Sunday, 22 October 2017


Up Now in London

!Mediengruppe Bitnik: Are You Online Now? @ Annka Kultys Gallery, 472 Hackney Rd – Cambridge Heath

To 11 Nov:

The Swiss collective (read the odd name as ‘not mediengruppe bitnik’) imaginatively subverts the online world, here with a striking installation which operates in appropriation and exposure mode, but also metaphysically. When the ‘adultery arranging’ site Ashley Madison was hacked in 2015, it became clear that almost all the subscribers were men talking – expensively – to an army of 75,000 female chatbots.  Ashley Madison Angels At Work in London allows us to screen test five of the 436 fembots ‘entertaining’ some 200,000 London-based users through various chat-up lines. Do they pass the Turing test? You’ll think not, which just goes to show how fully – perhaps desperately – their interlocutors must have suspended disbelief *.  And yet this could be the future…

* Though not all of them: see the full story here


Laurent Grasso: The Panoptes Project @ Olivier Malingue, 143 New Bond Street – Central

Laurent Grasso, The Panoptes Project at Olivier Malingue, London. Photo: Marcus Peel

This unusual, dramatically lit, dark-walled show comes from inviting Laurent Grasso (well-known in France as winner of the Turner-equivalent Marcel Duchamp prize in 2008) to combine his own work with choices from the gallery’s secondary market collection: Ernst, Picabia, Picasso, Magritte, Brauner... Grasso immerses us in gazes echoing the myth of Argos Panoptes, a giant covered with a myriad of eyes. His own additions of floating eyes onto found landscapes, and eyes-only copies of historical portraits, act as recurring motifs as surveillance, astrological observation and voyeurism come into play…

Laurent Grasso, The Panoptes Project at Olivier Malingue, London. Photo: Marcus Peel


Giorgio de Chirico: Getafisica da Giardino @ Nahmad Projects, 2 Cork St and  Reading de Chirico @ Tornabuoni Art, 46 Albemarle St - Central

To 15 Dec (Nahmad) / 10 Jan (Tornabuoni)

Sun and Moon, 1972
Happy times if , like me,you like all phases of de Chirico. Nahmad has the odder of two substantial shows, for which Francesco Vezzoli installs paintings against a wallpaper background of de Chirico motifs, complete with astroturf floor. There are 18 de Chirico’s: first run 1920’s classics, later ‘self-copies’ of the same subjects, some misdated by the artist (can you forge yourself? Discuss), self-portraits in his ‘old master’ style… and an ante-room full of the little-known late motif of the sun as a character which can, for example, sit on a chair. Vezzoli contributes three works: paintings which vary de Chrico’s originals in appropriate spirit, and a classical torso to which he has added a de Chirico head à la tailor’s dummy.  Great fun, and well complemented by the more scholarly presentation of 25 de Chirico's at Tornabuoni.

Installation view at Nahmad Projects


Tom Wesselmann: Bedroom Paintings @ Gagosian Davies Street & Tom Wesselmann @ Almine Rech, Grosvenor Hill - Mayfair

To Dec 16
Bedroom Painting #21, 1969-1975

I guess one thinks of breasts  for Tom Wesselmann's pictures of body elements, but hands and feet star in the Gagosian half of this double-bill. In the oval Bedroom Painting #21, you might think they are set against abstract elements, but that radical black centre is a curtain, overlapping a green blind, allowing a slither of landscape; and we see yellow flowers, a section of purple wall and a light switch. And if you find it a little cold in its rigorous, formal, implicitly sexual organisation – what are these, adverts for parts of women? - then there’s a warmer, more intimate feel to the complementary show of later work in Almine Rech’s newly-opened basement space, All include the face, such as this mother and baby study, which flowed into a shaped canvas of 1979-91.  

Study for Barbara and Baby, 1979

Robert Longo: Let the Frame of Things Disjoint at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Ely House, 37 Dover Street - Central

To 11 Nov:

Study of Eagle, 2017 - 92 x 107 cm

This, Robert Longo's  most substantial show yet in Britain, features 30 works, many of them enormous charcoals in  his signature, darkly radiant, technique.    True, Longo makes images because he loves them, but he looks for subjects which resonate both personally and publicly and come together to form an engaged account of the world with seduction and power at its centre. Here the overview, under a title taken from the doomed Macbeth, incorporates Ely House's former life as the home of the Abelmarle Club, terrorism, resonances from art history, and a unsurprisingly jaundiced view of America now. The backstory and interconnections ratchet up the power of individual works, which include a friend in a Burka, X-rays of famous paintings, a redacted Guernica, bullet holes in glass, a ravaged stars and stripes, and the 'paths of the mind' which merges tree and brain images in the wake of his stroke in 2013.

Untitled (Copenhagen, February 14, 2015), 2017 - 260 x 3015 cm


Melancholia. A Sebald Variation @ Inigo Rooms, King's College London, Somerset House East Wing 

To 10 Dec:


Still from Guido van de Werve: Nummer Veertien: Home, 2012

 With so many big shows opening in the run-up to Frieze it would be easy to omit the basement galleries under Somerset House’s East Wing, but that would be a mistake. Rather, you should take two hours out of the  hurly-burly for this paradoxically uplifting exploration of melancholy. Inspired by WG Sebald, especially ‘On The Natural History of Destruction’, it starts with Durer, incorporates the WW2 bombing of Germany and unseen work by Tacita Dean and Anselm Kiefer among others, and pivots on a cinematic presentation of Guido Van der Werve’s hypnotic 54 minute film Number Twelve, Home, which starts on the hour and demands to be seen in full. Then you can ponder whether ‘in the description of the disaster’, as Sebald claimed, ‘lies the possibility of overcoming it’.  

Jeremy Wood: My Ghost, 2015 - a GPS track of his movements around London over 15 years

Andy Holden & Peter Holden: Natural Selection @ former Newington Library, 155 Walworth Road - Elephant & Castle 

Andy Holden is one of our best artists, and Art Angel have an unrivalled track record the commissioning ambitious new work in unusual places... So it's hardly a surprise that you should visit a disused Victorian library  which was previously father and son-run Cuming Museum. There you will see Holden's collaboration with his ornithologist father through two films with accompanying material and objects. First, 30 minutes on birds’ nests: how are they made and why do they take the form they do? How are the skills inherited? Might they possibly be art? What if Holden himself makes the nests? The other is a social history of collecting bird's eggs - the latter stages of which are either a rogue's gallery or sad case studies of obsessives born out of time (alongside one of the most notorious illegal collections is displayed). This is fascinating and also leads us to reflect on what we take from our parents, to what extent we can escape it, the difference between instinct and art, and what is real here, and what (like the collection of eggs) is not.


Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama (Hail, the Dark Lioness) @ Autograph ABP, Rivington Place - Shoreditch

To 28 Oct: 

Bester V, 2015

Zanele Muholi’s Faces and Phases portraits (from 2006 ongoing) asserting the presence of the black LGBTQI community in South Africa have been widely shown, but here we have only 70-odd self-portraits from 2014-17. Is there room for more such work in the post-Sherman, post-selfie age? This tremendous double exhibition - of her ‘Dark Lioness’ series, and newly commissioned images of Muholi in a kimono in Kyoto and a former prison in Johannesburg - proves there is. Race, class and personal history are more prominent than sexual identity as Muholi intensifies her blackness by increasing the contrast in black and white photographs and uses potentially absurd yet aesthetically potent props to clue us in to back-narratives. The scouring pad hat of Bester V. Mayotte, for example, both dignifies and critiques her mother’s lifetime of domestic labour; while Basizeni XI uses tyres to haunt the memorialising of her late sister with colonial rubber production and execution by ‘necklacing’.

Basizeni XI, Cassilhaus, North Carolina, 2016


Stano Filko: Reality of Cosmos @ The Mayor Gallery, 21 Cork St

Map of the World (Rockets), 1967 - monotype on map, 95 x 180cm
Lucia Gregorova Stach, of Slovakia’s national gallery, has curated this show of 1960’s work by the second most famous Slovakian conceptualist after Julius Koller. She pitches him as somewhere between Beuys (Filko has a foundation myth of becoming an artist following a near-death experience in a munitions factory) and Kabakov (he’s an oblique satirist of the communist state). Thus Filko (1937-2015) displays proposals for buildings, cobbled together anti-monumentally from found metal, so that they dominate an image of the Bratislava skyline’s socialist utopia. He pitches red blood against blue cosmos, male rockets against cavorting women in a pop-style assertion of erotic over political against the collage background of a world map – which his work, unlike his small country but consistent with what was apparently a big personality, threatens to usurp. 

Models of Observation Towers, 1966-67 - mixed media installation, 12 x 300 x 85cm

Henri Fantin-Latour: Gladioli and Roses, 1880

Nature Morte @ Guildhall Art Gallery, Guildhall Yard - city of London

To 2 April 2018, £8:

Caroline McCarthy: Vanitas, 2007

The large but little known Guildhall Art Gallery has a significant collection of Victorian paintings, currently complemented by and integrated with over 100 contemporary still lives. They provide new spins on flora, vanitas, food and domestic objects in a show – organised by Peckham's MOCA – which toured the world three years before arriving in London. You'll find, Andro Semeiko's 1.5m square  "Very big chocolate cake", a tribute to potential excess, more healthily topped by a 2 m high painting of cherries by Martin Gustavsson; and library of woodland books by Conrad Bakker; a Fright Wig made from household dust by Paul Hazelton; Caroline McCarthy's image of a skull made from Ben-Day dots punched out of a binbag hung next to it, waste to waste; and two classic Fantin-Latour florals – while both Philip Pirolo and Michael Petry (also the lead curator) make striking works which equate flower and anus.

Michael Petry: Red Roses, 2009 - one of three blown glass and cut flower arrangements in which the rim of the vase is taken from online submission  of anus shapes, and  each flower choice  represents a man's sexual preferences via the 1970's gay hanky colour code. 


Images courtesy / copyright the relevant artists and galleries 


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About Me

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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.