Friday, 30 September 2011


No doubt about it: October is an almost embarrassingly rich month with Frieze itself plus other fairs, and the accompanying shows put on by major public institutions and the galleries in Frieze – such as Aaron Young at Carlson; Nathalie Djurberg at Camden; Mike Kelley at Gagosian; Anne Truitt at Stephen Friedman; Pipilotti Rist at the Hayward; Cory Arcangel at Lisson; Richard Tuttle at Modern Art; Rebecca Warren at Maureen Paley; Degas at the Royal Academy; Georg Herold and Andreas Slominski at Sadie Coles; Anri Sala at the Serpentine; Gabriel Kuri at the South London Gallery; Gerhardt Richter, Barry Flanagan and Tacita Dean’s Turbine Hall commission at the Tates; Post-Modernism at the V&A; Wilhelm Sasnal at the Whitechapel; and Grayson Perry at (where else?) the British Museum, to name only however many that is. And my favourite September shows carry on: Phyllida Barlow at Hauser & Wirth and Jemima Brown at Standpoint. Then there are three (!) Artangel commissions, various pop-ups and auctions and several new galleries due to open, including Pippy Houldsworth, Pace, Thomas Dane’s second space, White Cube’s third… Enough? Not quite! Here are ten shows separate from those categories above, but which are also well worth seeing…

Untitled from the Star Portrait series

Laurel Nakadate @ the Zabludowicz Collection, 176 Prince of Wales Rd – Chalk Farm

To 11 Dec:

Anita Zabludowicz’s multi-room project space works well for an impressively broad survey of video and photographic work by the young American Laurel Nakadate. The individual works cover established tropes of video art with a winningly light touch: personal diaries, for one of which she cries every day for a year; unorthodox casting calls; dancing in odd places; and interaction with strangers – including an edgy yet empathetic way of luring lonely middle-aged men into her schemes, and photos taken by means of just a night flash to reveal by camera someone unmet. The cumulative effect goes further, though, collapsing the distinctions between self, friends and strangers to make us wonder who we really know…

Zoe Paul: Thalasseum @ Cole, 3 – 4a Little Portland Street - Fitzrovia

8 Oct - 5 Nov:

Anita Zabludowicz sponsors the alternative Sunday Art Fair, which includes Tom Cole’s gallery. When asked to nominate promising eighties-born London-based sculptors, I tend to reply ‘Nika Neelova (who'll be in 'The Future Can Wait' during Frieze), Steve Bishop (up shortly at Christopher Crescent), Magali Reus (showing at The Approach in November) and Zoe Paul’. So this is a welcome chance to see the latest from the only British-born artist on that list – though Paul did grow up partly in Greece, consistent with which she’s previously used marble-effect tiles to box in the shapes of classical fragments, as if returning them to the stone from which they were carved. That sardonic dialogue between past, present and future is set to continue here with sculptures using clay from an ancient Minoan site to hide and fragment the figurative forms within….

Lettre sur Aveugles II, 1974
  Frank Stella: Connections @ Haunch of Venison, Burlington House – Central

To 19 Nov:

Banned from Frieze for being owned by an auction house, Haunch of Venison could be seen as the ne plus ultra of non-fair galleries. The last show in Burlington House, operating in brief parallel with its newly refurbished eponymous space, is the fullest Frank Stella retrospective seen in Britain. It runs from his initial late 50’s explorations of the painting as an object in space (rather than as window onto the world) to such 60’s geometry as a big ‘protractor painting’, through the more complex constructions of the 70’s and on to the baroque turn those objects began to take in the 80’s and – some tastes may feel – proceeded to take too far in the years beyond… Like it all or not, though, this is a must-see.

Portrait 42

Mona Kuhn: Bordeaux Series @ Flowers, 21 Cork St

5 - 29 Oct:

If Frieze had been around 30 years ago, Angela Flowers would surely have been central to it; yet though it may no longer be seen as cutting edge, the gallery still represents some interesting artists. One such is the Brazilian-born, US-based, internationally-inclined photographer Mona Kuhn. She spends her summers in a naturist community in France, and that has fed into a style which deals with the nude in domestic and landscape settings in a relaxed, intimate and non-prurient manner. Kuhn became known through her projects ‘France’ (2002-2008),’Brazil’ (2009) and ‘Venezia’ (2010), and now returns to her second home for .the 74 photos of the ‘Bordeaux Series’.

Spiral (Square Argyle)

Daisuke Ohba: The Light Field @ the DAIWA Anglo-Japanese Foundation, 13/14 Cornwall Terrace – Baker Street

To 20 Oct:

The young Japanese artist, Daisuke Ohba, makes shiftingly mysterious abstract and landscape paintings which stand in for flux in the world. He layers iridescent pearl paint over other colours so that from some angles and in some lights, all is grey; whereas from other angles or in other lights, manifold colours shimmer into view – sort of Cruz-Diez done naturally. The mystery, to me at least, is why exactly the effect occurs: as neither Ohba’s gallerist nor the show’s curator could enlighten me at the opening, I don’t feel too ignorant, but trying to work that out provides another reason to attend… Answers welcome!

Frances Richardson: ‘Ideas in the Making: Drawing Structure’ @ Trinity Contemporary, 2nd floor, 29 Bruton St - Central

11–28 Oct:

Both Trinity Contemporary and Frances Richardson are best known for drawing – the latter uses just the signs ‘+’ and ‘-‘, and her recent colour versions, in a kind of meditative parallel to Ohba’s practice, build in optical transformation effects. Yet this show of MDF structures with a participative dimension looks like sculpture. Not so: Richardson, a classmate of Leeds schoolboy Damien Hirst who later trained in the Yoruba tradition of carving, sees them as drawings in three dimensions. One gives you the chance to measure up to the artist – as I do in her studio above – in a Richardson-sized riff on Robert Morris’ 1961 ‘Box for Standing’.

Rudyard Kipling, perhaps

Liane Lang: House Guests @ WW Gallery, 30 Queensdown Rd - Hackney

6 - 22 Oct:

Rudyard Kipling is a rare bird in contemporary art, and I tend to think of him as strongly English and colonial - so it comes as a jolt to be reminded that from 1892-96 he lived in Vermont. Liane Lang’s mixture of film and installation will enable us to enter the atmosphere of Naulakha, Kipling’s isolated house in the Connecticut River Valley, and to consider Kipling in light of the shifting historical boundaries of what constitute racism, imperialism and condescension. And this is showing in an appropriately Victorian house. My own engagement may be enhanced by the face from which Lang cast her Kipling – mine!

The Fountain
Fiona MacDonald: Works from the mirrored series 2009-2011 @ 10 Gresham St – St Paul’s

To 22 Jan:

Fiona MacDonald is on a scholarship in Rome, but usually manages the artist-run Standpoint Gallery. Here she shows her own work in the contrasting space of a corporate lobby: Lloyds TSB staff will have three months to walk by her characteristic hybrids of classical beauty and visceral entropy. The titular mirroring refers to how the works all reflect historic art, but in a different, distorted form, as if each practice were trying to destroy the other: thus sculptures (Bernini, Easter Island…) are turned into paintings and paintings (Titian, Tintoretto…) into sculptures. The painted sculptures seem menacingly organic (that’s the Tivoli Fountain above), while the paintings become clay sculptures trapped in baroque swirls of lurid silicone. In City terms, I suppose, they’re derivatives gone out of control.

Hamra Abbas: Cities @ Green Cardamom, 5a Portchester Place - Marble Arch

To 21 Oct (not weekends):

Boston-based Hamra Abbas, best known for her ‘Lessons on Love’ sculptures of lovers with weapons, finds this small space big enough to show her remarkable diversity in media and location: sculpture, video, text animation, photography, collage and performance made in – and reflecting – Berlin, New York, Sharjah, Istanbul, Thessaloniki and her native Lahore. The common elements are a playful way of combining sacred with secular and innocence with experience – whether through portraits of children as attributes of God, the artist ritually cleansing another woman in a Turkish bath, or toy missiles mutating into vibrators (see for an overview).


Wen Wu: A Re-interpretation of the Fairytale @ the Hua Gallery, Unit 7B, Albion Riverside, Hester Rd – Battersea

To 25 Oct:

‘Hua’ is Chinese for ‘painting’, which gives you a clue about this new gallery in the same Norman Foster building as once housed the larger Albion Gallery. Aiming to showcase artists well-known in China but little-seen internationally, it opened with predominantly abstract Zen Buddhist painter Yi Xuan, and now shows Wen Wu’s comparably serene meditations on beauty and the relativity of myth. Chinese women – herself in the case of the fantasy platter seemingly trapped in a vase – either enact western fairytales or, in subtly inflected portraits, seem to be thinking about their role in them. Levi-Strauss may come to mind…

Even that isn’t all. I was tempted to list Michiel Ceulers at Rod Barton, David Rickard at The Nunnery, John Finneran at Arcade, John Smith at Peer, Emma Hart at Matt’s Galley, LA painters at Josh Lilley, Richard Galpin at Hales, Morandi @ Robilant & Voena, Alex Hoda at Project 20, Michael Stubbs at Laurent Delaye, Nabil Nahas at Ben Brown, Robert Motherwell at Bernard Jacobson, Lucien Smith at Ritter/Zamet and Artists Anonymous at Riflemaker, Monika Grzymala at Sumarria Lunn and Leonardo Drew at the new Vigo - still without touching on the 37 galleries in Frieze which have a London space.

Images courtesy the relevant artists and galleries.

Friday, 23 September 2011

BASEL 2011

Here - somewhat belatedly - as a selection of quirky works to be seen at Art Basel 2011, as written for The Art Newspaper. But who knows, it may be that several similar pieces turn up at Frieze...

Mark Bradford: Soccer Ball Bag 3, 2011, Sikkema Jenkins & Co (New York)

Those who suspect that contemporary art is a load of balls could seek confirmation in Mark Bradford's 'Soccer Ball Bag 3'. But there was more to the work than playing on how it might accurately be described. The balls were covered with paper, so connecting them to the collage style of the LA artist’s paintings, which incorporate remnants of found posters from inner city walls. Bradford also picks up on social change: the basketball-playing Negroes outside his studio have given way to soccer-playing Hispanics as the neighbourhood evolves.

Jamie Isenstein: Rug Woogie 4 @ Meyer Riegger (Karlsruhe / Berlin)

The most assiduous artist was emerging American Jamie Isenstein, who spent the whole six days of the Fair 'playing the harp silently', as she put it, by weaving a rug around its strings - and that followed a solid week spent the same way in Karlsruhe. She said it was hard to block out all the flash photography and other distractions, the more so as she’d never performed openly before, only while hidden inside her sculptures. Isenstein’s labour-intensive way of turning sound into colour fitted with a wider trend towards exploring how art relates to craft.

Yutaka Sone: Little Manhattan, 2007-09, David Zwirner Gallery (New York)

Among the works which consistently attracted a crowd for more than a passing glance were Pierre Huyghe’s aminatronic penguin; Douglas Gordon’s close-ups (one video screen per eye) of singer Rufus Wainwright’s heavily made-up eyes; and Yutaka Sone's marble version of Manhattan Island. New Yorkers and beyond were drawn in by its dream-like whiteness, iceberg-worthy height, and a level of recognisable detail which made it no surprise to learn that the Japanese-American sculptor was informed by research flights in a helicopter. The 2.5 ton marble edition was carved at Sone’s own longstanding Chinese studio in Chongwu.

Vija Celmins: Blackboard Tableau #7, 2011, McKee Gallery (New York)

Latvian-born New Yorker Vija Celmins provided the longest gap: it's 30 years since she made ‘To Fix the Image in Memory’, a constellation of eleven pebbles together with duplicates of painted bronze, rendered so alike the viewer was drawn into ever-closes scrutiny trying to tell which was which. Celmins has since become highly regarded for her elemental images of deserts, seas and stars. Now she's returned to the contrast of real and imitation by faithfully copying a found school slate, along with the writing which stands in for – and in the copy it literally is - a painting.

Heimo Zobernig: Untitled, 1995 @ Galerie Christian Nagel (Berlin)

Contrasting with marble, entrants in the always-competitive field of cheapskate materials included Sarah Ramo’s mountain of bags, Liam Gillick’s pile of newspapers – and Heimo Zobernig's use of the inner tubes from toilet rolls. There were also plenty of the Austrian’s better-known paintings on view: they, too, parody the language of minimalism by using apparently unsuitable materials and perverse approaches. ‘Untitled’ stood out for the art logic of its sly connection to the scatological traditions of Viennese actionism, and the ironically substantial wooden transport box-come-plinth on which it stood. Oh yes, yours for a slightly less cheapskate £25,000.

Mikhael Subotsky: Assault GBH & Robbery, Business Burglary & Theft, Theft From Vegetable Shop, Malicious Damage to Property & Theft, Theft of TV Set, Theft of Cable, Robbery of Motorists (Smash & Grab), Murder By Students, Robbery & Assault GBH, Theft of Manhole Cover, Possession of Stolen Property, Attempted Theft of Manhole Cover, 2011, Goodman Gallery (Johannesburg)

Perhaps the most controversial (and longest-titled!) work on view was South African Mikhael Subotzky's quarter hour compilation of police CCTV footage of crimes taking place in central Johannesburg. Some of this was sickeningly violent, but there was a happy ending in that all twelve films concluded simultaneously with the police making an arrest. Subotzky says he used to be interested in crime through the prisms of art, anthropology, sociology and psychology – but all he could think about here was his own two eyes ‘looking out and looking in’.

Pablo Picasso’s palette, c 1973, Galerie Krugier & Cie (Geneva)

In some ways the cheekiest sales pitch was to ask £150,000 for something which wasn’t an artwork at all – one of the palettes which were left in Picasso’s studio when he died. On the other hand, you could say that’s cheap for a Picasso. Certainly it was interesting to see it, and to wonder which painting had received the mixture of blue, green, pink and grey. Consistent with that offer, there was no sign of any change in the top order among the less contemporary artists at the Fair, with Picasso, Warhol and Bacon remaining pre-eminent.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


My wife and I went to Provence for the sun and wine, Roman monuments, wild Camargue and Festival of the Horse - but there did also turn out to be some art in three main places we visited - Arles, Avignon and Les Baux -  much of which was themed around the interface between past and present…

Van Gogh: The Railway Wagons, 1888
Arles is of course closely associated with Van Gogh, and one can walk between the sites of the yellow house, night café, bridges and hospital courtyard which he painted: though he lived there for little more than a year (February 1888 - May 1889) the majority of his mature work was painted in the area. Yet there wasn’t a single Van Gogh work on view in Arles: the only one I saw was in Avignon, where Van Gogh changed trains on his way, and painted the spatially interesting but not-especially-iconic ‘The Railway Wagons’, which is now at the Angladon Museum.

From Sol Le Witt: Autobiography

Le temps retrouvé: Cy Twombly photographer and guest artists

The French mega-dealer Yvon Lambert’s personal collection is based at a foundation in Avignon. That currently has a fascinating show on the theme of lost time in photographs, jointly curated with the late Cy Twombly and starring such as Brancusi’s photographic records of his sculpture, Sol LeWitt’s regimented 1056+ images of his house, Ruscha’s parking lots and Sugimoto’s seas…. culminating a tad under-climactically, however, with several rooms of Twombly’s own blurred still life photographs.

Louise Lawler, Bird Call (text with audio recording), 1972.

 Louise Lawler also featured with her photographic critiques of how art works are presented by ruling elites, but the most fun was her seven minute audio piece ‘Bird Calls’ (1972-81), a more direct mockery of phallocentrism in the art world. Lawler is the ‘bird’ who derisively chirps, twitters, warbles and squawks – though she stops short of a cock crow - the names of 28 male artists of the time, as if they are calling to each other in their well-established territory. You can hear its gloriously silly pointedness here:

Honey locust beans at the Musee Réattu

The Musee Réattu in Arles is highly eccentric: you get a mix of the traditional paintings of local artist Jaques Réattu (1760-1833) interspersed with a large clutch of Picasso drawings, lots of less than sparking recent minor French art and intrusive carpets designed by Christian Lacroix – all overlooking the Rhône in the former Grand Priory in which Réattu lived, and which he left to the city. But with all due deference to the star piece - Picasso’s portrait of Lee Miller in tradtional Arles dress - the outstanding feature is the tree in the courtyard. It’s a honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos), a US native, with impressive spikes and six inch seed pods which looked as if they were splashed with paint.

Darkest Night, 1994

Another mixture of old and new was provided by a four-site display of Nice-born Arman (128-2005) in a trail around around the medieval fortress village of Les Baux de Provence, which boasts an imposing castle and the original mines from which bauxite was named. Recreations of his sculpture, painting and collaging practices in studio environments complemented a thorough retrospective of Arman’s characteristic accumulation, stamping, slicing, incarceration, burning and smashing of whatever he could get his hands on. ‘La Chute des Courses’ – stacked supermarket trolleys – looked differently odd against 16th century stonework. And an iconic Van Gogh image was provided at last by one of Arman’s versions of ‘Starry Night’, which generates a whirling obsessiveness parallel to the original by the sheer number of brushes caught up in the production.

The Arles photo festival claims 47 exhibitions in and around the ancient city. The three main themes could be simply categorised as Mexico, the ‘traditional’ art of contemporary photography, and photography in the new media age.

Graciela Iturbide: Paradoros 1

The Mexican presence was the most powerful. It included a comprehensive view of the Mexican revolution; the first European showing of Robert Capa’s legendary suitcase of 4500 negatives from the Spanish Civil War, recently rediscovered in Mexico City; powerful solo shows by Enrique Metinides (disasters and accidents), Dulce Pinzon (emigrant workers as superheroes), Maya Goded (the red light district on the US border) and Daniella Rossell (behind the tasteless facades of the rich). The stand-out, though, was the retrospective of Graciela Iturbide, a student of Manuel Alvarez Bravo who came to photography only in her 40’s. Her black and white pictures fuse documentary records of such subjects as desert communities, goat sacrifice and Frida Kahlo’s house with a mythic undercurrent which often focuses on humans with wild animals. That’s seen at its most direct in her snail and snake-covered self-portraits and her use of flocks of birds.

Mark Ruwedel: Four Palms Spring

The rest of the festival included a range of what one might call ‘conventional’ photography, ie made with the artist’s camera – notably in the choice of three photographers each by five curators shortlisted for the ‘Discovery Award’ won by South African Michael Subotzky for his study of Ponte City in Johannesburg. Rut Blees Luxemburg and Raphel Dallaporta were interesting, too, along with Mark RuwedelRuwedel also gestures at the limits of man’s control over nature..

Visitors examining Frank Schmallmaier's 'Compare'

Some of the Discovery Award shortlist and all of the main curated show ‘From Here On’ concentrated on the use of found images, mostly from the internet. These were dealt with anthropologically (what the masses get up to) or organisationally (classifying images in such bizarre ways as ‘those with a bird’s tail feathers hanging over the lens’), and often both. Much of this was fairly facile, if amusing. The most arresting wall showed some 250 penises, one of them apparently the Dutch artist Frank Schallmaier’s own, being lined up alongside a wide and sometimes bizarre range of size demonstrators. Is it depressing or reassuring to be reminded how alike supposedly differentiating patterns of behaviour can be? Claudia Sola achieved a more poetic narrative rhythm over a dizzying seven minute slide show, for most of which one saw four images simultaneously every second: they amount to a path through life from weddings to rainbows to religion to brain scans to scars to tattoos. And an ingenuity prize to hard-up would-be rock stars The Get Out Clause who played in front of various security cameras and then requested the footage under the Freedom of Information Act: voila! – they had a free video with a difference.

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.