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.

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