Monday, 26 December 2011


It's in the nature of surveys and group shows that you won’t like everything, but a good one will have a high enough percentage to make a show within a show which particularly appeals, and the rest will provide valuable context. That’s a fair description of my first half dozen choices… 

Douglas Gordon: Self Portrait of You + Me (David Bowie)
 In Your Face @ SHOWstudio, 1-9 Bruton Place – Mayfair

To 4 Feb:

Nick Knight, photographer-founder of the art of SHOWstudio, has packed forty artists into an energetic and confrontational mixture of art and fashion which focuses on the corporeal. It’s worth checking out just to remind yourself of the power of Abramović and Ulay’s ten minute shouting match projected up large. But the show also contains some original Viennese actionism, a blood-heavy mini-show of Franko B, Nancy Burson’s pre-Photoshop (ie pre-1990) blendings of faces across race and gender, Douglas Gordon’s burn-out of David Bowie, Nancy Fouts’ mummified boxing gloves, a near life-sized patterned nude by Orange County skateboarder-artist Ed Templeton… and more of like ilk, which is to say the best kind of worst kind of taste.

Leon Kossoff: Willesden Junction No 1, 1966
 The Mystery of Appearance @ Haunch of Venison, 103 New Bond St – Central
To 18 Feb:

When Haunch of Venison returned to its eponymous space after a three year refit it was hard to spot the difference. Only now has the point been revealed: that the gallery has been extended to run right through to a new main entrance on New Bond Street. The blockbuster chosen to inaugurate the expansion takes a subject-based approach to trace the mutual influences of ten major post-war British painters. It’s a bit of a mixed bag (are those really the best Caulfields they could find?) but full of interest. The room of nudes, and all of the Auerbach and Kossoff are especially good (I've been known to distinguish their similar styles thus: if I like it, it must be Auerbach – but these are really top Kossoffs).

Jonathan Delafield Cook: Belanus Crenatus
Radical Drawing @ Purdy Hicks, 65 Hopton St - Southwark
To 28 Jan:

London has been blessed with some fine drawing-based shows recently: ‘Polemically Small’ at Charlie Smith was excellent in December, and ‘A Piece of Paper’ is at Madder 139 (to 28 Jan). I’m not sure the selection at Purdy Hicks is any more radical than those, but it has some great stuff in it: Keith Tyson’s huge and amazing 1,193-room plan of a university from 1993; five brand new, typically kooky, Marcel Dzarma drawings; Gavin Turk’s tea ring stains arranged like dirty takes on Bridget Riley’s circle drawings; Jonathan Delafield Cook’s detailing of a barnacle, made mountainous by scale; a beautiful Wangechi Mutu watercolour collage, and a suite of lively drawings in matching register by the new-to-me Australian Sally Smart.

Georg Herold: Untitled
Gesamtkunstwerk: New Art from Germany @ The Saatchi Gallery - Chelsea

This very broadly premised survey (art made in Germany by anyone or by Germans anywhere) is well worth seeing, especially for Georg Herold's canvas-covered painting-sculptures - as above - plus Thomas Helbig, André Butzer and Max Frisinger. But it’s part of the point of such shows to provoke, and even accepting the exclusion of moving images and the decision not to revisit Richter and his generation or those (Rauch and Skreber in particular) previously shown to good effect by Saatchi, I could happily have lost several of the artists featured. Perhaps Magnus Plessen, Susanne Kühn, Michael Sailstorfer, Sofia Hultén, Rosa Loy, Sabine Hornig, Daniel Sinsel, Florian Slotawa, Haegue Yang and Cyprien Gaillard could have filled in the gaps...

Leo Fitzmaurice: Misarray
 Chain Chain Chain @ Bischoff/Weiss, 14a Hay Hill – Mayfair

To 28 Jan:

This is something of a coming of age for Raphaëlle Bischoff and Paola Weiss as west end girls, for ‘Chain Chain Chain’ plays off the surrounding jewelry shops in considering art and value. The interlinking angles explored are well set out in an accompanying leaflet by curator Glenn Adamson, half the team behind the V&A’s big show ‘Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970-1990’ (itself open to 15 Jan). There is, though, a nod to the gallery’s East End origins: Sue Collis, who’s represented by Hoxton’s Seventeen, formerly near to Bischoff/Weiss, has exchanged a section of wall between the two spaces. Oh yes, and the other works - from Leo Fitzmaurice’s re-modernising edit of packaging, to Nicole Cherubini’s clay that never leaves its box, via several rather blingier works – are themselves rather interesting.

Ditty Ketting: Untitled (346)

 Ongoing minimalism @ Rocket, Tea Building, 56 Shoreditch High St – Shoreditch

To 5 Feb:

Is there no end (qv Newman, Stella, Cruz Diez , Riley, Buren, Rondinone, Davenport, Lambie, Phelps…) to the lure of the stripe? Well, I didn’t feel its pull pall in Dutch painter Ditty Ketting’s complex constructions. She uses a traditional colour wheel system, spiced by random spinning, to lay her colours over and under cage-like structures of black, white and grey. That imprisonment of sorts palpably fails to prevent the bursting forth of her 16 colours. She’s the most maximal of the minimalists in this bright survey, but all five (Ketting, Michelle Grabner, Will Taylar, Lars Wolter, Stefan Eberstadt) have their complexities – would ‘Intricate Minimalism’ have caught the vibe more accurately? But that’s enough stripes…

Damien Hirst: The Complete Spot Paintings @ Gagosian London x 2 (and New York x 3, Beverly Hills, Paris, Rome, Geneva, Athens, Hong Kong)

12 Jan - 18 Feb (London):

In what must be the logical antithesis of a group show, here’s a chance to join the dots internationally as all 11 Gagosian galleries are turned over to some 300 of Damien Hirst’s estimated 1,400 spot paintings (including, he says, five he made himself). Along with the spins, they make up a persuasive - if overblown - reducio ad absurdum of abstract painting as a means of expression. They’re also Hirst’s most Warholian play on the market, and one he hasn't given up despite declaring several streams finished at his 2008 Sothebys auction (come to that, what has he actually stopped doing?). As usual this millennium, it’s the performance not the work which takes centre stage with Hirst – a pity in a way, but he is good at that.

Mille Fiori
Dale Chihuly @ the Halcyon Gallery, 144-146 New Bond St – Central

To 29 Feb:

It's not easy to take a gallery seriously when (as on the top floor here) it hangs Picasso next to Lorenzo Quinn without apparent irony; and, supreme glass-blower though he may be, I’d put Dale Chihuly's paintings on the Quinn side of that equation. Get past those reservations, though, and there's some spectacular and luminous Chihuly spread around the lower floors of Halcyon's new, fourth (!) and biggest London gallery. The forty-odd glassworks – such as fantasy shell forms, cascading chandeliers, multi-horned vases and a garden of people-sized plants complete with pool - reveal the force of a medium pushed to its limits.

Offshore - installation shot
 Magali Reus: ON @ The approach, 1st floor, 47 Approach Rd – Cambridge Heath

To 22 Jan:

It’s not quite a Halcyon expansion, but The approach has started to use a second room above its host pub. Young Anglo-Dutch artist Magali Reus uses it to screen fit young men straining to shift big blue bobbing barrels in a colour-matched sea. That acts as a literal and macho counterpoint to the main space’s pared-back installation of sculptural surrogates which suggest transport and displacement: sleek riffs on airport security trays, luggage racks, camping mats, cameras and emergency ladders for train tunnels – the last two hauntingly combined to suggest a cinematic tracking device. What would its film show? Perhaps, for all our huffing and puffing, that we’re getting nowhere…

Unknown (I/H4) 
David Walker: Brides on Fire @ Rook & Raven, 7-8 Rathbone Place - Fitzrovia

To 19 Jan:

And now for something somewhat different… I’m not sure I’ve previously featured an artist normally classified as ‘urban’ or ‘street’ in my choices, but David Walker’s surprisingly brush-free spray paintings at the new Rook & Raven Gallery have a distinctive panache which takes them beyond their impressive spray technique and the graffiti origins referenced in the many scrawled and decayed marks which irritate the details. It’s obsessive work: Walker only does female portraits, which he sees as ‘’the historic measure of painting and beauty’; and you can still see the effects of the three years in which he used only black, white and pink.

Images courtesy of the relevant galleries and artists

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About Me

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Southampton, Hampshire, United Kingdom
I was in my leisure time Editor at Large of Art World magazine (which ran 2007-09) and now write freelance for such as Art Monthly, 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.