TRANSMISSIONS: WALLEN MAPONDERA @ TYBURN GALLERY

EXHIBITION 

Mild-mannered, softly-spoken, the works that constitute Zimbabwe-born Mapondera’s show (Emergency Exit) at this stylish gallery tucked into a corner of London’s charming St. Christopher’s Place, put the lie to the popular notion that artwork needs to churn with heaving aggression and turbulence, announce its significance in full stentorian voice, to properly shake and move an audience. Fragile and resilient in equal measure, the metaphor is directly embedded in his materials-frayed threads, waxed paper, cardboard, plastics stretched and torn, but not quite yielding; it’s as much about absence as presence.Political and social crisis and stress informs his topographical canvasses (inherent in the droops and dangles, the scars, the sheer exhaustion of the textiles), conveying an aggrieved history of failures of state and global culture, each piece an aerial map of devastation and depredation of both village and people (ghostly figures hover and haunt the compositions, occasional tangles of red thread suggest bloodshed). These are painstaking, precise creations, all the more powerful for allowing the viewer to engage with them slowly and at ease, the acute implications accumulating quiet force. The oil paintings included illustrate ways in which native populations negotiate and strategise alternatives to systemic governmental inadequacy (Nemabhero references the explosion of the second-hand clothing trade; Korokoza crystallises the conflict and search for detente between commercial and artisanal gold miners in the country; the crowded bus terminal of ChiVendor Nechihwindi may address the ambitious nascent infrastructure projects now underway in Zimbabwe and the concomitant opportunities for local labourers). One Hundred and Twenty Candidates, a pronounced series of scrawled faces on blocks, thrust out from the frame, gives great attendance to activists who may otherwise face elision or discredit from authorities-Mapondera makes it impossible not to notice them. Each painting, in structure, takes on the definition of landscape-the mountainous piles of clothing; the visual dissonance of the mining factions; the cramped encampment of buses; the pointed, tiered sea of physiognomy-confirming Mapondera’s abiding preoccupation with environment.

Credit Artsy

It’s in the terrain where you will find the truth-spirit and soul are embedded within it, human traces and tributaries limned upon its surface. Emergency Exit continues through 4 Jul

http://www.tyburngallery.com/

Credit Artsy
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REND & TEAR: ART ROUND-UP

EXHIBITION 

Hermann Nitsch, Das Orgien Mysterien Theatre, Massimo De Carlo

Blood-soaked, viscous, charged with a crazed religious ecstasy  and ardour, this show devoted to iconoclastic Austrian performance provocateur Nitsch is hardly the sort of material you would expect housed within the confines of an elegant Mayfair gallery, transformed now into a hedonist’s den of sombrely gleeful blasphemy and impiety (Nitsch was an instrumental figure in the Viennese Actionism movement in the 1960’s, a practice steeped in the confrontational use of the artists’ own bodies and with interests in the achievement of transgressive states of absolute being-in short, rigourous pioneers in performance art). The ground floor displays a series of altar-like pieces, incorporating smocks, priests’ vestments, religious iconography, canvasses that drip in vivid splashes of red-a queasy combination of blood, fluid and paint-and huge thunderous works of roiling, swirling oils that suggest the miasmatic heart of apocalypse. A shocking, bracing video in the bowels of the building reveals the origins of the works presented upstairs, as conceived in a six-day spiritual and ritualistic experience staged within the grounds of what appears to be a farm (truly awe-inspiring in its organisational scale), incorporating a cast of actors (who, with alarming alacrity and commitment, throw themselves passionately into crucifixion and -simulated?-sexual acts), animal sacrifice, orgiastic bathing in eviscerated innards, drinking of blood-you might think George Romero is somewhere just off camera orchestrating the frenzy. Another room offers the opportunity to immerse yourself in the fever, a psychedelic play of video images and discordant choral sounds collaborating to unmoor a spectator. So close to the beating heart of viscera, thrilling to its vitality and warmth, its immediacy, Nitsch locates the mystic centre of life, the act of being alive. Through 25 May

http://www.massimodecarlo.com/exhibitions/view/12077?&lang=eng

Richard Serra, Rifts, Gagosian Grosvenor Hill

Sheet-metal titan Serra modulates his material (but not his scale) in this show devoted to these imposing ebon paper canvasses (with a dense, pungent tar-like pigment, quite elemental) troubled by sharp, elongated torn horizons (salvations) of white, as if small, sudden rips into otherwise hidden dimensions. They project a woozy, late-night mentality, pitch-black stretches of road illuminated only by fragile headlight, or lane lines extending into infinity. A hypnotic effect is achieved as you move about the vast space, the black conspiring to consume-body and mind bend towards the warm white crevasses. The black surround-inky, mammoth, uncertain-needs the healing incursions of the white shafts. Through 25 May 

https://www.gagosian.com/exhibitions/richard-serra–april-11-2018

Rachel Howard, Repitition is Truth-Via Dolorosa, Newport Street Gallery

Howard means her series of large-scale abstract works as an allegory of the Stations of the Cross (the first painting inside the exhibition references the horrifying, now iconic, image of Abu Ghraib detainee Ali Shallal al-Qaisi trussed up, Christ-like, victim of torture, the Via Dolorosa element of the show’s title), but they work most profoundly and excitingly as explorations of the painting process itself, each piece a painstaking combination of both intention and chance-mixing and manipulating varnish and pigment, pouring the blend in weeping rivulets down the canvas (using ladders and scaffolding), pushing and prodding the material to layered effect (Howard allowed for a month’s drying time between each application) and at times rotating canvasses 180 degrees to create opposing and conflicting striations. This approach creates great animation and generates tremendous drive in the works-a paintbrush occasionally appears as detail or prop, which explodes into abstraction the nearer a viewer gets. The pieces become about the way the paint has fallen, the stroke of the brush (sometimes intemperate, sometimes benign), the way the gloss has taken hard hold, the tensions and anxieties and strife implicit in the process that created them. Wounds and seams are present-there’s even what appears to be a clean, surgical cut in one work (stigmata, perhaps), out of which a universe of holy black hell slowly leaks, gathering its forces towards eruption. Through 28 May 

https://www.newportstreetgallery.com/exhibition/rachel-howard-repetition-truth-via-dolorosa/

HAIR-RAISING: HAIRY INTERVENTIONS-SASHA BOWLES @ ARTHOUSE1

EXHIBITION 

How does your garden grow?

If you’re the least bit skittish around human hair (especially isolated from its source), you will be made very uneasy indeed at this exhibition liberal in its use of the material-sinuously curled, coiled locks glued to pages, thick bristly explosions from various openings on clay vessels, unseemly, wildly overgrown entanglements that entirely subsume identity and individual and object (this facial elision engenders a vertiginous, disorienting effect in the viewer, the central marker for recognition removed). Hair is celebrated and consecrated, is both artefact and ornamentation. Culturally and socially, hair has always held a ceremonial prestige, linked to position, class, statements of personal style and intent, an accompaniment to wardrobe and fashion. By appropriating everything from royal and commissioned portraiture to Old Masters to engravings to postcards, truly intervening, Bowles at once honours and subverts the past, a dialog that yields both a playful twist and kinky kick to enduring themes. The adornment of hair, its sexual and aesthetic allure, spills forth from and across the surface of her works, volatile and charged.Structured as a three-act narrative, you move from the domestic (family portraits in which hair, like a manifestation of blood, courses from one member to the next; decorative vases sprouting surging tufts from every shaft, upon close inspection built upon a constructed chaos of various limbs and body parts; and a television set from which a humming, Lynch-like figure onanistically dreams of coiffures) to a lo-if, but highly impressive, reproduction of a stately home, produced with mere plywood, a few wonderfully chintzy props and photocopied pages that brilliantly fool the senses with scale and dimension-you stand within this space that cuts the main gallery room and are transported into a grand hallway, on the walls of which hang grand portraits, those signifiers of wealth and privilege-and finally to the museum, in which vitrines hold records of cherished objects, a cabinet of pileous curiosities. The side room hosts Bowles’s video installation Obsession, a looped sketch of a woman, her back to the camera, scarlet-gloved, fetishtically running her finger through a strand of hair, the sound of the coarse drag amplified to disquieting effect. This might be the moment when the less inclined to be comfortable around abrupt proximity to such a personal aspect of the body may bolt. Hair, especially estranged from the body, has the paradoxical quality of seeming alive and dead simultaneously-Bowles, with great alacrity, is delighted to chase after this through the far, far fields, referencing the entirety of art history and mediums while on her merry way.

http://www.arthouse1.co.uk/current.html

LIGHT AS AIR: SENSE OF SPACE@EXCHANGE SQUARE

EXHIBITION 

More grist for the mill of ephemerality, this four-room immersive installation just behind Liverpool Street station is meant as a warm bath for the senses, a pool into which the harried urbanite may wade for sensory comfort, but in fact seems designed mainly for photo possibilities for an Instagram or Snapchat account, the spaces too cramped and too cursory to achieve much resonance or dimension. I felt bad for doodler extraordinaire Rob Lowe, aka Supermundane, as the cumulative, possibly overwhelming geometrical effect of his black-and-white squiggles and patterns adorning every available surface of the initial room is thwarted by having the central entrance to the exhibition open straight into it (and, rather inconsiderately, placing a reception desk in one of its corners!). Organisers would have better served the work by constructing a vestibule through which you pass first, allowing for the room to achieve autonomy-as is, the public intrusion is a discredit. Through a side door, you enter the second room, an infinite volley of magnolia blossom trees and soft undulating lights greeting you (courtesy of mirrored reflections), a barely perceptible soundtrack of nature sounds underscoring the experience-a tranquil spot, but you’re not held for long. On my visit, the third room (across a hall), a motion activated space in which an individual’s gestures create motifs of colour and light on an accompanying screen, along with chosen musical soundtrack, was closed due to technological failure. A group of teenaged girls commandeered the fourth room, titled the Zen Studio, an assemblage of relaxation-provoking materials and furnishings such as soft carpeting, plush blankets, pastel hues, subdued hexagonal tiles, lavender scents and gentle sounds, and a dominant, focal bean-bag bed on which the girls vibrantly and vocally lounged, perhaps in defiance of the principles of restfulness on which the room was founded. Supermundane has provided the vivid and energetic outdoor mural (it spills out thrillingly around the plaza) which greets the visitor prior to proper entry. If you angle a frame correctly, the image will no doubt look stylish and impressive, leading friends and followers to fits of envy, but the authentic experience itself , the physical interaction, is pale and frustratingly superficial-but then again, it’s manufactured only as transitory whimsy. Sense of Space continues through 18 May; the on-site Art Bar offers drinks (craft beers, wine and pop) and vegan victuals.

https://www.broadgate.co.uk/SenseOfSpace-free-art-London

Credit secretldn.com
Credit Broadgate.co.uk

HOOEY:FRED BUTLER-HARMONICS IN SPACE@NOW GALLERY

EXHIBITION 

Twice now I have been burnt by the supposedly “immersive” installations constructed for this ground-floor space located on the O2 plaza just outside the North Greenwich tube stop (the first was the wildly overrated “Walala X Play”). Booking has been essential for both shows (free, through Eventbrite) due to “overwhelming demand”, yet both times I’ve attended, I’ve shared the floor with just a handful of people (leading me to believe that the organisers falsely and ingenuously seek to create a cult of success around the events, rather than letting popularity organically evolve from any intrinsic value and worth of the work itself, although weekends may see crowds gather). Ostensibly a lighthearted lab for the benefits of chromotherapy (as well as the healing  and creative properties of light and sound), multi-hued polyhedral shapes fill the room, hanging from the ceiling in a slow twist of rotation, others anchored at ground level, allowing a spectator to submerge the head inside for a cathartic bath of light, a carpet of triangular patterns underfoot (transitioning randomly from the solid to the spongy). Using Rudolph Laban’s theory of wellbeing as inspiration (positing the body as being a composition of the aforementioned geometrical shape, in constant threat of disablement from environmental pressures), the exhibition is structured to take the individual outside the assailed quotidian, and allow for a moment of awareness, offering a chance to breathe and synchronise with the restorative vibrations of the body. All well and good, but sophistication eludes the piece, and rather reminded me of being in a corridor of a primary school-visiting late into its run, the floor was quite careworn and tatty, earphones were not working (preventing me from listening to Natureboy’s bespoke soundtrack for the exhibition, an essential aspect of the experience absent), and the distracting natural light spilling in from the windows defeated full engagement with the structures (a problem the previous show shared). On both occasions, write-ups for the exhibitions have led to fervid expectations, unable to be matched by the mechanics of the actual, real-time experience. No doubt I will be convinced again, in hopes of the one day when expectations and reality will converge gloriously. Harmonics in Space closed on 29 April

http://nowgallery.co.uk/

RIDING THE WAVES: ANOMIE-NORBERT BISKY@KONIG

EXHIBITION 

What first strikes the eye as you round into this subterranean space (which nicely complements the general themes of this first U.K. show from luminary Berlin-based artist Bisky) is the kick of colour, erratic slashes of red exploding around the works (courtesy of the artist himself in an ecstatic bit of freeform painting directly on the walls of the gallery)-signalling bloodshed, insurrection, anger- and the swirling, heaving, orgiastically energised colour pools emanating straight from the works themselves. Upon closer inspection, what at first may appear Edenic, a bacchanalian carousel of free agency and liberation, is worried by miasmatic blots of paint, troubling erasures and absences, unsteady movement (equilibrium is lost), queasy images of enforced closure and abuse-a concern just outside the canvas seems determined to unleash contaminants onto the subjects, disrupt the Utopian ideal. The figures are on the verge of being torn apart, coming undone. People plummet, fireballs rain down, chaos reigns-truly these are works for tumultuous times, of great uncertainties, the world of Brexit, Trump, Syria, warlords, racial unrest, homophobia, sexual inequality, ethnic cleansing, the daily assaults of 24-hour newsfeeds and social media. As gloriously queer as these works are, they are able to hold all of these sensibilities. Bisky grew up in communist Germany (his father a highly ranked official, once the director of the Konrad Wolf film academy in Potsdam, later chair of the Party of Democratic Socialism, successor to the East German communist party; his mother was a prominent cultural sociologist who also held an esteemed and prominent position within the party), so his style may be seen as a response to spending much of his life under the pressures of an oppressive regime-indeed, many critics trace the link of state-sponsored imagery (some would say fascist) of glorified youth, in all their opulent physical splendour, prevalent in socialist art, to Bisky’s vigorous studies of engaged groups of men (with homoerotic subtext now entirely teased out into the fore). Yet his characters are affronted by various exterior forces, social, political, cultural, that seek to vanquish their identity, their activity, destroy an inclination seen as a rebuke to normative standards-yet the colour, at least in these works, resists annihilation. A frequent subject is Marinus van der Lubbe, a Dutch anarchist sentenced to death for his involvement in setting the Reichstag ablaze in 1933, a protest against unfair conditions for working-class labourers, an act meant to foment positive change, but now acknowledged by the majority of historians as being instrumental in the rise and ascendency of the Nazi regime. In him, Bisky recognises the romantic impulse, a quixotic and illusory gesture, meant to fail-but he appreciates and respects the purposeful, determined desire. In one instance, he drowns van der Lubbe in an overlay of colour, small speckled universes caressing him, claiming him from a background fray. We’d like to smugly think that matters have moved on, progress has been made, evolution has awoken, but, as Bisky reveals, much viciousness and discord remains, cleverly concealed and masked, but churning underneath, attempting to insidiously extinguish. Anomie runs through 19 May

http://koeniglondon.co.uk/

 

 

EVANESCENCE: CHRISTIAN BOLTANSKI EPHEMERES AT MARIAN GOODMAN

EXHIBITION 

Given the brutally significant themes of the transience and fragility of human existence, the gaping gulf of indifference of the world in relation to any one life that is very much foregrounded in this hypnotic show of film and sculptural installation (with its embedded motifs of political and social abuses), I may be crude in revealing that my first impulse was to find the material greatly soothing and meditative, mesmeric visually, aurally and, peculiarly for an art exhibition, olfactorily. Through a heavy black curtain, you enter a hushed space (but for the soft tinkle of bells) and move straight into a shrouded passageway of hung cloth, onto which is silk screened faded, faint images of family, through which you may walk, each space illuminated with the barest of light, like a surround of ghosts floating fleetingly on all sides. On either side, bisected by the phantom corridor, play two films, one set in a desolate snowy expanse (Ile d’Orleans in Quebec), the other in an arid, sun-baked landscape (Chile’s Atacama Desert), a field of Japanese bells mounted on tender, pliant rods in each, chiming in the breeze, a curious cycling chorus of the doleful, melancholic and palliative. Seats are provided for you to sit and contemplate, immerse the self in the delicacy of the sound. As if to enlarge the experience, Boltanski has strewn crumpled balls of paper in front of the snowscape, and a field of actual grass and dead flowers in front of the desert scene (providing a heady nasal blast of earthiness), bursting the onscreen environment straight into the gallery space. The film’s titles-Animitas (Blanc) and Animitas (small souls)-reference both the Latin term for soul and a Chilean word for roadside shrine, underscoring the elegiac nature of the song. Ephemeres(Mayflies), situated in a room at the rear of the ground floor, long strips of cloth veils suspended from the ceiling onto which is projected the frantic, luminescent winged movements of the titular insect (with the shortest lifespan in the evolutionary kingdom), is like a magic forest around which you move slightly befuddled and incoherent, unsure of dimension but dazzled by, and in wonder of, the ephemeral and transitory, the flap and weave of perpetual passing, strangely comforting. The upstairs floor is given entirely over to Boltanski’s 2017 three-screen work Misterios, incorporating an image of the shoreline looking out to sea in Bahia Bustamante, Patagonia; a whale skeleton washed up on the beach; and man-made trumpet mechanisms which mimic, with the aid of wind, cetacean song. Again addressing the casual savagery of the natural world, the artist endeavours to leave a mark, lamenting the enormity of loss, inscribing his voice into a machine which, too, will eventually fade. All the while, the light in the gallery subtly swells and ebbs, the rotation of light to dark and back again. Much of the work in its quiet way and structure functions according to the fundamental principles of the haiku-concise, but equally unhurried. Ephemeres runs through 12 May Please visit my Instagram for video posts of the exhibition

https://www.mariangoodman.com/contact