Gallery run 20th October

At Stephen Friedman Gallery Rivane Nauenschwander has produced an installation based on the Brazilian version of the board game known in the UK as risk. Flags represent the individual countries that the players would normally roll dice for in their pursuit of world domination. Long all-nighters with friends playing this game have imbued this artwork with a particular aura for me. Round the corner in Grafton Street Sprueth Magers have been doing a refit to their gallery. It looks very slick and the formerly creaking floorboards have now been lovingly preserved and firmly secured. Gary Hume has experimented with gloss paint on paper and the effect is very interesting. The painted surface takes on a mottled form due to the paper support yielding in some way to the gloss, yet it still looks as though it has the solidity of a worked and beaten metal support.

Further down Grafton Street at David Zwirner, Sherrie Levine is displaying work made by re-photographing some iconic images made in a 1940 project to document rural American life during The Great Depression. The display itself is striking with about 50 images hung in a perfect grid on the gallery wall. After visiting this hub of three closely placed galleries the next stop is Grosvenor Hill where Almine Rech and Gagosian have created a new hub comprising two expansive white spaces. The former gallery is showing Ernst Wilhelm Nay. The abstract paintings are reminiscent of seeds and foliage yet they are not restricted to this interpretation. This ambiguity lends them an additional magic which also complements their perfect balance of colour.

The word is out that Almine Rech and Gagosian have teamed up with the estate of Tom Wesselmann. Both galleries have produced identical press releases describing the artist’s shaped canvases that predominate in his series of bedroom paintings. Various bedside objects such as clocks and designer lamps interweave the limbs, feet and hands that the artist has sketched and then blown up into full size paintings. In the Gagosian on Davies Street a subtle black and white maquette of two painted boards placed in front of one another simulate the two ends of a bed. A large pair of elegant feet obscure the rest of a body whilst the lamp peers out from further behind. This completes the Mayfair region for today and now it is time to embark on the old favourite route along the Regent’s canal whereupon one arrives at the gas storage frameworks that offer a familiar landmark for Hackney.

Two of the new galleries exhibiting at Frieze this year are Campoli Presti and Hales gallery, whilst a new artist has been taken on at Herald Street, called Jessi Reaves. These additions offer the chance to see three new artists in this region of the city which is really the birthing place for new talent and with its exceptionally high rate of Turner Prize nominations is also sustainable in its own right with no need to interact with or be fostered by the Mayfair galleries to the west. Jessi Reaves is an American artist and hence of international importance, who makes sculptures from old furniture. The assistant in the gallery invites me to sit down on the rebuilt comfy chairs and this highlights the critical space that the work operates in, being utilitarian in some respects but stripped of any designer chic. Concluding this exploration after a quick stop at Beigal Bake is a visit to Hales gallery. Since its early days on Deptford High Street as a well respected gallery cafe, it has now become important internationally. Frank Bowling is one of seventeen artists on their books and he is showing colourful abstract paintings incorporating small objects offered up by friends, as well as cutting and sewing, which all contribute to a complex and interesting surface.

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Rivane Neuenschwander of Stephen Friedman Gallery with an installation based on the board game risk. Each flag represents a risk territory. On the back is written “war”. This would be “risk” in the Uk version.

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This paving slab on Grafton Street appears to be made up of two parts?

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The gallery is open again! Gary Hume of Sprueth Magers uses his trademark gloss to produce a mottled finish on paper in his new works.

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Sherrie Levine has rephotographed and appropriated American Depression photos of farmers by Russell Lee. What was once an attempt to boost morale when they were made in 1940 has now become historical document. Shown at David Zwirner gallery.

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Ernst Wilhelm Nay at Almine Rech Gallery. Beautiful images with natural motifs but in bright colours.

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Brice Marden of Gagosian using terre verte, green earth pigment, from several well known paint suppliers, has produced 9 canvases of varying greenness.

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Tom Wesselmann at Gagosian with Bedroom Paintings.

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Jessi Reaves of Herald Street with sculpted furniture, cut up and reassembled.

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Frank Bowling of Hales Gallery with abstract compositions on stitched canvases.

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The Line Sculpture Trail, 4th August

With the galleries on summer holiday, I decided to check out The Line sculpture trail. Its collection of artworks are embedded along two geographic vectors that by happy coincidence lie superimposed upon one another pointing in a northerly direction. They are the River Lea and the Greenwich Meridian line. The Line sculpture trail is rather less fluent than the geographical lines it references, due in part to tight bows near the mouth of the River Lea and accompanying industrial estates that make the river at this stage inaccessible. But this makes for added adventure.

An Oyster card is useful too since another major feature of the Line is the Thames itself. Whilst the first sculptures are situated on the south side of the river the rest are reached by a ride across the Thames on the Emirates cable car. After a surprisingly exciting “flight”, the route planners have then urged the adventurer to take the DLR and resume on foot after a short journey by train. But I hot-foot it through the industrial estates and rejoin The Line further north. A river path has appeared and the Lea has become navigable again to the casual stroller.

Along this stretch of the river I see a sculpture by Damien Hirst identifiable by its cartoony style. It is a painted bronze about the size and shape of a saloon car. Small blue and red circles punctuate its surface in pairs and have been clearly articulated from the day they were cast in the original monochrome bronze. They represent blood vessels close to the surface of the skin and add a sensation of visceral reality to the giant biological machine of which they are part. Other vessels are rendered too in an extended palette of colours which try through their clarity to emulate the strange alphabet of the book of life. Sweat glands, hairs and shunts that cool the skin are all present and speak of their function with the clarity of a medical textbook illustration.

This mass of bronze mimics no more than a slither of skin but it is brought to life by the bright colours and remind me of a fabulous slice of trifle. I graciously receive this generous offering and tuck into yet another of the courses that have been served up today! The layers are stepped on their upper surface adding a further sense of grandeur to their scale. But like those classical depictions of vanities that have a skull or some other device to remind us of our own mortality, thick black hairs sit atop the spectacle, and upset any further sense of appetitive fulfilment. They are curved as though caught momentarily by a delicate breeze drawn off the surface of the nearby river. And it is along this river that the next item of the trail lies, a spiral DNA structure fashioned from shopping trolleys, somehow commenting on our most recent mutation that has come to characterise the first part of the 21st century, our transformation into shopaholics.

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Emirates Air Line which forms a vital link crossing the Thames for The Line sculpture trail.

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Opposite larger than life bronze contemporary figure with its own smart phone by Thomas J Price on The Line sculpture trail.

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Carsten Holler of Gagosian joins his spiral tube slide to the spiral tower of Anish Kapoor of Lisson Gallery.

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Antony Gormley of White Cube showing Quantum Cloud on The Line sculpture trail.

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Richard Wilson RA produced Slice of Reality, the title being visible on a life ring on board. The Line sculpture trail.

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Sterling Ruby of Spruth and Magers and Gagosian produced this angular canon-like form. He paid particular attention to the spray paint whose code is displayed in welded lettering on the base. The Line sculpture trail.

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Damien Hirst of White Cube on The Line sculpture trail. The painted bronze sculpture imitates a few cubic millimetres of skin.

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Gary Hume of David Zwirner gallery with brass leg-like forms on The Line sculpture trail.

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Abigail Fallis on The Line sculpture trail. Shopping trolleys imitate structural molecules in a DNA spiral. The poppies were growing round the concrete base.