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.

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

Tony Cragg at Tate Modern.

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

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.

Kaye Donachie of Maureen Paley.

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.

Regent’s Canal after the big freeze.

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

Adam Linder choreographed dance at South London Gallery.


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.

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

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

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

Adam Lee at Beers London.

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

Ugo Rondinone at Frieze Sculpture Park in Regents Park.

Tony Cragg at Frieze Sculpture Park in Regents Park.

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

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

Gallery run 27th October

Regent’s Canal from the west to Hackney.

Tony Cragg at Lisson Gallery with sculptures inspired by organic and technological forms.

Maureen Gallace at Maureen Paley with work inspired by the artist’s local landscape.

Eddie Martinez of Timothy Taylor at Frieze 2016 sculpture park.

Rallou Panagiotou at Ibid Gallery with sculptures inspired by a derelict holiday resort.

Tala Madani at Pilar Corrias with a metaphysical take on disco.

Nairy Bagrhamian at Marian Goodman Gallery in Frieze 2016 sculpture park.

Ed Ruscha at Gagosian with works exploring ideas of extension in space and time.

Jeff Koons at Almine Rech with recreations of old master paintings bearing a mirror ball. Inspiration from Kiss Of Judas by Giotto at The Arena Chapel in Padua.

David Adamo at Ibid Gallery with small figures on ceder plinths.