Lindsay Seers, It has to be this way, 2009 (invitation image)
Until March 15
Lindsay Seers’ squat cardboard cinema, ‘Black Maria’- a model of Thomas Edison’s first studio housing the story of why the artist chose to become a human camera – is my hands-down winner of the pony show that is the Tate Triennial. In the current moment it might be considered as an appetizer for her enormously ambitious, gloriously complex multimedia project at Matt’s. The process of receiving and processing the art object (specifically the photographic image) becomes a Shakespearean (biographically staged) drama enacted via a shape-shifting script and cast of people and props. Fact and fiction collide in a multi-perspective account of the mental decline and eventual disappearance of the artist’s stepsister following a bike accident. It’s one hell of a journey, full of rich visuals, extraordinary co-incidences and insightful critique. One leaves head buzzing with all that Seers’ painfully ambitious investigation of the experiential circuitry linking maker, artwork and viewer represents.
Michael Bauer, ‘Lions Horse Bar-Sober’, 2009
Oil on canvas, 100 x 80 cm
Until April 5
Hotel opens its Whitechapel space with the sublime tarry-dark paintings of Michael Bauer, which more than suits the morning-after mood of this half-gutted space. The latest bunch of loosely figurative characters he has created are tribal and vital, their compromised physicality appearing as if partially crafted out of the spare drips wiped from the edge of history’s dipping pot. It’s not really people that spring to mind when taking them in, rather the temporary stains and psychological debris they pollute places with. Bauer’s paint quality is, by turns, impossibly fine and positively filthy: detonated with high-coloured Modernist precision and rudely smeared across each umber surface as if the foulest of secretions. Every sensory response leads to an unsatisfactory conclusion – moments of aesthetic pleasure get drowned in phlegmy deposits, half-recognisable forms and techniques never quite make the associative grade – returning one to the surface over and over again.
Klara Kristalova, installation view
Alison Jacques Gallery
Until April 11
Klara Kristalova’s folkloric response to the everyday is both the stuff of old world fairytales and contemporary states of mind. Her porcelain and stoneware objects and figures may be ornamental in scale but are a far cry from the benign characters one might associate with the domestic mantel. The crudely configured girl at the door with a black crater for a face sets the mood. Kristalova’s handling and glazing of her subjects is difficult to define for there is something acutely skilful about her clumsy embodiment of difficult human emotions. Inside the gallery, a tragic troupe of humanoid creatures appear slumped on shelves in a large display cabinet, like the unwanted trophies of a science project. It’s an obvious presentational device but one that neatly sets up a them-and-us position – the half-chewed quality they collectively convey at distance might lead you to believe them interchangeable elements of the same doughy narrative. It’s not until nose-to-nose that the subtle surreality of each one – think Ansel Krut meets Grayson Perry – comes into play, by which point the distance feels more than close enough.
Edweard Muybridge, Man Performing Contortions from Animal Locomotion, 1887
Until May 4
Liminal may be a word given significant exercise by today’s inter-territorial practitioners, describing as it does the notion of a border or threshold. Here, though, in the hands of Mark Wallinger it becomes something of an alchemical state, drifting and mutating through time. This exhibition really does feel, as the gallery text suggests, like an idea long steeped, as opposed to a curatorial strategy. The title (which refers to the controversial line call of the ’66 World Cup final) sets a playful tone that prevents the rather formal display from drying out. The Turner Prize-winning artist has selected a number of art works and objects (by significant makers and thinkers of the past 2,000 years) that agitate or alter lines of intellectual enquiry and visual perception: from Thomas Demand to Edweard Muybridge. Little or nothing here is superfluous to the curatorial cause but particular pieces beg mention for their thematic and contemporary relevance. Philippe Petit’s 1949 high-wire act, for example between the Twin Towers, or Renato Guiseppe Bertelli’s optically challenging “Continuous Profile” of Mussolini, which simultaneously embodies the bomb, the bell, sculptural bust and even the butt plug.
South London Gallery
18 March – 3 May
Ellen Gallagher’s highly developed appropriation of found materials leads one into tricky territory. The American artist, who rose to prominence in the Nineties, precisely alters penmanship paper, ads and magazine pages to reveal contradictory facets of the image-making process. The fantastical landscapes Gallagher creates are rich in detail, but also tense with evidence of darker narrative strategies at work, specifically the media’s portrayal and consumer targeting of Black Americans. Her subtle alignment of particular aesthetic styles and modes of information keeps one hovering between states and emotions. This solo project at SLG will revolve around the past lives of things and people, but Gallagher’s bold geometric and golden vistas will likely not be what they seem. In the sci-fi collapse of time, a wealth of painterly concerns and the Tuskegee Experiment (a controversial US Public Health experiment (1932-1972) on 399 black men in the late stages of syphilis) look set to collide.
Thomas Helbig, ‘VOGEL’, 2008
oil on canvas, 145.5 x 134.5 cms
22 March – 17 May
Thomas Helbig’s brutal mode of abstraction has surprisingly tender edges for he often makes the plinths his sculptures sit on and the frames around his paintings. Landscapes, portraits and statues appear in various stages of transmogrification: figurative details worked out of found pictures and cut and crushed from pre-existing sculptures into abstract and surreal configurations redolent of 19th century interiors. This, the German artist’s first solo exhibition at Vilma Gold, will explore the tensions and connections between the different areas of his practice. How, for example, the urgent energy of his drawings translates into three dimensions or the oppositional dialogue unfolds between the sculptures and the paintings. The dense objectivity and light subjectivity of these forms can make it appear as one has literally been squeezed out of the other.
Jack Strange, ‘Study Group’, 2008, Cardboard, Inkjet Prints
27 March – 2 May
Jack Strange’s life-is-a-playground approach to the job of making is nothing if not eclectic. A defender of the overlooked and undervalued, Strange manipulates all manner of found materials and ideas to undermine expectations and draw attention to the less obvious facets of the things we consume. He has reconfigured spunk splatters through collage and reduced Ang Lee’s ‘Hulk’ to a piece of emotionally manipulative interpretive dance. And it would seem that bodily fluids and cinema are the order of the day here, too: rumours abound of things about to be done with blood, toenails, old socks and ‘Back to the Future’. Apparently, everyone’s favourite 1980s trilogy is being primed for splicing: into a stuttering soap opera set in a café.
William Hunt, Put Your Foot Down, 2006
Performance at Art 38 Basel
2 April – 3 May
The last time I saw William Hunt he was emerging from a water-filled car installed at an art fair in which he’d just spent several minutes singing songs. It was an arresting experience, partly because of the physical feat involved, partly because of the incongruity of the spectacle within this dry commercial context. Hunt, who is currently on the Camden Arts Centre’s artist residency programme (where he’ll be conducting several performances in April), makes deliberately awkward physical theatre out of the intersection of performance art and entertainment. In recent works he has been focused on vanity and the ageing process and his forthcoming exhibition at Ibid will include several new sculptures and a ‘sunbed’ light installation. The last version of this idea (shown at Witte de With, Rotterdam) saw Hunt use the device as a light box – effectively photographing (and unevenly tanning) himself while singing a ditty detailing the logistics of the process.
Isa Genzken’s installation for the German Pavilion at Venice 2007
5 April – 21 June
The Whitechapel reinvention is almost complete and the gallery is set to open its doors in April with the first ever retrospective of German sculptor Isa Genzken. There is very little in the way of material stuff that Genzken hasn’t managed to incorporate into her anarchic practice. She is perhaps best known for her monument-style assemblages to sites, objects and buildings associated with political acts and initiatives. The Berlin-Based artist’s installation for the German Pavilion at Venice 2007, ‘Oil’, offered an uncompromising view on the wider socio-economic significance of the greasy stuff via the notion of the global tourist. This welcome survey of her 30-year career to date will likely explore the many disciplinary strands of Genzken’s enquiry – from photography to collage – but I am particularly curious to see how her architectural, highly critical, handling of modern detritus will translate within this newly customised beacon of cultural progress.
Michael Reidel, ‘Filmed Film Trailer’, 2008
Installation at David Zwirner, New York
23 April – 16 August
As the onomatopoeic title painfully implies, this group show is themed around ideas of discontinuity and disruption: the afflictions, accidents and interventions that might set meaning off its predestined course. Human disorders (Aphasia and Tourettes) that impede or prevent communication are the central focus of Sven Augustijnen’s films and a live performance about friendship by Stuart Bailey and Will Holder. Meanwhile, Michael Riedel’s 8-minute feature ‘Filmed Film Trailer’ – a frenetic edit of literally hours of filmed second-hand footage – poses questions about the truth and control of information. Anna Barham’s sculpture of neon tubes will flicker on and off, like some kind of neural processor, at the behest of a set of random computer codes, while Dominique Petitgand’s commissioned sound installation of noises made during the production of the exhibition will become a single soundtrack for the many discordant ideas in play.