Ushering in 2020’s new season of shows is collaborative exhibition Condo, which returns to London this weekend. With a slew of international galleries pitching up in 17 spaces across the city, it can be hard to know where to start. Here are my top five picks:
In 2008, the year of the financial crash, graduates from London’s Goldsmiths University Sebastian Lloyd Rees and Ali Eisa formed Lloyd Corporation. The global meltdown set the tone for the duo’s ongoing interrogation of free-market capitalism, developing a practice that ranges from collecting discarded materials in urban spaces to conducting social experiments. Their new installation, Person to Person (2020), fills the gallery at Carlos/Ishikawa with truncated telegraph poles, affixed with ephemera collected mostly from London streets: a low-fi poster demanding justice for Windrush victims, a hand-scrawled advert for massages, an XR sticker and satirical tart cards starring Boris Johnson and Donald Trump. We are afforded an intimate survey of a city in the throes of political and economic turmoil. The show also triumphs in commenting on the frenetically changing nature of communication, the sculptures charming relics of a time when information dissemination was analogue and landlines were still a thing.
In a small room next door, Koppe Astner shows Future Proof (2020), a still-life by Dickon Drury. Narratively rich, densely populated, and jubilantly coloured, Drury’s oil paintings are blissful escapism.
There’s something wonderfully kitsch about Melbourne artist Hamishi Farah’s paintings. Textured in their brushstrokes, sentimental in their palette and exaggerated in their depth of field, their garish style does not undermine their formal accomplishment nor their significance. Farah is primarily concerned with examining the colonial unconscious bias in representational painting. For six new works at Arcadia Missa, the artist casts his gaze on so-called ‘non-human’ subjects. In Black Lena Dunham (2019), he achieves this by appropriating and tampering with a paparazzi shot of the writer to uncanny effect, the results borderline alien. A. Gorilla (2020) – sourced from a Google Images search for an ‘angry gorilla’ – places an animal at centre stage. By forgoing a human image in favour of a racist stereotype, Farah underscores the white supremacy and violence inherent in art historical portrayals of Black bodies.
Alongside Farah, New York gallery Lomex shows sculptor Danica Barboza and painter Justin Caguiat, whose work reads like a primordial soup of ancient figures, tightly-packed dotwork and celestial bodies.
I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for the pastel-hued, Lomographic aesthetic of Swedish artist Johanna Belling’s film In Purple (2019). But beyond the balmy skies and light leaks, the film tells a powerful story of all-female community and organization. The protagonists – a group of dancers from Råslätt, central Sweden, who founded the volunteer-led children’s school Mix Dancers – worked with Belling on the project for several years. The women are captured parading through a housing area, clutching fragile sheets of purple glass. As they are passed from hand to hand, the panes reiterate the surrounding brutalist architecture while also functioning metaphorically as emblems of labour, survival and social responsibility.
Mythical Greek goddesses, the brilliant palette of the fauvists and turgid flesh coalesce on Sofia Mitsola’s large-scale canvases to create a vision of liberated and joyous female sexuality. For Condo, Pilar Corrias shows the artist’s recent body of paintings exploring a fictional Greek island of pleasure and desire.
In the space downstairs we are plunged into the heady world of Sedrick Chisom, his figures drifting somewhere between Paul Gauguin’s empyrean gardens and a post-apocalyptic nuclear wasteland, with colours so acid sharp they verge on noxious. For this presentation by Matthew Brown Los Angeles, Chisom’s paintings are a continuation of his ongoing series ‘Westward Shrinking Hours’ (2018-19), which imagines a scenario in which people of colour have set out to explore the universe after evacuating a dying earth. His scenes are at once humorous in their absurdity and politically urgent, speaking to themes from colonialism and Christianity to climate change and Black Spiritualism. Chisom has referred to his paintings as ‘fly-traps’; don’t let the shimmering surface fool you, this work is thick with imperative.
Condo is the only occasion on which neighbours Corvi-Mora and greengrassi collaborate. Perhaps this is why their presentation is consistently one of the strongest, with a free-flowing group show unfurling across both spaces. Upstairs, we have ‘Midnight magic wild summer’ – a selection of sugary paintings by Ellen Gronemeyer – while downstairs is a display almost sacrificial in its dedication to a nature and craft. Covering the floor are 200 ceramic landscape studies by Welsh artist Adam Buick; a crocheted jute-net entitled Sallittu (2019) by Juha Pekka Matias Laakkonen; and a hand-carved, milky tombstone, Untitled (#5) (2007), by Gretchen Faust. Two of Pae White’s glistening tapestries are suspended from the ceiling, depicting clusters of industrious insects in royal blues and golds.
Athens-based space Hot Wheels presents three sculptures by Cypriot artist Maria Toumazou. One of them, Ex snail farming greenhouses now for stray dogs from Fair-face Elysée outdoor location (2018), is antithetical to the previous works in its mostly inorganic materiality; Toumazou employs the whipping boy of man-made matter, supermarket plastic bags, as the basis for the work. But, as before, a commitment to craft emerges here, as the artist laboriously welds each individual bag together to form three large sheets. These, then, become totemic representations of the snailfarms that occupied the Cypriot countryside, speaking to the artist’s investigation into the country’s fabric and working culture.
Condo London runs from 11 January — 8 February 2020.