Free art exhibitions in London
Astonishingly, this is the first UK solo show for Liz Jonhson Artur, a London-based, Russian-Ghanaian photographer, who has been documenting the African diaspora for three decades.
Summer group shows in London galleries are the worst. They’re just naff excuses to sell leftover art in the quiet months, helmed by some curator who’s insisted on writing something on the wall about how the show focuses on physical spatiality or the violence of poetics or some shit. Urgh.
It’s easy to take photography for granted. In fact, it’s easy to get sick of photography. But as this show of Latin American photography from 1959 to 2016 makes clear, cameras have long served a more important function than capturing the light bouncing off an acai berry bowl.
Oscar Murillo is hyped. Or he was. Straight out of art school, people were buying the Colombia-born artist’s abstract paintings for huge amounts of money. He was touted as the next big thing, the future of abstraction, the saviour of painting, yadda, yadda, yadda. It was all bullshit, obviously.
Wolfgang Tillmans’s giant Tate survey show back in 2017 was a little overwhelming. It was a whole person on display; his passions, his art, his personality. You were dwarfed by the photographer and his life.
You can’t imagine that having sex with Francis Bacon was very pleasant. And if this jaw-dropping little collection of paintings of male bodies pre-, during and post-intimacy is anything to go by, it definitely wasn’t gentle. The figures Bacon depicted in these works – some of which haven’t been seen since the 1970s – are writhing fleshy masses, their teeth bared, muscles taught.
Art is a weapon. I mean, not always. Sometimes it’s just something pretty for rich people’s walls. But in the hands of octogenarian American artist and activist Faith Ringgold, art is a weapon. Art is a way of fighting back.
There’s something not quite right in Yang Fudong’s glitzy Chinese historical movie. You can see the wires the fighters are flying on, the rails the cameras are moving on, the places where the set ends. A camera keeps cutting in front of your view of the action, people with smartphones keep walking into shot. It’s a mess.
Walking into ‘Misbehaving Bodies’, the Wellcome Collection’s free exhibition of artworks by Jo Spence (1934-1992) and Oreet Ashery (b. 1966), you first notice two giant, bright pink teddy bears with extra-long arms. The terror-inducing teds sit on the floor under draping canopies of the same intestinal colour.
László Moholy-Nagy set things in motion back in the ’30s that are still picking up speed today. The Hungarian modernist fused art and technology, creating a body of work that explored the base, elemental, constituent parts of our aesthetic world. This small show brings together a handful of Moholy-Nagy’s collages, paintings and sculptures, and make a tidy case for him as one of the most relevant of modernists. The first WOW moment is a set of three enamel panels comprised of simple black, yellow and red lines on white backgrounds. Moholy-Nagy had these produced industrially based on his own graph paper drawings. They’re perfect: impeccably neat, almost digitally clean – a proto-Photoshop bit of visual perfection. Next is his ‘Light-Space-Modulator’, produced with engineering firm AEG. Every hour it flicks on for three minutes, its prisms and grates sending myriad shadows dancing across the room. It’s an industrially-produced light machine, a contraption for creating untouchable shapes. It’s like the best disco ball ever. Surrounding these pivotal, influential works are experimental collages, photographs and paintings. Moholy-Nagy was relentless in toying with form, light and technology. The show’s a little weak on explanatory information, but you can see past that. If this work was made right now it would be good, but it was made way back then, so it’s really good.
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