Critic's Guide: London

Highlights of the shows opening around the UK capital for Frieze Week

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Marianna Simnett, Worst Gift, 2017, video still. Courtesy: the artist and Matt’s Gallery, London

Marianna Simnett, Worst Gift, 2017, video still. Courtesy: the artist and Matt’s Gallery, London

Marianna Simnett
Matt's Gallery
6 September – 22 October 2017

‘I’ve come to get the liquid’, a woman says to a security guard, who will not let her into the official-looking factory. ‘If you don’t let me through, I will make the birds sing’, she says, and threatens the guard that the singing will have a gruesome effect on him. The woman, played by the artist herself, is attempting to enter the place to retrieve a substance a voice surgeon (played by a real doctor and singer) injects into prepubescent boys’ throats in order to lower their voices. She goes to him, asking to make her voice lower ‘like the boys’, and when he refuses, she goes to get the medicine herself. Simnett’s video works tread a fine line between realism and fantasy: the alternate universe in this work, titled Worst Gift, is so close to actuality that in her previous film The Needle and the Larynx (2016) she really did go through a surgical operation to lower her voice by Botox injection. In Worst Gift dark reverie takes precedent: the boys are violent and covered with blood, the surgery dirty and has mice running across the hallways, the doctor almost menacing. The script is delivered like a fairytale and at times told in song, accompanied by a light installation that echoes the action onscreen, making the work even more visceral and haunting.

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Yuri Pattison, context, collapse, 2017, film still. Courtesy: the artist and mother's tankstation limited, Dublin / London

Yuri Pattison, context, collapse, 2017, film still. Courtesy: the artist and mother's tankstation limited, Dublin / London

Yuri Pattison
mother's tankstation project
5 October – 2 December 2017
Private view Thursday 5 October, 5-8pm

The new normal according to Pattison is a world populated by screens, cables, and connections, environments made of nonorganic materials where human beings are always an absent-presence, not inhabiting these places that were made for them. In previous works, Pattison has examined (and intervened in) contemporary office design and open-plan work spaces, and looked into sleep technologies and how they alter our consciousness and physical conditions. For ‘context, collapse’, the inaugural show at mother’s tankstation’s new London project space, Pattison shifts his interest from work to a phenomenon that on the surface would seem like leisure, the Burning Man festival in Nevada. The annual gathering has shifted from its origins as a hippie-like solstice festival to a pop up city in the desert built yearly by large corporations and rich participants, often from Silicon Valley. Pattison shows footage from Burning Man overlaid with live news streams screened on stripped-down monitors inside meeting pods: the impersonal environments coming to life as part of the exhibition design.

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Sara Cwynar, Tracy (Pink Grid Look Down), 2017, pigment print mounted on Dibond, 76 x 97 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Carl Kostyál, London

Sara Cwynar, Tracy (Pink Grid Look Down), 2017, pigment print mounted on Dibond, 76 x 97 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Carl Kostyál, London

Sara Cwynar
Carl Kostyál
4 October – 28 October 2017
Private view Tuesday 3 October, 6-9pm

‘It’s rare to find a true muse’, writes Cwynar in the introduction to her exhibition, titled after and dedicated to her friend Tracy, whose photographs Cwynar has been taking for ten years. The portraits are saturated with colour, Tracy is attractive, the intimacy between the subject and the artist is evident. If this sounds all too saccharine, on second look, complex themes of gendered conventions of representation are at play. Cwynar’s photographs of Tracy explore femininity and the place allotted to women in society, the objects they are sold and surrounded by and the way the image of women has been created historically. The photographs of Tracy quote standards from old photo studio images to magazine covers. The makeup she wears, the brands that surround her, the poses she strikes are all, in a way, readymades that the two women reexamine together via the process of photographing, and being photographed.

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‘P!CKER, PART I: Elaine Lustig Cohen: Looking Backward to Look Forward’, 2017, installation view, Stanley Picker Gallery, London. Courtesy: Stanley Picker Gallery Kingston University, London

‘P!CKER, PART I: Elaine Lustig Cohen: Looking Backward to Look Forward’, 2017, installation view, Stanley Picker Gallery, London. Courtesy: Stanley Picker Gallery Kingston University, London

Elaine Lustig Cohen and Céline Condorelli
The Stanley Picker Gallery at Kingston University
28 September 2017 – 27 January 2018

Organized by two galleries, one of which is now closed, this exhibition is actually two shows in one, or one show split into two over time. Curator Stella Bottai from the Stanley Picker Gallery invited P!, the New York gallery run by designer and curator Prem Krishnamurthy, which closed last May, to co-organize the show. Titled ‘P!CKER’, an amalgamation of P! and Picker, the name is also a derogatory synonym for curating. Here the curatorial work is anything but simple picking: both artists have shown at P!, and this exhibition is the result of long-standing collaborations (preceding Elaine Lustig Cohen’s death in 2016) between the artists and institutions. It opened last week with a display of artworks, designs, and archival material by Lustig Cohen, an artist who began her career as a graphic designer in the 1960s, designed the signage for the famous Seagram Building in New York, before transitioning to art, making collages and typographic works. In November the exhibition will change to focus on Céline Condorelli’s work, in a continuation of her recent show at P!, ‘Epilogue’, the last show before Krishnamurthy closed the space. Condorelli has long engaged with the architecture and context of the exhibition space, building modular furniture and reflecting on the history of the institutions where she is showing, a fitting choice for this exhibition, then, which celebrates curatorial and artistic work as always related in ways that go beyond any traditional sense of curating as a practice of caring and selecting. The changeover between exhibitions will take place over four days in mid-November, during which the gallery will remain open to the public. Condorelli’s portion of the show opens on 23 November 2017.

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Gianfranco Baruchello, Ne spuntano di nuovi con gambi grassi e bianchi (New ones pop up with fat white stems), 1967, mixed media on aluminium, 51 x 51 cm. Courtesy: Galleria Milano, Milan

Gianfranco Baruchello, Ne spuntano di nuovi con gambi grassi e bianchi (New ones pop up with fat white stems), 1967, mixed media on aluminium, 51 x 51 cm. Courtesy: Galleria Milano, Milan

Gianfranco Baruchello
Raven Row
29 September – 3 December 2017

Any account of Baruchello’s life tends to outsize his works. Born in Livorno, Italy in 1924, Baruchello is a self-taught artist interested in all aspects of cultural creation, from the visual arts and film to literature and performance. He used to run a biochemical company and an experimental farm. He engaged in radical politics. He befriended the likes of Italo Calvino and Marcel Duchamp. On view at Raven Row are mostly two-dimensional works dating from 1959 to today, but the show also includes his box-assemblages (reminiscent of Joseph Cornell’s) and a selection of his films. It’s Baruchello’s paintings and drawings, however, that are most representative of his imagery: large canvases with tiny, concentrated drawings, populated by small characters and objects often mapped together according to an invisible internal logic. Analyzing these small, detailed works requires attention – a process of discovery fitting for this artist, whose work has not previously been shown in the UK.

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Michael Dean, ‘Four Fucksakes’, 2017, installation view, Herald St, Museum Street, London. Courtesy: the artist and Herald St, London

Michael Dean, ‘Four Fucksakes’, 2017, installation view, Herald St, Museum Street, London. Courtesy: the artist and Herald St, London; photograph: Andy Keate 

Michael Dean
Herald St (Museum Street)
23 September – 12 November 2017

Inaugurating Herald Street’s new space on Museum Street, a game of linguistic entanglement begins with Michael Dean’s exhibition’s title, ‘Four Fucksakes’, and continues in the titles of the four works that make up this show: 4 (Working Title) fuck sake, Fuck Sake (Analogue Series), FF (Working Title) and FUCKSAKE (WORKING TITLE). All are made from reinforced concrete and other objects combined into it, from ink-stained books to padlocks to drink cans. The titles and materials might give an impression of overbearing masculinity, but then note certain details: the padlocks, the Just Eat menu of an Indian restaurant scribbled with images of tongues, the heart shapes carved into the concrete. 4 (Working Title) fuck sake has a book embedded in it, the open page shows a version of trying and failing to write (or say) one line: ‘Y’ou ilove youilove y oui, lo v eyouilo….’ An expression of trying and failing and trying again.

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Cynthia Daignault ‘Picture Lake’, 2017, installation view at the new Sunday Painter space, 117-119 South Lambeth Road. Courtesy: Sunday Painter, London; photograph: Ollie Hammick

Cynthia Daignault ‘Picture Lake’, 2017, installation view at The Sunday Painter’s new space, 117-119 South Lambeth Road. Courtesy: Sunday Painter, London; photograph: Ollie Hammick

Elsewhere around town:

Also opening this week with new spaces: Stuart Shave / Modern Art, returns to Vyner Street with an exhibition by Josh Kline in the former Wilkinson Gallery (private view: Tuesday 3 October, 6-8pm); The Sunday Painter has moved from Peckham to Vauxhall, inaugurating their new space with a painting show by US artist Cynthia Daignault revolving around the working and reworking of a single image.

In other shows and projects around town, there are performances by Joanna Piotrowska at Southard Reid, small ink, gouache, and watercolours of ballet and theatre designs by Dorothea Tanning upstairs at Alison Jacques (private view, Tuesday 3 October, 6-8pm), and Juliana Huxtable at Project Native Informant, whose building in Holborn they now share with mother’s tankstation project. Arthur Jafa’s masterpiece Love Is the Message, the Message Is Death (2016) is screened at The Store Studios, 180 the Strand (5 October to 10 December), co-presented by the Vinyl Factory and the Serpentine Galleries, following Jafa’s acclaimed summer exhibition at the Serpentine. And keep your eyes peeled for postcard-sized photographs of the ocean in off-licenses across south London – part of an exhibition by Los Angeles–based artist David Horvitz and the itinerant gallery Barnie’s, the list of venues will be updated here.

For more current and upcoming shows in London, head over to On View.

Orit Gat is a writer based in London and New York whose work on contemporary art and digital culture has been published in a variety of magazines. 

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