There’s no doubt that the heavy hitters are hitting heavy just now (Marclay at White Cube, Tuymans at David Zwirner, Sarah Sze quadruple at Victoria Miro, Rashid Johnson at Hauser & Wirth, Tony Oursler at Lisson etc). Yet that’s not so hard to work out: here are some less obvious picks, including a bumper crop of Italians and - suddenly - a clutch of interesting photography shows...
Hair: Object of Desire and Culture @ Daniel Blau, 51 Hoxton Square
To 20 March: www.danielblau.com
Eugène Brussaux: Mission Henri Moll, Eré village, Moundan Woman, 1906. Silver gelatin print
Top Photo: Anonymous: Fontainebleau, 23 August 1944 from a collection of photographs of 'Femmes Tondues' at the Liberation of France
Satisfyingly bald French curator Adnan Sezer has spent the past six years collecting photographs which can be looked at for their hair – though that’s not necessarily the first thing you’d notice otherwise in images of a severed head, nineteenth century nudes, Adolf Hitler or an extravagantly dressed transvestite from the 1920’s. It makes for an original viewing experience, boosted by such striking finds as a family with hypertricosis and 1944-45 sequences documenting the shaving of French women held to have collaborated or had relationships with the occupying Germans.
Dominic Hawgood: Under the Influence @ TJ Boulting, 59 Riding House St – Fitzrovia
Rise up you are free, 2014 led light panel & arduino led strip, duratran, 102 × 76 cm
The sponsor gallery of the International Photography Award presents 2015 series winner Dominic Hawgood's photographs of people engaged in faith-based activities, the veracity of which we have ourselves to take on faith. His previous series (shown by South Kiosk gallery) depicted – if that’s possible visually – speaking in tongues. This installation, requiring shoe-covers for entry and set atop a chancel-like platform, explores the intersection between voodoo and Christianity in London churches. We see people in the throes of exorcism, or casting away their no-longer-necessary crutches, knee supports or drugs. Or do we? Are they acting for the camera? Are they always acting? Or are they for real?
This is where the darkness lies, 2014 self adhesive vinyl, 203 × 152 cm
Thomas Joshua Cooper: Scattered Waters: Sources Streams Rivers @ The Fleming Collection, 13 Berkeley Street - Mayfair
Twilight - Rapids on the River Ness,The Weir, Dochgarroch,Inverness, Inverness-shire, Scotland, 2002-2014 - silver gelatin print
Thomas Joshua Cooper has restricted himself to a narrow process for the past 45 years, 30 of them in Scotland after moving there from his native California: he walks miles with a 30kg kit to makes pictures of the outdoors, one shot per site. He uses an 1898 5 x 7 inch plate camera which he bought from the 70-year-old son of its original owner plus tripod. Cooper prints, avoiding any modern process, onto the world’s last substantial supply of silver-rich paper, which he bought up when Agfa went bust in 2006. Why so? He finds slowness suits him, he explained at the opening of this welcome selection of his Scottish river works, as a way of paying respectful attention to the spirit of things - grass, trees, water, air - and saying thank you for place, time and light – often capturing the dark of dawn or dusk with long exposures. The 15 images here are certainly quick with the sense of water as life force for the land.
Early evening - Near the mouth of the River North Esk St Cyrus Beach, Kincardineshire, Scotland, 2000-2014
Renata De Bonis & Ruben Brulat: Mapping Continents @ Lamb Arts, 10 White Horse St – Green Park
Henry Wessel: Incidents @ Tate Modern
Tate has a recent penchant for arguably underappreciated American photographers: I can't say I wasn't bowled over by Harry Callahan but Henry Wessel is more impressive. He moved from New Jersey to California in 1971 to chase the year round light, and his pictorially acute affirmations of interest in the world feed into the 27 photographs selected and ordered to make his summary work 'Incidents'. These work persuasively individual images of strangers, replete with shadow play, unexpected tilting and internal rhymes such as between grass and hair, crutch and railing, thoughts and branches; and as a group they emphasise vantage points as they move between youth and age, men and women, singles and couples to build a putative narrative.
The artists with the top of Renata's floor-ceiling piece and some of Ruben's photos (look hard to see him naked on the rock)
It’s good to see that Lucinda Bellm now has a permanent space, after London various pop-ups, to add to her Sao Paulo links. Its three rooms are well-used for this globe-spanning match of romantic existentialists. Young French photographer Ruben Brulat tweaks his nude-in-wilderness theme with self-portraits from a geologically unstable zone of Ethiopia, including just his sulphured hands from a pool too acidic for full immersion. Brazilian Renata De Bonis exchanges soil between Brazil and England (and heartbeats between her and her boyfriend), paints selected Icelandic rocks and shows kerbstones neither up nor down as they pierce the floor / ceiling. What are we but human clay, elementally connected?
Here's a better chance to see Ruben Brulat in Sous les murmures (Under the whispers), 2014
Güler Ates: Stilled @ Art First Project Space, 21 Eastcastle St - Fitzrovia
Magic Lights, 2013
This show brings together 10 of the 16 photographs result from London-based Turkish artist Güler Ates (say 'Gooler Artes') 2012 residency at the City Palace Museum in Udaipur. That provides a particularly rich background for her photographs of a classical Indian dancer wholly covered by a sari in local textile - a set up which presents the figure colourfully and sculpturally and might be seen as an empowering of female privacy in an environment with male authoritarian traditions behind it, rather than more restrictive interpretation of the placed on the burka (see www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/24118241 for a neat summary of head coverings: the sari's never worn as Ates shows it). 'Magic Lights' is especially striking: look like a disco lights are in fact naturally lit 16th century stained glass. Since then, Ates has been working in a contrasting locations of Brazil and Eton College.
Sebastian Helling & Richard Schur: Verve @ Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, 533 Old York Road - Wandsworth
To 21 March: kristinhjellegjerde.com
Richard Schur, Bridges, from the Manhattan Series, 2015
This pairing of painters seems at first like order and chaos: a welcome return to London for Munich-based Richard Schur’s layered refractions of geometry and place versus Norwegian Sebastian Helling’s mash-ups of Ab Ex and streetishly sprayed marks inspired, he says, by his musical icons of the 70's, notably Led Zeppelin. Look more closely, though, and you’ll see dynamising little accidentals in Schur and a fair amount of structure behind Helling: a seducively colour-filled combination, but also a meditation on how much of its apparent opposite so many conditions actually contain.
Rare self-appearance with Richard Schur!
Mimmo Rotella @ Robilant + Voena, 38 Dover St – Central
Materia 5, 1956, retro d’affiche on cardboard, 32 x 50 cm
This revelatory show is the first London survey of the breadth of Mimmo Rotella’s practice. The Italian artist (1918-2006) is known for his often cinematic torn poster décollages, but actually worked in several other ways linked to advertising posters. Here are his retros, the backs of posters with look of peeling walls; the blanks in which he shows posters almost wholly obliterated by a monochrome cover prior to the next layer being applied; the artypos, taken from found poster proofs used to test out colours, often with superimposed images; and the sovrapittura, in which torn posters are overpainted.
Posso? 1963-65, photographic reproduction on canvas, 89 x 123 cm
Agostino Bonalumi - Sculptures @ Mazzoleni, 27 Albemarle St - Central
To April 4: www.mazzoleniart.com Rapporti, 1978 - glass, resin and marble
Two years ago Francesca Pola curated a magisterial survey of Agostino Bonalumi’s earlier decades at Robilant + Voena. Now she’s back at a new Italian gallery with a chronologically fuller sample from the estate, concentrating on Bonalumi (1935-2013) as a sculptor - which is after all only one step out from his constructed paintings. The later years contain such underappreciated experiments as enamelled metal sheets; relational pieces (here one in which a resin formation takes flight over marble); and extravagantly shaped self-standing canvases along with bronze, ceramic and fibreglass variants.
Francesca Pola explains Giallo, 1969 - vinyl tempera and shaped canvas
Pier Paolo Calzolari @ Ronchini Gallery, 22 Dering St – Bond St
Untitled [collage], 2012 - Graphite, talc, iron, rose petals, lead Photo: Michele Alberto Sereni
One could lose track of how many Italian artists of the 1960s have been presented as discoveries in London over the past few years. Though pleased to see Pascali, Bonalumi, Dadamaino, Paolini, Schifano, Scheggi and Zorio, we might reasonably have been asking: why not Pier Paolo Calzolari? And here he is, not with the signature frosted works (which hum with refrigeration to produce delicate surface whites) but with a good cross-section of his classically-tinged take on Arte Povera. Calzolari sets up, one might say, delicate pseudo-alchemical processes in search of the absolute: a toy train pushes a feather; flames illumine salt; and the septuagenarian seems to take a literally rose-tinted view of failing sight through a pair of glasses in which the lenses are petals.
Little Trains (Large Paper), 1972 - Paper glued on wood, wax pastel, oil pastel, tempera, iron, tracks, electric wire, feather, transformer Photo: Paolo Semprucci
PREVIOUS CHOICES STILL ON
The Presence of Absence @ Berloni, 63 Margaret Street - Fitzrovia
Anni Leppälä: Evening (Embers), 2013
The last place I look to describe a show is the gallery’s press release, lazily compliant trend as that is. Yet, having written this one, I shall claim with it that ‘it’s often said that negative space is as important as positive shapes in a composition. The works in this show turn around a parallel feature of content, as opposed to form: namely, what is not present is at least as important as what is present – and so it is that a key role is played by the paradoxical sounding ‘presence of absence’ in work by fourteen artists across a wide range of media’. And having chosen such artists as John Smith, Nika Neelova, Giorgio Sadotti and Anni Leppälä, what can I do but recommend it?
Jason Oddy: The Pentagon, Washington D.C., USA, 2003
Kirk Palmer: Remembering Absence @ the Daiwa Foundation Japan House, 13-14 Cornwall Terrace – Baker Street
Still from War's End: An Island of Remembrance, 2012
A ‘sister show’ for The Presence of Absence might be Kirk Palmer recurrent meditations on what we can and cannot now reach of the nuclear calamity which befell Japan in 1945. The photographs and two of the films in this unhurriable show do that at one remove, by concentrating on the landscape of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. War’s End: An Island of Remembrance proposes, in effect, that the mountainous Yakushima, in the Ryuku Archipelago, be seen as a memorial garden as the mission planes used it as a reference point and circled overhead for 40 minutes before proceeding, due to changing weather conditions, to bomb Nagasaki rather than the original target of Kokura. Primeval views of nature are accompanied by a deep rumbling. That proves to be a recording of the bell from Nagasaki’s destroyed cathedral, but slowed down to last the 40 minutes of the film.
Still from Hiroshima, 2007
Gideon Rubin: Delivering Newspapers @ Rokeby Gallery, 16 Roseberry Avenue – Clerkenwell
Gideon Rubin has such a penchant for blank faces we’ll probably never know if he can paint them in full. The effect is to anonymise, ambiguate and universalise the place and time of his sources. Here he dances around modes of representing people culled from 1950’s magazines hunted down during his recent residencies in Israel and China. Sometimes he paints over the page, sometimes relocates a figure to an independent canvas or transfers it to a different news context. Enough clues remain for us to puzzle out what comes from where, but without the potentially lazy short cut which facial features can provide.
Margo Trushina: Borderlines @ Erarta Galleries, 8 Berkeley St – Central
Margo Trushina with her heatbeat in Waves, 2014
London-based Russian Margo Trushina explores a plethora of borders in the elegant flow between works here, all rooted in the landscape, even – unusually – when they use neon. The boundaries range from the political to the personal. An irregularly descending line of red light, which could be the falling oil price or rouble, turns out to be the border which the Russians authorities draw within the Ukraine as their claim on its land. That's in dialogue with a Trushina’s own heartbeat set in neon against the more outward waves of the sea. The wave form is then picked up more abstractly in stainless steel, while sculptural combinations play on the borders between natural and man-made, posing stone against metal, glass against wood.
Borderline Series, Untitled 4, 2104
Katy Moran @ Parasol unit, 14 Wharf Rd – Old Street
Rock Face with a Face, 2013 - collage and acrylic on canvas
Katy Moran’s approach to figurative painting is sufficiently un-illustrative she’s often taken to be an abstract artist. Maybe that’s why, over the decade spanned by this 51 work spread, bits of reality are increasing collaged in directly, and her titles have become more descriptive of what you can see. Moran doesn’t vary colour and scale drastically, and most of the paintings arrive at a comparable way of balancing their accidents, energies and incidents – yet there’s a freshening sense that they might not have done, that they’re rediscoveries rather than applications of a formula. All of which reminds me of Morandi. That said, there are curveballs: Panther Cat is on glass, the ursine presences of bear fun almost varnish into its board, Travelling Mercy is a triptych on found canvasses, and Slide out of View feels like Howard Hodgkin on the moon.
bear fun, 2010 - acrylic and varnish on board
Vicky Wright: Poor Joys Asylum Level 71 @ Josh Lilley Gallery, 44 – 46 Riding House Street - Fitzrovia
A Silver Branch Can Drop Without Seeds I, 2014
Vicky Wright, like Moran, is a non-illustrative figurative painter with a distinctive language, but to such different effect that I was reminded of Polke. Wright emphasises her supports by painting on what look like the backs of panels. That suggests a subversive take on more conventional images on the unseen side, and here that's a feminist agenda linked to a 19th century practice of confining women on the grounds of 'hysterical' tendencies. The paintings mash up witch lore, video games and degradations of classic male modernist forms to haunting post-Gothic effect, complemented by painted sticks referencing the geological (and implied psychological) taking of core samples. Perhaps the witch, standing for positive female energies historically repressed, is also the magical mixer of paints. Whatever, the spell is strong.
Installation view with Path of Exile: Poor joys Aylum IV (the sticks) and Path of Exile: Poor joys Aylum II
Richard Serra: Backdoor Pipeline, Ramble, Dead Load and London Cross @ Gagosian Britannia St - Kings Cross
It’s easy to forget that the Richard Serra show still looms at Gagosian - fair enough, perhaps, given the effort required to install it. Yes, five uniformed guards continue their arduous business of making sure that no one walks off one of the smallest parts, which are mere five tonnes of steel. That said, the combination of weight making space with the seductive surface bloom of the Corten is a winner in each of the four formats adopted: vast walk-through curve; cemetery of super slabs; dangerously balanced overhead cross; and the ultimately heavy sarcophagus. It’s as if the Britannia Street Gallery was built for it - and in fact, it was, being engineered with Serra’s equally imposing show 2008 show in mind. Catch it (and I don’t quite mean as in Serra’s seminal 1968 video ‘Hand Catching Lead’) in these last two months.
Dead Load, 2014
Beat Zoderer: Fold & Dip and Other Incidents @ Bartha Contemporary, 25 Margaret St – Fitzrovia
Dip and Fold (detail), 2014
Swiss artist Beat Zoderer has the happy knack of achieving a distinctive aesthetic through an ever-changing variety of methods and a characteristic way of using not-quite primary colours as if they were primaries. This survey includes two of his long-running steel band series together with three main new streams, focused on folding (a circle is squared by that means, and vellum is successively folded and dipped into paint to make chance concatenations with a structural logic); the castings of balls in a range of sculptural ways; and multiple watercolour applications of a templating process which yields intricately colourful results in on Japanese paper, including as the fold-out book shown.
Indeterminacy @ large Glass, 392 Caledonian Road – Barnsbury
Window with Kathy Prendergast: Mt Fuji (2), 2014
John Cage is an empathetic figure for many artists, and Charlotte Schepke is a sensitive curator, so there was paradoxically little chance that 'Indeterminacy' wouldn't be an interesting show. Cage’s spirit is present in the sound of his short stories and invoked by such as Ana Prada’s happy conjunction of plastic spoons; the unknowable time of Roger Hiorns’ crystal-covered clock; John Smith’s film combining cityscapes with lost sounds on the now-lost medium of cassette tape, drifts of which are filmed where it snagged around the streets of London; and the beautiful Penone-echo of Kathy Prendergast’s conversion of the contour map of Mount Fuji into the rings on a tree and a fingerprint, which she's blown up into a big painting for the gallery's - large glass - window.
John Smith & Graeme Miller: still from Lost Sound, 1998-2001
Images courtesy / copyright the relevant artists and galleries + Mike Bruce (Serra)