Thursday, 23 December 2010

HUGE MEAL, BIG GALLERY, SMALL SHOW…

Most of the commercial galleries are closed over the Christmas and New Year period. The big museums and galleries tend to be open, but will the major shows – Gauguin, Canaletto, Muybridge etc.. - be too heavy after a matching dinner? Perhaps a small show in a big gallery will suit…




Mona Hatoum: Current Disturbance @ Whitechapel Gallery to 6 March

The Whitechapel’s redesign is pretty-much predicated on having numerous sideshows, and – whatever the ethics of displaying a private collection in a public museum - the sequence of four displays taken from the Daskalopoulos Collection is proving a highlight. The third is the first British showing for the heavy Hatoum which is her 1996 installation ‘Current Disturbance’: 200 pulsing light bulbs with matching current amplifications, each in a cage of sorts. Domestic discomfort meets an atmosphere of darker incarceration.


Garry Fabian Miller, 'Breathing in the Beech Wood, Homeland, Dartmoor, Twenty-four Days of Sunlight, May 2004'

Shadow Catchers: Camera-less Photography @ the V&A to Feb 20

Don’t know your chemigrams from your luminograms? Then head for this thorough account of five artists who create images on photographic paper by chemical, shadow-casting and light-manipulating means - but without cameras. They tend towards representational work which looks to make visible what is not ordinarily seen and to interact directly with nature: ‘I wanted to be absorbed in the light as fully as possible’ says Garry Fabian Miller of how he came to make photogram sequences of leaves which parallel the photosynthesis they depict. That show may be too big for this set, but there’s also a diverting, separately-displayed, history of camera-lessness taken from the V&A’s own collection of photography.




Damian Ortega: The Independent @ the Curve Gallery, The Barbican to 16 Jan

‘The Independent’ creates sculptures inspired by that newspaper: not quite daily, as Ortega originally intended, but 22 pieces made in a month’s residence was hardly slacking. What counts though, is the quality and variety, and how the whole expands the newspaper medium in an echo of Ortega’s ‘exploded’ style of sculpture in which objects are deconstructed and suspended in a new formation. There’s an architecturally-themed one of those here, plus works inspired by newspaper content ranging from shoe adverts and football to the trapped miners in Chile.


Western Round Table

Rosa Barba @ Tate Modern to 8 Jan

One of the best shows to date in the Level 2 gallery is this dance of sorts between art and its means. Which, the Berlin-based Italian seems to be asking, is which if two projectors are spotlighting each other, if the film wraps itself around the projector in contorted loops even while still working, if the film is used to suspend the projector in the air? Sound, light, celluloid and machine are separated out and held up for examination. Sculpture and cinema enter a dialogue in what the accompanying leaflet also explicates as ‘machines made of time’ – so: plenty here for post-prandial cogitation.




Rachel Whiteread @ Tate Britain to 16 Jan

This show provides a convenient overview of Rachel Whiteread’s practice in the absence of what must by now be an overdue retrospective in England. She’s sometimes characterised as having done little more than expand on Bruce Nauman’s casting beneath a chair. But first, as Whiteread herself says, they arrive at the formal similarity from very different places, Nauman being more psychological, generating a feeling of entrapment in negative space, and Whiteread more physiological, connected with the human touch and its history in the space. Second, Whiteread’s work has developed in much more varied directions than that account would imply, embracing for example collective as well as personal experience, and positive and found as well as negative cast forms - all of which this show sets out captivatingly.




Cézanne’s Card Players
@ the Courtald Institute to 16 Jan

The Courtald has specialized in the focused show revolving around a key work from its collection, and follows up the outstanding contextualisation of Michelangelo’s ‘The Dream’ by providing a wider setting for one of its many Cézannes. The paintings of Provençal peasants playing cards stand somewhat aside in his oeuvre, making for an easily-digested strand which plays off the Dutch genre tradition of peasant revels to sober and solid - even clumsy - effect. The chance to see three of the five finished paintings plus preliminary studies is not to be missed…

Saturday, 18 December 2010

SERIOUS IN JANUARY

This may look like a forbiddingly heavy start to the new year - gloom, suffering, death, anxiety and religion abounds, not to mention a half hour drum solo - but there's also plenty of joy and wit to be found in the following shows with those themes.


Mauro Bonachina: London, England, 11/11/2010 9 till 5

Through a Glass Darkly @ Maria Stenfors, unit 4, 21 Wren St – Kings Cross

To 15 Jan: www.mariastenfors.com
This show, beautifully curated by Maria Stenfors herself, takes the eponymous Bergman film as the starting point for what might be called ‘dark white works’, catching a Scandinavian mood which is just right for a snowed-up winter. And though Jeppe Hein and Miroslaw Balka bring some big name glamour, the most striking pieces are by the lesser-known Mauro Bonacina, who brings plenty of implied heat to a stand-off of sorts between a shirt, singed to the heart by the shape of an iron, and a bath which contains a toaster chucked into it in a pre-opening performance.

Let's Rodeo

Regina José Galindo: 12 Years @ ROLLO Contemporary Art, 51 Cleveland St - Fitzrovia

To 11 Feb: www.rolloart.com

It’s somewhat surprising that the widely-acclaimed Guatemalan performance video artist Regina José Galindo hasn’t had a solo show in London before, but all the better that this ten video retrospective includes early and brand new work which even the most dedicated art globe trotter won’t have seen. Galindo typically subjects her body to dangerous public acts which challenge imbalances of economic, political and sexual power: here the disturbing but memorably resonant images include her being waterboarded; cutting her flesh; getting whipped, spat-on and slapped in drastic simultaneity; selling the clothes off her body; and attempting to tame the bucking rodeo machine of US imperialism.


Screenshot

Oliver Pietsch: From Here to Eternity @ Nettie Horn, 25B Vyner St – Cambridge Heath

To 30 Jan: www.nettiehorn.com

Filmic collages are the fashionable province of famed White Cube artists Candice Brietz and Christian Marclay, but the German Oliver Pietsch deserves to be considered alongside them. He’s made several compilations to dreamlike near-narrative effect with thematically structured content ranging from clouds to drugs. ‘From Here to Eternity’ focuses on death, its clichés, and how they are culturally constructed: from violent ends, to meditations on the way of it, to visions of the afterlife. The 40 minute run (first showing 12.00, last 5.15 or so) combines a startling range of sources and imaginative soundtrack choices to addictive effect.


Young Girl with a Skull

Neil Drabble: The Great Masturbator on Holiday @ Gooden Gallery, 25A Vyner St- Cambridge Heath

8-23 Jan: www.goodengallery.com

If you share my taste for improbable constraints as a means of galvanising work, you’ll like this show. Wide-ranging commercial and art photographer Neil Drabble went on holiday – though it can’t have been too restful – and made work using objects and people from around his Spanish home, and titles from the paintings of Salvador Dali. In the manner of Dali’s 'paranoiac-critical' method (whereby reflected swans become elephants etc) the work sets out to turn something commonplace into something Daliesque: two lemons make ‘Duck’, a pin-pierced egg bleeding yoke stands in for Saint Sebastian, a few links of chain become a nude… Despite the extreme procedure, Drabble's wit rate is remarkably high.




Paa Joe: Taking It With You @ Jack Bell Gallery, 276 Vauxhall Bridge Rd - Victoria

To 15 Jan: www.jackbellgallery.com

Jack Bell scours the world for the unexpected. Struck by the West African tradition of colourful and life-affirming figurative bespoke sculpted coffins which reflect the activities and ambitions of their occupants, he asked Paa Joe, who has been making them since the 1950’s, for hardwood display versions of the softwood originals. These kitsch-as-Koons versions of iconic symbols of local life – eagle, fish, Air Ghana jet, cocoa pod – have a dodgem-like cheerfulness and are lined plushly enough inside their hinged lids to look comfortable berths.


1 Corinthians 13:4

Nikola Savic: James 2:17 @ Zero 10 Art / St James’s Church, 197 Piccadilly – Central

13 Jan – 3 Feb: www.zero10gallery.com

I’m not sure how much I like this strand of London-based Serbian painter Nikola Savic: combinations of pop-tinged, slightly trippy abstraction with quotes from the bible. But maybe that’s as it should be – for though the intrusively-trailed text undermines any formal properties the paintings may have, that emphasises that the words are there to be read, and graphically underlines the clashes between belief systems and modes of potential transcendence in modern society. And if it’s time to return to explicitly Christian work, then it’s a match made in heaven to show these big paintings and triptychs in St James’ Church.


Lesley Vance: Untitled (46)

Psycho Painting @ Carlson, 6 Heddon St – Central

To 31 Jan: www.carlsongallery.co.uk

This show scores on two counts. First, as a neatly themed collection of works in which the emotional and rational aspects of the creation of art can be explicitly separated – kicked off by a wonderfully smeary Richter portrait of Freud which swims reluctantly into focus and David Adamo’s axes which seem to have whittled away – impossibly – at themselves. Second, as a stimulating introduction to several artists well thought of in America but little seen here, such as Kaari Upson (her obsessive installation is currently a stand-out in Miami’s Rubell collection), Xylor Jane (brings subjectivity into number systems), Brendan Fowler (smashes photos on top of each other) and Lesley Vance (photographs still lives in a dark box as a basis for luminously subjective abstractions therefrom).


Screenshot from 'Solo'

Haroon Mirza: Interim @ The Chisenhale Gallery – Jan 13, 7.30pm &
Andrew Cross: The Solo @ Mummery & Schnelle, 83 Gt Titchfield St - Jan 12 - 15, 2011 (screened at 12, 1, 2, 3 & 4pm)

These rock-oriented events should both be worth catching. Haroon Mirza’s collisions of object and sound utilise furniture, radios and other artists’ work. This is an evening of ‘sculptural and aural assemblage’ with Richard Strange speaking the words of tragic Joy Division front man Ian Curtis in a stage set inspired by Beckett. Video artist Andrew Cross has a soft spot for prog rock, which extends to the notorious drum solo. When you hear that Carl Palmer (of Emerson, Lake &… fame) has collaborated on a 30 minute film of just him and his drums, you may fear the joke is on you – but honestly, it’s paradoxically fascinating…


Hide and Seek

Tom Hunter: Unheralded Stories @ Purdy Hicks, 65 Hopton St - Southwark

To 15 January: www.purdyhicks.com
For two decades Tom Hunter's photographs have explored and mythologised his neighbourhood of Hackney. Here he presents ten pairs of photographs which incorporate a threefold reflection of the locally present in the context of the internationally historic. The larger picture in each pair shows locals acting out an East End scenario with the forms borrowed from a famous painting: so for example Roisin, a friend's daughter, plays hide and seek in a pose taken from Ingres. A smaller picture shows an environment in which the people act as themselves: here s the Church Hall which Roisin attends. The local and personal is elevated as epic and representative at the same time as its everyday particularity is emphasised.


Becky Beasley: Lake Huron from the South-East

Muybridge Revolutions @ Kingston Museum, Wheatfield Way (to 19 March) & Becky Beasley: ‘8th May 1904, Kingston’ @ Stanley Picker Gallery, Knight Park Campus, Kingston University (to 5 March) – Kingston-upon-Thames

www.MuybridgeinKingston.com

Although he found fame in America, it was in Kingston-upon-Thames that Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) was born - as plain Edward Muggeridge – and died. He bequeathed his personal collection to his hometown, where his zoopraxiscope discs and models of his sets are the core of a fascinating new display. Added to that Becky Beasley, who’s in the British Art Show now on tour, builds on Muybridge’s construction of a scale model of the American Great Lakes in his back garden. Even if you don’t – as I happen to – work in Kingston, you may want to catch these complements to the major Muybridge show just fifteen train minutes away at Tate Britain.

Image credits: relevant artists and galleries

Friday, 17 December 2010

PICK OF LONDON 2010... WITH STATISTICS

Statistically, I reckon I saw - implausibly perhaps - well over 1,000 shows in London in 2010. I was assisted by a summer between dayjobs – I doubt I’ll see that many again! I recommended 234 of them, with 156 galleries featuring. Aside from taste, those choices were influenced by (still!) seeing only about half of the potentially worthwhile shows in London, by matters of timing as well as taste, and a tendency to favour the ‘less obvious’ somewhat – all of which makes the appearance totals some way from a verdict on the galleries’ programmes. Nonetheless… many galleries had two recommendations, ten had three listings (Aicon, Charlie Smith, the Barbican, Madder 139, Simon Lee, Sprovieri, Tate Modern, Timothy Taylor, White Cube, Vegas), four had four (Bischoff / Weiss, Hauser & Wirth, Poppy Sebire, Seventeen) and two had five (Camden Arts Centre and Tate Britain). Paint was the most frequent medium (74 shows, or 39% of the 188 not classified as ‘Various’, which were typically mixes of painting and sculpture), followed – unless you merge the next two sometimes not-so-separate categories – by installation (27%), sculpture (13%) , photography (8%), video (7%), drawing (4%) and collage (1%), with prints, text work, ceramics and design featuring just once each, and no pure sound installation despite the aural victory in the Turner Prize.. 28 shows were internationally various, leaving UK artists unsurprisingly dominant with 47% of the other 206 shows, though that includes artists of diverse origins. The home side was followed by USA (13%), Germany (6%), France (4%), Italy and the Netherlands (2.5% each), with 37 nations represented in all. 8% of the shows were Asian, 4% South American and only 1% African. My guess, which I can’t prove, is that those statistics may be broadly representative of the total gallery offerings in 2010.

Given those figures, and the fact that 2010 was a rich and varied year, it is perhaps unsurprising that what started as a top ten got a little out of control...



Christian Marclay: The Clock @ White Cube - the 24 hour showings of Marclay's tour de face felt like the art event of the year.



Céleste Boursier-Mougenot @ The Curve: birds played guitars memorably at the Barbican's superbly curated alternative space, which also scored with Damián Ortega.



Martin Honert @ the Bloomberg Space - justifying his status as the only artist in the long-running 'Comma' series to have both rooms to himself.



Angela de la Cruz @ Camden - the show which should have won the Turner Prize?



Leigh Ledare @ Pilar Corias - the most confrontational photography show of the year may well have been the best. Jean-Luc Mylayne at Spruth Magers and Elina Brotherus at Wapping Bankside were contrasting challengers for that honour.



Rachel Thorlby: The Immortality Drive @ Madder 139 - in a crowded field, this may just have edged the award for best show in a small gallery. There again, I also loved Danny Rolph @ Poppy Sebire, Emma Bennett @ CHARLIE SMITH London, The Body in Women's Art Now Part 2 - Flux @ ROLLO, Alex Hudson @ Vegas and Graham Dolphin @ Seventeen...





Francis Alys: A Story of Deception and John Baldessari: Pure Beauty @ Tate Modern - the most imaginative of the major shows were both at Tate Modern.



Analia Saban: Information Leaks @ Josh Lilley - my pick of the artists wholly new to me (much of the work shown here was, incidentally, snapped up by the mega-collecting Rubells and is now on show in Miami)



The Real Van Gogh: the Artist and His Letters @ the Royal Academy - the most memorable historical show of the year - which isn't to forget Gauguin and Gorky at the Tate Modern, Paul Nash at Dulwich, the Sacred Made Real at the National Gallery and Michelangelo at the Courtald.



Hannah Wilke: Elective Affinities @ Alison Jacques - this gallery did a great job in presenting work new to London from the American performance artist, sculptor and photographer(1940-93) as well as showing Ana Mendieta and Lygia Clark to score a rewarding hatrick of female estate shows. Which reminds me of Alice Neel at the Whitechapel and Louise Bourgeois at the new Hauser & Wirth space and also...



Francesa Woodman @ Victoria Miro & Picasso: The Mediterranean Years @ Gagosian - the best museum shows not in a museum. The former actually did come from a museum show which toured Spain and Italy, the latter merely seemed as if it might have come from MOMA.


William Tucker @ Pangolin - the 75 year old was one of many happily still-surviving 'grand old men' to impress: also good, and older, were Marc Vaux (78) at Bernard Jacobson, Alex Katz (82) at Timothy Taylor, Antoni Tàpies (87) at Waddington, Richard Hamilton (88) at the Serpentine, Paul Feiler (91) at the Redfern Gallery.



John Smith: Solo Show @ RCA - my favourite video show of the year was the students' presentation of the most extensive selection yet from Smith's long career.



Anton Henning @ Haunch of Vension - if you wanted one artist to excess and possibly beyond, then this was the place - along, perhaps, with Bharti Kher @ Hauser & Wirth.


THE THE THINGS IS (FOR 3) at Milton Keynes Gallery - Giorgio Sadotti's anonymously presented riot of an exhibition challenged the definition of London, as did such excellent shows as Miroslaw Balka at Modern Art Oxford, Dolly Thompsett at ArtSway and Tomoko Takahashi at the de la Warr Pavilion, Bexhill...

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

IN PORTRAITS: ART BASEL MIAMI BEACH, 2010


The view out from the NADA art fair, 4 December 2010


It was tough being stuck in Miami while Britain jammed up in the coldest pre-Christmas period this century: how to split the time between art, beach and bar? There was certainly plenty of art: not only was Art Basel Miami Beach huge, it was complemented by no fewer than 14 alternative fairs and a slew of other events. The main event had lots of large sculpture and big-hitting painting (read: dealers expected expensive items to sell), but I also noticed quite a few more modest works which might reasonably be classified as that old-fashioned item: the recognizable portrait. And that does fit in with the continuing influence of Andy Warhol, several of whose portrait takes on glamour and wealth were scattered around; Alex Katz, whose poised surfaces seemed to be everywhere; and the posthumously rising Alice Neal, whose more psychologically-charged approach was also in evidence. Add to those trajectories the documentary impulse, and the use of an individual’s image as one of the myriad routes into conceptual content, and you had – if not a trend, then certainly a sufficient population from which to make a classically bookended choice.


Kehinde Wiley: Abiel McIntosh, After Pontormo, 2010 @ Roberts & Tilton, LA

Kehinde Wiley’s well-established approach remains potent: he asks young black men to model, and then shows them a range of classical paintings from which they pick a pose. The models also collaborate on the choice of elaborate clothing and background patterns, so achieving an element of empowerment in the context of what were disempowering historical realities. Much of the visual interest derives from the literalised interaction between figure and ground, in which the decorative elements appear animated.



Pieter Hugo: John Mark, Asaba, Nigeria, 2008 @ Michael Stevenson, Cape Town

You may well have seen the striking ‘hyena men’ photographs of South African Pieter Hugo – who will, incidentally, show in London at Riflemaker in the spring. This is one of his dynamic depictions of Nigerian actors in scenarios and make-up reflecting the fast, loud and excessively dramatic aesthetic of ‘Nollywood’ – which is the third largest film industry in the world, releasing onto the home video market some 1,000 movies annually. Hugo asked the actors and assistants to recreate the fictional yet everyday world of typical film sets, with hallucinatory results.



Will Cotton: Katy – Sugar Beach, 2010 @ Mary Boone Gallery, New York

American painter Will Cotton satirises indulgence by making paintings of models made out of sugar and finding sweet things everywhere, from houses to cupcake hats. That – without the irony, perhaps – fitted singer Katy Perry’s aesthetic, and she asked him to collaborate on the video for her single ‘California Gurls’. Not only did he do that, making some kind of reality of his fantasy world, he has now used the video as a source to make paintings of his own paintings coming to life. I rather like that circularity.



Pavel Büchler: Nodds, 2006 @ Max Wigram Gallery, London

It was a telling struggle to find old women among the portraits (the wrinkle-free styling of Alex Katz’s wife and muse Ada felt like only a partial exception). There were some old men, though, and the famously craggy visage of Samuel Beckett was doubly in evidence in the Manchester-based Czech Pavel Büchler’s short video loops. He seemed to be nodding, but in a stuttering manner which suggested some reluctance in a writer whose work was famously negative. Given that this comes from a set of loops which present avant garde and revolutionary figures as more stuck than progressive (Lenin, Gagarin and Guevara also appear) the nodding seems the more ironic.



Jon Pylypchuk: Drunk Old Painting, 2010 @ Fredric Snitzer Gallery, Miami

The LA-based Canadian Jon Pylypchuk showed a new body of work at his Miami gallery. He moved from endearingly abject animals constructed out of found scraps to portraits - of sorts - of comical alien characters made from cardboard sprayed with polyurethane, with very effective eyes using the black bulbs most often seen in party lighting. Some were sculptures, but I especially liked those which pretended to be paintings. Pylypchuk told me he’d wanted to start as if from scratch with non-found materials, and new life forms had emerged. Several are smoking and have titles which make pointed references to the artist’s own battle to give up the weed.



Tony Cragg: Untitled, 2010 @ Buchmann Gallery, Berlin

I loved this dynamically intricate multi-head drawing by the Berlin-based British sculptor. Cragg says he uses drawing as a way of investigating purely graphic procedures which at the same time clarify his thinking in three dimensions. Just so, this is an independent drawing, not a preparatory study, but picks up an extra aspect by relating indirectly to his well-known series of sculptures which look abstract but reference the face in profile.


Adam McEwen: Untitled (Caster), 2010 @ Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery, New York

New York based Scot Adam McEwen is known for abstract-tending conceptual investigations, but has a past life as an obituary writer at the Daily Telegraph. He has exploited that in a series of twelve homages which apply the obituary format to still-living celebrities, saying he is interested in that brief second when you aren't sure whether they are alive or dead, so achieving a split second of turning the world upside down. The result is at once mournful and life-affirming, proposing that we celebrate people’s actions more fully when they are alive. Here he showed obituaries of Kate Moss and the controversial South African runner Caster Semenya.



Evan Penny: Old Self (Portrait of the artist as he will not be), Variation #1, 2010 @ Sperone Westwater, New York

South African-come-Canadian sculptor Evan Penny is known for hyper-real figures in silicone, pigment, hair and fabric. They play with scale and points of view, recently by using a digital scanning process which aligns them with photography. But was this over life-sized head a portrait, a self-portrait or neither? It shows how Penny (well preserved in his late 50’s), imagines he might look in thirty years’ time. As the title suggests, any such prediction is bound to be wrong, however thoroughly attempted and however close it might prove, so this isn’t a self-portrait so much as an alternate possible future self or someone altogether else…



Pawel Althamer: Jøzio, 2010 @ Neugerriemschneider, Berlin

This is one of the assistants at the plastic bottle factory in Warsaw which is run by the father of Polish artist Pawel Althamer, and one of several such portrait figures ranged around Neugerriemschneider’s impressive stand. They included Althamer himself and his father and brother as well as all the factory workers who helped to make the sculptures out of the plastic used in the factory, adding a sense of communal self-depiction to their strikingly anatomical appearance.


Julian Opie: Rod Walking, 2010 @ Hamburg Kennedy Photographs, New York

Scope, one of the many interesting if uneven subsidiary fairs, included this lenticular portrait of Rod, one of Julian Opie’s assistants, which is set up to give the appearance of his waking as you yourself walk past him. I happen to know the assistant in question – Rod Barton, who runs his own space at the weekends – and what struck me was how recognisably his presence was caught, despite the facial simplification and potentially shallow gimmick of linticular motion.

Kathleen Gilje: Lady Agnew of Blochnaw from 'Sargent's Women, Restored', 2008 @ Francis M. Naumann Fine Art, New York

American painter Kathleen Gilje, who has a background in the restoration of paintings, acknowledges the modern perspectves that such work inevitably brings in her versions of 48 portraits by John Singer Sargent, twelve of which were shown at Art Basel - you can see them all at www.francisnaumann.com/EXHIBITIONS/Gilje08/index.html. She gave each of them new bodies, in poses she judged appropriate to their characters, taken from current-day life models. Their bracingly unVictorian – because non-mythological - nakedness asserts the underlying identity of the women shown playing their social and marital roles in Sargent’s originals.


Image credits: relevant galleries and artists.

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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