Monday, 28 December 2009

NEW YEAR CHOICES


For the most part this just rounds up what's still on of the shows I recommend ahead of the mid-January openings, but with pictures!
Meanwhile, in the bigger places, head to Trafalgar Square for a threefold dose of charged sculptural realism. The rightly lauded National Gallery show ‘The Sacred Made Real’ isn’t just a chance to see seven stunning paintings by Francisco de Zurbarán (though it is that, and suffice it to say that he fully measures up to the four from Valasquez),it also makes a strong case for how the art of polychromy – painting votive wooden statues – fed into the those Spanish works. Superbly-preserved examples by forgotten Spanish sculptors such as Juan de Mesa and Juan Martínez Montañés are shown alongside the tenebrous masterpieces which they influenced. Spotlit in gloom, the wooden figures teeter – often very effectively – on the edge of kitsch and surreal in the relish with which they recreate details such as Jesus’ flayed back.

The Chapman brothers may come to mind, or even Marc Quinn’s quinquennial cycle of heads cast from his own blood – and as it happens the National Portrait Gallery is now showing its recently-acquired version of 'Self'from 2006. And there’s some of the same spirit and crepuscular viewing conditions back at the National Gallery in Ed and Nancy Kienholz’s ‘The Hoerengracht’, a monumental restaging of the Amsterdam red light district in the 1980s complete with prostitutes life cast from visitors to the Kienholz studio – it’s magnificently seedy, and all held together by light, framing devices and resinous gloop. The installation seems to have got a bad press, not for the presence of such content in such an august institution, nor for the parallels drawn with Dutch paintings from the Golden Age, but for finger wagging attitudinising – maybe so, but I couldn’t work out what message was being preached.






The Epoch of Perpetual Happiness

Peter Davies @ The approach, 47 Approach Rd – Bethnal Green

To 17 Jan: www.theapproach.co.uk

If you like lists and quizzes you’ll love Peter Davies’ big painting ‘The Epoch of Perpetual Happiness’, which provides a pictorial spin on his well-known lists of a hundred hot or cool artists. It presents a huge range of art and pop references – the press release lists some 150 for you to spot but you can also gain bonus points for discovering unlisted inclusions: one of them is Gerhard Richter, represented through the filter of his candle on the cover of Sonic Youth’s ‘Daydream Nation’. Richter is also a presence in the show as a whole in the way in which Davies pursues parallel but very different strands of painting which themselves interrogate the nature of painting. The other two large canvasses here are an obsessively detailed take on colour field abstraction via thousands of small squares, and the conversion of gestural abstract expressionist marks into an anally retentive equivalent using carefully ruled straight lines.


Jessica Lagunas: The Better to Kiss You With

The Body in Women’s Art Now @ Rollo Contemporary Art, 51 Cleveland St (Fitzrovia)

To 20 Jan: www.rolloart.com/

The first part of a three-part survey of work created by women artists this century in which the body is central, ‘Embodied’ combines Regina José Galindo and Sigalit Landau’s recent video classics with less well known but also interesting work by Jessica Lagunas (who, like Galindo, grew up in Guatemala) and young British photographer Lydia Maria Julien. And there is an excellent catalogue. I recommend you start downstairs, where Lagunas piles on the beauty to edgily comic excess by applying lipstick and nail varnish for an hour, and then drop back between the shorter works to see how she’s getting on…


Ornulf Opdahl: 'Mood Paintings of the North' @ Kings Place gallery, 90 York Way - Kings Cross

To 26 Feb: www.kingsplace.com

Kings Place is very much worth a visit: not only is it a spectacularly appointed new building with a high quality music programme and a good café, it also has lots of visual art, courtesy of the Pangolin and Kings Place galleries. The former is unusual in showing primarily sculpture and being linked to a foundry, and exhibits many sculptures outside the gallery (a leaflet takes you round a trail, and there are striking front window displays).

The Kings Place Gallery spreads its wares across three levels outside the large but rather tucked away room of the gallery itself. Currently it is showing no fewer than 50 recent oils and watercolours by Ornulf Opdahl, who paints the mountains and fjords of Alesund on the west of Norway. If that sounds like a recipe for traditional romanticism, it is: in the accompanying ten minute film Opdahl himself talks about his recurring fascination for 'a landscape which always reflects my mind'. But he also says that he 'tries to be abstract all the time', and that is what gives his dramatic explorations of light and mood a modern inflexion - in another context, you might not guess the subject of 'The Mountain, Ramsen, Winter'...


Cecily Brown: Aujourd'hui Rose

Visible Invisible: Against the Security of the Real @ Parasol unit, 14 Wharf Rd - Hoxton

To 7 Feb: www.parasol-unit.org

Veteran Hans Josephsohn's figures dotted around the Parasol unit's elegant and considerable space are the counterpoints to four painters - Cecily Brown, Shaun McDowell, Katy Moran and Maaike Schoorel - who work in the space between figuration and abstraction. This show would be worth visiting just for the opening room of Katy Moran's intimate and astutely-judged apparent hesitations. But you also get Cecily Brown’s punning modulations between people and skulls; the flickeringly fleshy evocations of Shaun McDowell, rapidly emerging as the best known of the Hannah Barry Gallery's South London set; and Maaike Schoorel making a portrait of Roger Hiorns almost disappear into blankness as if she knew that he would fail to win the Turner Prize.


Painting 15 from 'Under the Snow'

Ilya & Emilia Kabakov: Under the Snow @ Sprovieri Gallery, 27 Heddon St – Central

To 17 Jan: www.sprovieri.com

Sprovieri is tucked away on the first floor behind the phone box (which features on the cover of Ziggy Stardust, incidentally) at the end of Heddon Street. It opened ten years ago with the New York based Russian émigrés Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, and has shown them regularly. If you think of the Kabakovs as producing hardcore conceptual installations turning on the legacies of Soviet history, then this gently lyrical set of large paintings from their extensive ‘Under the Snow’ suite will surprise you. They show a world blanketed in snow, varying gaps in which reveal people and landscapes. These play on memory, scale, and what is and isn’t hidden. There’s a hint, perhaps, of Ilya’s original career as a children’s book illustrator. White, say the Kabakovs, 'is the space of pure contemplation’ that ‘suddenly turns out to be inserted into the visual world' in the form of snow. There is also an intriguing extract from the complex project ‘The Teacher and The Student: Charles Rosenthal and Ilya Kabakov’, which consists of work shown as the products of a fictional version of Ilya and his teacher.


Eva Hesse & Katja Strunz @ Camden Arts Centre, Arkwright Rd

To 7 March: http://www.camdenartscentre.org

Camden has two strong shows at the moment. No surprise in the case of Eva Hesse’s tensely ambiguous, appropriately provisional ‘studioworks’ – poised between mathematical and organic, pictorial and abstract, male and female, prison and home: these tabletop displays got rave revies in Edinburgh. But German sculptor Katja Stunz fits in well with her ‘Sound of the Pregeometric Age’, a room full of instrument or musician-like found sculptural combinationals. They are set up stands, and wired for sound to give off the crackles, shrillings, rustles and bleeps of their world as if testing the acoustics of the space. This works especially well when the traffic outside joins in. Meanwhile the title points to echoes from the deep past – the ‘pregeometric age’ is not art before minimalism, but a scientific term for the time before the big bang.



Untitled (74-8)

Donald Judd: ‘Progressions 1960’s and 1970’s’ @ Simon Lee, 12 Berkeley St – Central

To 29 January: www.simonleegallery.com

The purest pleasure currently available in a London gallery may well be this series of six horizontal mounted wall works by the late American master of anti-illusion, Donald Judd. It’s a chance to track the subtle changes in shape and means from 1967 to 1975 in what, colour aside, may look near-identical works. In fact, Judd sought increasing perfection in line with the improving manufacturing capability, moving from galvanized iron painted with lacquer to highly polished brass to anodized aluminium, in which an electrical process maximizes the adhesion of the paint.


The Journey

Gordon Cheung @ Room, 31 Waterson St – Shoreditch

To 31 Jan: www.roomartspace.co.uk

Gordon Cheung has surfed the zeitgeist from one recession to the next with his imaginings of the end of civilisation with his characteristic integration of stock listings into paintings: here the close-up heads of those market beasts the bull and the bear ram home such themes. But is it time for a change? Cheung provides three with laser-burnt subversions of Durer etchings, and new lines in sculpture and video animation: the latter in particular are mesmerically well-suited to his psychedelically apocalyptic colours. And the four screens of cowboys come with the bonus of The Doors' seminal 'The End' as a soundtrack.


Bee Painting, Small Screen III, 2009

Klaus Weber @ Herald St, Bethnal Green

To 17 Jan: www.heraldst.com

And perhaps the weirdest pleasure, if pleasure it be, are these shit paintings. Not mere bad paintings; nor paint pretending to be shit as in Dan Colen; nor genuine balls of elephant shit as in Chris Ofili; nor even the canvases placed in the Swedish forest by Henrik Hakansson, who waits for swallows to make abstract patterns - that’s close, but not quite weird enough. The highly imaginative German artist Klaus Weber (you may have seen his people with fountains sprouting from their orifices on the South Bank or his vacuum sculptures) has radically delegated artistic control by exploiting the fact that bees are bunged up in the hive all winter, and then take a ‘cleansing flight’ during which they defecate on anything which is unnaturally white. Canvases placed in a bee-keeper’s yard were thus anointed by delicate yellow and light brown marks to become ‘bee paintings’. You can compare the bees with bomber planes. You can muse on how it must feel to be liberated from such a burden. You can ponder the bees’ easy desecration of the modernist purity of the white canvas. Or you can just say: well, that’s weird.



Hans-Peter Feldmann @ Ancient & Modern, 201 Whitecross Street – Barbican

To 16 Jan: http://www.ancientandmodern.org/

How often do you see 174 paintings of nudes in a contemporary gallery? Especially one with Ancient & Modern’s particularly modest scale? Well, it turns out to be an exact fit for Hans-Peter Feldmann’s installation of stamps, each showing just that. It’s a well-worn topic for thematic stamp collectors, but the gallery context alters their reception, just as it has that of the multifarious other selections the wide-ranging German has presented in the past in addition to his photographs.

TEN FOR THE FUTURE

I am looking forward to:

Ori Gersht @ Mummery & Schnelle 13.1 – 27.2

Oliver Laric @ Seventeen 13.1 – 13.2

Ryan Mosley @ Alison Jacques 13.1 – 13.2

Danny Rolph @ Poppy Sebire 14.1 – 20.2

William Eggleston @ Victoria Miro 15.1 – 27.2

Max Mosscrop @ Five Years: 16.1 – 31.1

Waseem Ahmed @ Laurent Delaye 22.1 – 27.2

Magali Reus @ Ibid Projects 22.1 – 7.3

Michael Landy @ South London Gallery 29.1 - 14.3

John Gerrard @ Thomas Dane 3.2 – 6.3

Sunday, 20 December 2009

BEST OF 2009 + VENICE SPECIAL

Looking back at 2009, hardly a good year due to Art World closing, I nonetheless see that I saw impressive art in Bexhill, Eastbourne, Brighton, Southampton, Oxford, Birmingham, Manchester, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Berlin, Basel, Berne, Zurich, Paris, Copenhagen, Malaga, Venice and New York. But even sticking purely to London and strictly to contemporary, I am spoiled for choice, and shall allow myself a more than excessive 2 x 20 memorable shows in no particular order:

Non-commercial 20:

John Baldessari @ Tate Modern (& Spruth Magers)
Roni Horn @ Tate Modern
Ed Ruscha @ the Hayward
‘The Russian Linesman’ @ the Hayward
Design High @ Louise Blouin
Francis Alys @ NPG
Jeff Koons @ Serpentine
Robert Kusmirowski @ Barbican
‘My Yard’ @ Whitechapel
Richter Portaits @ NPG
Altermodern @ Tate Britain
Jeff McMillan @ Peer
Roger Hiorns for Artangel
Rebecca Warren @ Serpentine
Anish Kapoor @ Royal Academy
Iza Genzken @ Whitechapel
Michael Snow @ BFI Southbank
DJ Simpson @ Bloomberg
‘The Photographic Object’ @ The Photographer’s Gallery
Mat Collishaw @ The Freud Museum

Commercial 20:

André Butzer @ Alison Jacques
Tala Madani @ Pilar Corrias
Philip Allen @ The Approach
Cinthia Marcelle @ Sprovieri
David Claerbout @ Hauser & Wirth
‘In Between the Lines’ @ Trinity Contemporary
Alexis Harding @ Mummery & Schnelle
Caragh Thuring @ Thomas Dane
Phyllida Barlow @ One in the Other
Glenn Brown @ Gagosian
Keith Coventry @ Haunch of Venison
Richard Serra @ Gagosian
Leonardo Drew @ FAS
Cedric Chistie @ Flowers East
Marnie Weber @ Simon Lee
Sara Haq @ Alexia Goethe
Carter @ Hotel
Adeela Suleman @ Aicon
Oliver Laric @ Seventeen
‘Supersurface’ @ Laurent Delaye (Robyn Denny, Michael Stubbs,
Danny Rolph, Perry Roberts, Shaan Syed)

Mummery & Schnelle deserve a special mention, as Maria Chevska, Carol Rhodes and Robert Bordo were all top shows as well as Alexis Harding. It was tempting to include the current London and Oxford double of Miroslav Balka (or even treble as he showed at White Cube in January) as one show. I also liked several shows about – well, nothing really: parts II and III of Laure Genillard’s ‘Presque Rien’, ‘Beyond these Walls’ at the South London Gallery and not so much the retrospective of various voids initiated by from the Pompidou Centre and which I caught in Berne (how can voids go on tour?) as the fascinating catalogue which justified the show. Also Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom as the most interesting new emergent, at both Primo Alonso and Josh Lilley, and Vanessa Billy and Ryan Mosley as rapid riders.

The best new galleries were Poppy Sebire (kicking off jointly with Alan Cristea through a lively two-location show of Boo Ritson), Josh Lilley, East Central and Calvert22 in a year in which, despite the recession, there was no reduction in the total number of spaces in London. And after something of a drift west in 2008, the trend reversed a bit in 2009, with the excellent Rokeby (star show Tom Badley)and Ritter/Zamet (star show Dolly Thompsett) moving east, and Vyner Street enhanced by the arrival of two of the liveliest galleries: Madder 139 and (imminently) Vegas.

So what about outside London? That’s a bit more arbitrary, but I liked:

Martin Kippenberger @ MOMA, New York
Vanessa Beecroft: VB64 @ Deitch Projects, New York
Kirsten Ortwed @ Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen
Beat Zoderer @ Bartha Garage, Basel
Giuseppe Penone @ Ikon, Birmingham
Alberto Giacometti @ Foundation Bayeler, Basel
Joseph Beuys @ de la Warr Pavilion, Bexhill
Chema Cobo & Wilhelm Sasnal @ CAC Malaga
Susan Collins @ de la Warr Pavilion, Bexhill
Clay Ketter @ Daniel Templon, Paris
Subversive Spaces @ Whitworth, Manchester
Shaun Gladwell (Australia), Martin Boyce (Scotland), John Gerrard
(collateral event) @ Venice Biennale - more on this below
‘Deterioration, They Said’ @ Migros, Zurich (mainly for the wonderful Shana Moulton)

Phew! And that’s not even to mention the best show of the year: the less contemporary Seurat survey ‘Figure and Space’, which I caught in Zurich.


WATER & LIGHT IN VENICE

The Venice Biennale closed on 22 November. With 77 national pavilions, Daniel Birnbaum’s colossal ‘Making Worlds’ exhibition (which itself featured 90 artists) and 44 collateral events, there can have been few artistic themes or approaches which were not covered. But Venice is the classic city of water and light, and there was certainly plenty of both in some of the best work to be seen.



Mike Bouchet: Watershed, 2009 in ‘Making Worlds’ - the house as it sank, and as it was later reinstalled

But we start with a problem. Two artists aimed very directly to occupy the waters of Venice. Mike Bouchet had what Daniel Birnbaum called the megalomaniac idea of building a replica of a typical American suburban home which would float incongruously on pontoons in the basin of the Arsenale, allowing the historic backdrop to highlight its modular repetition. Appropriately, perhaps, the house sank during installation. When reinstalled, it was with a little extra meaning to its take on the American dream.



Alexander Ponomarev: ‘SubTiziano’ from the ongoing cycle ‘Utilisation of Packs’ (1999-2009) in Grand Canal @ Universita Ca’ Foscari

Alexander Ponomarev, one of many Russians putting on a strong showing, took fewer risks in bringing a submarine to the archetypal Venetian light of the Grand Canal. Ponanarev sees this as a tribute to both Leonardo, original conceiver of he submarine, and Titian, conqueror of colour for whom it is painted with colourful ‘negative camouflage’. It is also the ninth in a series which turns a deadly weapon into a marker of aesthetic connections, emerging around the globe to demonstrate the power of art.



Aleksandra Mir: ‘VENEZIA (all places contain all others)’, 2009, in ‘Making Worlds’

The Italian-based Pole Aleksandra Mir chose a hundred images of watery scenes from around the world, over which she had the word ‘Venezia’ teasingly overlaid in a range of typical postcard styles. A million of these postcards are to be given away to Biennale visitors so that they can activate the work by posting them across the world. ‘The idea of waterways as a supra-national entity’, says Mir, ‘mirrors patterns of globalization, the erosion of the nation state through the growth of travel and communication and its reemergence as a brand to be marketed’.



Miquel Barceló: ‘Djoliba (Riu de Sang)’, 2009, for Spain

Newer media dominated in the national pavilions, but the Spanish featured the paintings and ceramics of Miquel Barceló, fresh from his controversial ceiling painting for the United Nations in Geneva, which used a hundred tons of paint in icicle forms. His newest, near-abstract, series shimmeringly capture the foam of waves off Mali in an all-over surface which exploits paint as a natural force: Barcelo visibly plays with how the application of wet and mobile paint leads to a dry and static result which looks wet and mobile.



Poitr Uklański: ‘Untitled (Dancing Nazis)’, 2008, in ‘Mapping the Studio’ @ Palazzo Grassi / Punta Della Dogana

New York / Warsaw based Pole Poitr Uklański featured in both halves of Francois Pinault’s vast presentation of just 20% of his collection – and infiltrated much of the Palazzo Grassi with the sound of his Untitled (Dancing Nazis). It combined portraits of actors playing Nazis with the rather un-Venetian light of a flashing disco floor as modernist grid. Whether it was about the role of the audience, the artificial construction of meanings, the aesthetic appeal of fascism or how close creation and destruction may be in human nature, this was a striking piece. Cheekily, too, this ‘new work’ was made out of reinstalling Uklański’s two signature pieces Dance Floor (1996) and The Nazis (1998).



Nikola Uzunovski: ‘My Sunshine’, 2007-09, for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

An ‘unlikely country award’ for the charming and generous project by Macedonia’s Nikola Uzunovski. He is studying how to make ‘artificial suns’ in polar areas to give their people more hours of light in winter, and presented serious-looking physics and video documentation of his ongoing experiments. They involve launching flying spheres so that they reflect sunlight and take on something of the sun’s appearance. An absurdist poke, perhaps, at the politics of global warming – while suggesting how hard it will be to solve those problems though technological means.



Iván Navarro: ‘Resistance’, 2009, for Chile

Iván Navarro grew up under Pinochet’s dictatorship but is now based in New York. For 'Resistance' he showed a chair made of fluorescent tubes, which itself adds a threatening edge to minimalist form: light is a symbol for hope but here suggests a machine for killing, too. The chair was attached it to a bicycle so that the chair was illuminated by pedaling the bike, and a video showed it being ridden around Times Square in New York, bringing a political edge to the comparisons between bodily-generated and commercial light. What kind of power was being criticized?



Spencer Finch: ‘Moonlight (Venice, March 10, 2009)’ in ‘Making Worlds’

American Spencer Finch combines light and dark and grids more poetically in paying homage to his ‘favourite Italian, Galileo Galilei’, who 400 years ago became the first to train a telescope on the moon. Finch shifts the colour of sunlight to that of the Venetian moonlight, which he measured using a colourometer at midnight on 10 March, 2009, by applying coloured filters to the windows of the Arsenale. The pay-off is that what sounds a dry scientific translation of our subjective experience actually proves decidedly beautiful.



Martin Boyce: ‘No Reflections’, 2009 @ Palazzo Pisani

Martin Boyce, for Scotland, also replaces one light source with another, swapping the elegant chandeliers of the 15th century Palazzo Pisani for metal lights. They use a set of forms derived from a 1925 concrete tree which Boyce has said represents ‘a perfect collapse of architecture and nature’. Seven rooms re-imagine the Palace as an urban garden, creating an atmosphere of displaced but atmospherically resonant decline. There is no water, but its former presence is implied by the visitor needing to use stepping stones to cross a room covered in crepe paper leaves left by evaporated pools – hence the title, ‘No Reflections’.



Bruce Nauman: ‘Three Head Fountain (Juliet, Andrew, Rinde)’, 2005, for USA

Quite apart from providing the key work for the ‘Mapping the Studio’ presentation of the Pinault collection, Bruce Nauman won the prize for best national pavilion for America with a retrospective across three buildings. Thus his aggressive explorations of our collective neuroses permeated the city. The works were linked by three threads, one of which was the water and light combination of ‘Fountains and Neons’. And the water gushed – oddly enough – from everywhere except the mouths - in two Three Head Fountains in a glass extension to the Gardenia Pavilion.



Tatsuo Miyajima: ‘Spirits in the Water with Cuban Artists’, 2009, in ‘In-Finitum’ @ the Palazzo Fortuny

The Japanese installation artist Tatsuo Miyajima is known for his sculptural use of repeatedly counting LED numbers. This work, well-suited to the Fortuny’s atmospheric and darkened display of old and new on themes around the infinite, is part of Miyajima’s ‘Time in Water’ series, which set the numbers in a pool. It relates specifically to a visit to Cuba following the hurricane in 2008, after which Miyajima paid tribute to the potential recuperative value of art by timing the counting to match the heartbeats of 300 Cuban artists. ‘I believe the greatest artists are not those participating in international art exhibitions’, he has said, ‘but human beings who inspire and who give hope to society’.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

CHRISTMAS CHOICES

CHRISTMAS CHOICES

Just a brief update to replace those shows about to close: partly as I’ve been in London less than in Malaga (for the Chema Cobo show at CAC Malaga, which I strongly recommend - but admit that I wrote the catalogue!) and Paris (cunningly timed to coincide with the Pompidou Centre being closed by a strike) rather than London.

Ornulf Opdahl: 'Mood Paintings of the North' @ Kings Place gallery and Jon Buck @ Pangolin London, both 90 York Way - Kings Cross

Opdahl to 26 Feb: http://www.kingsplace.com Buck to 24 Dec: www.pangolinlondon.com

Kings Place is very much worth a visit: not only is it a spectacularly appointed new building with a high quality music programme and a good café, it also has lots of visual art, courtesy of the Pangolin and Kings Place galleries. The former is unusual in showing primarily sculpture and being linked to a foundry, and exhibits many sculptures outside the gallery (a leaflet takes you round a trail, and there are striking front window displays).

The Kings Place Gallery spreads its wares across three levels outside the large but rather tucked away room of the gallery itself. Currently it is showing no fewer than 50 recent oils and watercolours by Ornulf Opdahl, who paints the mountains and fjords of Alesund on the west of Norway. If that sounds like a recipe for traditional romanticism, it is: in the accompanying ten minute film Opdahl himself talks about his recurring fascination for 'a landscape which always reflects my mind'. But he also says that he 'tries to be abstract all the time', and that is what gives his dramatic explorations of light and mood a modern inflexion - in another context, you might not guess the subject of 'The Mountain, Ramsen, Winter'...

Until Christmas Pangolin is showing the characterful bronzes of Jon Buck, which present a range of animals, people and hybrids (the bird-people are particularly effective) using an unusual combination of line drawing on the sculptures and intense supersaturated colouring so that the bronze looks smooth and glossy enough to be plastic. Buck has arrived at that look via cave painting, tribal art and the Dutch zoologist Nikolaas Tinbergen, who proved that animals’ responses are heightened if natural stimuli are exaggerated, such as by increasing the saturation and contrast of pre-existing markings. And there’s a perfect work-by-work guide using the artist’s comments to take you through the show, plus a couple of very small affordable editions which would allow you the rare move of putting a bronze sculpture in a Christmas stocking!

Visible Invisible: Against the Security of the Real @ Parasol unit, 14 Wharf Rd - Hoxton

To 7 Feb: www.parasol-unit.org

If Jon Buck makes bronze look almost plastic, veteran Hans Josephsohn's brass figures dotted around the Parasol unit's elegant and considerable space have the look of rough cement. They are the counterpoints to four painters - Cecily Brown, Shaun McDowell, Katy Moran and Maaike Schoorel - who work in the space between figuration and abstraction. This show would be worth visiting just for the opening room of Katy Moran's initmate and astutely-judged apparent hesitations. But you also get Cecily Brown punning modulations between people and skulls; the flickeringly fleshy evocations of Shaun McDowell, rapidly emerging as the best known of the Hannah Barry Gallery's South London set; and Maaike Schoorel making a portrait of Roger Hiorns almost disappear into blankness as if she knew that he would fail to win the Turner Prize.

André Butzer @ Alison Jacques, 16-18 Berners St – Fitzrovia

To 9 Jan: www.alisonjacquesgallery.com

My favourite all-around room of colour in London now must be the one in which German master of high wattage gestural bravado André Butzer sets up his assault with one vast abstract-tending painting per wall in his four personal primary colours: red, blue, yellow and flesh. The abstraction, incidentally, has emerged from and still alludes to a fascinating personal mythology which has important places for Donald Duck, NASA, Henry Ford, the Siemens electronic company, Adolf Eichmann and Edvard Munch. The self-sufficient intensity of that one room is emphasized by the smaller downstairs gallery being left empty – but ask nicely and you’ll also be able to see a smaller multi-coloured painting upstairs, along with drawings in which Butzer achieves a surprising proportion of the same hit with contrasting economy of means.


Nathan Danilowicz: Une Oasis d’Horreur dans une Désert d’Ennui @ Crisp,3 Newman Passage – Fitzrovia

To 9 Jan: www.crisplondonlosangeles.com

Here the title reference is to Baudelaire finding that every oasis is only a mirage. In a parallel move, young LA multimedia artist Danilowicz brings death to the surface of life through a mash-up of everything from minimalism to Viennese actionism via various points between. If that makes him sound mad, maybe so: he has previously had his teeth extracted to show as a work, and produced an obsessive cycle of 1,000 3 x 3 inch black geometric drawings on 1,000 successive days. But it’s good mad, which ranges here from the World Trade Centre made from staples (there’s boredom meets horror for you!), to drawings made by blood-letting whihc are installed in a third floor garden oasis, to the imposition of black tape versions of his obsessive geometries onto pornographic images (so much for sex as liberation!). Hilary Crisp’s adventurous transatlantically-programmed three-storey-yet-cosy gallery is, incidentally, handily placed once you know where it is: hidden just down the passage which links Newman Street with Rathbone Street.

Ilya & Emilia Kabakov: Under the Snow @ Sprovieri Gallery, 27 Heddon St – Central

To 17 Jan: www.sprovieri.com

Sprovieri is tucked away on the first floor behind the phone box (which features on the cover of Ziggy Stardust, incidentally) at the end of Heddon Street. It opened ten years ago with the New York based Russian émigrés Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, and has shown them regularly. If you think of the Kabakovs as producing hardcore conceptual installations turning on the legacies of Soviet history, then this gently lyrical set of large paintings from their extensive ‘Under the Snow’ suite will surprise you. They show a world blanketed in snow, varying gaps in which reveal people and landscapes. These play on memory, scale, and what is and isn’t hidden. There’s a hint, perhaps, of Ilya’s original career as a children’s book illustrator. White, say the Kabakovs, 'is the space of pure contemplation’ that ‘suddenly turns out to be inserted into the visual world' in the form of snow. There is also an intriguing extract from the complex project ‘The Teacher and The Student: Charles Rosenthal and Ilya Kabakov’, which consists of work shown as the products of a fictional version of Ilya and his teacher.

Cory Arcangel in ‘Lisson Presents 7’ @ Lisson Gallery, 29 & 52-54 Bell Street – Marylebone

To 16 Jan: www.lissongallery.com

The Lisson has settled into an amenable pattern of gallery artist solo show plus a more widely-based group show in its two contiguous spaces. The current solo show, the latest stage in Tatsuo Miyajima’s suitably obsessive 20 year build-up of LED count-down sculptures tracking our heartbeats towards death, has been well-received. Nonetheless, I prefer the group show, in which Stephen Willats and Ceal Floyer stand out along with a substantial selection from an American guest from the Max Wigram Gallery, Cory Arcangel. He wittily subverts and plays with technological processes, here by abstracting the Dennis Hopper film ‘Colors’ into one row of pixels at a time; having the American high school film ‘Dazed and Confused’ dubbed into Indian-accented English; presenting damaged film stock sourced online as if – as seems likely in the gallery context - it is a structuralist film; and allowing photoshop demonstration software to determine his printed images.

Peter Davies @ The approach, 47 Approach Rd – Bethnal Green

To 17 Jan: www.theapproach.co.uk

If you like lists and quizzes you’ll love Peter Davies’ big painting ‘The Epoch of Perpetual Happiness’, which provides a pictorial spin on his well-known lists of a hundred hot or cool artists by presenting a huge range of art and pop references – the press release lists some 150 for you to spot but you can also gain bonus points for discovering unlisted inclusions: one of them is Gerhard Richter, represented through the filter of his candle on the cover of Sonic Youth’s ‘Daydream Nation’. Richter is also a presence in the show as a whole in the way in which Davies pursues parallel but very different strands of painting which themselves interrogate the nature of painting. The other two large canvasses here are an obsessively detailed take on colour field abstraction via thousands of small squares, and the conversion of gestural abstract expressionist marks into an anally retentive equivalent using carefully ruled straight lines.

Donald Judd: ‘Progressions 1960’s and 1970’s’ @ Simon Lee, 12 Berkeley St – Central

To 29 January: www.simonleegallery.com

The purest pleasure currently available in a London gallery may well be this series of six horizontal mounted wall works by the late American master of anti-illusion, Donald Judd. It’s a chance to track the subtle changes in shape and means from 1967 to 1975 in what, colour aside, may look near-identical works. In fact, Judd sought increasing perfection in line with the improving manufacturing capability, moving from galvanized iron painted with lacquer to highly polished brass to anodized aluminium, in which an electrical process maximizes the adhesion of the paint.

Belén Rodríguez González: ‘Mixtilinea’ @ Josh Lilley, 44-46 Riding House Street – Fitzrovia.

To 20 Jan: www.joshlilleygallery.com

Belén Rodríguez González is a young Spanish artist whose first solo show anywhere is in London now. ‘Timeline’ is a circling model train on which a camera is mounted so that it relays live film made from trackside photographs of every five minutes over the artist’s day (along with a commendably short tunnel of sleep). The live feed is projected back to life-size as time becomes space and the past scrolls into a future which looks bound to repeat it… A neat loop, though I was more drawn into a related set of works suggesting that photocopiers and notebooks are less neutral methods of recording than we might suppose. Rodríguez González has deconstructed 40 notebooks with various patterns of lines and squares and reconstructed them so that each cover contains a sheet from each book, replacing their routines with a succession of minimalist surprises. Those pages are then picked up in photocopies of apparently normal lined notebook sheets which are in fact copies of patterns of thread placed across the screen, both in a working copier (free art!) and her plans to do the same for a whole range of copiers. Writing on the track of a line will never seem so straightforward again…


Gordon Cheung @ Room, 31 Waterson St – Shoreditch

To 31 Jan: www.roomartspace.co.uk

Gordon Cheung has surfed the zeitgeist from one recession to the next with his imaginings of the end of civilisation with his characteristic integration of stock listings into paintings: here the close-up heads of those market beasts the bull and the bear ram home such themes. But is it time for a change? Cheung provides three with laser-burnt subversions of Durer etchings, and new lines in sculpture and video animation: the latter in particular are mesmerically well-suited to his psychedelically apocalyptic colours. And the four screens of cowboys come with the bonus of The Doors' seminal 'The End' as a soundtrack.



And still showing from previous lists: La peinture est presque abstraite to 23 Dec, Presque Rien III to 9 Jan, Robert Kusmirowski to 10 Jan, Hans-Peter Feldmann to 16 Jan and The Body in Women’s Art Now to 20 Jan. So there’s plenty of good stuff on!


www.newexhibitions.com gives full address and opening time details of most shows. I've taken the view that adding images to the blog might make it unwieldy given that they tend to be on the linked gallery websites, but am happy to take views on that...

TEN FOR THE FUTURE

I am looking forward to:

Ori Gersht @ Mummery & Schnelle 13.1 – 27.2

Oliver Laric @ Seventeen 13.1 – 13.2

Ryan Mosley @ Alison Jacques 13.1 – 13.2

Danny Rolph @ Poppy Sebire 14.1 – 20.2

William Eggleston @ Victoria Miro 15.1 – 27.2

Max Mosscrop @ Five Years: 16.1 – 31.1

Waseem Ahmed @ Laurent Delaye 22.1 – 27.2

Magali Reus @ Ibid Projects 22.1 – 7.3

Michael Landy @ South London Gallery 29.1 - 14.3

John Gerrard @ Thomas Dane 3.2 – 6.3

Sunday, 6 December 2009

TEN NEW CURRENT PICKS

There are just as many interesting galleries as there ever were out east, and plenty more to explore in the west end and the south – but in the run-up to Christmas I’ve focused on the new clutch of shows around Fitzrovia, which certainly make for a varied but intense art walk and could feed you north onto Marylebone High Street or less wisely south onto Oxford Street to finish off the seasonal shopping. I include four below to which one could add Laure Genillard, Pilar Corrias, Modern Art, Rollo Contemporary and the David Roberts Foundation. All good stuff, even if the best shows in town remain Baldessari at the Tate Modern, Ruscha at the Hayward and Kusmirowski at the Barbican…


Juan Uslé: Mo-Hi-Na @ Frith Street Gallery, 17-18 Golden Square - Central

To 19 Dec: www.frithstreetgallery.com

Eccentrically named after Uslé’s pet donkey, this is an entrancing show of abstraction by the mid-career American and Spanish based painter. I felt their atmospheres alternate between urban and rural - consistent with Uslé’s own statement that ‘from the urban net of Manhattan I see Saro (my village in northern Spain) as a small paradise surrounded by calm nature, but when I’m living in the Spanish countryside for more than three months I miss the crossing energies, the grids, the poison, the speed and active pulse of the city’. Those contrasts feed, via cues taken from such details as the play of light through Venetian blinds or aspects of the subway, into fluent paintings in which Uslé brings varying opacity to his own particular colours (which he makes himself from dry pigments with vinyl or acrylic as a base).


Alexis Harding @ Mummery & Schnelle, 81 Great Titchfield St – Fitzrovia

To 19 Dec: www.mummeryschnelle.com

My favourite wall of colour in London now must be the one blitzed by no fewer than 120 of Alexis Harding’s ‘Bi-product Depositaries’. These initially casual studies, made on the back of a handy stock of old catalogues of his work, developed into an independent range of partly figurative motifs which play off Harding’s usual more abstract style and draw you in through witty titles: from ‘Studio Dancing Trousers’ to ‘Small (Monday to Friday) Green Spasms’; from ‘Profile Dollop’ to ‘Turd Island (Winter)’. There are also three of Harding’s characteristic oil and gloss paintings in which gravity is allowed to drag household gloss down over its base coat of oil paint: they’re good, but here the byproducts are definitely the main thing.


André Butzer @ Alison Jacques, 16-18 Berners St – Fitzrovia

To 9 Jan: www.alisonjacquesgallery.com

My favourite all-around room of colour in London now must be the one in which German master of high wattage gestural bravado André Butzer sets up his assault with one vast abstract-tending painting per wall in his four personal primary colours: red, blue, yellow and flesh. The abstraction, incidentally, has emerged from and still alludes to a fascinating personal mythology which has important places for Donald Duck, NASA, Henry Ford, the Siemens electronic company, Adolf Eichmann and Edvard Munch. The self-sufficient intensity of that one room is emphasized by the smaller downstairs gallery being left empty – but ask nicely and you’ll also be able to see a smaller multi-coloured painting upstairs, along with drawings in which Butzer achieves a surprising proportion of the same hit with contrasting economy of means.


Nathan Danilowicz: Une Oasis d’Horreur dans une Désert d’Ennui @ Crisp,
3 Newman Passage – Fitzrovia

To 9 Jan: www.crisplondonlosangeles.com

Here the title reference is to Baudelaire finding that every oasis is only a mirage. In a parallel move, young LA multimedia artist Danilowicz brings death to the surface of life through a mash-up of everything from minimalism to Viennese actionism via various points between. If that makes him sound mad, maybe so: he has previously had his teeth extracted to show as a work, and produced an obsessive cycle of 1,000 3 x 3 inch black geometric drawings on 1,000 successive days. But it’s good mad, which ranges here from the World Trade Centre made from staples (there’s boredom meets horror for you!), to drawings made by blood-letting whihc are installed in a third floor garden oasis, to the imposition of black tape versions of his obsessive geometries onto pornographic images (so much for sex as liberation!). Hilary Crisp’s adventurous transatlantically-programmed three-storey-yet-cosy gallery is, incidentally, handily placed once you know where it is: hidden just down the passage which links Newman Street with Rathbone Street.


Donald Judd: ‘Progressions 1960’s and 1970’s’ @ Simon Lee, 12 Berkeley St – Central

To 29 January: www.simonleegallery.com

The purest pleasure currently available in a London gallery may well be this series of six horizontal mounted wall works by the late American master of anti-illusion, Donald Judd. It’s a chance to track the subtle changes in shape and means from 1967 to 1975 in what, colour aside, may look near-identical works. In fact, Judd sought increasing perfection in line with the improving manufacturing capability, moving from galvanized iron painted with lacquer to highly polished brass to anodized aluminium, in which an electrical process maximizes the adhesion of the paint.


Klaus Weber @ Herald St, Bethnal Green

To 19 Dec, then 5-17 Jan: www.heraldst.com

And perhaps the weirdest pleasure, if pleasure it be, are these shit paintings. Not mere bad paintings; nor paint pretending to be shit as in Dan Colen; nor genuine balls of elephant shit as in Chris Ofili; nor even the canvases placed in the Swedish forest by Henrik Hakansson, who waits for swallows to make abstract patterns - that’s close, but not quite weird enough. The highly imaginative German artist Klaus Weber (you may have seen his people with fountains sprouting from their orifices on the South Bank or his vacuum sculptures) has radically delegated artistic control by exploiting the fact that bees are bunged up in the hive all winter, and then take a ‘cleansing flight’ during which they defecate on anything which is unnaturally white. Canvases placed in a bee-keeper’s yard were thus anointed by delicate yellow and light brown marks to become ‘bee paintings’. You can compare the bees with bomber planes. You can muse on how it must feel to be liberated from such a burden. You can ponder the bees’ easy desecration of the modernist purity of the white canvas. Or you can just say: well, that’s weird.


Belén Rodríguez González: ‘Mixtilinea’ @ Josh Lilley, 44-46 Riding House Street – Fitzrovia.

To 20 Jan: www.joshlilleygallery.com

Belén Rodríguez González is a young Spanish artist whose first solo show anywhere is in London now. ‘Timeline’ is a circling model train on which a camera is mounted so that it relays live film made from trackside photographs of every five minutes over the artist’s day (along with a commendably short tunnel of sleep). The live feed is projected back to life-size as time becomes space and the past scrolls into a future which looks bound to repeat it… A neat loop, though I was more drawn into a related set of works suggesting that photocopiers and notebooks are less neutral methods of recording than we might suppose. Rodríguez González has deconstructed 40 notebooks with various patterns of lines and squares and reconstructed them so that each cover contains a sheet from each book, replacing their routines with a succession of minimalist surprises. Those pages are then picked up in photocopies of apparently normal lined notebook sheets which are in fact copies of patterns of thread placed across the screen, both in a working copier (free art!) and her plans to do the same for a whole range of copiers. Writing on the track of a line will never seem so straightforward again…


Gordon Cheung @ Room, 31 Waterson St – Shoreditch

To 31 Jan: www.roomartspace.co.uk

Gordon Cheung has surfed the zeitgeist from one recession to the next with his imaginings of the end of civilisation with his characteristic integration of stock listings into paintings: here the close-up heads of those market beasts the bull and the bear ram home such themes. But is it time for a change? Cheung provides three with laser-burnt subversions of Durer etchings, and new lines in sculpture and video animation: the latter in particular are mesmerically well-suited to his psychedelically apocalyptic colours. And the four screens of cowboys come with the bonus of The Doors' seminal 'The End' as a soundtrack.


Cory Arcangel in ‘Lisson Presents 7’ @ Lisson Gallery, 29 & 52-54 Bell Street – Marylebone

To 16 Jan: www.lissongallery.com

The Lisson has settled into an amenable pattern of gallery artist solo show plus a more widely-based group show in its two contiguous spaces. The current solo show, the latest stage in Tatsuo Miyajima’s suitably obsessive 20 year build-up of LED count-down sculptures tracking our heartbeats towards death, has been well-received. Nonetheless, I prefer the group show, in which Stephen Willats and Ceal Floyer stand out along with a substantial selection from an American guest from the Max Wigram Gallery, Cory Arcangel. He wittily subverts and plays with technological processes, here by abstracting the Dennis Hopper film ‘Colors’ into one row of pixels at a time; having the American high school film ‘Dazed and Confused’ dubbed into Indian-accented English; presenting damaged film stock sourced online as if – as seems likely in the gallery context - it is a structuralist film; and allowing photoshop demonstration software to determine his printed images.

Peter Davies @ The approach, 47 Approach Rd – Bethnal Green

To 17 Jan: www.theapproach.co.uk

If you like lists and quizzes you’ll love Peter Davies’ big painting ‘The Epoch of Perpetual Happiness’, which provides a pictorial spin on his well-known lists of a hundred hot or cool artists by presenting a huge range of art and pop references – the press release lists some 150 for you to spot but you can also gain bonus points for discovering unlisted inclusions: one of them is Gerhard Richter, represented through the filter of his candle on the cover of Sonic Youth’s ‘Daydream Nation’. Richter is also a presence in the show as a whole in the way in which Davies pursues parallel but very different strands of painting which themselves interrogate the nature of painting. The other two large canvasses here are an obsessively detailed take on colour field abstraction via thousands of small squares, and the conversion of gestural abstract expressionist marks into an anally retentive equivalent using carefully ruled straight lines.

And still showing from previous lists: Wayne Thiebaud and Tom Badley to 18 Dec, Mustafa Hulusi and William E Jones to 19 Dec, Stephen G Rhodes to 20 Dec, La peinture est presque abstraite to 23 Dec, Presque Rien III to 9 Jan, Robert Kusmirowski to 10 Jan, Hans-Peter Feldmann to 16 Jan and The Body in Women’s Art Now to 20 Jan. So there’s plenty of good stuff on!


www.newexhibitions.com gives full address and opening time details of most shows. I've taken the view that adding images to the blog might make it unwieldygiven that they tend to be on the linked gallery websites, but am happy to take views on that...

TEN FOR THE FUTURE

I am looking forward to:

Eva Hesse @ Camden Art Centre 11.12 - 7.3

Peter Campus @ BFI 11.12 – 14.2

Ian Kiaer & Dorothy Cross @ Bloomberg Space 15.12 – 16.1

Ori Gersht @ Mummery & Schnelle 13.1 – 27.2

Ryan Mosley @ Alison Jacques 13.1 – 13.2

Danny Rolph @ Poppy Sebire 14.1 – 20.2

William Eggleston @ Victoria Miro 15.1 – 27.2

Waseem Ahmed @ Laurent Delaye 22.1 – 27.2

Michael Landy @ South London Gallery 29.1 - 14.3

John Gerrard @ Thomas Dane 3.2 – 6.3

Sunday, 22 November 2009

TEN TOP CURRENT PICKS

Baldessari, Ruscha and Kapoor are still going strong, to which one could add the racy Wild Thing at the Royal Academy and the apparently surprising incursion of the Kienholzs’ Hoerengracht at the National Gallery – albeit the red lights of Amsterdam’s brothels give their replication ‘a sensuous, almost painterly feel’ according to the catalogue. And Hirst tries again with his critically-panned paintings across both White Cubes (or does he? Is the work actually the theatre of his switch to painting, rather than the paintings themselves?). Among the less well-publicised shows, those at Ancient & Modern, the Barbican and Swallow Street may not seem like art (discuss) but whether they are or not they are powerful in contrasting ways. And the first two make a neat little triangular walk along with Rokeby…


Wayne Thiebaud @ Faggionato Fine Art, 49 Albemarle St - Central

To 18 Dec: http://www.faggionato.com/

San Francisco’s master of painterly pop surely has a lower British profile than he should. This show may help rectify that with its good mix of still lives, signature cakes, landscapes and vertiginous cityscapes, but a large scale museum show would be welcome. Worth noting that Faggionato opens Mon-Fri only, and is fairly well-hidden on the first floor.

Tom Badley @ Rokeby, 5-9 Hatton Wall – Clerkenwell

To 18 Dec: http://www.rokebygallery.com/

It’s well worth seeking out the new Rokeby space near Farringdon rail/tube for young British artist Tom Badley’s first solo show, which combines what is becoming a very distinctive way of mediating between fragmentation and coherence (video using internet sourcing + repetition + speed variation + organization by sound + smashed monitors…) with a mesmerizing sculpture which gives magnetic permanence to the spin of a coin. Not that cash would ever crash…

Mustafa Hulusi: ‘The Worshippers’ @ Max Wigram, 99 New Bond St – Central

To 19 Dec: http://www.maxwigram.com/

A triple bill from the British-born Turkish Cypriot: characteristically hyper-real paintings (outsourced from Hulusi’s photographs) heighten our consciousness of oranges; black marble replicas of Roman statues from Salamis poke at the survivals of colonialism; and he combines with Mark Titchner to make ‘The Worshippers’, an animation which combines the Ayatollah Khomeini with psychedelia and the styling of corporate capitalism. And Hulusi has more work at Civic Rooms, the East End artists’ cooperative which he helps run…


William E Jones: ‘Tearoom’ @ Swallow Street, 3-5 Swallow St – Piccadilly

To 19 Dec: http://www.swallowstreet.com/

Never mind Hauser & Wirth’s main Piccadilly site – alright, I exaggerate, as ‘After Awkward Objects’ is a fine show, especially the Alina Szapocznikow – but while you’re there be sure to pop into their sponsored but independent project space just over the road. ‘Tearoom’ consists of police surveillance footage taken through a two-way mirror in a public toilet in Ohio in 1962. We see urination, washing, combing and sex, mostly half-hidden in the cubicles. This is poignant – the film was used to prosecute the men – and its flickering and grainy, refreshingly not-for-camera reality generates its own aesthetic resonance.

Stephen G Rhodes: ‘Reconstruction or Something’ @ Vilma Gold, 6 Minerva St – Cambridge Heath

To 20 Dec: http://www.vilmagold.com/

Rhodes is one of the most interesting inclusions in Saatchi’s current survey of new work from America, and this impressive sculptural installation with multi-screen video collage combines high visual impact with underlying complexity (ie best to ask for more explanation than the press release) in considering the USA’s relations with Iraq. And the simultaneous, as opposed to successive, collaging of film elements seems very much of the moment.

La peinture est presque abstraite @ Camberwell Space, 45-65 Peckham Rd - Peckham

To 23 Dec: www.camberwell.arts.ac.uk/camberwellspace

A very coherent group of paintings which use representational motifs to make abstraction, with four French and four British painters and curated by Claude Temin-Vergez, who though born in France counts as one of the Brits (he teaches at Camberwell). True, this is a far-flung off-tube space, but then again it’s right next to the South London Gallery and so can be combined with the videos of Omer Fast (to 6.12) or Susanne Burner (10-18.12).

Presque Rien III @ Laure Genillard, 2 Hanway Place – Tottenham Court

To 9 Jan: lauregenillard.com

What is this French title trend? The third (!) instalment of Laure’s group show of almost nothing amounts to quite something, largely through drawing you into objects which turn out to be something else: a kebab is a sculpture, books are wings, a ball of dust is a planet. Plus a chance to see David Batchelor's classic slide show of found white monochromes. Worth noting that the gallery doesn’t do mornings!

Robert Kusmirowski: Bunker @ The Curve, Barbican

To 10 Jan: www.barbican.org.uk/artgallery

Perhaps by being a deliberately rather than accidentally awkward space, The Curve often works better than the Barbican’s main gallery. Or maybe its just the quality of commissioning and installation: Richard Wilson and Peter Coffin have been particularly memorable there, as will be Kusmirowski and, I would bet, Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, the French artist who is next up but as yet absurdly little-known in England. Kusmirowski is a Pole who became famous for his recreation of a 1940s railway carriage in a former Jewish girls school at the 2006 Berlin Biennale. Here, inspired by how the Barbican rose out of the blitz, he takes us deep inside the inter-connected rooms of a second world war bunker, on several levels and complete with a railway track which runs round the whole 70m semi-circle of the space. It comes ready-aged in rust and grey tones and generates a powerful combination of amazement and historical resonance.

Hans-Peter Feldmann @ Ancient & Modern, 201 Whitecross Street – Barbican

To 16 Jan: http://www.ancientandmodern.org/

How often do you see 174 paintings of nudes in a contemporary gallery? Especially one with Ancient & Modern’s particularly modest scale? Well, it turns out to be an exact fit for Hans-Peter Feldmann’s installation of stamps, each showing just that. It’s a well-worn topic for thematic stamp collectors, but the gallery context alters their reception, just as it has that of the multifarious other selections the wide-ranging German has presented in the past in addition to his photographs.

The Body in Women’s Art Now @ Rollo Contemporary Art, 51 Cleveland St (Fitzrovia)

To 20 Jan: http://www.rolloart.com/

The first part of a three-part survey of work created by women artists this century in which the body is central, ‘Embodied’ combines Regina José Galindo and Sigalit Landau’s recent video classics with less well known but also interesting work by Jessica Lagunas (who, like Galindo, grew up in Guatemala) and young British photographer Lydia Maria Julien. And there is an excellent catalogue.I recommend you start downstairs, where Lagunas piles on the beauty to edgily comic excess by applying lipstick and mascara for an hour, and then drop back between the shorter works to see how she’s getting on…


http://www.newexhibitions.com/ gives full address and opening time details of most shows

TEN FOR THE FUTURE

I am looking forward to:

Drawing Form @ Green Cardamom 20.11 – 22.1

Benoit Maire @ Hollybush Gardens 20.11 – 24.1

Kendell Geers @ Stephen Friedman 27.11 – 16.1

Nathan Danilowicz @ Crisp 25.11 – 9.1

Tatsuo Miyajima @ Lisson Gallery 25.11 – 16.1

Alexis Harding @ Mummery & Schnelle 27.11 – 19.12

Andre Butzer @ Alison Jacques 27.11 – 9.1

Klaus Weber @ Herald Street 28.11 – 17.1

Neo-Concrete Experience @ Gallery 32 (the Brazilian Embassy) 9.12 – 13.1

Peter Campus @ BFI 11.12 – 14.2

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

UNSEEN 2017


Unseen Photo Fair 2017 

Amsterdam 22-25 Sept




Esther Teichmann: Untitled 1 from 'heavy the sea', 2017 - cyanotypes at Flowers Gallery, London

The animating principles of Amsterdam's Unseen fair are that all exhibits are related to still photography, that they were made recently enough (2015-17, though I noticed 2014 sneaking in) that you are unlikely to have seen them before; that galleries can show a maximum of four different artists –  and that at least 50% of those should be 'emerging talent'.


British artist Jo Dennis models a Photo Palace tattoo in front of Laura El-Tantawy's photographs at Seen Fifteen

Add a clean, easily navigated lay-out in a cool city and a lively subsidiary programme, and one arrives  at zesty and fresh experience which  attracted a young and  engaged crowd. Supplementing the 53 main galleries was a photo book market; submissions by the five young artists chosen for the Ing Unseen Talent Award 2017; a curated selection of  20 collectives working in photography; and a 'Photo Pleasure Palace' arranged by Erik Kessels & Thomas Mailaender. That featured such attractions as jumping from a good height onto Donald Trump's face, acquiring an impressive range of temporary photo tattoos, and hurling  wooden bricks at photographs mounted on a wall (if you hit one and smashed the glass, the vacuum packed damaged goods were your prize). The city joined in with late-night gallery openings on Saturday night and the Stedelijk Museum had a timely  survey of  Zanele Muholi.

Eight British galleries and a dozen British artists were a significant part of the line-up in which the Dutch continental Europe predominated, but with worthwhile representation from other continents, too. There was a lot of work, as in my  picks below, about our relationship with the natural world - landscape, flora, fauna, chemical processes. If there was a trend, that may have been it, with more directly political and meta-photographic approaches less evident. 

               


Stephen Gill: Untitled, 2017 from the series 'Night Procession' at Christophe Guye, Zurich


British artist Stephen Gill has been living in rural Sweden since 2014, enabling him to make the 'Night Procession' series of infra-red forest photographs, remotely triggered by animals' night movements. Gill adds to the environmental resonance by treating the print with liquids extracted from the vegetation surrounding the 'trap', then fixes the effects by photographing the result to make the final image.

             


WeiXin Chong: Beige Dreams, flesh skin surface. 4, 2017 - digital C-print on aluminium at A.I., London


At A.I., Singaporean WeiXin Chong cleverly linked the vanitas tradition of the floral still life with the beauty industry's contrary pretensions to counter the ageing process. The Beige Dreams series - referencing the ideal skin colour recalled from her girlhood memory of the crayon considered 'people-coloured' - applies make-up (in this case YSL Touche Eclat Shade 2.5) to flowers to yield a look similar to decay.






Susan Derges: Turn 1, 2 and 3, 2017 - inkjet prints on Kozo paper at Purdy Hicks, London

The most striking works at both of the most established English galleries at Unseen featured seaweed. Susan Derges' uses a  tank custom-built in her studio to allow her to photograph from under and over the water with full control of its contents and lighting and their subsequent combination. For the 'Turn' series, seaweed evokes rocky pools, but we don't know where we are, which way is up and which down, nor where we'll arrive as the world turns with the tide...






Esther Teichmann: Untitled from 'Mondschwimmen', 2015, gelatin fibre based print at Flowers Gallery, London

London based American-German  Esther Teichmann likes to bathe with seaweed in her tub, so it was unsurprising that she  showed a whole wall of seaweed cyanotypes alongside this sensual use of kelp to emphasise form. Its atmosphere is echoed in Teichmann's own short story 'heavy the sea', which tells of a stormy night swim from which a woman emerges 'motionless, half submerged, eyes closed, returning slowly. Rain pours down, washing the salt away. And still it clings to her, seaweed...'.



Theo Simpson: Vanden Plas, 2017 – Layered aluminium mounted chromogenic prints bonded to 18–gauge steel sheet (British Leyland Cashmere Gold body colour / laquer) in mild steel angle iron cases at Webber, London

Theo Simpson made a splash by winning the outset unseen exhibition fund award of a 2018 solo show at Foam, Amsterdam with a series which reflects on the decline of the British car industry in which his father worked. This image combines a landscape scanned from a 1970's Rover advertising campaign (which was full of futuristic optimism even as British Leyland struggled) with Simpson's own recent image from an area still affected by the closures. The steel mounting is sprayed in a body colour used on the upmarket SD1 3500 Vanden Plas.
 

Maya Rochat, shown by Seen Fifteen, in performance

Peckham's Seen Fifteen showed Egyptian Laura El-Tantawy and Swiss-German Maya Rochat, who blurs her content by  chemical experiments and by printing onto surfaces pre-splattered with paint. After the fair closed on Friday, she extended her approach into a performance, providing the backdrop to a crowded outdoor disco by squirting paint onto an overhead projector. The old fashioned means produced a mutating psychedelic backdrop evoking the OHP's prime era. 





Nathaniel Mellors: Venus of Truson, 2014 at Stigter van Doesburg, Amsterdam


Carrying on with the chemical aspect of natural transformation, Nathaniel Mellors, best known for the extravagant visual and narrative absurdity of his films, also has a long-running series of photograms. He sees them as cave paintings of sorts, the cave being the darkroom in which archetypal objects are captured, only for the physical result to be folded, burned and unfolded, so that unpredictable effects take over. In this case the primordial nude of a Venus of Willendorf is melted towards abstraction. 

 

Sybren Renema: stills from the video Discovery, 2017 at Dürst Britt & Mayhew,The Hague

The Hague's Dürst Britt & Mayhew showed a project by the Glasgow-based Dutch artist Sybren Renema which engaged with the seminal chapter in British history: video and photographic presentation documented the ascent and descent of a small fragment of Captain Scott's polar ship 'Discovery' (now in Dundee) as it rose 32 kilometres before falling to ground  in Carlisle. Is space the new south pole? Was this relic giving the finger to escapism?



I wasn't the only one to take a pirate photo of Juno Calypso's new Subterranean series at T.J. Boulting, London

Juno Calypso is only partway through the follow-up series to her well-received solo stint in a love hotel, The Honeymoon Suite, 2016. Indeed, no official images are available of the new project and I may be in trouble with gallery owner Hannah Watson for stealing this preview from her booth. Subterranean is set in an eccentrically palatial underground bunker, and again finds the photographer alone in a bizarre setting, with only her make-up, wig and reflections for company . 



Polly Tootal: #43389, 2014, from the 'Unknown Places' series at Galerie Intervalle, Paris

Polly Tootal must spend a lot of time looking for the uncanny aspects of what we might pass my without noticing, which she then captures unpeopled and pretty straight with a large format camera. Typically, her long-running 'Unknown Places' series combines two liminal zones: those between functional places meet that between night and day. The atmosphere emerges as faintly repressive, even as the rigorous compositions find beauty in the anonymous. In this London view, a simple change of bricks charges geometry with narrative possibilities.





Laurence Aëgerter: from the series Photographic Treatments, 2016 at Caroline O’Bree, Amsterdam

It seems only fair to include one all-foreign presentation. One of the most interesting - French artist, Dutch gallery - was the pairs of black and white portrait layout images - some her own, many from stock – developed by French photographer Laurence Aëgerter as a therapeutic device or dementia - art and ongoing interest in investigating how art use all society, brain stimulation that slowdown that process, and he believes that caring images designed to provoke recognition of similarities is a powerful stimulus to brain activity and provides the basis for discussions with also improved social interaction. So far as I know, my own dementia remains incipient, but I enjoyed the game, nonetheless.


What does that sample - 11 artists from 164 - tell us about photography now? They are probably fairly representative of the fair as a whole, which showed that artists continue to find fresh and imaginative ways to engage with established genres - landscape, portrait, still life, nude, everyday life, animals - as well as the less traditional abstraction and meta-photography. The most immediate novelty may be in how the image is made (Gill, Chong, Derges, Rochat, Mellors, Simpson, Renema) or in how the subject is treated (Teichmann, Calypso, Tootal, Aëgerter), but typically both factors are in play, and material means of production is central: perhaps the Internet will eventually swallow photography, but it isn't happening yet.



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.

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