Ian White: Here is Information. Mobilise.

Hardcover, published by LUX, 2016

The title of Ian White’s posthumous collection of writing brings to mind the comments and instructions posted on social media since the American election last November, accompanied by lists and databases detailing which civil rights organisations to support and which politicians to hassle. The ‘information’ in this book, edited by Mike Sperlinger, White’s former colleague at LUX, isn’t so directly practical as the directive to ‘mobilise’ might suggest, but it does detail its author’s working and thinking methods, with texts on video, film and moving image that are concise, sometimes sharp, politically minded and always self-conscious. Continue reading

Joseph Grigely: The Gregory Battcock Archive

Marian Goodman Gallery, London, 21 June – 29 July 2016

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Joseph Grigely, The Gregory Battcock Archive (detail), 2009 – 16. Image courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery.

In any visit to an exhibition there’s always something of the shifty air of dumpster-diving: sifting through someone else’s stuff, trying to piece together what kind of person, or persona, has moved on from the things that have been left behind. We’re only temporary trespassers, haunted by the absent spectres we conjure from the remains. The Gregory Battcock Archive is doubly haunted, a small room of seven elegant vitrines filled with photographs, letters, scripts, zines, postcards and other ephemera, accompanied by several posters and one small, moody painting on the wall; the ghosts in this room are not only Battcock, a writer and critic who was active in the heyday of 1960s and 70s New York City and was found murdered in 1980, but also Joseph Grigely, the artist who accidentally stumbled upon Battcock’s papers during the 1990s after a storage company closed, and left its clients’ possession strewn across a floor of Grigely’s studio building. Grigely’s resulting artwork, The Gregory Battcock Archive (2009–16) isn’t so much an archive as a subjective selection from Battcock’s papers – or, more specifically, some stuff that Grigely held on to before the rest was donated to the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art – that has been shown in various places over the past seven years, including the 2014 Whitney Biennial, and now here in the UK for the first time. Continue reading

David Lamelas: Publication

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David Lamelas’s September 1970 exhibition at London gallery Nigel Greenwood Inc Ltd consisted of a table with a 48-page book on it. The eponymous Publication, just reprinted by not-for-profit publishers Primary Information, consists of 13 written responses to the statements: ‘1) Use of oral and written language as an Artform; 2) Language can be considered as an Artform; 3) Language cannot be considered as an Artform.’ Most the replies are on the same bland register. ‘I think artists will be using language to make their art for a long time,’ Robert Barry states flatly. Yep. Continue reading

John Latham: Spray Paintings

Lisson Gallery, 1 April – 7 May 2016

John Latham, Two Noit. One Second Drawing, 1970-71. Image courtesy the John Latham Foundation and Lisson Gallery, photo by Ken Adlard.

John Latham, Two Noit. One Second Drawing, 1970-71. Image courtesy the John Latham Foundation and Lisson Gallery, photo by Ken Adlard.

Halloween, 1954: an astronomer and animal ethnologist couple, with an interest in the paranormal, invite artist John Latham to create a mural for a party in their Hampshire home. In response, Latham gets a spray gun from an ironmonger and spurts their white wall (or, in some accounts, their ceiling) with black paint. The resulting burst of dots sets off a series of associations for the artist: a sculpture, performance, drawing and painting all at once, that looks like an inverse night sky. The spray gun becomes a regular feature in his work, but also a tool to think through his growing theory that physics has got it all wrong: the basic unit of the universe isn’t the particle, but a minimal, time-based something, anything, happening – what he later called a ‘least event’. Latham’s widespread influence hasn’t been so much the result of his early splotchy part-figurative paintings, or his later muddy, messy assemblages and destructive performances, but is more due to his persistent promotion of the artist as a sort of eccentric natural philosopher. Continue reading

Condo

Multiple venues, London, 16 January – 13 February 2016

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‘Artists’ Clothes’, installation view, Carlos Ishikawa, 2016. Image courtesy the gallery.

Some readers might have seen the recent film The Big Short, the Oscar-nominated semi-post-modern comedy that attempts to explain the exploits of a few profiteers from the 2008 housing market crash in the US. Spoiler alert: these guys saw a collapse coming, and decided to profit on it, and then it happens. It’s only after you’ve left the cinema and the jaunty tone of the film wears off that it becomes clearer: they weren’t underdogs, or crusaders or visionaries, as the film attempts to portray them, just hedge funders finding a way to profit from a situation. Sure, there’s a bit of hand wringing, which is perhaps the most remarkable part: we’re supposed to empathise with these guys. The moral of the tale is much darker, a sort of Russian doll abyss that might be handily summed up by a blog title from Dallas’s International Risk Management Institute: ‘Taking Risks to Create Value – It’s What Capitalism’s All About!’ Continue reading

Artists in Housing: book review

Jessie Brennan: Regeneration!, HS Projects

Nathan Coley: To the Bramley Family of Frestonia, Anomie Publishing

Jessie Brennan, A Fall of Ordinariness and Light (The Enabling Power), 2014, Graphite on paper, 55 x 70 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Jessie Brennan, A Fall of Ordinariness and Light (The Enabling Power), 2014, Graphite on paper, 55 x 70 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

This is a tale of two housing estates; or, rather, two artists working within two housing estates. One estate is a well-known Brutalist behemoth, Robin Hood Gardens in East London, designed by Allison and Peter Smithson and completed in 1972. The crumbling estate has repeatedly failed to gain listed status and, as soon as the last tenants leave, is set to finally be demolished. What is going up in its place, eventually, is what has become the neoliberal landscape norm: mixed-use residential/retail schemes backed by private developers. The second estate, Silchester (with the catchy sub-title ‘More West’), is in West London near Ladbroke Grove; it is newly built, due to open by the time this goes to print with over a hundred new apartments, ‘including’, as the developer’s website claims, ‘some five-bedroom homes for social rent’. Out of each estate has come an artist’s project, and two subsequent medium-sized publications: Jessie Brennan’s Regeneration! and Nathan Coley’s to the Bramley Family of Frestonia. Both provide glimpses of artists attempting to engage with problems of what housing represents at a time of change – musing on social ideals, gentrification and historical models – but what role they each take within that offers two very different outcomes. Continue reading

William Kentridge: More Sweetly Play the Dance

Marian Goodman Gallery, London, 11 September – 24 October 2015

William Kentridge, More Sweetly Play the Dance, installation view, 2015, image courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery

William Kentridge, More Sweetly Play the Dance, installation view, 2015, image courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery

Most gallery-goers have had a Kentridge moment, spellbound by his drawings, films and installations that treat History as a dream from which we never awake. I would bet most often that moment would be, as it was for me, watching one of his Drawings for Projection (1989–2011), the well-known series of animations made from layered charcoal and pastel drawings that veer between floaty allegory and harsh directness in attempting to come to grips with modern-day South Africa. Crucially, the method carried the message, the erased lines of charcoal still visible as the drawing struggled to change, the animation carrying a homemade honesty that also spoke silently about how memory and meaning accrue. The Kentridge moment is strongest the first time; there’s a constancy to his shadow plays, cartoonish live-action videos and, yes, the operas he’s directed, as they continue to pick at the threads of the past, to layer and tangle them. Kentridge is assured at sounding, again and again, the tragicomic note of unrooted jumping back and forth that seems to define our contemporary understanding of history. And while it’s never the wrong note, it just always feels like the same note.

Continue reading