2014 was certainly a good year for public blockbusters: late Matisse, Turner and Rembrandt, all of Veronese, Constable, Malevich, Polke and Kiefer, plus such quirkier fare as Emily Carr and Martin Creed – not to mention strong programmes at Camden, Chisenhale, Serpentine and the Zabludowitz Collection and the surprising scale of HS Projects' showings at 5 Howick Place
Excluding, with painful propriety, shows I was involved in, my top ten commercial / artist run exhibitions would be something like:
Pierre Huyghe – H&W
Richard Serra – Gagosian
Gerhard Richter – Marian Goodman
David Hammons – White Cube
Paul Nash – Piano Nobile
Sigalit Landau - Marlborough Contemporary
Ariel Reichman - Waterside Contemporary
Magali Reus - The approach
Guy Ben-Ner - Gimpel Fils
Jim Lambie – Sadie Coles
It’s also worth mentioning three artists who had impressive commercial shows backed by even better institutional showings: Tom Dale @ Copperfield + Hansard, Southampton, Phyllida Barlow at Hauser & Wirth and Tate Britain, and Glenn Ligon at Thomas Dane and Camden Arts Centre.
Tom Dale, Exit Strategy, 2014, copper tube and fitting,
FIRST CHOICES FOR 2015
Michael Williams: Morning Zoo @ Michael Werner, 22 Upper Brook Street - Mayfair
Barf Mother, 2014
New Yorker Michael Williams (born 1978) aims to make off-kilter paintings which are ‘straightforward as a noodle’ (to quote one of his titles) and ‘uncomfortable in their own skin’. Here he contrasts two approaches, both of which start by blowing up the sardonic, self-deprecating, drawings he makes on his computer onto canvases over eight feet high. Two remain as pure inkjet, and can be read as showing the artist – rather unattractively in ‘Morning Zoo’ itself as a sort of Zen Pollock figure contemplating his next move. Four benefit / suffer from a blizzard of added spray and other paint markings which almost obliterate image and space as they tread a line between chaos and order. The sextet forms a strong ensemble which give the overall impression of trying to find a place somewhere between painterly traditions and the digital world.
Installation view with 'Maybe I Wiped A Boogie On Your Coat', and 'Morning Zoo', 2014 (see top photo)
Reiner Ruthenbeck @ The Serpentine Gallery - Kensington
Lighting Attempt, 2004
Contrasting with Julio Le Parc’s somewhat trivial kinetics in the Sackler Gallery, Reiner Ruthenbeck provides more of a funfare for the mind in the Serpentine’s original space. The side galleries contain to the right, furniture either turned over to deny its function in favour of its aesthetic, and to left sculptures titled as furniture but so flimsy as to be useless. Meanwhile, ladders mate towards higher ends; a barrage of spotlights, grouped like figures, attempts to return a black painting to the condition of its surrounding wall, as if regretting having made it; a landscape emerges from piles of ash in conversation with geometric outlines on the wall; then we walk into a one bulb room and find it’s dusk.
Double Ladder, 1967
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.
Temporal Measures @ White Rainbow, 47 Mortimer St – Fitzrovia
Kouichi Tabata: 72 Colour (Birds) , 2014 - detail
The gallery’s second show unites three Berlin-based Japanese artists who quietly consider the subjective experience of time. Kouichi Tabata deals with the fleeting moment: delicate drawings on animator’s paper of the same two birds in 72 different colours are sequence to form a tremblingly-hued film; Futo Akiyoshi makes all-gold paintings in which the architecture of a room can only just be discerned to yield what seems an eternal abstraction of place; and Takahiro Ueda sets synthetic quartz against natural in an installation of clocks, the uniform starting times of which are diverging across the exhibition’s run due to the differing oscillation rates of different crystals.
Futo Akiyoshi: Room, 2014
Richard Serra: Backdoor Pipeline, Ramble, Dead Load and London Cross @ Gagosian Britannia St - Kings Cross
To March 5: www.gagosian.com
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 mind. Catch it (and I don’t quite mean as in Serra’s seminal 1968 video ‘Hand Catching Lead’) in these last two months.
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
Marcus Harvey: Study for bronze or ceramic sculpture, 2014 - wax on plaster base
This Lubomirov and Easton organised show takes the interesting tack of showing the work of 22 artist-curators and artist-writers alongside their choice of artist, allowing comparisons between how they work and what they like. Still, it amounts to a group show of separately chosen works – a genre which can easily prove incoherent. Here, though, the pacing round the Londonewcastle’s large loop-back space works well as the themes, starting from Marcus Harvey's striking entrance piece, move from drama to domesticity to kitsch with a well-judged seasoning of geometric rigour. And much of the work is excellent, too: Mark Titchner’s psychedelic trance text film, Katerina Blanin’s radical triple of diamond-shaped canvases and Maurice Carlin’s complicated use of every available sheet size of paper drew me in, unsurprisingly, perhaps; but so did Peter Suchin, Keran James and Bill Howard, little known to me in their artist roles.
Maurice Carlin:Phantom Demographics Series No. 3, 2014
Marie Lund: Dip @ Laura Bartlett, 4 Herald St – Bethnal Green
This beautifully muted show captures traces of everyday living through three processes. The spreading Stills are the backdrop and photos of a sort – of the effects of decades of light on found curtains, now attached to canvas. The Hand Full bronzes cast the pockets of Lund’s jeans as her hands would occupy them. And five blocky Torsos stand – or lie – in for the body: for these a woollen cardigan or jumper was covered in cement, but pulled out before it was totally dry, leaving a combination of patterned imprint and pallid colour echoes around stray full chroma bursts where fabric was stranded - like the heart, if you wanted to romanticise it; or the skeleton, if you did not.
Installation view with Stills, 2014
Julie Verhoeven: Whiskers Between My Legs @ ICA, Pall Mall - Central &
Jonathan Meese: DR. PROST BRATWURSCHT – SHOOT YOUR DR. NO-SHOT! (ERZ-Magical Mystery Pork Shoulder Sausage Bello-roll de Large) @ Modern Art, Helmet Row - Old Street
To Jan 10 (Modern Art) / Jan 18 (ICA)
Julie Verhoeven installation
The ICA’s reading room has never contained so much sheer stuff as now, by way of Julie Verhoeven’s way of putting the art into fashion and the fashion into art. Her clothes-hung grotto, too brazen for Santa, packs in soft body parts, a Franz West styled Zimmer frame, plenty of bog rolls and several screens looping the cheeky video Whiskers Between My Legs (a follow-up, I suppose, to her previous ‘Feathers Up My Arse’). Verhoeven says it features ‘all things female: bums, tits, comedy vaginas as chair covers’ – though there’s also room for a cartoon dripping penis…. Fed up with Christmas stereotypes of what women want? Yule love this... plus also, perhaps, Jonathan Meese's comparable Christmas mayhem at Modern Art: straight from the tube oil paintings along with food advert sculptures, mannequins, flashing lights, cheesy music, a giant inflatable birthday cake, a monkey in a wig and a lobster eating a hamburger... As Meese says in his equally OTT manifesto 'Art is total totality'.
Jonathan Meese installation
The Infinite World of Dadamaino @ S|2, 31 St George St - Mayfair
Mappa Cromatica, 1974
‘Infinite’ might be going a bit far, but this selection demonstrates the under-appreciated range of Dadamaino’s work, all of which can be seen as opening onto existential concerns. Born in Milan as Eduarda Maino (finite timespan 1930-2004), Dadamaino was the most prominent woman artist in Manzoni’s early sixties circle. She’s known for the Volumi (cutting holes in the canvas) and Volumi a Moduli (with overlapping layers of perforated semi-transparent material, often ‘out of sync’) – but these 24 works provide a fuller view, including reliefs, geometric abstraction, the Oggetto Ottico Dinamico (aluminium plates on nylon wires), reliefs (including a fluorescent example), the Ricerca del Colore (investigating the interaction of colours) and the cloudlike Constellazione of tiny dots and dashes, her main interest in the 1980’s... Constellazione 1982 (detail)
Shana Moulton & Lucy Stein: Retention @ Gimpel Fils, 30 Davies St – Mayfair
Still from Polventon, 2013
The main film in this refreshingly ditzy multi-media show might be subtitled ‘Fun with PMS’. Moulton & Stein get ever-wackier from the serious-sounding starting point of trying to track down from where on the cliffs near Polventon, Cornwall, from which Stein’s grandfather leaped to his death. That soon gives way to investigations of such arts as rolling down hills, the wearing of crabs, dancing round a phallic lighthouse, and imitating Barbara Hepworth sculptures (the holes in which get leading roles) – all to sonorous quotes from Peter Lanyon …. ‘A family which lives on the edge of the sea is closest to the land’ seems to echo the pre-menstrual theme of water retention. If, as a text painting on the window declares, it’s all hormonal, then the effects are being reclaimed as druggy fun. The semi-medical japes go on in video-inset massage chair, hemorrhoid pillow and modesty screen; and there are paintings...
Still from Polventon, 2013
Karen David: Pure Reason Tint of Violet & Guy Patton at Vitrine Gallery, 183-5 Bermondsey St & Bermondsey Square
PREVIOUS CHOICES STILL ON
To 18 Jan: www.vitrinegallery.co.uk
Karen David, Quathlamba Reconfigured III, 2013
There’s a definite new age vibe to Vitrine’s current cycle, as if Shana Moulton’s influence is spreading through the city. Inside, Guy Patton shows big, trippy abstractions which derive their layered colourfields from a range of moves from the single sweep of a canvas-wide brush to sprayed-over objects to Perspex scrape-overs to the incorporation of cyanotypes. Karen David has form in such tropes, boosted by a trip to Santa Fe: here she set up tie-dyes, crystals and cacti in a mock home environment in the windowscape which puts the vitrine in Vitrine. If she gently mocks an aesthetic which pretends to picture the spiritual, she does so in a way which simultaneously allows us its guilty pleasures.
Guy Patton installation
Jasper Johns: Regrets & Egon Schiele: The Radical Nude @ the Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House - Strand
To 14 Dec (Johns) / 18 Jan (Schiele) www.courtauld.ac.uk
Egon Schiele Nude Self-Portrait in Gray with Open Mouth, 1910
Black chalk and gouache, The Leopold Museum, Vienna
Until mid December there's the chance to see not one but two exceptional shows at the Courtauld. Two rooms cover the drawings and watercolours of Schiele's (1890-1918) last decade. The swift, confident line is driven by an eroticism which, whilst sometimes explicit, is offset by such mechanisms as lurid colour, deliberately awkward poses, severe cropping, expressive distortions, skeletal emaciation, deathly palor, challenging facial expressions and odd hand gestures, and white highlighting around the figure. Another room - in an oddly rare London show for the 84 year old - contains Jasper Johns' games of mortality spun out of a creased and battered John Minton photograph of Lucien Freud, as found in Francis Bacon's studio. In Johns' versions the photograph's physical characteristics become part of the image, and when he doubles by mirroring, he finds a skull in the intersection.
Jasper Johns: Regrets, 2013
Leila Jeffreys: Wild Cockatoos @ Purdy Hicks, 65 Hopton Street - Bankside
To 10 Jan: www.purdyhicks.com
Jeffreys flew over from Australia to be with her birds, here ‘Neville’ Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo (often seen as the most beautiful of them) and ‘Bob’ Long-Billed Corella (an old-stager with a broken beak).
You might expect a species by species account of bird families to yield a Becher-style objective typology, but Leila Jeffreys admires photographers who capture emotion, and it shows: her spectacular bigger-than-life portraits of the Cacatuidae come with her stories of the individuals, and spark with a life attributable to her patient methods. She introduces carefully selected cockies over several hours into a sympathetically prepared mobile studio, and talks to them continuously – exciting ‘Pete’ so much that his crest almost engulfs his face. Owls - in a separte room - require a different approach, and Jefferys has the complexities of bower birds in mind as one future possibility. A neat compare and contrast is with Hiroshi Sugimoto’s immersive photographs of museum dioramas at Pace…
'Pete' Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo
João Onofre: Tacet @ Marlborough Contemporary, 6 Albemarle Street - Central
. Still from single channel HD video
João Onofre likes to generate music from paradoxical nojunctions, and thid show centres on a performance of the notorious 4’33’’, for which John Cage's only instruction is 'tacet' - it is silent. Ambient sounds are a large part of Cage's point, but here they come from the piano and with some spectacle as the pianist sets it alight. Other works with a strong sense of time passing complete show: the seasonal medium of a haiku embossed on the Portuguese parliament; wind chimes tuned to the notes D.E.A.D. in reference to a 1968 Bruce Nauman piece; and a large aquatint,in which binary code for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, takes on a calendar-like formation.
Images courtesy / copyright the relevant artists and galleries + Mike Bruce (Serra)