Saturday, 4 February 2017



Ingeborg Lüscher: It’s 1 o’clock and the bell tolls 8 times @ White Rainbow, 47 Mortimer St – Fitzrovia

Ingeborg Lüscher at the opening

If you feel the need of some intensely spiritual abstraction, your main choices are Rothko and Newman in the RA’s Ab Ex show, or this first London solo for the German widower of Harald Szeeman, who got to know Ingeborg Lüscher through selecting her work for Documenta V in 1972. These works from 1987-91 make elemental use of sulphur dust (glowing more creamily then you might expect from admixture with acrylic) and ash. That gives her paintings body, and an offsetting darkness. The fire of inspiration and the remnants of its burning out might come to mind, but Lüscher seems sparky enough at 80.

Untitled, 1988 - sulphur, dust, plaster, cardboard


Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970's  from the Verbund Collection, Vienna @ The Photographer's Gallery

To 29 Jan:  (free  10 am -12)

Renata Eisenegger: High-rise No. 1, 1974

This may sound a narrow show until you realise how many excellent artists can be described as avant-garde 1970s feminists: Chicago, EXPORT, Ivekovic, Mendieta, Orlan, Pane, Rosler, Shneeman, Sherman, Wilke and Woodman obviously enough, but they're mostly represented by refreshingly less-often seen work: Mendiata counters her beauty and renders herself other simply by pressing up against the pane of glass, Ivekovic makes herself visibly silent by greeting her show's visitors with a taped up mouth. Moreover, there are 200 works by 48 artists, well marshalled into four themes, and almost everything is of interest. For example, Lili Dujourie makes a naked man look like a woman simply by how she has him pose; Renata Eiseneger irons the floors of her apartment block; and Brigette Lang proposes a headress which prevents intimacy by means of sharp spikes.... In spite of all of which, this is far from comprehensive: Adrian Piper, Chantal Akerman, Dara Birnbaum, Mary Kelly, Niki de Saint Phalle would all fit.

Sanja Ivekovik: from Inauguration at Tommaseo, 1977 / 2012


The Seasonal Others  

David Salle: Mingus in Mexico, 1990

There are too many good shows to review them all, and I tend to avoid the most obvious: those open over Christmas include:

Picasso at the National Portrait Gallery (to 5.2), a superbly balanced retrospective which happens to focus on known people - plus the bonus ball of Luc Tuymans’ portraits in glasses

The RA’s Abstract Expressionism (to 2.1). True, it’s a mess with an unduly tokenistic female presence, but is still full of great things, and the Still room is a triumph. Luc Tuymans bonus his curation of Ensor.

William Kentridge at the Whitechapel Gallery (to 15.1, plus various extras, none Tuymans).

Paul Nash at Tate Britain (to 5.3), bonus Rachel Maclean

Richard Serra’s third monumental occupation (to 25.2) of the Gagosian space in Britannia Street which was built to the spec of accommodating his work

Parts (30%) of Saatchi's latest show Painters' Painters (to 28.2) - David Salle (taking over from the recent Skarstedt show), Ansel Krut, Ryan Mosley.

If you like the spectacular, Anselm Kiefer at White Cube Bermondsey (to 22.1)

Rauschenberg at Tate Modern (to 2.2), not without a Salle chime at points...

The Wellcome Collection's current double, include Making Nature, a nice counterpoint to Marian Goodman's Animalia.

Robert Rauschenberg: Triathlon (Scenario), 2005
Antonis Pittas
: Shadows for Construction @ Narrative Projects, 110 New Cavendish Street - Fitzrovia

To 7 Jan:

Shadows for Construction # 7, 2016

This striking two room installation by the Amsterdam-based Greek artist Antotis Pittas uses a sonorous Malevich red to set up a quadrilogue between the classic constructivism of the utopian Soviet period, current European politics, the artist’s hand, and the space. So, for example, a Judd-like form is made from sub-standard bronze obtained from Greek piping sold somewhat desperately as scrap; the artist’s hands imitate the gestures from speeches by various European leaders in front of the same drawing by Lyubov Popova. And a hand-made hand-come-sofa - has it fallen from a colossal Oldenburg statue of Lenin? – provides a potentially comfortable seat from which to view a wall drawing which quotes a refugee expelled from the Calais camp. The past is our grab-bag, it seems, but still we fail to learn from it… 

Installation view with Throw Hands, 2015 and 3 x Clip (untitled), 2015


Charlie Roberts: Juicy @ Marlborough Contemporary, 6 Albemarle St - Central

Juicy x 24

Kanas-born, Oslo-based Charlie Roberts shows immense energy at in individual works and overall in  224 gouaches (you can download  them all at Marlborough's site) of  which 128 are on display in the gridded mother of all salon hangs, with any sold (at £1,000) being replaced with, I was told, the various types selling pretty equally so far. They start from  hip-hop but throw in myriad subjects, abstract approaches, colour combinations and  art historical influences pretty much freestyle, building to quite an impact.

Juicy x 1 (No. 201)

Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970's  from the Verbund Collection, Vienna @ The Photographer's Gallery

To 15 Jan:  (free  10 am -12)

Renata Eisenegger: High-rise No. 1, 1974

This may sound a narrow show until you realise how many excellent artists can be described as avant-garde 1970s feminists: Chicago, EXPORT, Ivekovic, Mendieta, Orlan, Pane, Rosler, Shneeman, Sherman, Wilke and Woodman obviously enough, but they're mostly represented by refreshingly less-often seen work: Mendiata counters her beauty and renders herself other simply by pressing up against the pane of glass, Ivekovic makes herself visibly silent by greeting her show's visitors with a taped up mouth. Moreover, there are 200 works by 48 artists, well marshalled into four themes, and almost everything is of interest. For example, Lili Dujourie makes a naked man look like a woman simply by how she has him pose; Renata Eiseneger irons the floors of her apartment block; and Brigette Lang proposes a headress which prevents intimacy by means of sharp spikes.... In spite of all of which, this is far from comprehensive: Adrian Piper, Chantal Akerman, Dara Birnbaum, Mary Kelly, Niki de Saint Phalle would all fit.

Sanja Ivekovik: from Inauguration at Tommaseo, 1977 / 2012


Renate BertlmannHöhepunkte (Two Climaxes) @ Richard Saltoun Gallery to 27 Jan / Tender Touches @ the Austrian Cultural Forum to 13 Jan /  Natalia LL: Probabilities @ Roman Road to 14 Jan

Renate Bertlmann : from Tender Touches, 1976
Natalia LL: Consumer Art, 1972

There’s something of a festival of 70’s feminist art in London now, as three fine shows complement to the Photographer’s Gallery's uberfest. Renate Bertlmann (also at the Photographer’s) has a solo show at Richard Saltoun – including work sharp enough to be banned by the Pompidou Centre in 1978 - and also stars in the Austrian Cultural Forum’s combination of 70’s classics with current parallels. Tender Touches, Bertlmann’s compelling series of short films, is in both shows: latex teats and the like appear to flirt, kiss, fuck, ejaculate and give birth in some sort of pseodo-sexual zone. The ACF cunningly counterpoints her with Eva Stenram, who cuts the posed female down to a limb: either way, we’re drawn in yet alienated from the bodies we might reconstruct from their different degrees of absence. Natalia LL’s early 70’s work from Poland seems to parody, yet also dream of ,western styles of consumption and advertising. At Roman Road the artist is visibly present in making food sexual, and it’s relevant that bananas, for example, were a luxury behind the Iron Curtain.

Eva Stenram: Parts 6, 2013

Renate Bertlmann : from Tender Touches, 1976


Bojan Šarčević: invagination @ Modern Art, 4-8 Helmet Row - Old Street

 To 14 January 2017: 

By Modern Art’s hermetic standards, Serbian Bojan Šarčević is allowed an informative sentence as his press release: ‘Invagination’, it says, ‘refers to the idea of something being turned inside-out, turned-in, or folded back on itself’. And the works, all entitled ‘exhibition elements’, generate an eerie presence as they invaginate the exhibition they constitutes through a spectacular range of materials: the new front desk is a fake, mostly of gravel held together by clear glue; there’s a sculpture made by hanging what could have wrapped a different form; a tapestry (well, dirty wool caught on some fencing); fragments of a frame which, in the absence of a painting, seem to present the whole exhibition; and a hulking yet elegant parody of a display unit fronts up a tray of dried meat.. the artist as dessicated by the experience of installing the work?


Paul Housley: Factory to Palace @ sid motion gallery, 142 York Way – King’s Cross


Factory, 2016

Paul Housley pulls a selection from his crowded studio walls to reflect on his practice, forming an indirect self-portrait which loops back to its making. There’s a van Gogh-ish  chair, an empty frame, England burning, a tiny version of the artist as one-eyed adolescent pirate (aren’t they all, to some extent?), and a paint factory, referring to both Housley’s time in Sheffield and the possibility that the building is now an artist’s studio,  and insinuating a joke – are all painted factories ‘paint factories’? Add some characterful little sculptures such a head of the artist carved in wood, and the forward motion of the new gallery, while it’s hardly a palace yet, continues in this fourth show.

The Artist, 2016


Donna HuancaSCAR CYMBALS   @ Zabludowicz Collection, 176 Prince of Wales Road - Chalk Farm


Where is action painting now? Here’s where… as enacted in slow motion by ten performers during Frieze week (and two thereafter except for a full ten again on 17 December) on three storey glass structure which responds to the religious height of the main hall, and among Huanca's previous works in another room. The upcoming American (or, now, those trained by her) paints her models every day, and their semi-choreographed movements paint the space in turn over the show's long duration. Viewers and models between them trigger an atmospheric soundscape.  

 Zabludowicz Collection Invites: Willem Weismann
To 18 December


Primordial Accumulation, 2016


Mai-Thu Perret: Zone @ Simon Lee, 12 Berkeley St - Central

To 4 Feb:

Installation view with Zone, 2016

Genevan artist Mai-Thu Perret has made her name since 1999 through by mapping an imagined women-only would-be-utopian desert community through the writings and artworks attributed to them. Typically they tweak traditional crafts – ceramic, tapestry, wickerwork – towards a constructivist aesthetic which carries an incipient feminism. Zone sees things get darker: it cites a novel about a tribe of lesbian warriors; a faceless armed figure stands guard; inside is a ceramic fountain in the form of a mortuary slab, its tube more suggestive of ritual or abuse than of pleasure. But the total effect is ambiguous: the water babbles pleasantly and the wall-based works package their art historical references attractively, though not quite as perfectly as their systems seem at first to imply...  

Be fearful and alert, as if peering into an abyss, as if treading onto thin ice, 2016 - glazed ceramic


There’s another good reason to visit the Zabludowicz Collection this coming month: Dutch painter Willem Weismann occupies the project space with a cycle of three large paintings which take us from outside to inside and (after a punctuating ladder painting) down into the basement, with all sorts of cunning connections between the works, such as the recurrence of stylised fire, the way a patch of the surface which acts as his palette recurs in different guises, and the TV image in the second work showing the image from the CCTV on the first. Plus a rather fetching line-up of cushions!



Leah Capaldi: Lay Down @ Matt’s Gallery, 65 Decima St – Bermondsey

Robin Klassnik’s new – albeit temporary – space kicks off with an immersive video-performance-sculpture by Leah Capaldi. A 21 minute double projection film loop shows the ‘natural horsemanship’ of a Utah cowboy as he cajoles his steed into lying on the ground. Against all the instincts of a flight animal, the horse arrives at what its handler calls ‘a very tender energy moment’. The vast screen is silicone, giving it a horse flank’s ripple potential and allowing the legs and arm of a participant to push through holes cut in it, so complicating our understanding of what is image, what object, and what animal; and emphasising the human parallels to be drawn from the demonstration of how love can generate trust.


Solopreneur @ Kingsgate Workshops,110-116 Kingsgate Road - West Hampstead

Installation view with Wendy and Road Spike prominent

The annual Bloomberg New Contemporaries will run 23 Nov- 22 Jan at the ICA. Having seen it in Liverpool, I can attest that Kingsgate’s less trumpeted selection of a dozen recent graduates is of comparable quality, and attractively presented by curator-selector  Eleanor Davies under the umbrella of the artists as ‘solopreneurs’ managing their own brands.   Billy Crosby has stained the wooden floor in show-infesting carmine evoking, perhaps, the house linked to the work's title, Wendy. Then you realise it’s actually a concrete floor, on which are Sarah Jenkins' wax TV and Kitty Hall’s gloop-drenched cone sculpture Road Spike.  The retro street theme goes on with Wuji Yi  presenting a wittily unlikely taxonomy of the favourite security barriers of the population of Ghullja, China, while Daniela Dyson spunkily asserts her painterly credentials with the text work BIG DICK in letters, I would think, as high as she is.  Prospects for future brand recognition look fair.

Wuji Yi: research documentation from 'The Most Glorious Security Barrier in Ghuja' project

Animality @ Marian Goodman Gallery, 5-8 Lower John St - central

Carsten Höller: Octopus, 2014

This is a remarkable enterprise from commercial gallery, an extensive survey through art and historic illustrations of our relationships with animals with full curatorial apparatus (from Jens Hoffman) and 70 participant 'creatures' unerringly chosen - if this were the Tate and you had to pay to get in, no one would complain. It's a bit futile to select highlights, but hard not to notice John Baldassari's giant white camel ready to pass through a needle,  Carsten Höller's purple octopus, an enormous tiger portrait by Robert Longo, and Steve McQueen's highly charged film of a dead horse. At the other end of the scale, it would be easy to miss Maurizio Cattelan's mouse house or Jacub Julian Ziółkowski high-hung dog's soul.
still from Steve McQueen: Running Thunder, 2007

Matthew Darbyshire: Passive Sensor @ Herald St, 2 Herald Street - Bethnal Green

To 16 Dec:

This striking installation sets just-above-life-size figures in a garden of crushed stone and broken plastic appliances just big enough to recognise some bits, with park benches to ease the viewing. The figures, of Darbyshire's wife Grace, are elegantly rendered from coils of clay as if she has just been extruded, and are made somewhat creepy by the more conventionally modelled hands and feet, which are her husband's: is he deconstructing the tradition of the artist's muse, or is that a touching sign of love through bodily merger?


Jutta Koether:  Best of Studios @ Campoli Presti, 223 Cambridge Heath Rd - Bethnal Green
To 17 Dec:
Brooklyn Boogie (Bruised Grid #6), 2016  Acrylic on canvas and wood 
30 x 30 cm (35 canvases)

Most prominent here are the first UK showing of Jutta Koether’s 30 cm square Bruised Grid paintings, which threaten to be geometric abstraction but undermine themselves by irregular thicknesses of canvas and scruffy paint application, then turn out to be on top of figurative sketches which could have formed other work. Their predominant redness is down to their role as brush wipes from Koether's wider practice. Add a self-portrait of sorts (as a K of bodily impasto), passing shots across the bows of landscape and the nude, and still lives in her Berlin and New York studios, each containing plants in  Bruised Grid patterned pots, and you have a balanced tour of Koether’s  paradoxically alluring anti-painting practice and where it takes place. 

K- Bild (version 2), 2016  Acrylic on canvas  130 x 80 cm

Claudia Carr: Opened Ground @ Jessica Carlisle, 4 Mandeville Place – Bond Street

To 3 December:

Brackish II, 2014 - 92 x 113cm

Painting is well suited to ambiguity: a photograph may be deceptive, but once you know what it is the matter is concluded. But there's no fact of the matter in a painting, which Claudia Carr exploits to the full in her  pictures derived from small objects arranged in the studio, here restricted to calmly lyrical black, white and ochre: she exploits ambiguities of genre (still life, landscape or abstract?), place (are under water or on the moon?) scale (is that a pebble, rock or mountain?) and tone (naturalistic or surreal?).

Drift, 2015 - 57 x 31 cm

Stephanie Quayle: Jenga @ T.J.Boulting, 59 Riding House Street - Fitzrovia

To 10 Dec:

Golden Lion Tamarin, 2015

   You’ll smile at the cavalcade of forty-odd monkeys which Isle of Manner Stephanie Quayle concocts from clay in the manner of a watercolourist who can capture character in a fluid sketch. Gallerist Hannah Watson can specify the six types for you. Yet the jenga on which they clamber is a rickety-looking construction of old railway sleepers, suggesting how the delicate balance of their habitats might come toppling down like a set of blocks in the game of removal and addition; and the backroom is populated by orang-utans, lounging on the crates in which they were presumably imprisoned to be brought here. All seven species are endangered, so maybe you shouldn’t smile - but it’s still hard not to.

Jenga, 2015, Reclaimed timber, terracotta, toasted stoneware, white stoneware clays, bolts - 3 x 4 x 3m

Levi van Veluw: The Foundation @ Rosenfeld Porcini, 37 Rathbone Street - Fitzrovia

To 26 Nov:

Subdividing matter I, 2016, Walnut wood, Black ink

In 2011, Dutch artist Levi van Veluw built three versions of his boyhood bedroom, covered with thousands of symmetrical wooden shapes to symbolise his ‘urge for order and fear of losing control’. He has since developed that theme of the world on the edge of order or just tipping over it through charcoal drawings, installations, photography and film. All are present in his first London solo show, an immersive alternate reality realised with fantastic control which is at once unsettlingly and uplifting. Surely that much obsessive regulation will collapse at some point - as the video performance 'Archive' suggests - but for now the exhilaration of its realisation predominates.

Factory 2, 2016 - charcoal on paper


Cindy Sherman and David Salle: History Portraits and Tapestry Paintings @ Skarstedt, 8 Bennet St - Central

To 26 Nov:  

David Salle: Lampwick’s Dilemma, 1989
This imaginative combination works as if always meant to be, and while the Shermans are likely familiar, the Salle are a rarely-seen revelation:  complex multi-image paintings which jeep their balance while ranging across continents (all have content from at least three), historical eras (old master quotes, visibly modern models in his studio now), art forms (painting,collage, performance, photography, sculpture, cartoons, tapestry as the backdrop) and painterly languages.  Join the Salle Army!


Rachel Goodyear: Approaching the Surface @ Pippy Houldsworth, 6 Heddon Street - Central

To 19 Nov:

Girl with Frog, 2016 - charcoal, ink and watercolour on paper, 72 x 53 cm
Having found a characteristic language of the wittily macabre through black and white drawing, Rachel Goodyear has been able to expand her trigger-points for unconscious fears into painterly effects, sculpture and film, and also threatens the citadel of colour. The essence, though, remains off kilter scenarios faced by characters who seem to have stepped out of time, and Goodyear is in top form here: a woman plays – chess perhaps – with cairns; another makes men; a girl seems about to co-opt a frog into who knows what ritual purpose. And sea urchins cover - or replace? - a face’s eyes: positively, they look like rays of light, but have the eyes been spiked?

Urchins 2, 2016: pencil, charcoal, watercolour and ink on paper, 72 x 53 cm
David Batchelor: Reef @ Handel Street Projects, 14 Florence Street - Islington

To 17 Dec (by appointment):

Large plinths either end of the room each support fifty-odd grey concrete echoes, into each of which is set an irregular section of transparent, opaque or mirrored Perspex offcut. That makes for a hundred opportunities for David Batchelor to explore his interest in found artificial colour.  As he says ‘the shapes appear to serve no other purpose than to support their given hue’.  Perhaps not, but the concrete introduces the suggestion that graffiti might be somehow floating free of its environmental constraints to yield a neo-Platonic vision which separates the ideal from its source in gritty reality.



Creative Fury, curated by Joanna Bryant & Julian Page @ 20 Clerkenwell Green – Farringdon

To 19 Nov:

William Kentridge: Sleeper - Black - etching, aquatint and drypoint,1997

You probably don’t need prompting to see William Kentridge at the Whitechapel, and he has an opera design in town, too. This less publicised show is also well worth seeing for some of the South African’s  most iconic works on paper and Ten Drawings for Projection, a feature-length compilation of short animated films.  Moreover, Kentridge is set in the interesting context of the Hungarian cold war painter György Kovásznai (1934-1983), who took to animating his paintings when faced by the problems of distributing the ‘hard copy’ - to eerily Kentridge-compatible effect. The show also finds room for four other artists with parallel concerns, among whom Marcelle Hanselaar - who seems very cheerful - impressed with four drawings of alternative means of forcing a smile, including painting happy lips on a corrective mask and having a monkey pull back the corners of the mouth. 

Marcelle Hanselaar: DW60-19/7, 2016, pencil, oil on board, 27 x 30 cm
                                                          _________________    Neo Rauch @ David Zwirner, 24 Grafton St - Mayfair

To 12 Nov:

The Incident, 2016 -  250 x 300 cm

Can this really be Rauch’s first solo show in London? It has everything you'd want in it, with Rauch's character creations seemingly emerging from his favourite 19th century into darkly modern scenarios. His task, says Rauch, is to bring us the our disturbed condition in a form we can live with, which he does by working simultaneously on a group of paintings, starting on the left with little idea how they will turn out. Plus, in the project space, a collaboration between Marcel Dzama and Raymond Pettibon makes for a subsidiary attraction which could easily act as a main event....       

The Cure, 2016 - 250 x 200 cm


Hugh Mendes: The Death of the Artist @ Charlie Smith, 336 Old St – Hoxton

To 12 Nov:

Obituary: Chantal Akerman, 2016

After fifteen years of painting still lives of newspaper clippings, many of them obituaries, another show of Hugh Mendes’ indirect portraits of the dead might seem otiose. Yet three factors stop this being so. First, hisTrompe-l'œil means of slowing the news into still life remains smoothly alluring. Second, a  focus on 20-odd artists allows him to sneak Barthes into the show’s title and provides a survey of influence even as it undermines originality; third,  many  of the images Mendes finds prove skewed and apt: Rauchenberg oddly bandaged; Lucien Freud is a painting of a photo of a painting of himself; Chantal Akerman has a bright elfin glamour at odds with her suicide; On Kawara is naturally suited to a date painting; Francis Bacon appears indirectly, via the notice of photographer Jane Bown.

Obituary: Robert Rauschenberg, 2015


Njideka Akunyili Crosby: Portals @ Victoria Miro, Wharf Road, Hoxton - to 5 Nov:

Danny Rolph:  East Central @ CNB Gallery, 32 Rivington Street, Shoreditch -  to 6 Nov:

Njideka Akunyili Crosby: Super Blue Omo, 2016 - Acrylic, transfers, colored pencils, collage on paper 213 x 274 cm - with detail

It sounds an awkward - if potentially resonant -  idea to integrate differently scaled transfer images from photographs into a figurative painting so that, say, the history of Nigeria appears on crockery, TVs, furniture, wallpaper and clothing of interior scenes of the family life of an artist of African origin. Yet Njideka Akunyili Crosby pulls this off with considerable aplomb at the macro scale of the 'main image' and micro scale of the images seen up close. That may seem quite a contrast with the dazzling spread of apparently-abstract colours motifs which  Danny Rolph is able to present at considerable scale in the large gallery under the Tramshed restaurant. However, Rolph's starting point has always been his views over London when growing up in an East End tower block, and here that is explicit in the titles* of the latest of his signature 'triple walls' (layered into plastic sheeeeting with a fluting down the centre). And in fact, all sorts of things are there when you're drawn in, including the river, the architecture, album cover designs and collaged photographic elements taking us back to Rolph's boyhood.

*  ie EC1 - where Rolph lived, EC2 where he went to school, EC3 - where he wandered the streets on empty Sunday mornings and EC4, where his father worked for Fleet Street newspapers.

Danny Rolph: EC1, 2016 - mixed media on Triplewall, 100 x 487cm - with detail

Molly Soda: Comfort Zone @ Annka Kultys, 472 Hackney Rd - Cambridge Heath

Lynn Hershman Leeson: Trans Genesis: Evaporations and Mutations @ Vilma Gold, 6 Minerva Street

To 29 Oct

Molly Soda in suitable phone action in her pink-tinged world

I often feel that artists using new media ending up making ersatz versions of what could been made by other means, but American Molly Soda’s stream of screens, iPads, selfies, messages and images does feel genuinely alternative.  Her online persona has a huge following, on the back of which she’s able here to expand her practice to appropriate all the comments made about her. Comfort Zone includes her satirical self-insertion into online self-improvement advice, tales of relationships collaged out of pop songs, laptops on the floor of her speed-scrolling her phone, and 18 hours of selfie footage which – despite her prolific posting – is a ‘gallery exclusive’ compilation of unreleased clips – with plenty of crying in what I saw. And there's an effective 'compare and contrast' available just 100 yards away - with how the pioneering Lynne Hershman Leeson (given a 25 work 30 year survey by Vilma Gold)  used interactive modes in the 1980's.

Lynn Hershman Leeson: Seduction, 1985

Rachel Libeskind: The Circumcision of Christ and Modern Oblivion @ Contini, 105 New Bond St

To 31 Oct:

Rachel Libeskind with her version of Holbein (for half the tapestries, the back / negative is displayed)

Rachel Libeskind, a US-based Berlin-born Jew of Polish descent, presents tapestries ordered online from Wallmart for digital production, showing a dozen medieval paintings of the circumcision of Christ. That triggers a host of issues: cross cultural similarities and differences; drawing attention to how little we look at the subjects of old paintings, this being a ubiquitous, strange, but little-noticed one; parallel suppression of images and beliefs, the circumcision being rendered unmentionable by Vatican decree in 1900 even though the holy foreskin was considered a powerful relic (and indeed our calendar is based on initiating the year with the ceremony, eight days after Jesus’s birth); and the application of modern techniques to tweak the tail of such ancient conundra as ‘did the resurrected Jesus have a foreskin?’. Weirdly interesting.


John Wood and Paul Harrison: Some Things Were Recorded 1993-1998 @ Carroll / Fletcher, 56-57 Eastcastle Street - Fitzrovia


Still from 3-Legged, 1996

It's pretty-much the non-surprise of the autumn season to report that this extensive collection of Wood and Harrison's video work from the 90's, supplemented by their working drawings, is a delightful reprise of the many ways they found to position themselves somewhere between Buster Keaton and Sol LeWitt: tied three-legged while dodging tennis balls, choreographing an 8 x 4 ft board, using portable steps or, more disturbingly, making the best of being trapped in a cube half-full of under water... There are eight screens downstairs at Carroll / Fletcher, but it's quickfire stuff so that the total running time for scores of actions is only 35 minutes or so.

Still from Harry Houdini (there's no escape that I can see), 1994


Andrew Curtis: Garage Door Paintings @ PayneShurvell,

71 Blandford St - Baker St

To 26 Oct (by appointment + closing event
26 Oct 7-9pm):

Installation view

Andrew Curtis has tended to configure modernism as an alien presence in suburbia: now the two merge in one-to-one scaled silver paintings of six garage doors propped against the walls rather like their models, all of which were metal garage doors which Curtis found abandoned  in the urban landscape. Frank Stella comes to mind in the pleasingly various parallel lined compositions, actually achieved with tremulous patience by painting several layers of aluminium around the still-exposed cotton duck.


Preparatory photo

Giuseppe Penone: Fui, Sarò, Non Sono (I was, I will be, I am not) @ Marian Goodman,  5-8 Lower John St – Central

Even half of Marian Goodman's joint London-Paris survey of the last three years of Giuseppe Penone's practice makes a strong case for best show in town - and he also has a superbly placed nine metre tree work near The Gherkin as part of 'Sculpture in the City'. Penone is particularly good with touch, which he considers more immediate than sight* and on human interaction with nature. Those are the connecting themes here across fingerprints, terracotta portraits of his daughter, a massive acacia thorn work, and bronze trees with an inner essence of marble.  

    Idee di pietra (ideas of stone), 2010

* Penone states that ‘the vision of an abject is a moment past’, whereas ‘tactile perception brings us closer to the present’. That operates poetically in the work, but actually there’s scope to disagree here: light takes pretty-much no time to travel (say) a metre or two from object to eye at 300 million m/sec, much less time than for a hand’s touch to transmit to the brain through the nerves at a comparatively sluggish 100 m/sec.


Thilo Heinzmann: To Be And To Be @ Carl Freedman Gallery, 29 Charlotte Rd – Shoreditch

Untitled, 2016 (detail)

Violence and beauty often combine to effect in abstract painting. There’s a double dose now: not just Gunther Uecker’s fine show at Dominique Levy, but also Thilo Heinzman’s new work. The Berlin artist takes an axe to the back of a sheet of white aluminium to make variably oriented incisions in the wake of Fontana, then invokes Miro and Sam Francis in the delicacy with which he pools on colours which respond to the placement of the cuts without ever feeling determined by them. The effect is celestial and floral, and Heinzmann’s own mix of pure pigments with liquid resin has the added attraction that they still look deceptively wet. 

Untitled, 2016 (full: 150 x 130 cm)


Marta Marcè: Passages @ Riflemaker, 79 Beak St - Soho

Now & Ever 76, 2016

Berlin-based Spaniard Marta Marcè's native language is Catalan, but fortunately, having lived in London for several years, she speaks English to me. Her paintings share that fluency across languages: she used to derive abstraction directly from game, now geometric structures hint at meaning – are they portals, or magical symbols? – but the play goes on beneath: casual taping as generator of bleeding line; explorative layering and mixing of colours; the subversion of her shapes’ apparent striving for purity.   In that context, showing against Riflemaker’s rough boarding makes sense, though I’d like to see how Marcè would look at, say, David Zwirner.



Jeff Koons: Now @ Newport Street Gallery, Newport Street –  Vauxhall


'Play Doh', 1994-2014
Damien Hirst, in his more than impressive new space, provides a punchily presented and much less predictable overview of Koons than I’d expected: hoovers and basketballs present and welcome, but also early inflatables to tee up the later stainless steel blown-up big ‘can’t-believe-it’s-not-vinyl’ ones; a bigger balloon ‘celebration’ than has been shown in London before; giant eggs as well as Jeff’s own sperm on Illona’s face; the 27 aluminium casts which make up the monstrous child’s play of ‘Play Doh’… 

Three Ball 50/50 Tank (Spalding Dr JK Silver series), 1995

                            Three in Peckham:
Dinh Q. Lê: The Colony @ 133 Rye Lane to 9 Oct

Derek Jarman garden, Floor 10, 95A Rye Lane in Bold Tendencies to 1 Oct

Colin Booth: If Not Winter @ MOCA Project Space, 113 Bellenden Rd to Sept 23

Still from Dinh Q. Lê: The Colony
There’s plenty coming up in Mayfair, of course, but still Peckham is worth a visit. Artangel’s latest project is a spectacular three screen cinematic investigation of the boom and bust of the guano industry in the  bird-blizzarded islands off Peru. Why is Vietmanese artist Dinh Q. Lê so interested? He has no need to state explicitly that he posits guano as a 19th century equivalent of oil today. The top-of-car-park annual Bold Tendencies is always worthwhile, and while there’s less new work than usual this year, it struck me that the urban take on Derek Jarman’s Dungeoness garden (planted in 2013)  has now reached a suitably windswept maturity. The other end of the scale, Colin Booth shows marble meditations from Sappho and complement’s MOCA’s library with 75 blankly quiet cedar versions from his own book collection…

Derk Jarman garden, Peckham

Colin Booth: Go, litel bok (detail)
Kelvin Okafor: Interludes @ Albemarle Gallery, 49 Albemarle St – Central

Jas's Interlude, 2016

The Albemarle Gallery's shows rarely appeal to me, but I was struck by 30 year old Londoner Kelvin Okafor’s graphite and charcoal portraits. You have to be tremendously good to achieve relevance in such a well-trodden field, and it’s no surprise to hear that Okafor has been drawing people obsessively since he was eight.  The closed eyes of the 14 rather good-looking friends whose 'interlude' he documents in this project adds a mysterious charge, and he varies the scale very effectively - from half life-size to getting on for double: Okafor told me that he senses different people at different scales. Has he tried colour? Yes, he said, but 'it didn’t suit my personality’. 

It's not so often you want your photo's subject with eyes closed...


David Korty @ Sadie Coles, 1 Davies St – Mayfair

To 1 Oct:

I wasn’t fully convinced by David Korty’s last series of paintings, which lined up objects on shelves, white against a blue backdrop. But this development out of them is a winner:, the objects are replaced with shapes of fragmented text, sometimes reversed or reflected, and most of the white with a Tiepelesque range of pinks offsetting the night-deep blue. They’re actually layered collages, and shaped to hint at figures or faces, the more so as small images of masks also appear. There’s plenty of play with what’s the background and what the foreground, and frames are also collaged-on.  In sum, despite the flatness, a persuasive post-modern recycling of cubist tropes.

Word Painting (Margate), 2016

Samara Scott: Developer @ Battersea Park

Just south of where the Thames forms Battersea Park’s border is one of those works likely to be differently classified by the passing public. Is it that some vandal discoloured the Mirror Pools with noxious chemicals and then dumped builder’s tarpaulin and scaffold netting? Or has Samara Scott summoned the spirit of Monet’s water lilies to arrange paintings without paint, which evocatively refer to the locality? Under Option 2 the use of chemicals to keep algae away will act like an old-style photographic developer to change the pools' colours over time, and suggest the saltpetre works which once  caused fabric production to thrive locally; while the submerged fabrics from the building trade bring to mind the other sort of developer, whose extensive construction works characterise Battersea just now.


The highlight of the Waddington Gallery’s Barry Flanagan retrospective earlier this year was his film sand girl, 1970, even though it wasn’t terribly well displayed. The Welsh artist (1941-2009) is better far better known for his adventurous early sculptures (quite often using sand) and later self-identification as a mischievous hare. So it’s good to find that Tate bought sand girl in 2012 and is now displaying it on a monumental scale in a dedicated room, so making the most of the chance-driven details in this 17 minute proto-exemplar of action, time and gravity as sculpture. Flanagan's student Cheryll Potter is transformatively trickled on by sand leaked from a bag swung over her. It settles into granularity, seethes with her movements, forms abstractions on closeup, and plays hide and seek with the landscape as body.


Clarisse d'ArcimolesForgotten Tale @ Photographer's Gallery

To 23 Sept

The installation

When she was a girl in France, Clarisse d'Arcimoles persuaded herself that old back and white photographs showed that the world was not then in colour, feeding what proved an ongoing desire to enter the monochrome world as used to be. She's often played on that urge by casting herself – with enough seriousness to emplo a period specialist hairdresser - into remakes of Victorian photography, several of which are on view here. But after some years pursuing the funds, d'Arcimoles has finally realised the grander ambition of recreating the childishly assumed world itself. Her installation replicates the location of a family photographed in a common lodging house in Spitalfields in 1902, the whole walk-in scene meticulously painted in black and white.

The original photograph


MADE YOU LOOK: Dandyism and Black Masculinity @ The Photographer’s Gallery, 16-18 Ramillies St – Oxford Circus

Jeffrey Henson-Scales, Young Man In Plaid, NYC, 1991

Introducing his show, curator Ekow Eshun summairses how black men can be both hyper-visible (due to racial stereotypes of criminality and sexuality) and yet invisible (in terms of their inner life and own concerns). That’s the context for images in which black men assert themselves beyond the constrictions of the white gaze as complex and flamboyant rather than other or estranged, and do so through a dandyism which is less a matter of fashion and pose than a  means of constructing a self-identity. Morrocan-born Hassan Hajjij’s extravagantly patterned friends framed by packets of local products, Samuel Fosso’s self-reinventions, Jeffrey Henson-Scales and Malick Sidibé are among the telling choices.
Hassan Hajjij: Mr J-C Heyford, 2012

Bella Easton: These Outer Shells
 Gallery Elena Shchukina, 10 Lees Place, Mayfair (access from Shepherd's Place)
To 16 Sept:

According to me* ‘Bella Easton develops, replicates and reflects on apparently straightforward scenes from everyday life to generate a complex account of the multiple relationships and contradictions between inside and outside, natural and artificial, open and enclosed, chaos and order, uncanny and familiar, light and dark. In so doing, she takes her source material through a dizzying range of transformations to suggest the various selves that might be in play when we formulate our own identities’. Out of the intricacies of chirality, pareidolia and fragmentation emerges a washed-out romantic beauty.

* see full text at

Chiral I

No comments:

Post a comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.

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.