Gallery run 12th October

One of the most enjoyable runs is along the Regent’s Canal from Lisson Gallery to Wharf Road, where Victoria Miro and Parasol Unit are situated. Having been to neither gallery for a while there are new shows to see at each and with the addition of an exceptionally fair autumn day the planets are aligned for a good run. At Lisson Gallery, Allora and Calzadilla have installed a display that very obliquely criticises America’s policy towards Puerto Rico and other affiliated states. These states don’t get a star on the US flag and furthermore, according to the artists, suffer from the ambiguity of their legal status of being “Foreign in a Domestic Sense”. They are foreign in some respects and domestic in others but in a way that gives them generally a bad deal, as the critique continues. How could this critique be presented as an artwork?, one might wonder. Partly through drawing attention to the phrase above in its use as the show title and partly also through arguing that the work itself by a sort of mimetic response, embodies contradictory aspects in its own form. On display is a transformer plugged into a domestic power socket making a surprisingly large humming sound off what is presumably a 13 amp plug. With various bits of foliage and earth surrounding it, the electrical equipment does indeed seem to deliver this contradictory response to the viewer that the artists had hoped for. The artwork is actually rather scary to get close up to for the photograph.

At the other gallery Daniel Buren has installed beautifully finished powder-coated, coloured modules against a mirror background. This encourages the simple conceit on my part of trying to pick up reflections from across the gallery and uniting the different modules in single camera shots. Buren’s characteristic 8.7cm vertical stripes unite all the modules together and this is a geometric feature which the press release diligently draws attention to.

The canal is looking good today adorned by the sparkling sun and the towpath is full of walkers and cyclists. Though the canal is not a short cut, it allows the mind to switch off and soon enough one arrives at Wharf Road, 5 miles away. Tal R is showing his sex shop paintings which are a lot less explicit than they sound. Indeed it is the very barrier of the front door and plain facade of the shop that the artist likens to a physical barrier of the painted canvas. The critique continues that the canvas obscures various desires forever hinted at but unrealised through the medium of paint. The images are painted from photographs but rather than this being a negative feature in the sense that the images are only copies, the photographs add a performative aspect to the artwork. For these photographs are collected randomly by the artist’s friends and thereby remove some sense of the artist’s own taste and instead allow the subject matter to be presented as a simple phenomenon.

Having also seen some more great artwork at Parasol unit, the last destination is The Strand where Lisson Gallery have taken over a building. The building is scheduled for demolition and has temporarily assumed the name of Store Studios. Here the Lisson artists have executed some of their installations in this new setting and of particular note is Ryan Gander’s sculpture depicting glowing steps ascending to a rectangular doorway, which is actually a sheet of back-lit plexiglass. The effect is to suggest some transcendental ascent to those climbing those steps (but as they number only three and are built of plexiglass too, cannot be walked on) set within the shabby walls of the condemned building. With the index of Lisson artists largely addressed in this show and the earlier works from the morning further drawing from that index, the day has finished with a decidedly minimalist Lisson-like feel.

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Daniel Buren of Lisson Gallery with wall mounted pieces based on his characteristic 8.7cm wide black and white stripes.

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Allora and Calzadilla of Lisson Gallery. Foreign in a Domestic Sense is a legal American phrase which the artists feel is unfair to certain of its allies.

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Regent’s Canal.

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Tal R of Victoria Miro with his new series of paintings based on photos of sex shops, many of which were sent to him from around the world.

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Martin Puryear at Parasol Unit with beautifully crafted sculptures.

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Robert Montgomery at the Parasol Unit with a large outdoor text piece.

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Idris Kahn of Victoria Miro with delicate text-based paintings.

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Anish Kapoor of Lisson Gallery showing at Store Studios on The Strand.

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Ryan Gander of Lisson Gallery at Store Studios on The Strand.

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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.