Gallery run 4th March

This has been the week of the big freeze. Whilst it’s been possible to run in the snow, the prospect of having to then shake off the snowflakes upon ringing a gallery buzzer, has been enough for me to delay these visits to this Sunday. First stop is Tate Modern where a stack of materials including red buckets and wooden pallets occupies an almost perfect cube of gallery space. This work is by Tony Cragg and represents the early development of an artist who would go on to create his familiar idiomatic style of layered figures with beautifully smooth machine-worked surfaces.

The Barbican lies due north, over the Millennium footbridge, past St Paul’s Cathedral and across the raised walkway that takes one from the old city walls near the Museum of London to the unassuming doorway on level 2. The banality of the Barbican’s entranceway offers a sort of parallel to the concrete facades outside, confirming the utopian ideal that culture itself should provide the colour and nuances that these physical surfaces lack. This is not an unreasonable or untenable position to take. Frequent visits are nearly always rewarded by the work on show and today is no exception. Yto Barrada, an artist represented internationally by Pace Gallery, has echoed some of the utopian concerns of the hosting site, by depicting another ambitious building project in Agadir, where the greatest architects of the 50’s laid down their smooth lines against the backdrop of a city ruined by civil war. To capture this unique moment in history, the artist has juxtaposed simple wall drawings of the various radical buildings against items of furniture made from more traditional North African weaving techniques.

Maureen Paley is the only commercial gallery I would go on to visit today, since it offers the gracious distinction of being open on a Sunday whilst also exhibiting one of my favourite artists, Kaye Donachie. The paintings are primarily of women and this indeed is one of the show’s themes, to recreate the lost history of which these women were an important part, and in this sense the paintings offer an alternative view of reality. The dissolving forms that loosely depict these figures offer a kind of critique of this failed history, a history that has not managed to grow or take root, by showing instead not a photographic likeness but rather a likeness that seems to have been fashioned from chance events. A nose with distinct outline takes on the additional burden of sporting a giant brush mark, one that has obliterated its curved form, yet somehow this addition works and the facial feature seems strengthened rather than undermined by it.

Finally at Chisenhale Gallery we have dentistry raised to the level of art. This is not because the golden tooth that would be inserted into the artist’s mouth is particularly beautiful nor is it anything to do with recent developments of artworks taking on the narratives of prosthetics or plastic surgery. No, this dental procedure comes as a rather beautiful gesture by the artist, Lydia Ourahmane, who had the tooth inserted as a delicate and empathetic response to her own grandfather. He had in fact extracted all his own teeth in a decisive gesture against the then ruling French government. As a native to north Africa, he was at odds with their presence in his country. Then faced with the impossible position of being required to fight for them, he decided to render himself unfit for service by taking the drastic action described. This story is revealed in the gallery through the body of the artist, his grand daughter. An X ray depicts her own mouth before having the tooth inserted, whilst next to it mounted on the wall is a little nugget of gold, a second identical gold tooth in fact, since the artist had actually had two made, which offer a sort of tableaux vivant of these various events of fifty years ago.

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During the big freeze, on the day of the hoped-for gallery run. It was too cold.

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Tony Cragg at Tate Modern.

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Wheat objects woven together by Ana Lupas. This was based on a traditional Romanian practice.

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Yto Barrada of Pace Gallery showing at the Barbican Curve with drawings of the modernist buildings in Agadir set against traditional woven chairs and lampshades.

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Kaye Donachie of Maureen Paley.

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Lydia Ourahmane at Chisenhale Gallery has produced a historical artwork. The gold tooth is a copy of the one the artist had inserted in remembrance of her grandfather who had extracted his own as part of his resistance to French rule.

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Regent’s Canal after the big freeze.

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Flavie Audi and Samantha Lee with large projections of iPad screens and an accompanying dancer at Specisl Projects on Decima Street.

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Adam Linder choreographed dance at South London Gallery.

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Gallery run 15th November

With a lap round The Serpentine in Hyde Park taking the time up to ten o’clock, the first gallery of today’s run should now be open. But alas, my check of opening times on the internet last night was not done accurately enough and it turns out the gallery is in fact closed today for refurbishments. Fortunately one of their artists, Sanford Biggers, is showing just a few hundred metres away at Phillips auction house. The good fortune of spotting the gallery artist in this alternative venue is further enhanced by the quality of the work. It comprises a delicately stitched, embroidered quilt cover with a back story that it was donated to the artist along with many others from families whose ancestors were effected by slavery. This has become part of the rich historical narrative of the artwork itself.

A few blocks along in Victoria Miro, Stan Douglas is displaying photographic-based work. Although primarily the show focuses on high-resolution photographic reconstructions of the London riots of 2011, there are also two abstract works. These additional abstract works are fascinating because they are actually based on simple jpeg images of geometric shapes but where the information of the original digital files has been altered in a systematic way. The resulting rhythmic patterns, we are told, reveal the wave patterns that make up the structure of all jpeg files.

Nearby in the hub of galleries close to the Royal Academy, Pace Gallery is showing some of the American Abstract Expressionists. The dominant figure in this group, at least from an historic perspective, is Kenneth Noland, and the show builds on this popularity by also including works from other important artists from that movement including Frank Bowling and Sam Gilliam. The former has poured paint down the canvas and despite the absence of a brush, has created an elegant and ordered painted surface, evidenced by the clean boarders on either side of a main channel that comprises a complex multi-layered surface of paint. Meanwhile, the latter artist has removed his canvases from their stretchers altogether. They have been bunched up into a few hanging points and suspended from the gallery walls.

The London art scene is buzzing right now with the Basquiet show at the Barbican. Today’s run actually takes in a concurrent show in the building’s second gallery, known as The Curve. John Akomfrah has collected a multitude of chemical containers with their coloured residues still visible in white plastic grooves. He has then suspended them from the ceiling where they mingle with the lighting to create a stunning spectacle of glowing white plastic. The artwork actually references the anthropocene, an emerging name for Earth’s most recent age, and one that is characterised by human influence rather than geological change. On this account, the artwork draws more attention, in fact, to the pollution of these chemical containers than to their sublime beauty. Perhaps also on this solemn note, it is where today’s blog comes to a close, though the run itself would take in David Blandy at Seventeen, Omar Ba at Hales Gallery, Alan Belcher at Greengrassi and Abel Auer at Corvi Mora, all offering great exhibitions over the rest of the day.

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Sanford Biggers of Massimo De Carlo on show, and for auction, at Phillips.

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Stan Douglas at Victoria Miro with a manipulation of a jpeg file. These familiar digital files, used for storing images, use clever techniques to compress them and the artist has intervened in some way to produce an image that reveals this underlying technique as an image of its own.

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Frank Bowling often represented in London by Hales Gallery on show here at Pace Gallery.

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Sam Gilliam at Pace Gallery with a detached canvas.

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John Akomfrah represented by Lisson Gallery showing at Barbican. These are chemical containers that the artist has used to represent, with some beauty, the Anthropocene, our current geological time period by some accounts.

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David Blandy of Seventeen Gallery with a digital reconstruction of the solar system.

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Omar Ba of Hales Gallery draws on the experiences of his native Senegal to develop his rich symbolic language in paintings.

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Alan Belcher at Greengrassi with paintings of geometric objects that accompany, in his show, paintings of ducks, fish and shellfish each having a surreal quality.

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Abel Auer of Corvi Mora.

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.

Gallery run 22nd December

Isle of Dogs to Limehouse Cut and on to Hackney before entering the City and finding The Barbican.

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Ducting outside The Barbican.

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Bedwyr Williams at The Curve, Barbican. Installation evoking outside and intimate spaces.

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Gunther Forg at Vilma Gold.

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K P Brehmer at Vilma Gold. This is a swatch chart that was used (by the German authorities I think) to colour-match media articles. The assumption was that political agitators would create graphics that were darker brown the more extreme their content.

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A new type of zebra crossing. Looks like artwork is by Camille Walala, the artist who does amazing building facades.

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Phillipe Parreno of Pilar Corrias gallery showing at Tate Modern. Sound installation space.

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Mark Titchner of Vilma Gold, showing public art on Southwark Street.

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Great plaster-removal mural in Hackney.

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Water processing building on the North Bank of the Thames opposite what used to be called the Millenium Dome. The decorative features and facade evoke (to my mind) classical forms associated with the Greek Parthenon as well as pop.

Gallery run 16th June

Past Battersea Power Station, Albert Bridge, Hyde Park and East to Green Park and into Pace Gallery. Stephen Friedman, David Zwirner, Thomas Dane and East towards The Barbican. Then East to Whitechapel Gallery and finally South over Tower Bridge.

241Louise Nevelson at Pace London.

242Robert Buck at Stephen Friedman. Yes, the painting is hung as shown.

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244Keith Sonnier of Pace at Whitechapel Gallery.

245Maria Nepomuceno of Victoria Miro showing at Barbican.

246Francis Alys at David Zwirner kicking a flaming football through the run-down streets of a Mexican town.

247Imran Qureshi of Corvi Mora at Barbican Curve. Miniatures with enlarged marks on the gallery wall and floor.

248Cecily Brown at Thomas Dane. This small piece looks great.

249Invader pixilated image on Curtain Road.