Gallery run 31st August

The first stop today is a Science Fiction Exhibition at the Barbican containing artwork from several artists at London galleries. On arrival, there is a sort of sensory overload of robots, clips from 60’s sci fi films and models of rockets destined for the moon. Many of these items are film props which were used in classics ranging from Star Wars to The Incredible Shrinking Man. The initial attraction for this show was the abundance of familiar gallery artists, but this is soon matched by the great postcard-sized paintings by Andrey Sokolov of moonscapes and yet more rockets.

At the Barbican a helpful attendant points the way up to Old Street after asking me If I was lost and what look likes a very pedestrian unfriendly car ramp turns out to be a short cut back to the main road. At Beers, Adam Lee is showing some evocative paintings inspired by the exotic location of his studio in an isolated region of Australia.

From here the Regent’s Canal provides a direct, though fairly long, route to Regent’s Park where there is a choice selection of sculptures. This is the Frieze Sculpture Park show and it is kicked off with a stunning sculpture by John Chamberlain set against a background of the park and some of the Regency properties on its periphery. Next Ugo Rondinone of Sadie Coles HQ presents an enormous white tree planted firmly into the grass. Tony Cragg has a sculpture with his stacked disc motif all assembled into a gold figure that has some similarities to the fantastical machines and figures on show earlier at the Barbican. Finally Takuro Kuwata of Alison Jacques Gallery has presented some brightly coloured cylindrical forms that look slightly organic like brightly coloured mushrooms, though of a different shape. Urs Fischer, meanwhile, has a skeleton placed in a fountain. It is being cooled, or watered in some way, with a garden hose. Then for me it’s back south with tired legs after having spent much of the last week with feet up on vacation.

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Postcards by Andrey Sokolov shown at Into the Unknown: A Journey Through Science Fiction at The Barbican Centre.

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Storyboard for The Incredible Shrinking Man shown in the exhibition Into the Unknown: A Journey Through Science Fiction at The Barbican Centre.

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Robot figure with light stick. Conrad Shawcross showing at Into the Unknown: A Journey Through Science Fiction at The Barbican Centre.

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Adam Lee at Beers London.

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John Chamberlain of Gagosian showing at the Frieze Sculpture Park in Regents Park.

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Ugo Rondinone at Frieze Sculpture Park in Regents Park.

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Tony Cragg at Frieze Sculpture Park in Regents Park.

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Takuro Kuwata of Alison Jacques Gallery at Frieze Sculpture Park in Regents Park.

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Urs Fischer of Gagosian in the Frieze Sculpture Park in RegentsPark.

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Gallery run 24th August

This week’s run was in Asheville in the US. The attraction of this region from an artistic point of view is the influential Black Mountain College located nearby in the 1940’s and 50’s. Whilst the college pioneered the avant guard with teachers ranging from John Cage and Joseph Albers to Merce Cunningham and Buckminster Fuller, the nearby city of Asheville carries on some of its traditions with its bohemian charm and more directly with a Museum dedicated to the Black Mountain College. More of this later but first a quick explanation of why the US at all.

This was eclipse week for a lucky few states in the US. Cut to the day itself and we find ourselves on the lakes with family and friends, all brought together by fantastic hosts, speeding with a plethora of other boats to a spot on the line of totality surrounded by the Great Smokey Mountains. The eclipse itself makes a lit doughnut shape, like a fluorescent tube, and it is the only time in one’s life we get to look at the sun directly with the naked eye, whilst of course also being aware of two immense heavenly bodies making their ways across the sky.

Back in Asheville, the same Smokey mountains are much closer and make a striking backdrop to the city. The run itself comprises several valleys and hills which span the city. The four focal points for this run are the Biltmore Estate, used as a film location for Hannibal, the arts district that has reclaimed a whole swathe of warehouses down by a disused rail depot, the Black Mountain College Museum and finally the Moog factory.

Now in Asheville HQ, a small motel room with WiFi but only a simple tablet with no proper keyboard at my disposal, there is only the possibility of this most basic of write-ups! Most of the additional explanation and detail then, will have to come from the photo captions themselves once they are loaded up back in the UK.

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Great day watching the Eclipse 2017 with family and friends near Knoxville, Tennessee. (photo by Jennifer)

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2pm in the afternoon during the Eclipse near Knoxville and we are out on the lake. (Photo by Jennifer)

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Limited edition of Ulysses illustrated by Robert Motherwell on show in Black Mountain College Museum. The artist taught at Black Mountain College which lay to the east of Asheville, North Carolina.

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Frank Hursh landscape on show at Black Mountain College Museum.

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Research office in Black Mountain College Museum with many of the alumni on display in the titles and bookmarked for future research programmes. It lives on! The college was a progressive education establishment that combined campus-grown food harvested by the students with radical democratic principles initially developed by the philosopher John Dewey and implemented by John Rice.

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Moog factory in Asheville. Constructors of synths and theremins which are the weird sci-fi sounding devices that respond to hand movements near an inductor coil and made famous by The Beach Boys and used also by John Cage affiliated to the Black Mountain College.

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Cactus in a Moog in their synth factory in Asheville.

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In Asheville in USA for a visit and gallery run after the eclipse. Hot for running though!

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Mural in Asheville.

Gallery run 16th August

This week I have chosen to go to Oxford. The main galleries are Modern Art Oxford and the Ashmolean Museum and for running purposes there is also a couple of rivers and a canal with which to fashion a loop out of the city and back in again. After having jogged to Paddington and sat on the train for fifty five minutes, there is a sense of expectation as the City of Spires pulls into view. The station has a sort of back entrance for cyclists wherein a bike path disappears out of sight into a housing estate and because of an association, albeit unwarranted, of similarity between barges and bikes it also seems a fair bet for access to the canal. Eventually, though not as easily as anticipated, the required transfer takes place and bike lane has morphed into towpath. At bridge number five Oxford’s famous Trout pub is signposted and this marks the way, too, for the River Thames in Port Meadow wherein the return loop to the city then commences.

Back in the City, Modern Art Oxford, is staging two exhibitions. A retrospective by Rose Finn Kelcey is the headline show and we quickly become aware that she was a performance artist who expanded her practice in later years to include installation and film. The iconic photo that launched the artist’s career is also on display. It is a picture of her doing a handstand on a beach wearing ballet-type shoes and a fantastic billowing skirt. This garment of clothing has been caught in the wind and looks like some fantastic shell or strange prosthetic at first sight, though on closer inspection we learn it is simply the white pleated skirt. Elsewhere the artist, in this posthumous retrospective, has a recreation of an artwork she made using coins of different metals to depict Van Goch’s sunflowers whilst alluding to its extraordinary multi-million price tag that was its primary feature at the time.

In the adjacent gallery Aleksandra Mir has giant drawings on display depicting satellites and control panels whilst suggesting through the use of symbols the vast quantities of data that might be passed between them. All the drawings have been made with black marker pens and the marks use a variety of saturations of ink to create textures and moods ranging from the precise to the casual. A video of the making of the work is shown in the cafe and it becomes clear that this artwork is a team effort with the helping artists working from style sheets and being assisted with grids.

As the cafe closes I head up to the Ashmolean Museum, slightly concerned that the 5pm closure of the former, might be a portent for an unexpectedly early closure of the latter. Alas this turns out to be true and the giant pair of panelled doors are literally being shut as I arrive. There is no chance then of exploring the Ashmolean collection on this trip and finding some hidden gems by John Ruskin. Instead the experience here takes a different turn as two large stainless steel sculptures by Lynn Chadwick take pride of place in the front courtyard. Light glistens on the polished metal and the blurb describes how the choice of material is very unusual for this particular artist. With these photos completed, there is an hour to spare and the natural destination is the river again but this time walking.

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Oxford Canal leaving the city.

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A ruin in Port Meadow near Oxford.

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Cows by the River Thames in Port Meadow Oxford.

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River Thames by Port Meadow Oxford.

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Rose Finn Kelcey at Modern Art Oxford with a version of Van Gogh’s expensive sunflowers made from coins.

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Aleksandra Mir at Modern Art Oxford.

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Aleksandra Mir at Modern Art Oxford.

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Lynn Chadwick at Ashmolean Museum.

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Lynn Chadwick at Ashmolean Museum.

Gallery run 11th August

The day starts with a run up to White Cube Gallery near St James’ Park, followed by a visit to Gagosian just across Piccadilly and up past Berkeley Square. At White Cube, Harland Miller has painted more imaginary book covers using the 70’s style idiomatic of self-help manuals. He seems to look back at that era with affection and there is a suggestion in the blurb that it marked a time when such projects on oneself were seen as augmentative to an already ok self whereas now the self has become categorised by science as being afflicted by a range of disorders perhaps best left to the professionals to remedy. After these thought provoking issues, Peter Marino’s work consisting of several patinated bronze trunks, serves up a healthy serving of bling preventing any further circumspection of the soul. Above each of these floor-based works are priceless artworks by Bacon, Picasso and Warhol all hung on the wall. Taken from the Gagosian group of elite artists, these works provide a sort of imaginary setting which no doubt many rich collectors will identify with as home.

Initially when I then arrive at the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park and see the slogan “The most popular show ever” before being asked to queue, I wonder who might have written this in their revue. Then I realise it is the title of Grayson Perry’s new show. He is displaying vases and tapestries and some gloriously sumptuous bikes with cow horn handlebars, a motorbike and peddle bike. Judging by the crowds milling around these great exhibits, the show title rings true. Across the Serpentine lake in the Sackler gallery are more works by a black artist Arthur Jafa, exploring political and urban street life themes. My favourite work is a video showing a performance of two artists spontaneously taking over the central isle of a metro train and swirling around the central pole. As I snap the image and look at the photo, they are upside down with lights and seats receding into the distance creating a spectacle that looks like the astronauts on a space station. They are modern day “metronauts”.

Finally the journey back south takes me to Vauxhall where Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff are showing at Cabinet Gallery. In the middle of the gallery is a long one metre wide strip of vinyl which is being passed over motorised rollers in a complex system of zig-zags. Printed on this vinyl are occasional images of stonework lettering which, we are told, are addresses of American government organisations that have been carved onto their stone walls. Meanwhile in a sort of contra-punctual relation there are also images of the interior of an Irish bar in Berlin. Whilst the former is perhaps associated with military prowess, the latter still has associations of military exemption, a feature of Berlin life for many years. The structure of the present artwork in Cabinet alludes to a standard printing procedure of airing the vinyl strip to allow time for the inks to dry. But it is also suggestive of a much more poetical process whereby it is acting as a sort of collaging machine. Here the contrasting images from Berlin and Washington that have been printed onto the vinyl strip, whilst not actually drying together in a literal sense, are nevertheless settling together over time.

A short distance further south takes one to the South London gallery. Opposite is an important base camp for this final ascent, called Sophocles’ bakery which makes excellent cheese boreks. The placement of this bakery allows for a five minute walk, to consume the pastry, before arriving at the gallery. Inside Lubeina Himid has presented some collage-based works relating to her placement within a domestic and political culture and she carries an additional aura now as a Turner nominated artist. Meanwhile on a TV monitor is “roadworks” an early performance piece by Mona Hartoum. She walks barefoot through busy Brixton market and carefully drags DM boots attached by their laces behind each ankle seemingly oblivious to the constant chatter and comments. These video works under stressful situations, as they are described, perhaps helped to hone her abilities in making the powerful more static works she is known for today.

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Harland Miller of White Cube with images based on imaginary book covers with very brief titles.

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Howard Hodgkin large scale work.

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Peter Marino at Gagosian Gallery in Davies Street with decorative bronze chests made in a classical style.

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Grayson Perry of Victoria Miro Gallery at Serpentine Gallery.

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Arthur Jafa at Serpentine Gallery with a performance of acrobatics in a metro train.

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Victoria and Albert Museum have a new entrance and courtyard.

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Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff at Cabinet Gallery.

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Lubaina Himid of Hollybush Gardens at South London Gallery.

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Mona Hartoum of Lisson Gallery showing a performance by herself in South London Gallery.

Gallery Run 6th August

Sculpture in the City 2017 is a trail of artworks in London’s square mile and is the destination for today’s run. With the sun shining I head towards Limehouse Basin before taking an eastwards loop that comprises the three links of the Limehouse Cut, the River Lee and finally the Hertford Union Canal. Having effectively done three sides of a square, the loop rejoins the Regent’s Canal and the waterway makes quick progress along its direct route towards Islington. It drops me off at Old Street and from here there is only a short distance to go before the beginning of the trail on the A10 near Tower 42.

Mark Wallinger’s sculpture of a thoroughbred horse stands sleekly in the lunchtime sun absorbing the rays through a dark bronze patina. A group of children stand by it and pose for a family snap. Just down the A10 is the next piece by Martin Creed. He has used plastic bags placed amongst the branches of a tree to create a colourful spectacle whilst copying the manner in which an individual bag might create an unfortunate eyesore, thereby allying this attractive artwork to its antithesis created by chance from the city’s litter.

Last year the route was V shaped and the apex of the V was Leadenhall market. This had provided an enchanting gateway to the blue chip buildings that cluster around the core of the City in homage to some of the world’s finest architects. This year the destination is the same but the numbering of the trail suggests a more prosaic progress along the trail with a simple left turn off the A10. The magic is quickly restored, though upon seeing the next two artworks lit by shafts of sunlight that have made their way through this towering core of buildings. Ryan Gander’s artwork continues the theme of an incidental object that has attached itself to a tree. Not a bag this time but a parachute. Alongside this are four blue tanks and when put together the narrative suggests perhaps a vertical descent of some vital supplies over a last few fictitious seconds before becoming embedded amongst the branches one is currently looking at. In contrast, Paul McCarthy’s work nearby uses none of the resident objects in the plaza to create its narrative but rather through its scale looks as though it has always been here. It consists of two giant figures that are almost as big as the trees populating the plaza. Characteristic of the artist, little nut-like protrusions give the figures a cartoonish quality.

The remaining artworks are an eclectic mix. Daniel Buren presents a classic four colour composition with accompanying black and white striped frame whilst Gary Webb has used the natural colours of exotic materials to create a delicious looking sculpture stacked up like a fruit sundae. A little further along the street Damian Hirst presents a colourful bronze anatomical figure of a man. Finally Karen Tang’s piece called “Synapse”, a large fibreglass construction comprising five or six yellow and green sausage-like elements, gets the biggest endorsement of the day from a group of kids who rush over to it saying “wow”!

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Regent’s Canal.

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Mark Wallinger of Hauser and Wirth, Sculpture In The City 2017.

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Martin Creed of Hauser and Wirth, Sculpture In The City 2017.

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Ryan Gander of Lisson Gallery, Sculpture In The City 2017.

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Paul McCarthy of Hauser and Wirth, Sculpture In The City 2017.

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Daniel Buren of Lisson Gallery, Sculpture In The City 2017.

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Gary Webb of The Approach Gallery, Sculpture In The City 2017.

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Damien Hirst, Sculpture In The City 2017.

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Karen Tang, Sculpture In The City 2017.