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. But this one, somehow, isn’t awful.
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.
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.
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.
There’s an etching in this exhibition taken from Christopher RW Nevinson’s oil painting ‘Any London Street’. The joke explains itself: this scene of life in a Georgian terrace could come from anywhere in the metropolis, geddit? LOL. Only… it couldn’t. What makes London fascinating is how almost none of its streets or buildings look the same.
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.
Lee Krasner (1908-1984) spent her life fighting for the right to be herself. She couldn’t be Lena Krasner, she had to become the androgynous Lee. She couldn’t be a realist or a cubist, she had to rip her work to shreds and collage it into new, unique forms. And she could never just be her, she always had to be the wife of Jackson Pollock.
If you’ve ever seen Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’, then you know you’ve never really seen it. What you’ve really seen is a jostling crush of irritable tourists with their cameras obscuring your view of an enigmatically grumpy Renaissance woman somewhere in the distance.
How do you sum up one of the world’s most popular cultural phenomenons; an art movement that’s lasted for hundreds of years and continues to grow, taking in video games, cinema, art and literature, with countless thousands of practitioners and millions upon millions of devoted fans. The answer, when it comes to the British Museum’s ‘Manga’ exhibition, is, well, you don’t.
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.
Loneliness, anxiety, jealousy, fear and torment: Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863-1944) probably wasn’t much fun at parties, but he sure had a knack for art. This exhibition doesn’t make for easy viewing: it’s heavy, dour stuff that’ll hang over you like a dark cloud.
Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida has slipped through the cracks. Art history can be a cruel bastard, and it’s hard to figure out where he fits in all of it: behind the Spanish painter are the waves of innovation of the French Impressionists, ahead of him is the birth of modernism, and hanging over it all are the imposing shadows of the Spanish greats, Velázquez and Goya. Bad timing, really.
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.
Countless accusations have been lobbed at Jews over the millennia. Stereotypes prevail, and the Jewish Museum is trying to tackle the big one: money. The show starts with the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of ‘jew’ as a verb. It makes for unpleasant reading. And the show doesn’t get much nicer.
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.
Gender identity has only recently become a hot topic in mainstream society. I know, it’s hard to imagine what the tabloids wrote about before they could announce that gender-neutral toilets would be the downfall of humanity. But in art, the fluidity of gender has been a subject for centuries.
For many artists, painting is the act of capturing a single, still moment. For Natalia Goncharova (1881-1962), it was the opposite. Long before the Russian artist painted bicycles in motion or factory machines mid click-clack, her images rejected the point-and-click freeze frame approach in favour of an explosion of life, noise and animation.
You might know Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz from his current Fourth Plinth commission ‘The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist’. It’s a recreation of a huge winged statue from the ancient city of Nineveh, destroyed by Daesh in 2015. Rakowitz’s version, though, is no monolith: it’s made of Middle Eastern wrapping paper and packaging materials, like a school papier-mâché project gone mad.
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.
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.
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.
Frank Bowling was an outsider. He still is, really, at 85. But when he arrived in London from Guyana in 1953, he was just a small town black kid from the colonies. He wasn’t part of the Soho drinking set, he wasn’t some public school rebel, he wasn’t an art school-educated formalist. He didn’t fit in, and – this is the best bit – he didn’t have to fit in.
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.
This show is great if you want to see a bunch of artists rip off Vincent Van Gogh. If you’re hoping to be immersed in Vince’s swirling night visions or undulating sunflowers and landscapes, you’ll get a bit of it, but only a nibble. The main gist of the show is to look at the British artists that influenced young Vinnie, and the British artists who in turn took inspiration from him.
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.
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