artists and galleries

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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