Shoreditch Gallery Reviews – April 2012

Sharon Strom offers Her Pick Of The Best Current Art Exhibitions In The Shoreditch Area…

Known for its hipster-chic bars and its two-wheeled transport, Shoreditch certainly has enough colour and life to brighten up any rainy London day. The art exhibitions in this London locale, while often adventurous and sometimes controversial, still offer an aesthetic range that appeals to any contemporary collector. This April, there is calmness to the usually bustling art scene around Old Street. Behind the cloud of cigarette smoke and underneath a fine layer of American Apparel lie art exhibitions designed for introspection and quiet. These galleries to follow, found in re-purposed industrial complexes or small shops behind door buzzers, offer some breathing room for reflection on politics and on texture, on geometric form and on narrative past.



Installation, Stan Douglas Midcentury Studio, Victoria Miro Gallery 18 Apr – 26 May 2012.


Stan Douglas, Midcentury Studio @Victoria Miro (until 26 May)

For this Canadian artist’s first show at Victoria Miro, Stan Douglas captures the imagination and fantasy of Hollywood glamour in his series of large-scale black and white photographs. These photographs, Douglas states, deconstruct images of the past to find a hidden potential for the present. A game of falsified and hidden identities ensues on the first floor, with characters in masks, or a woman photographed from the knee down as she stands on tiptoes in her heels. A quiet intimacy and subtle humour felt through these images mixes with natural light and airiness of the gallery space to create a space almost too inviting. Yet, his role as the “fictional photojournalist” questions authorship and reality of the photographic image. Upstairs, the theatrical action plays out, as images of gangsters gambling, paparazzi flashes into the backseat of a car, and a game of cricket is in full swing. With this series, Douglas reorders events in the gallery and suggests an open narrative for the viewer to assemble.



Lines of Thought, Installation view, Courtesy Parasol unit and artists, Photo Stephen White.


Group show, Lines of Thought @Parasol Unit (until 13 May)

Whether they are circular, crossed, or diagonal, whether drawn, sketched, or sculpted, the simplicity of a line provides artists with a varied and complex investigation of a singular theme, as we witness in the group show Lines of Thought at Parasol Unit. Literal permutations of a fishing line or netting welcome you into the space, followed by the meditative yet mechanic swirling designs in Harmonic Drawings by Conrad Showcross. Inclusions of notorious artists like Richard Long making lines of white handprints on a black canvas, or Sol Le Witt’s conceptual work Wall Drawing #88 are dotted amongst an array of global artists, making this the most diverse exhibition resulting from a singular theme. Most notable is a work by Texan Adrian Esparza, where strings from a colourful Mexican tapestry unravel to create a geometric design that evokes metaphors of lineage, heritage, chronology and history. Across the gallery, and not to be overlooked, is a small work by Jorge Macchi, where the horizon in a photograph stretches beyond the image with the help of two tightly coiled springs.



size matters - photographic mapping of human scale - daniel blau

Group show, Size Matters: The Photographic Mapping of Human Scale @Daniel Blau (until 19 May)

Aerial photography taken by US Armed Forces, modern weapons like the atomic bomb tested in the Pacific, Neil Armstrong landing on the moon – how can we consider these colossal events next to our physical bodies? In the Daniel Blau space, vintage photographs create a dialogue surrounding how image construction determines our idea of human scale, and questions the “truth” of identity as seen through the camera lens. Citing geography, architecture, and sculpture as earthly objects to compare with the body, the exhibition also considers scale in philosophical terms, thinking of what our bodies and minds are capable. For example, an intriguing juxtaposition between religion and science plays out across the gallery, contrasting NASA documentary photography with the creative representation of scale in catholic relief sculptures of god-like saints. Of course, a 12×18 self-portrait of Chuck Close also calls into question how celebrity or fame contributes to the illusion of human scale. Yet, nothing compares to the awe felt at seeing a surreal portrait of floating astronauts in space, a figure that dominates the image while the earth feebly peeks through from the background.


liza lou - white cube

Liza Lou, White Cube Hoxton Square, London, 20 April – 26 May 2012.


Liza Lou @White Cube (Hoxton Square) (until 26 May)

American artist Liza Lou charms the White Cube with her solo show of beaded ‘paintings’. After 20 years of working on large-scale beaded sculptures that are politically charged and often discomforting, Lou opts here for a series that is all about aesthetic pleasure. Shimmering, jewel-like beads cover linen canvases with acute changes of colour and geometric patterns. While most are perfect to place behind a leather sofa in one’s mansion, the more interesting works are the non-traditional canvases that hang off wooden frames, evoking images of delicately bejewelled netting or dishevelled lace garments. Inspired by her time living and working with Zulu artisans in South Africa, Lou’s work is admirable for the time and effort put into crafting these works by hand. Every so often, contrasting strings show through the woven beads to create distinction and character. An exceptional white work includes gold detailing so that the effect is a canvas ripping apart as red string appear to bleed out. Upstairs, Lou has created her own sort of chapel, in the spirit of the Rothko chapel in Texas. Five meticulously controlled linear canvases line the walls of the space, inviting order, simplicity and a meditative escape.


et cetera - hoxton art gallery

Hoxton Art Gallery, Et Cetera, 20 April 2012 – 24 May 2012.


Et Cetera @Hoxton Art Gallery (until 24 May)

It’s the little things that count, right? So says Hoxton Art Gallery’s guest curator Tom Jeffreys, Feature Editor of Spoonfed, in an exhibition that puts the mundane on a pedestal. Those things that hide in the oft-abbreviated end to a list, those things left obscured and overlooked; it’s the small things that what make this exhibition delightful. Soft artistic voices whisper to the viewer, seducing with exquisite detail, or origami-like craftiness, inviting a look so close you can see your breath on the glass. These artists enthral the visitor’s eye with crumpled Tesco receipts, thimbles sketched after inspection with a microscope, or a detailed account of the bottom of a teapot or a computer microchip. In Truncated Element XI, Janne Malmros offers a curious exploration of the hidden potential in patterns, carefully transforming geometric 2-D images into 3-D objects with a few choice cuts and ultimately questioning whether patterns are a forced or natural phenomenon. Bringing to light to those things left unmentioned, works in this exhibition truly invite both inspection and introspection.

ben rivers - phantoms of a libertine - kate-macgarry



Ben Rivers, Phantoms of a Libertine @Kate MacGarry (until 26 May)

The mystery of a traveller’s life captured in fragments and snapshots awaits the viewer behind the fogged doors at Kate MacGarry. In his newest exhibition, Phantoms of a Libertine, British artist Ben Rivers examines the haunting charge of deserted space and the abandoned objects that lay inert within it. Blending fiction with documentary, he hints at an elaborate narrative of a writer for Time and Life Magazine who abandons his flat, leaving a museum of personal artefacts in his wake. These phantoms, or traces, offer an intimate glimpse into an anonymous life. A home video slideshow of family vacations and important holidays is projected in black/white and colour 16mm film on one wall. Silver gelatin photographs of found objects are lined up on one end of the small gallery, as if as an anthropological study in black and white, or an examination of art historical archives. Like insufficient clues to a crime scene, this absolutely minimal exhibition leaves only the most vague of details concerning Rivers’ protagonist.


Words/ Photos: Sharon Strom © 2012 ArtLyst

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