ART ROUND-UP PART 2

EXHIBITION

Doris Salcedo “Palimpsest” and “Tabula Rasa” @ White Cube Bermondsey 

A stunning memorial field composed of stone tablets, sand and a mighty feat of hydraulics, this sculptural installation by Salcedo is monumentally scaled but fragilely intimate in concept (an intimacy never compromised or subsumed by the grand mechanics of the piece). Each tablet holds multiple names of migrants who have perished in the dangerous crossings of the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas on their way to freedom in Europe. Intermittently, names shiver and bubble into presence, inscribed by water, only to incrementally fade again, the water retreating in rivulets, to be replaced by yet another identity, a continuous process of reveal and erasure. Salcedo honours the individual otherwise lost in a collective statistical anonymity. The viewer is encouraged to gingerly step around the stains and contemplate (reverentially, as the space makes one feel) the enormity of the tragedy-the vast room mimics the sense of being adrift in a mighty sea. This is a holy chamber of witness-most spectators were stunned into silence. 

If only I could bring the same awe to Salcedo’s “Tabula Rasa”, but I’m afraid the metaphor in this case (at least for me) is stretched too far for resonance. A stark room displaying a variety of ordinary looking wooden tables reveals, upon closer inspection, cracks, fissures, fractures and rough edges, as if some violence has been visited upon them. In fact, Salcedo has savagely broken them apart, then reassembled them with great blunt abruptness, all delicacy and finesse drained.

Credit studio international

Press notes claim this process addresses sexual assault and its aftermath, an inability to fully resurrect the self, imperfections cast into the basic structure. Vital issues to explore, for sure, but for me the connection is missed here. Palimpsest and Tabula Rasa run through 11 Nov

https://whitecube.com/exhibitions/exhibition/doris_salcedo_bermondsey_2018

 

Kim Dorland “Terror Management Theory” @ Beers London 

It’s a shame that this exhibition by Canadian artist Dorland closed in early October, as its themes of apocalypse and delirium and fear and death are such focal aspects of the month that culminates in that most pagan of holidays, Halloween. Dorland’s subjects dance and carry on along the edge, twisting in ominous wait for some portentous catastrophe, an extinction-level event, often in shadowed forests and clearings. That we now exist in a climate swelling with possible, increasingly more immediate calamity, only lends his images greater force and alarm. Dorland’s exploration of the concept of momento mori brings it up to date with very real contemporary concerns with a global society seemingly at wit’s end, mentally unfit. Playful as they are, an unease and disquiet are abundantly foregrounded; the canvasses hum with cloaked sinister bodings. Burly fists of impasto paint occasionally adorn the frame, a sudden net of meretricious weight. The images are gleeful and maniacal at once, a punk aesthetic present. Comic book and horror film tropes are in liberal use. In many ways, these images seem very of the moment. Terror Management Theory closed on 6 Oct

http://www.beerslondon.com/exhibitions/terror-management-theory 

Soufiane Ababri Here Is A Strange and Bitter Crop @ Space Gallery

Ababri confronts dominant cultural representations of the black male body in an attempt to liberate it from imprisoning absolutes and engendered attitudes. Through the prism of race, sport and sex (the latter two especially prone to particular tropes of display and depiction), Ababri studies the internal pressures and anxieties that arise when control of self-image is in the hands of outside authority. Sports allow for an environment in which violence and machismo is celebrated, an acceptable level of physicality between men portrayed,  a way to play to the cultural norm. In absolute defiance, one wall of paintings depict masculine men engaged in a series of pornographic acts, a shock to hetero-normative structure. Stripes of green call forth, according to the artist, both the football field  (or team colours) and cotton fields. From the time of slavery, the black body has been commodified and defined. A cage, with open door, invites one to consider enclosure, detainment, prison. Ababri does not want the viewer to be in the least comfortable-he wants to induce a permanent state of unrest and sweat, Billie Holiday’s lament  of “Strange Fruit” and the tragedy of gay footballer Justin Fashanu bearing down on the senses. He wants us to consider deeply the impact of oppressive dynamics of social assumption on identity and behaviour. Here Is A Strange and Bitter Crop runs through 24 Nov 

Credit spacestudios Look away, those with a sensitive nature!

http://www.spacestudios.org.uk/exhibition-programme/soufiane-ababri/

Frances Wilks How To Sell Death To The Living/Zachari Logan Spaces Between @ New Art Projects 

Here we have an interesting gender flip: bold, brash paintings by a female artist, forthrightly engaged in elbowing in on a male dominated sporting field, and exuberantly delicate pinhole drawings of wildflower meadows and cultivated gardens rendered in fine blue pencil (resembling china patterns) by a male. Wilks stages interventions into the (fairly) exclusive male domain of Formula 1, replacing a male figure in nearly every image, an unequivocal shot of estrogen amongst the testosterone, fully, confidentially inhabiting the environment. The paintings are suffused in the brand red, and take their cues from the classic graphics of Marlboro and Ferrari, the graphic language of men’s magazines from yesteryear. Logan’s fragile prints, mere details of a fuller image that exists somewhere within-or past-the surrounding white space (that the image is partial, is a slender whisper of the whole, lends it great melancholy), are like impressions of memory and dream. It’s perhaps a detail remembered rather than the whole experience, the detail being the reason, the mode for transport. Serendipitously, as it happened, an overhead pipe carrying a constant flow of water lent a soothing, calming backdrop to my stroll through Logan’s images-I thought it a deliberate audio feature to accompany the exhibition! How To Sell Death To The Living and Spaces Between run through 27 Oct 

http://newartprojects.com/eventtype/exhibitions/

Credit newartprojects 

 

Credit franceswilks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ART ROUND-UP PART 1

EXHIBITION

I’ve been a busy boy the past few weeks, scrambling to keep up with myself! Certainly, I’ve fallen quite behind on chronicling my adventures in the gallery world-time to correct this woeful oversight with a few brief reflections. 

Kemang Wa Lehulere-not even the departed stay grounded @Marian Goodman: Transitioning into the practice of art from social-activism, inquiry into politics and community remain in the forefront of the works on display from this young South-African luminary at this most stunning of West End galleries (the 1st-floor skylights remain uncharacteristically uncovered to cast a stark, illuminating, shameful light upon the gnarled, enlaced sculptures). Addressing the disquieting and ever-charged legacy of apartheid, Lehulere challenges “official” history and its “whitewashing” of cultural identity, symbolic references to student demonstrations, enforced relocations  and subjugation inescapably present. Repurposed school desks and chairs, birdhouses, tyres, glass bottles, casts of his aunt’s hand (who was caught up calamitously in the Soweto student uprisings), porcelain dogs (suggesting Sirius, the dog-star) and blackboards combine into tangled, free-wheeling installations that speak to violence and upheaval, of attempt to colonise. Chalk scrawls upon a series of boards detail an astronomical lore, a contested celestial knowledge a European authority could not abide or consider an African culture possessing before their own apprehension. Striking black and white paintings pulse with a fight between presence and erasure. Quite beyond or through any historical engagement, the pieces themselves achieve a hushed, nearly devotional aesthetic (and strangely quiet, given their origins) beauty. This is Lahulere triumphantly reclaiming what others wished to destroy, the gallery rooms transformed into staged demonstrations of enduring power and voice. not even the departed stay grounded closes 20 Oct 

https://www.mariangoodman.com/exhibitions/kemang-wa-lehulere-not-even-the-departed-stay-grounded 

Unreal Estates @ Homefinders Dalston

Credit hackneycitizen

Credit the inspired genius of artist-curator Amanda Lwin to stage this six-artist show devoted to the issues of home, domesticity and the housing crisis in an existing estate agency on Kingsland High Street. Some may be mortified to walk in on active staff as they field calls from clients (on the day of my visit I nervously listened as agents candidly discussed forfeiture of tenants’ leases and lapsed payments), disrupting their activities as you move around tables in a fairly cramped ground floor, but the themes of the exhibition come thrillingly alive in this arena for the less inhibitive visitor. Even before entry, fabricated listings share window space with those of authentic nature (one very cleverly intersperses the conventionally mundane line details of the classic property listing with a slightly more anxious and unresolved “hidden” emotional and spiritual subtext, the feelings of disassociation and panic that can arise in the pursuit of buying a home). Another makes an appeal to a literal “alien” family that they will encounter nothing less than a warm welcome in their new domicile.

Credit hackneycitizen

Paintings inside the building illustrate fantastical, (sometimes impossibly) idealised portraits of the cosiness and safety of home, gilded promises of sanctity that reality is not always able to provide. The largest threat to the integrity of home, though, is the increasing commodification of the concept, reduced to a cold investment opportunity or an image of empty desire on an Instagram feed, posted to induce envy, dissatisfaction or self-worthlessness, a hopelessly inaccessible achievement. Home is of more humble origin, as a place of refuge and safety first, a basic human need. An entire “website” has been created around this exhibition, and meetings with an “agent” may even be booked on Saturdays during its run, giving the proceedings quite a meta twist. Brilliant. Unreal Estates is now closed, but please visit the website, as the creators intend to tour it around the UK, with local artists contributing to each iteration. 

http://www.unreal-estates.org/

Adebayo Bolaji: Rituals of Colour @ Public Gallery 

In refutation of the formalities (and pretensions?) of more established galleries, the very playful Bolaji has inscribed (scratched, really) his mission statement on a piece of rough fabric, and haphazardly pasted scraps of enigmatic drawings and  phrases next to each painting that serve as curatorial text for the works on display. Bolaji, with this charming DIY aesthetic,would prefer a viewer to have his or her own running narrative rather than the burden of an officially sanctioned one which would expect you to move about the space with administrative notions. Basquiat will pass through the mind, as well as Yinka Shonibare, even Picasso in the angularity of the figures. Each portrait is a stare into the interior worlds of its subject, every aspect just a bit unmoored-the physical, the emotional, the spiritual all a jumble-a flux of wild colour and pattern storming around and behind. The figures are not quite lost or torn apart, merely acknowledging their incoherence and disarray with good nature and modesty, directly embracing a truthful, terribly human mess. They are ready for the rumble. Bolaji extends them all a tender empathy. There’s a thrilling looseness to the style, a street energy that animates and fizzes with tremendous swirls of electric energy. Rituals of Energy closed on 4 Oct, but the gallery is committed to showcasing similar up-and-coming urban artists.

https://publicgallery.co/exhibitions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WATERLOGGED: TOTALLY THAMES 2018

EVENT/PERFORMANCE 

As I am usually abroad the month of September, I have had to make peace with missing out on the activities surrounding this festival celebrating London’s great waterway, long a source of commerce, leisure and livelihood, a true source of the city’s lifeblood and development. Outside of a few public displays that begin appearing along the banks of the river just before the start of the month, I have been unable to attend any specific events, of which there are many, anything from talks to concerts to walks to photography exhibitions to boating spectacles. It was my great pleasure to this year have the opportunity to avail myself of two of the central offerings, with wildly varying results.

Bascule Chamber Concert 

This choral concert held deep within the bowels of one of Tower Bridge’s counterweight chambers, a Victorian masterpiece of engineering and industry (one of four such cavities that house the mechanisms that allow for the bridge to lift) is the one presentation I have most regretted not to have experienced, so I jumped at the chance to book a ticket early to assure myself of a seat for a truly atmospheric and transporting piece. The descent is quite dramatic, and sparks all manner of anticipation, entering through one of the control room stations and commencing a steep downwards journey via a series of twisting stairwells until you emerge into a vast, sweeping stone vault, vibrations of passing traffic overhead creating its own eerie vehicular rhythm. On the day I attended, rainfall was heavy and unremitting and cascaded in absolute freefall down the back wall (which may have engendered a reshuffle of seating), only enhancing the earthiness of the environment. The seven-strong Marian Consort, performing a programme encompassing works from the Renaissance through to 20th century (music set to Emily Dickinson poems), voices lifting and countering and complementing, crafted spine-tingling feats of tone and cadence, enhanced by the glorious acoustics within the space. I was held captive for the entirety of the hour of the performance (and I will never forget the incongruent visual of the members holding not songbooks with clip lights, but rather the very modern iPad, in a room so clearly claimed by a singularly different age-the audience could sense the close of a piece when the singers moved to click off their devices’ illumination).

Credit twitter

The brainchild of the profligately imaginative and inspired Iain Chambers, this is an indelible, unique sensory experience which I can without equivocation highly recommend. Inventory it for next year’s festival. The lineup changes each year, and you may, as happened to me, be required several times to alter the entry time to accommodate the raising of the bridge. I’ll never cross Tower Bridge in quite the same way ever again. 

http://totallythames.org/event/bascule-chamber-concerts-2018

Float 

Credit eventbrite

And now, unfortunately, to this woeful auditory promenade through the Woolwich Foot Tunnel, which in concept promised much, but in practice fell quite far from intention. After booking a ticket (which even at £8 felt rather extortionate for what was required productionally ), each participant was sent two files to download onto personal devices (phones, iPods), the purposes of which were to accompany and direct you on your journey through the tunnel, the voice of a small girl meant to gently stoke your perceptions and reflections through the prism of water. There was much faffing about as people gathered in front of the tunnel, the organisers assuring themselves that all had properly downloaded the files, handing out earphones (although, as instructed, most people had brought their own, less cumbersome, buds). A big show was made of queuing up and releasing each person into the tunnel in staggered fashion (the first file, seven minutes long, was meant to indicate when each person should be released-you had to listen for your prompt), but this could have been achieved much easier with a guide simply indicating when you could go (really, what was the purpose of the first file if it was just a holding mechanism? Very confusing, and superfluous). The second file (the only one of use) was switched on as you finally made your way down the stairs, but even this proved rather unilluminating, the increasingly irritating cadence of the small girl’s voice exhorting us to touch the walls and listen to the flow of people through the space, contemplate the water held on all sides. The way in which all participants had been dispersed was meant to mimic the choreography of a river dance. Why the voice on the file could not have been more sensibly adult, spoken of the tunnel’s specific history, imparted any rich knowledge of the Woolwich area and its military legacy, is a mystery. Continually, the spell (weak though it be) was broken by the volume at which many passersby spoke, the sounds of distracting public movement all around that violated the headset. On turning around, as recommended by my infantile host just before climbing the stairs that would blessedly bring my walk to its end, to contemplate the tunnel one last time and watch my fellow wanderers, I felt..unchanged and unmoved. I emerged with only a pointedly burdensome sense of disappointment and slight outrage. And shock. The whole experience lacked any sort of sophistication or edge. At least I was able to at last have an excuse to tour the buildings of Royal Arsenal, a long-held unrealised ambition. It is only for this sake that the day was not a crushing disaster. 

http://totallythames.org/event/float