Saturday, 26 February 2011


There's some interesting but rarely-seen older work around at the moment: we start in the 1960’s, edge forward to the 80’s and carry on with a dose of vinyl before we hit the fully contemporary - only to find they're in the form of TV, well past its heyday, are constructed out of previous times, or hark back indirectly to the past. And that's not to mention Erica Eyres' take on the 80's soap 'Dallas' at Rokeby or the Barbican's return to New York in the 70's...

La Vedova Blu

‘…a multitude of soap bubbles which explode from time to time….’
Pino Pascali’s Final Works, 1967 – 1968 @ Camden Arts Centre

4 March – 1 May:
The way in which the Italian arte povera artists used everyday materials remains highly influential in current practice, but Pino Pascali (1936-68) has hardly been seen in Britain despite his prominent role at the start of the movement, and despite – or is it because of? – his glamorous lifestyle and potentially myth-making early death in a motorcycle crash. His work was wildly various, and often not all that povera, but this show includes his most consistent set of sculptures: those which made up – though for a mere two days before he withdrew them in protest at police responses to student unrest – Pascali’s presentation at the Venice Biennale in 1968. It's a startlingly fresh show, conceptually and materially (even though it uses lots of steel wool, which should by rights have disintegrated by now). There's something right, for example, about the wrongness of a six-legged spider...

Installation view

Larry Clark: What Do You Do For Fun? @ Simon Lee Gallery, 12 Berkeley St - Central

To 2 April:

Former Vietnam veteran, junkie, convict… and photographer of babies for the family business, Larry Clark found notoriety forty years ago by photographing the casual gun, drug and sex culture of Oklahoma teenagers. His motivation was to show what wouldn’t otherwise have been seen, and if he inspired ‘heroin chic’, then, he says, that was merely because he wanted to make his friends look good. Simon Lee is showing an hour of previously unseen sixties film footage plus a wide range of Clark’s collages – from photos by his mother to his name tattooed on his lover’s pubis, from magazine clippings to 209 vintage prints in a wall-wide bank. The earliest are readable now as staging posts between straight photography and Clark maintaining his interests by making films featuring subsequent generations’ adolescents.

‘T1982-H15’, 1982 - actually in the store, not the show, but you can ask to see it...

Hans Hartung: The Final Years 1980-89 @ Timothy Taylor Gallery, 15 Carlos Place - Mayfair

10 March – 9 April:

The Franco-German abstractionist Hans Hartung (1980-89) found fame for paintings which magnified small drawings into monumentality, then turned to direct large scale expressionism. By the 1980s, when this show starts, he was using a pebble-dashing tool, garden rakes and olive branches as brushes. Following a stroke in 1986 he turned, weak and wheelchair-bound, wholly to spraying machines, with which he developed an energetic language of mist, clouds, drips and doodles. With the help of several assistants, he made a remarkable number of large canvases (360 in 1989). Are they a mechanistic coda in which Hartung’s own role was limited, or ultramodern contrasts between the infinite sublime and inner torment? Here’s a chance to decide.

Book installation at 10 Woburn Walk

Gerard Williams: The Collected Works @ Handel Street Projects, 19-21 Sicilian Avenue - Holborn

To 31 March:

Handel Street Projects features the somewhat under-the-radar Gerard Williams. Onsite, he has embedded three windows into the gallery interior, one of them a hundred years old and looking it. Behind them lie various items, triggering our imagination / prejudices to construct an account of the putative inhabitant. Offsite, Williams has turned three empty shops into monuments to outdated consumer aspiration through window displays of recessionary excess (proving, perhaps, the zeitgeist, Anita Zabludovic also has an empty shop project at present; and an interesting comparison is with Barnaby Furnas’ paintings at Stuart Shave: multi-armed characters simultaneously smoking scores of cigarettes).

Gustavo Murillo: Blue

Jessica Herrington: 'Cave' & Gustavo Murillo: 'MacroTelevision' @ WW Gallery, 30 Queensdown Rd, Hackney

3-6 March (Herrington) & 11-27 March (Murillo):

The WW Gallery’s ‘art supermarket’ made a good impression at the London Art Fair, and the positive vibe should continue in March. Australian artist Jessica Herrington’s ‘Cave’ of crystalline growth conjured from ephemera will be something of a woman-made rapid-result antipode to Roger Hiorns’ room-filling copper sulphate growth ‘Seizure’ (2009-10). It’s followed by Spanish photographer Gustavo Murillo's series using a macro lens to magnify parts of television pictures, reducing them to op/pop/ phosphor dot abstractions which stand as ciphers of the underlying image while reflecting gallery-goers as if the screen were turned off.

Study for Caerleon I

Alan Rankle @ Pertwee Anderson & Gold, 15 Bateman St – Soho

To 24 March:
The new Soho gallery Pertwee Anderson & Gold adopts the theatrically-lit style of presentation associated with All Visual Arts, and kicks off its ground level space by hosting AVA artist Kate MccGwire’s intricate constructions out of bird feathers. Downstairs, albeit less suited to the spotlighting, is a welcome London showing for Alan Rankle’s intoxicatingly painterly manipulations of landscapes tradition. Rankle, better-known internationally than in his native England, fuses old master and abstract styles and techniques in the interests of cutting across our viewing habits and exploring changing attitudes to the environment.


Susanne Kühn: Garden Eden @ Haunch of Venison,6 Burlington Gardens - Central

To 2 April:

Leipzig-trained Susanne Kühn spent seven years in America before returning to her native Germany, which may help explain the complexities of pattern and space in her large and multiply-styled paintings. My favourites here set figures and a plethora of other elements, often with sly art historical references, amid architectural spaces borrowed from renaissance masterpieces. They somehow end up feeling organized rather than overcrowded, and also enact a movement from abstraction up close to realism at a middle distance to abstraction again when you’re far enough away in Haunch’s big spaces for their allover rhythms to take control.

Crash 4

Emma Hart: JAM @ Cell Project Space, 258 Cambridge Heath Rd – Cambridge Heath

10 March – 17 April (Fri-Sun):

Video and performance artist Emma Hart attempted to predict the future – i.e. where she would be standing next – in ‘Arrows’. Her own future prospects are improving: having featured in ‘Bloomberg New Contemporaries’, this show at Cell precedes a new project at Matt’s Gallery in the autumn. Hart combines a consciously intrusive camera – which pokes inside a sofa in search of the hidden in ‘Lost’ – with a winning style of voice-over commentary. She relays the ups and downs of her battle against the sea in ‘Dice’ (will the tide’s arrival trump her throw?) while ‘Car Crash’ co-opts table tops to explain how traffic accidents happen.

Tales from the Estuary

Emma Talbot in 'Told' @ Hales Gallery to 2 April, & in 'Me and My Shadow' @ Kate MacGarry, 11 March - 17 April

Perhaps this is the time to be an Emma, as Talbot has two shows running in March, both with two other women. Her half-doll, half-cartoon figures look as if they’ve stepped out of the 1950’s or 60’s rather than her own coming of age in the 1980’s. They transmit emotion without the need for faces – especially once you know that they often present scenes from her life before the premature death of her husband. Her recent work develops fragmented narratives, strip style, on her biggest scale yet.


Phillip Allen: Capital P @ The approach, 47 Approach Road – Cambridge Heath

To 13 March:

The invite for Phillip Allen’s fifth show with The approach grabs attention with a found photo of a terribly over-burdened donkey. What gloomily times-matching new direction is this? But it turns out you still know where you are with Phil: the abstracted contrasts of geometric, organic and cartoonish; the colours multiple and free if a shade more muted; the border territories of multi-layered paint swirls built up like flowers; the sense of something nearly being said, to quote another Phil… all are present and correct along with the elegant - if slightly perverse - departure of oil paint drawings on watercolour paper. But do I need unfamiliarity to enjoy this? No, I don’t…

Photo credits: courtesy of relevant galleries and artists and Benjamin Beker (Handel Street).

Wednesday, 2 February 2011


139 galleries took part in the first online VIP art fair – for Viewing In Private with a hint of browsers being Very Important People – which took place on 22-30 January. There were technical problems on the opening weekend due to weight of traffic, and interactive chatting with gallerists had to be disabled. That may have been a good sign for numbers logging on (dealers reported that images commonly received over 1,000 clicks) but the word was that sales weren’t high, and for all its starry slickness – once the glitches had been overcome – it felt more like browsing the web than attending a real fair. Still, that’s what one might expect of a launch year. Inevitably, there was talk of purchase at a distance being unduly speculative, yet given that people bid from auction catalogues, and that buyers can take account of what they have physically seen previously by the same artist, I don’t see why the concept shouldn’t have legs. And there were plenty of interesting works on show. Collectively, they amount to useful artists’ all-over surprising tours...


Consumer goods have a longer history of serious online sales than art does, and the art-design interface is a fashionable place to be, so perhaps there was a logic to selling such items as furniture….

Matt Johnson: Reclining Nude, 2008 @ Taxter & Spengemann, New York

This chair made from steam-bent and laminated red oak shows off upcoming LA artist Matt Johnson’s charming ingenuity to advantage by neatly combining the sitter and the sat upon. At the same time, as is typical of Johnson, it riffs wittily on a classic sculptural subject and its styles. This, surely, was what to sit on to view the Fair.

Valeska Soares: Untitled from After (Mattress II), 2008 @ Fortes Vilaça, São Paulo

This apparent resting place would be less than comfortable for real, being carved from marble by the Brazilian sculptor, video artist and mattress specialist Valeska Soares. It makes for a three-way dialogue between the monumental, the minimal and the intimately ornamental – or, if you prefer, between Rauschenberg, Gonzalez-Torres and Whiteread.


Galleries put varying effort into their presentations. Some just listed the basics and bunged in a link to the artist’s cv. The best provided several high res views of a given work, instantly available information on the particular piece on view and on the artist’s oeuvre as a whole, and a photograph of the artist. Some of those portraits were most engaging:

Greg Bogin
at Leo Koenig, New York

It’s not often you see a painter standing in his painting, but Bogin’s work provides that chance: his wackily-shaped, semi-sculptural, jestingly-titled canvases are inspired by truck logos, neon, supermarket signage, IKEA catalogues and highway markers. Once finished, they set off white space against bands of colour.

Thomas Houseago
at Xavier Hufkens, Brussels

The LA-based sculptor Thomas Houseago has such a fine Wild West beard in this photo I struggled to remind myself that he’s English (born Leeds, 1972, studied at the St. Martin’s College of Art and De Ateliers in Amsterdam). His knowingly awkward, imposingly provisional jumblings of classical and primitive into monumental figures are very much in demand.


I could run with the theory that allover patterning in wallpaper style is particularly suited to browser display: whether or not, two such caught my eye…

Philip Taaffe: Algeciras, 2010 @ Gagosian, various

Philip Taafe’s ‘Andalusian’ series, begun in 2008, superimposes the architectonic arabesque motif on explosions of color that are based on traditional Japanese fold and dye paper techniques. Thus ‘Algeciras’ merges abstractions old and new and sets frame against background in a push and pull which generates a spiritually-tinged feel-good vibe. ‘The point of the psychedelic’, Taaffe has said, ‘is to connect us with our ancestors’.

Shane Hope: ribbon_nucleic_acid_mode, 2011@ Winkleman, New York

Californian artist Shane Hope manipulates open source software to make what he calls Molecular Modeling prints (or more catchily ‘Mol Mods’), informed by his belief that ‘the molecule is the brushstroke of the future’ – that nanotechnology, the manipulation of matter on a molecular scale, ‘will transform industry sometime soon’. I’m not sure how serious the science is, but its visualisation drew me in.


It is hard to be surprised by the post-war artists whose influence has been most pervasive over the last half-century, and yet…

Jackson Pollock: Untitled,c. 1949-50 @ Washburn Gallery, New York

You don’t often see Pollock’s sculpture, and when you do it tends to be earlier than this painted terracotta from his peak period as Jack the Dripper. He made a series of these, in the studio of East Hampton neighbour Roseanne Larkin. Although it's only eight inches across, as indicated online by the optional presence of scale-setting figures, I find it closer to the totemic than the ceramic.

Andy Warhol: Sunsets, 1972 @ Brooke Alexander Gallery, New York

The sun seems to take on the colours of sky and sunsets directly for itself in a suite of eight prints too cheerful to associate naturally with the later Warhol’s death-centered imagery – though that link can be made … Maybe it’s just me, but I’d never seen these sunsets before. Perhaps my next artist was more familiar with them…


Rather than navigate by gallery or artist – the second of which worked seamlessly through solo presentations or setting up sequences of all the works across galleries by a given artist – you could also tour a choice of works. Visitors were able to post their selections in the general public area, while well-known critics and the odd celebrity set out paths in or the VIP lounge (entry to which cost $100 on the first weekend and $20 thereafter to those not invited as known collectors etc).

Peter Coffin: Untitled (Clouds), 2011 @ Herald St, London

Vasili Kaliman is an Australian gallerist and compulsive tweeter who will on request also forward press releases from selected shows worldwide to your inbox. His wide-ranging ‘visitor’s tour’ included these winsomely-coloured and meteorologically impossible combinations of clouds. They're taken from nineteenth century photographs, giving a lead yet still unassertive role to the stock clouds used to cover for the blank whiteness of the skies caused by the photographic exposure times then required.

Gregory Crewdson: Untitled (Ophelia), 2001 @ Luhring Augustine, New York

John McEnroe’s dramatically-inclined 30 work ‘VIP tour’ included one of Crewdson’s most iconic filmically-staged photographs, a modern take on Shakespeare which seemed freshly relevant given the amount of recent flooding worldwide. It also stands in for the type of photographic and video work one would expect to suit the online environment best, but which actually featured no more in this Fair than in Frieze or Art Basel.

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, Frieze, Photomonitor, Elephant and Border Crossings. I have curated 20 shows during 2013-17 with more on the way. Going back a bit my main writing background is poetry. My day job is public sector financial management.