Peter Saul’s luridly coloured pop explosions create quite a dissonance with the beautiful but staid rooms of the Michael Werner Gallery in which they are exhibited, two rooms of the first floor of a gorgeous 18th century townhouse, just off a grand oak staircase, located in lush Mayfair. Saul’s subjects, products of a conjugal visit between pop abstraction and underground comics, are engaged in any number of sweaty, desperate activities, subsumed in a swirl of their own unwieldy appetites and neuroses. Bodies distort out of all proportion, brains combust, all manner of fluids congeal. It’s the playful, bold surface colours that prevent the paintings from becoming freighted with too much despair or pain, offering something akin to a cartoon salvation. You emerge with a curious vitality and vibrancy.
SOME TERRIBLE PROBLEMS continues at Michael Werner through 5 November
Bruce Nauman’s “Natural Light, Blue Light Room”, an architectural installation now on display at Blain/Southern, is at first somewhat soothing, as you walk into the ample, barren space lit on one side by a fluorescent strip of blue light along the ceiling, and on the other, along the floor, by a slightly raised wall that allows a strip of natural light from the gallery’s front window to crawl into the room. As you stand in the environment, though, very gradually the blue light begins to take a queasy toll on your senses, making you feel a pulse of oppression and constriction that grows increasingly larger. It’s difficult to determine when or how this happens, a feeling is just suddenly present, and you long for escape into the promise of the thin shaft of light opposite. Nauman specialises in these environmental installations that force physical and psychological confrontations with space-unsettling but fascinating.
The room is on display at Blain/Southern until 12 November
Lygia Pape, informed by the geometric abstractions of Concrete art, has created a room of wonder at Hauser & Wirth, a dazzle of tautly grounded lattice works of thread that wheel in and out of substance and presence in a hypnotically lit room. The work plays subtly with perception and perspective. As you move in circular motion around the installation, certain threads brilliantly announce themselves, as others that were previously illuminated dart into sudden invisibility. The piece speaks volumes on reality and illusion, weight and immateriality, but is most successful as a sensual experiment. You could easily spend hours in its company, drifting along the course, rapt in its ever-shifting, mercurial momentum.
Lygia Pape continues at Hauser & Wirth until 19 November
Onto more sickly colour palettes at another elegant 18th century townhouse, this time Neo Rauch’s Rondo series at David Zwirner Gallery, the canvasses festooned in shades of vomit and faeces. Rauch seems to collapse several eras of art history into his paintings, elements of Renaissance and Pop and European folk art commingling on the frame. Figures of history loom large over denizens of town and country, haunting, hulking hallucinations of collective conscience and memory. Modern industrial representations also find purchase in the margins of the pictures, a rebuke to the simple pleasures of community labour evoked as fable throughout the works. You wouldn’t necessarily hang any of the pieces on the walls at home, but you don’t have to search hard for the talent or skill in Mr. Rauch’s intriguing series.
Neo Rauch’s Rondo continues until 12 November at David Zwirner
I finish with the most perplexing of all the exhibitions, Tala Madani’s “Shitty Disco”, a bracing collection of singular paintings imagining a strobe-lit nightclub bacchanal in which a group of male hedonists gleefully abandon themselves to ritualistic routines of both desire and decay, illuminations from genitals and bottoms suggesting creative and destructive spark. There’s a bonkers, ticklish mentality to the work that salvages the material from mere offensiveness or outrage, a playful nature to the depiction of digestive processes and life-producing bodily fluids. It certainly creates an original worldview, although those of more tender sensibilities may want to give this a pass.
Shitty Disco continues at Pilar Corrias until 11 November