Art In London’s West End: Round-Up July 2015 By Hannah-Rosanne Poulton

The West End is the undisputed geographical hub of London’s contemporary blue chip galleries. A site beholden to the recent expansion of major US galleries in tandem with a continued growth at the top end of the art market, the West End represents London’s significance as a powerful magnet for the wealthiest international collectors. Although this locale is not one for those seeking out ‘up-and-coming’ artists, it certainly gratifies  those looking for a blockbuster calibre of contemporary art in our nation’s capital.

Michaël Borremans ‘Black Mould’ at David Zwirner, 13 June – 14 August

David Zwirner has become a name synonymous with stellar quality artists and this summer presents the gallery’s inaugural solo-show of Michaël Borremans. Black Mould, a vast series of small- and large-scale oil paintings, occupy both floors of the polished Grafton Street gallery. Blacked-out windows and sparsely designated spotlights immediately make this viewing experience a rather sinister affair, augmented by the black-robed characters confronting us in each painting. Anonymous figures, alone or in groups, perform pseudo-ritualistic acts caught somewhere between a ceremonial dance and choreographed gatherings. Their collective inscrutability appears hostile yet playful, wherein ambiguous narratives produce a timeless, elusive resilience to our ceaseless need to decode.

John Waters ‘Beverly Hills John’ at Spruth Magers, 01 July – 15 August

A stone’s throw away at Spruth Magers, the ritualistic nature of human life is also examined by John Waters, albeit through a different guise. In his first ever London-based exhibition, the gallery presents Beverly Hills John – a striking display of Waters’ affectation with fame. Known for his flouting of cinematic conventions, notably in his films Pink Flamingos (1972) and Hairspray (1988), Waters revels in the aesthetics of crudity, appropriating movie stills and photographs and defacing their original appearance to create a string of possible new meanings. Shoulda! (2014) depicts five of recent history’s most famous women, including Princess Diana, Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston. With a laterally preceding title ‘She Shoulda Said NO!’ the inference is one split between empathy, admiration and sacrilegious offence to celebrity deities. Irreverence packs a punch at this show, but at the cost of a perverse sense of humour, it is unclear what else it brings to the table.

Roni Horn ‘Butterfly Doubt’ at Hauser & Wirth, 5 June – 25 July

The pursuit of mischief is also an evident preoccupation for Roni Horn and her presentation of drawings at Hauser & Wirth. Occupying both its Saville Row galleries, Butterfly Doubt is an exploration of linguistic play comprised of three recent series, Or (2014), Hack Wit (2014), and Remembered Words (2013).The first two series are predominantly reconstructive pursuits of textual-based drawings, stripped and reassembled into fluctuating compositions. This almost sculptural method to drawing allows for Horn’s process to reflect the content, where nonsensical phrases such as ‘chasing the blue out of rainbows’ – as featured in the Hack Wit series – are formed from her collaging technique. The repetitive nature of this show is somewhat trying and those works which are linguistically amusing often lift the exhibition from its otherwise self-conscious monotony. 

Yto Barrada ‘Faux Guide’ at Pace London, 26 June – 8 August (See Top Photo) 

An arguably more interactive and experimental methodology is offered at Pace London’s Burlington Gardens space by Yto Barrada. Faux Guide is an exhibition of new mixed-media work by the Morocco- and New York-based artist which explores palaeontology, museology and natural history in Morocco. In her museological installation, Barrada presents a deft examination on the conditioning methods of display and shifting definitions of authenticity. Complete with a model Stegosaurus, photographs of dinosaur footprints and collections of real and fake fossils, Faux Guide is a conceptual commentary on the pedagogical practice of public institutions and our readiness to accept museological objects’ authenticity.

Gabriel Orozco at Marian Goodman, 12 June – 7 August

Gabriel Orozco is widely known for his ‘artefactual’ approach to the everyday, no less than in his current exhibition at Marian Goodman gallery in Golden Square. Though an untitled exhibition, it’s possible to discern the itinerant nature of Orozco’s latest body of work through but a brief encounter. Created over the past year in his native Mexico and a sojourn in Japan are paintings, scrolls, sculptures, drawings and photographs. Confronted firstly by a series of totemic wooden sculptures propped sporadically against the walls of the gallery’s vast architectural proportions, a closer look reveals the arbitrary use of packaging materials and urban recyclable waste wrapped around each pole in his signature circular cut-out style. The circular motif continually features throughout, both in the extensive series of scrolls featuring precious cut out fabrics from kimono sashes, and upstairs in a group of his ‘conventional’ circular paintings made up of red, blue and gold. Here, it is undoubtedly the lower gallery which offers a more theoretically sophisticated and refined exploration of Orozco’s fascination with all things circular.

‘Five Decades: Sculpture and Works on Paper’ Koji Enokura, Noriyuki Haraguchi, Tatsuo Kawaguchi & Noboru Takayama at Simon Lee, 9 June – 25 July

Staying in the realms of Japan, Simon Lee offers a group exhibition of four crucial figures affiliated with the post-war Japanese artistic phenomenon Mono-ha (School of Things); a practice concerned with a desire to delineate relationships between man/matter, people/things and nature/industry. This show is by no means comprehensive and as such does not offer a concise explication of the Mono-ha tradition. Moreover, it gives a small taster of a Japanese post-modern aesthetic from which we can discern as minimalist in its formal sensibilities. Tatsuo Kawaguchi is arguably the most consistent affiliate with this tradition, revealing the inner life of materials in his Stone and Light no. 4 (1989) sculpture.

Words/Photos: Hannah-Rosanne Poulton © artlyst 2015 all rights reserved

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