The worth of the annual Condo event (in which independent London galleries host global counterparts, welcoming house artists with a month-long opportunity to show works which would otherwise encounter difficulty finding available space or sufficient interest from establishment galleries) remains unassailable-the continuing challenges for the curious gallery goer in regards to Condo remains in the sheer breadth of content (17 participating galleries this year) and sites spread broadly throughout London, and limited and conflicted hours for many of the spaces which makes it difficult to properly structure a coherent and straightforward schedule. It takes much individual drive and grit to negotiate a proper route even over the course of a month to comprehensively visit every gallery (even with determination I managed only 15 0f the 17, relinquishing the final two with the greatest of reluctance). The most successful shows were those that concentrated on one or two representative artists from each guest gallery, or those that managed to create a more uniform voice between a group of artists-in a few busy cases, several artists had one work to define the self, the room becoming a hodgepodge of styles and materials. I’ll concentrate on particular highlights:
At Pilar Corrias,Christina Quarles’s ghostly,pale paintings of entwined bodies, one of very solid line, another of ethereal weight, speak of phantom lovers, imagined or lost partners, an exquisite absence, the act of memory and longing (for a tenuous moment) conjuring what has shifted into the incorporeal realm; Trisha Baga overlays found lenticular prints (trashy, gimmicky still lifes and animal prints found at sidewalk sales) with playful daubs of heavy acrylic, simultaneously acknowledging and celebrating the tackiness of the object, yielding odd pleasures.
Kris Lemsalu’s mysteriously conceived and deeply felt at Sadie Coles (in the small side room) arrests attention, an intimidating maternal figure (which also references the goddess Kali and, perhaps, an opera diva, hosannas of roses thrown at its many-limbed naked feet, which soak in the cleansing waters held within a series of porcelain bowls ), with a physiognomy of dominant, consuming lips, in its arms a swaddled replica of itself. It effortlessly manages to resolve the garish and the sacred.
Eduardo Sarabia’s eye-popping acrylics at Maureen Paley contain dense, explosive squalls of colour heaving over what appear to be portraits, perhaps referencing the clotted, jittery conversations surrounding migrants and borders in fraught Mexico-U.S. relations, aesthetically damned figures. His goofs on the classic Ming vase, replacing sedate scenes of nature or floral prints with the rude representational energy of guns, drugs and hoochie mamas, placed atop wooden crates intended for transport of bananas and tomatoes, address issues of smuggling perceived lifestyles from one country to the other.
At Emalin, David Weiss’s cartoon creations, pantomime comics, commencing with a single line or circle or square continually transmute over the course of several pages, set out along a wall, epic, detailed narratives spun out of the energised strokes, a constant, monumental, convulsive metamorphosis enacted. You fear for his fragile protagonists , your eye helplessly compelled by these most basic yet powerful scrawls, and wish them well through the journey.
The three main artists exhibiting on the ground floor of Greengrassi, with their macabre, brooding imagery (reminiscent of Edward Gorey) could easily be a triumvirate of particularly disturbing childrens’ book illustrators, trafficking in the dark undercurrents of fairy tales or fantasy. Tatsuo Ikeda’s thick, fearful pen & ink imagery and Naufus Ramirez-Figueroa’s aquatints with their apprehensive, anxious sceanarios tweak foundational fears, and Kye Christensen-Knowles’s fey, candid paintings of louche adolescence suggest an alternative Harry Potter.
Sam Anderson’s clay figurines at Mother’s Tankstation (one of two galleries located in the former home to the Chinese Embassy for Visa Applications) depict solitary, self-possessed individuals, some astride donkeys (one bathed in shifting moon glow in a corner of the room, another atop a plinth, the merest suggestion of the dust and debris churned up by the animal’s movement rendered in black pepper) or alone, such as the young girl turned expectantly towards the window and the vistas beyond, all evoking a curious poetic power, soft yet resilient, products of their material.
The most successful environment overall belongs, as it did last year, to Carlos-Ishigawa. Entering the gallery through a narrow rust-coloured cardboard passage (which resembles one of Richard Serra’s steel creations), a soft crush of paper bearing down from a dropped ceiling, you emerge into a back space which carries through the idea of suspension, very few of the pieces grounded. Woozy, gauzy landscape and city paintings hang from the ceiling, ambiguous figure portraits as well, cut-out silhouettes gently haunt the corners, ritualistic cloth bat creatures appear to hover. You feel as if you are floating through the space, your senses and body airborne.
Despite tremendous variance in quality (how could there not be with such sheer volume of work), Condo provides a valuable service in making less high-profile art or the work of emerging artists available to be seen by the public, concurrently enlivening and freshening the gallery scene-without its intervention, many of these creators and their work would be consigned to the insularity of trade fairs. At this stage, London is still very active with mid-to-small size galleries, residing in nearly every conceivable neighbourhood from the poshest West End to the scrappy East and newly vital South-the annual Condo month, taking advantage of this bounty, is now an essential date on the city’s cultural calendar. Condo 2018 has now concluded, the 2019 edition will arrive mid-January next year.