Free art exhibitions in London
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.
The female gaze is a funny thing. Three little words used to describe everything from lesbian erotic fiction to the abstract expressionism of Lee Krasner. What’s missing from all this talk about ‘the gaze’ is any sense of a physical human being doing the looking. Enter: Luchita Hurtado.
There’s stuff happening in Nevine Mahmoud’s first European solo show. Sensual, tactile stuff; sexual, bodily stuff. You feel like you’re walking in on a seriously private moment, bodies caught midway through something you maybe shouldn’t be seeing. There are just five sculptures here – all tits, butts and tongues made of marble and glass – but they are totally lovely.
The writer Kathy Acker (1947-1997) meant a lot of things to a lot of people. And she still does, as this sensory-overload of an exhibition at the ICA makes clear. Split across two floors, the show swirls together chunks of Acker’s own prolific output (mainly large segments of text or video footage of the writer talking or performing) with artworks, poems and films by an extra-long list of artists she’s inspired.
Maps: they’re lush. And the British Library has lots of them. In 2013, it extracted maps from its newly digitised collection of nineteenth-century books and put the results on Flickr. Artist Michael Takeo Magruder has now used these 1 million historical images as the basis for four new artworks.
You’ve got two options with Sean Scully’s abstract paintings. You can either try to read a bunch of hefty conceptual meaning into their lines and colours, or you can take them for what they are: big bloody stripy paintings.
Like half-forgotten crushes, some lost spaces might be sweeter to remember than they ever were at the time. Whitechapel Gallery’s glance into the spaces where London’s queer communities flirted and campaigned serves up heavy doses of nostalgia.
Tate Britain is filled with the corpses of British industry, the long dead, rotting remains of this country itself. Strewn across the massive central Duveen Galleries are chunks of enormous abandoned machinery: presses, clamps, welders, cutters. Some have been left untouched, others have been piled on top of each other.
American artist Jenny Holzer’s work is decades’ worth of statements, aphorisms, quotes and poetry. She takes words and sentences and plasters them over the streets, prints them on cups and condoms, engraves them into marble, and sends them stuttering at lightspeed along LED columns.
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