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Charlene K. Lau
London U.K.
July 15, 2008
As I lapsed into a haze of dissertation work, temping, and all around summertime fun, I considered my options carefully for this round of gallery visits. What with London's graduating MA shows and other art-related events, my schedule was already brimming with possibilities.
 
First, I went to a fundraising auction for the Central Saint Martins' MA Fine Art final show. As is typical, the profile was raised via some international stars, namely Mona Hatoum, Sam Taylor-Wood, Tacita Dean and local favourite Antony Gormley. It was what you come to expect from these events, a slew of largely undeveloped student work bolstered by bargain basement-priced work from famous artists. There are always the surprise bidding wars for student work whose going price far succeeds those of their tutors and predecessors. I am happy to see at least a handful of the art go for what it's worth. Otherwise, the rest is a depressing milieu of undervalued works going for under one hundred pounds.
 
 
Samantha Mogelonsky, My Archipelago, 2008, found objects, expandable foam, fimo, wood, string
 
It is a breath of fresh air to get away from the sometimes stifling artistic tradition in which one was first trained. I saw the best young art at the Florence Trust 2008 Exhibition, a residency for emerging artists in St. Saviours, a North London church. In this mix is Canadian Samantha Mogelonsky, a graduate of Queen's University (BFA) and Central Saint Martins (MA Sculpture). Her typewriters spew and form a fantastical world of sandcastles, stories and expandable foam, all of which are hand-sculpted and baked from mounds of Sculpey (!). Sculpture in all senses of the word, with endearing whimsy that for me, took a while to sink in. But we all need whimsy, pointy-headed cynics included. My hope is restored.
 
 
Ernesto Neto, Stone lip, pepper tits, clove love, fog frog, 2008, polyamide textiles, digital cut plywood, spices, beads and hooks (courtesy the artist, Fortes Vilaça SP and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York; photo: © Stephen White)
 
Speaking of whimsy, there is also the Psycho Buildings exhibition of art and architecture currently at the Hayward Gallery. This much-touted show includes big sculptor names like Rachel Whiteread, Ernesto Neto, and Austrian art pranksters Gelitin. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain on the day I was there, so the outside works were inaccessible. I mean, how cool would it be to go paddling on the roof of the Hayward? Fear not, there were some equally good works to be had in the gallery. Neto's Fog Frog is a fetishistic nylon tent-type structure pitched over a wooden dinosaur toy-like skeleton. The visitor can step inside the dark and warm womb, breathing in the scent of spices contained overhead in drooping, phallic nylon pockets. I am content and slightly sleepy. A nice surprise was my introduction to the work of Korean artist Do-Ho Suh. His ethereal Staircase – V, is a translucent, red polyester replica of his landlord's apartment, replete with light switches and sockets, railing details and power cables. The work hangs just high enough for you to want to climb (impossibly) the stairs, and the red floor of the “apartment” creates a comforting ceiling above the viewer's head.
 
 
Laura Oldfield Ford, Threshold of the Arcades (2013) (detail), 2008, acrylic and oil on canvas
 
On the domestic front of architecture is Interior, a group show of female artists at Hales Gallery. Canadian-born photographer Laura Letinsky contributes her ongoing series, Hardly More Than Ever: tabletop still lives that look like they have been disturbed by some unruly ghostly hand. Crumpled tablecloths, dying lilies, china pushed to the edge of the tables, the images are pretty but askew and eerie. The strongest statement and image of the show is Laura Oldfield Ford's acrylic and oil on canvas Threshold of the Arcades (2013). The artist is depicted as the protagonist, surrounded by a landscape of grey junk, and backed up by a team of rough-looking boys. She is very punk, with hands on her hips and enough attitude to stare you into submission. In the backdrop are those all too familiar concrete cube-apartments of Moshe Safdie's Montréal housing complex Habitat 67. The windows glow pink as if to announce, "Pink is punk!!!" Finally, Jessica Stockholder's Untitled seems like it was tossed in at the last moment and I am wary of its inclusion, not to mention that is about ten years old. I suspect it appeared in one of those sweeping motions of curation where a recognizable name is dropped into a show for validity's sake.
 
 
Richard Prince, Continuation installation view, Serpentine Gallery, London (© 2008 Richard Prince; photo: Jerry Hardman-Jones)
 
Next up is Richard Prince's exhibition Continuation at the Serpentine Gallery. A master of distilling Americana, pop culture and language, I think of Prince's cars and joke paintings before I even enter the gallery. Needless to say, I am not surprised once I see what's inside. The majority of the show features more recent works such as those from his Car Hoods series, i.e. painted and buffed molded fiberglass car hoods mounted to plywood boxes and displayed on the wall or placed on pedestals on the floor. Paintings from his Nurse series, large-scale inkjet and acrylic on canvas works of nurse characters from pulp romance novels, also appear prominently in the exhibition. Best are Prince's recent de Kooning overpaintings, in which he applies de Kooning-style figurative painting on top of male and female porn images. It is all very convincing and replays de Kooning's crude depictions of woman as subject/object.
 
 
Allora & Calzadilla, Balance of Power, 2007, performance view, Trafalgar Square, London, July 8, 2008 (courtesy of the artist and Lisson Gallery)
 
Organised by Lisson Gallery, Perplexed in Public is a series of London-based performances in public spaces. I caught Allora & Calzadilla's 2007 piece Balance of Power in Trafalgar Square recently. As a popular meeting ground for city-sanctioned events (Diwali, Chinese New Year, Gay Pride, Canada Day), Trafalgar Square is a happy but politically charged public space. On this afternoon, three figures (one man and two women) clad in camouflage and combat boots marched onto the square and began a thirty minute yoga routine. The severity of their costume contrasted with their graceful motions. They moved in synchronicity as spectators watched in, well, utter perplexity. I felt awash in a bizarre wave of militant Zen.
 
 
Oscar Muñoz, Narciso (Narcissus), 2001-2002, single screen projection (courtesy of the artist)
 
Last stop: Columbian artist Oscar Muñoz's first UK exhibition Mirror Image at Iniva (International Institute of Visual Arts). As the show was part debut, part mini-retrospective, I had already seen a few of the works in previous shows elsewhere. Nevertheless, the poetry of Muñoz's ephemeral works is infinite. From Narciso (Narcissus), a video portrait in a water-filled sink that eventually disintegrates as the water drains, to Proyecto para un memorial (Project for a memorial), water portrait paintings on hot concrete that start evaporating shortly after Muñoz starts drawing them, we see the creation of fundamental human emotion and the fading images of memory and their eventual loss. These anonymous faces are all the more sad when you learn that the artist takes them from Columbia's newspaper obituaries. We want to feel for these people and their families, we want to know their stories, but the image is always vanishing. Aliento (breath) is just that, as you breathe on a greased silkscreen, a portrait appears and quickly dissipates. These are the lost people, the people we will never really know.
 
 
Charlene K. Lau is a London-based writer, artist and idea-maker whose reviews have recently been published in Canadian Art. She is currently studying towards her MA in History and Culture of Fashion at the London College of Fashion, University of the Arts.
 
 
Florence Trust 2008 Exhibition: http://www.florencetrust.org/exhibitions/
 
Psycho Buildings continues until August 25.
 
Interior continues until July 26.
 
Richard Prince: Continuation continues until September 7.
 
Perplexed in Public continues until July 20.
 
Oscar Muñoz: Mirror Image continues until July 27

 

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