Rebecca Geldard’s Top 10 Shows In London: August, 2011

We Will Live, We Will See
176 Prince of Wales Road
Until August 14

Young curator Pavel S. Pys makes his London debut at 176 as winner of the Zabludowicz collection’s first curatorial open. It’s an assured display of works, mostly from the collection, made with the wider context of the art object encounter in mind: the private histories of objects and matter, codes of placement and conditions of reception that shape the experience. Voguish assemblage works by Carol Bove and Steve Claydon appear coralled by an in-the-round display of Goshka Macuga’s prints of Kitaj’s favourite book covers; similarly Rachel Harrison’s digital-image interpretation of Darwin’s ‘Voyage of the Beagle’ offers a dysfunctional portrait audience to a court of sculpture-critical works by Edward Lipski, Thomas Houseago and others. This former Methodist chapel, artfully gutted, already reeks of the lived experience and with his spare approach to installation, Pys acknowledges the theatricality of any object-context dialogue here without falling prey to its charms.


The Minimal Gesture
Timothy Taylor
Until August 20

This exhibition of paintings, spanning the past 37 years, examines the curious proximity of minimalism and abstract expressionism. In each case, here, the gestural is formalised, or the formal gesturalised in ways that reveal some interestingly testy points of connection. Sean Scully’s ‘Overlay’, 1974, is not the section of stained wood it appears at distance, rather an exquisitely trompe l’oeil’d grid on a blue canvas. Where Christopher Wool has made an artful smear of an outsized Warholian matrix of newsprint dots, Rudolph Stingel’s chance-influenced gauze prints on paper appear to catalogue the gradual demise of symbolic meaning, as a once Baroque, now interior-standard floral motif is creatively distressed out of its design context.


Eyewitness: Hungarian Photography in the 20th Century
Royal Academy
Until October 2

Up above the RA’s sun-drenched courtyard, the fridge-cold galleries of the Sackler Wing provide respite from the heat, the annual Summer Show and currently house an extraordinary photographic survey of images by five major Hungarian figures: Brassai, Capa, Kertész, Moholy-Nagy and Martin Munkácsi. The exhibition follows the photographers’ exits out of a politically fractured Hungary and travels through Europe, WWII and beyond — noting the creative cross-currents connecting cultural landscapes at home and abroad and the groups’ contributions to the development of modern photography. While this survey offers a tender and gritty historical account of 20th century Europe in shift, it also serves as an informal and enlightening map to the invention and influence of key image-making approaches, in fashion, documentary and high art.


The Moment Pleasantly Frightful
Laura Bartlett
Until August 26

Critic Chris Sharp has curated this bravely spartan set of objects and images that reference the body. Each of the five artists – Martin Soto Climent, Michel Francois, Jean-Luc Moulene, Michael E. Smith and Johannes Vogl — explore a different notion of the erotic or sensual; from a cliched ‘Carry-On’ sense of body-object association to the limitations of language to describe physical experience. Francois’s photo of a sandy hole and Soto Climent’s scrotal basket ball-net configuration speak of both the internal processes that lead to action and perfunctory evidence of demonstration. Similarly, Vogl’sVogl’s lead cast is reminiscent of both external growth and the study of bodily spaces in negative. Smith’s image of fish, meanwhile, is an (at first bafflingly) odd bit of visual punctuation that lifts the inter-object tone out of obvious definition – whether that of the double entendres or self-aware body-art.


Michaelangelo Pistoletto
Serpentine Gallery
Until September 17

Italy’s man of mirrors has made a maze of the Serpentine Gallery interior this summer. Michelangelo Pistoletto came to international attention in the Sixties for his mirror paintings; portraits on reflective glass depicting the sitter in context as subject of and object within a continuously altering public realm. Here, in London, he creates a deceptively simple, rather disorienting environment, using his trademark mirrors (and objects synonymous with the world’s major religions), placed at junctions created by scroll after scroll of corrugated cardboard. The temporal structure, fixed symbolic significance of the religious effects and the endless nature of the journey reflected, combine to situate one at the centre of a series of surprisingly personal theo/philosophical and material conundrums.



Baudoin Mouanda
July 30 – September 18

Congalese photographer Baudoin Mouanda is concerned with the effects of globalisation beyond the West; specifically on the aspirations of the young people in his home country. This, his first London solo exhibition, will feature several bodies of work documenting particular subcultural groups of the urban Congo. Mouanda’s major series, ‘La Sapologie’ (2008), follows the lives of the sapeurs, a style-conscious group of young men who channel aspects of the late-18th/early 19th century Parisian dandies. The exhibition will also include images of youth-cultural groups in London and Scotland — the evidence of Mouanda’s recent residencies at Gasworks and Deveron Arts in Huntly.


Five Years
August 13 – 28

This evolving, eight-strong group exhibition is concerned with the major factors that shape the act of making: time, rules, dialogue, collaboration. The digit-only title may add up to nothing, but it’s not the endgame or pointless strategy one thinks of here, rather the period before anything begins and the sense of promise offered. And performance anxiety informs Lara Kenworthy’s moving image works, often derived from very real anxieties, such as notions of success and failure and the pursuit of dreams. Jala Walid uses animated imagery to explore the media’s manipulation of visual languages, while the studio provides the setting for Ruiz Caru’s forensic investigation of art as product of the environment in which it’s made.


Ryan Gander: Locked Room Scenario
Artangel Commission
August 30 – October 23

An empty Hoxton warehouse taken over by a high-profile British artist, it could be 1990. Actually this is the bare-bones info for a clandestine Artangel project conceived by Ryan Gander. The significance of the site and action to the history of British art will likely not be lost on the artist whose purposely mysterious output to-date is characterised by a biscuit-dry wit designed to leave its audience musing over the crumbs. Viewers will arrive at what appears to be a closed industrial building and encouraged via various clues to imagine what’s taking place inside and question their role within it. Naturally, given the detective-story stance of ‘Locked-Room Scenario’, it’s need-to-know at this stage.


2D3D: David Batchelor
Karsten Schubert
8 August – September 30

David Batchelor is passionate about colour and known for his assemblage works using lights and objects to speak of the contemporary chromatic experience. For the Scottish artist and theorist, however, discussing his practice during the 2006 symposium ‘Painting as New Medium’: “Even if my work is mainly three dimensional and some would call it sculpture, I don’t think I would. Painting still informs it more than anything else.” The title of his solo exhibition at Karsten Schubert, ‘2D/3D’, certainly reflects this interest in the spaces between dimensions and will include 10 new process-based gloss-paint works on composite aluminium.


Signs of a Struggle: Photography in the Wake of Postmodernism
11 August – November 27

‘Signs of a Struggle’ is another important photographic survey staged this summer — one that questions the shifting significance of particular image-making tropes in the postmodern period. The display will include works that variably re-frame processes of capturing information through a lens and reading images, by key practitioners such as Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince and emerging figures like Anne Hardy and Clare Strand. Where Sherman uses the portrait as framework to examine the representation of women in an increasingly image-based culture, Hardy creates and photographs sets that highlight the difficulties in separating the experience of reality and its many reproductive guises.

About the author

Rebecca Geldard is a freelance writer and critic living in London.


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