By: Naomi Sparks

Much of the contemporary performance art at this year’s Frieze Londons explored the notion of identity and the final day of the fair was no exception. Frieze offered a series of multi-disciplinary performances navigating themes of race, gender, and sexual orientation.

Georgina Star. © Stephen Burke

Kicking off the afternoon’s performances was Leeds-born YBA Georgina Starr, staging her work in the UK for the first time in ten years. The piece, titled Androgynous Egg, took inspiration from the artist’s novel Empress 66 99 and incorporated an array of artistic practices, including puppetry, choreography and acapella melodies in both English and French.

The performers showered viewers with repeated words, fragmented phrases and an array of sounds, color, and visuals to create a surreal experience. Reminiscent of Dada sound poems, the experience felt almost claustrophobic in the purpose-built art fair filled with artistic objects.

Then it was time for the afternoon’s headline event: The Singing Lecture, performed by two vocal artists. First up was American cabaret performer Mx Justin Vivian Bond. Accompanied by the acoustic guitar, her lyrics explored themes of sexual orientation, gender identity and reconciling religious beliefs while each song featured candid anecdotes and musings.

Following Mx Justin Vivian Bond was Angolan/Belgian artist Nástio Mosquito, performing a vocal piece in collaboration with Martin Hirsch of the Bauhaus University, Weimar. A mixture of spoken words and songs, the performance explores echoed and looped, building layers of meaning.

Concluding the fair’s series of performance interventions was a queer art collective SPIT! (Sodomites, Perverts, Inverts Together!). Founded by Carlos Motta, John Arthur Peetz, Carlos Maria Romero and the performance was staged by performers Joshua Hubbard, Carlos Mauricio Rojas, Claudia Palazzo, Malik Nashad Sharpe, Daniel Brathwaite-Shirley, and Despina Zacharopoulou.

\"SPIT! Manifesto\" at Frieze London 2017 YouTube play

Having been invited to create a new performance piece to be premiered at this year’s fair by Raphael Gygax (Curator at Migros Museum of Contemporary Art, Zurich and Frieze Project 2017 Curator), Carlos Motta and his fellow artists developed work in two parts exploring gender-based discrimination and oppression. First came The SPIT! Manifesto Reader, a collection of queer manifestos dating from the 1960s to the present. Then a performance intervention took over half a decade of queer activism. The starting point of the movement was to create blending choreography, songs and spoken words in an attempt to highlight discrimination and oppression based on gender and sexual orientation and to negotiate contemporary queer politics.

Though manifesting in starkly contrasting ways, all the Frieze London 2017 performances used the human voice to challenge societal norms and to explore identity politics, some more concretely than others.

This year, apart from the usual household names, Frieze London offers a strong contingent of emerging artists represented by young galleries.

 

Here are five artists to watch at Frieze London this year:

 

Tobias Spichtig

Swiss artist Tobias Spichtig’s multi-disciplinary work aims to capture the psyche of contemporary society. Combing elements of the figurative, the abstract and the surreal, most of the works on display are shown for the first time at Frieze. This year he is represented by German gallery Jan Kaps, which can be found in the Focus section of the fair along with 31 other young galleries.

Jan Kaps, booth H20

The Harrisons

Forming part of their series of “Survival Pieces,” the original portable orchard comprised twelve citrus trees, houses in hexagonal boxes above which individual lightboxes provided the vital ingredient. The installation was designed for the art gallery of the California State College at Fullerton and was nicknamed “the last orange orchard in Orange County” due to urbanization in the region.

 

See photographs, diagrams and plans of the original work and recreations of the trees themselves at the Various Small Fires (LA) booth.

Various Small Fires, booth H28

Courtesy of Naomi Sparks

Donna Kukama

As part of Frieze projects, South African performance artist Donna Kukama presents an interactive installation co-commissioned by the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art. With a backdrop of medicinal plants, audience members are invited to interact with the artist through candid conversations on the nature of value.

Kukama’s installation can be found just outside the main entrance to the fair (P1)

Kiluanji Kia Henda, Under the Silent Eye of Lenin (2017) © Frieze

Kiluanji Kia Henda, Under the Silent Eye of Lenin (2017) © Frieze

Kiluanji Kia Henda

Frieze Artist Award recipient Kiluanji Kia Henda’s immersive installation explores notions of personal identity and heritage in the context of Angola’s western colonization, the Cold War period and the country’s relationship with the USSR. The work draws parallels between the widespread practice of witchcraft during the Angolan Civil War and science fiction narratives employed during the Cold War. Soviet iconography is juxtaposed with traditional craftsmanship in this interdisciplinary installation.

Frieze Artist Award is situated between booths B1 and B2

Regina José Galindo, ‘Tierra’ (2013) © Regina José Galindo and Proyectos Ultravioleta

Regina José Galindo, ‘Tierra’ (2013) © Regina José Galindo and Proyectos Ultravioleta

Regina José Galindo

This multi-media selection of video, drawings, and photography by Guatemalan artist Regina Galindo explores a wide array of themes. These themes include gender, the environment, immigration, violence, and labor in the context of post-war Guatemala. If we look at Galindo’s work as a whole, her work can be read an interrogation of the relationship between neoliberalism and the human body. Represented by Proyectos Ultravioleta, the selection of work also features the international debut of José Galindo’s bilingual poetry anthology ‘Dejen de disparar / Stop Shooting,’ presented for the first time to an English-speaking audience.

Proyectos Ultravioleta, booth H19

 

 

Frieze Art Fair is taking place in Regents Park, London, From Thursday 5th October – Sunday 8th October 2017

Isaac Julien, I Love My Friend (Looking for Langston Vintage Series), 1989/2016 (detail). Courtesy of the artist and Victoria Miro Gallery, London.

Photo London is only in its third year, but this sprightly young fair does not disappoint in the quality and breadth of the work on show. Eighty-nine galleries present a diverse array of emerging artists and established names in this four-day festival. Here are some of our favourites.

 

1. Michael Wolf, ‘Tokyo Compression’

This series of uncomfortable, claustrophobic images depicts one of the many unpleasant realities of life in the metropolis. Catch it on display at the Flowers Gallery booth.

Michael Wolf, 'Tokyo Compression #156' - Archival Pigment Print. © Michael Wolf, courtesy of Flowers Gallery.

Michael Wolf, ‘Tokyo Compression #156’ – Archival Pigment Print. © Michael Wolf, courtesy of Flowers Gallery.

 

2. Stephen Shore, ‘Warhol and The Factory’ (1965-67)

A vintage series presented by Sprüth Magers Gallery captures glimpses of an “off-duty” Andy Warhol and his companions shot in and around The Factory.

Stephen Shore, Andy Warhol in hotel room during filming of My Hustler, 1965-7, © Stephen Shore .

Stephen Shore, Andy Warhol in hotel room during filming of My Hustler, 1965-7, © Stephen Shore .

 

3. Photo London Master of Photography 2017: Taryn Simon

Taryn Simon’s ‘Image Atlas’ is an interactive “work-in-progress” exploring the idea of a universal visual language. Using search engine data from around the world, Simon examines the fluidity of reference and the constant changing of meaning attached to images, in a work that interrogates the impact of censorship on our perception.

Taryn Simon. America, 6/21/2013, 8:18 PM (Eastern Standard Time), Image Atlas, 2012. Website view, dimensions variable. Source: photolondon.org

Taryn Simon. America, 6/21/2013, 8:18 PM (Eastern Standard Time), Image Atlas, 2012. Website view, dimensions variable. Source: photolondon.org

 

4. Discovery Galleries

This year’s edition of Photo London highlights the work of new galleries that are between one and five years old, with sixteen stands making up the ‘Discovery Galleries’.

New talent showcased in this part of the fair includes Juno Calypso and Maisie Cousins, both presented by TJ Boulting Gallery.

Maisie Cousins, from the series 'grass, peonie, bum', 2016, 40 x 26 inches, pigment print on archival paper. © Maisie Cousins. Source: photolondon.org

Maisie Cousins, from the series ‘grass, peonie, bum’, 2016, 40 x 26 inches, pigment print on archival paper. © Maisie Cousins. Source: photolondon.org

 

5. Jacob Aue Sobol’s ‘Road of Bones’, presented by Leica Camera

Shot along the Kolyma Highway in Russia, Jacob Aue Sobol captures life in one of the coldest inhabited regions of the world. Using Leica X and Leica M Monochrom cameras, Sobol starkly portrays the bleakness of an area once notorious for its Gulag camps. 

Jacob Aue Sobol, 2016, Road of bones. © Jacob Aue Sobol, Yakutia, 2016.

Jacob Aue Sobol, 2016, Road of bones. © Jacob Aue Sobol, Yakutia, 2016.

 

6. Michael Hoppen Gallery

Michael Hoppen Gallery presents an engaging selection including Siân Davey’s series depicting the innocent pleasures of youth over a British summer, and the timely “Brexit Wall” offering photographs capturing the essence of ‘Britishness’.

After the Swim Group portrait (ii), © Siân Davey.

After the Swim Group portrait (ii), © Siân Davey.

 

7. Alison Jacques Gallery

This year’s highlights from Alison Jacques Gallery include lightbox images by Catherine Yass from her ‘Decommissioned’ series and Juergen Teller’s brooding portrait of Kristen Stewart for System Magazine.

Catherine Yass, Decommissioned #8 (JCC), 2011-2013. Duratrans transparency, lightbox. 12.7 x 10.2 cm, 5 x 4 ins. 31.5 x 26.5 cm, 12 3/8 x 10 3/8 ins framed. © Catherine Yass

Catherine Yass, Decommissioned #8 (JCC), 2011-2013. Duratrans transparency, lightbox. 12.7 x 10.2 cm, 5 x 4 ins. 31.5 x 26.5 cm, 12 3/8 x 10 3/8 ins framed. © Catherine Yass.

 

8. Galerie Johannes Faber 

This Viennese gallery presents a selection of photographs from before the digital age, including works by Man Ray, Germaine Krull, Dennis Hopper and Horst P. Horst, among others. The elegant, more conservative compositions in black and white offer a sobering contrast to the abundance of technology-heavy works across Photo London. 

Rudolf Koppitz, Bewegungsstudie (Movement Study), 1925. Vintage gelatin silver gaslight print, 24 x 17,8 cm. Courtesy Galerie Johannes Faber.

Rudolf Koppitz, Bewegungsstudie (Movement Study), 1925. Vintage gelatin silver gaslight print, 24 x 17,8 cm.

 

9. Isaac Julien, ‘Looking for Langston’

At the Victoria Miro booth, Isaac Julien combines digital and analogue pre- and post-production techniques in a series of stills from his film ‘Looking for Langston’, which explore black queer identities.

Isaac Julien, The Last Angel of History (Looking for Langston Vintage Series), 1989/2016, Kodak Premier print, Diasec mounted on aluminum. Courtesy of the artist and Victoria Miro Gallery, London.

Isaac Julien, The Last Angel of History (Looking for Langston Vintage Series), 1989/2016, Kodak Premier print, Diasec mounted on aluminum. Courtesy of the artist and Victoria Miro Gallery, London.

 

10. Mat Collishaw, ‘Thresholds’

Mat Collishaw debuts his ambitious project ‘Thresholds’. The immersive, multi-sensory installation uses a virtual reality headset to recreate the 1839 exhibition of photography staged by the British Association for the Advancement of Science. In collaboration with Blain|Southern Gallery –which simultaneously displays some of the artist’s recent works in The Centrifugal Soul, Collishaw uses 21st-century visual technology to bring to life the cutting-edge photographic technology of two centuries ago and introduce virtual reality as part of the evolution of the photographic image. Collishaw’s work juxtaposes the scepticism that photography once faced with our modern anxiety towards new forms of technology and artificial intelligence. If you missed it at Photo London, ‘Thresholds’ will be on display at Somerset House until 11th June.

Mat Collishaw, 'Thresholds' (virtual reality space). Photograph: Somerset House

Mat Collishaw, ‘Thresholds’ (virtual reality space). Photograph: Somerset House

Can’t afford the price tag of an original print? A strong contingent of publishers, including TASCHEN, teNeues and Thames & Hudson, offer up their latest photography publications in the fair’s central pavilion. Check them out!


Photo London is at Somerset House, The Strand until Sunday 21st May.

 

 

“The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945” -the exhibition currently on at The Barbican’s art gallery- is an immersive, multi-sensory experience in which the visitor is not simply a viewer, but is invited to become an occupant of the houses and structures themselves.

The exhibition comprises the work of 40 architects who worked to redefine Japanese architecture in the years following the Second World War. The work on show takes the form of photographs, video installations, maquettes and partial and whole structures, offering an all-encompassing snapshot of Japanese architecture and domestic life over the last seventy years. The exhibition explores a range of architectural styles which developed during an era of radical social change following the Second World War, beginning with the notion that modular and prefabricated structures were a solution to post-war housing crisis.

The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945 Installation View Barbican Art Gallery, London 23 March – 25 June 2017 Photo by Miles Willis / Getty Images.

The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945. Installation View. Barbican Art Gallery, London. 23 March – 25 June 2017. Photo by Miles Willis / Getty Images.

The exhibition brings to the fore the dichotomies of post-war Japanese architecture: traditional building methods versus industrial techniques, the home as a space for the imagination to run free versus a space dominated by technology to enhance its occupants experience, the notion of escapism and separation versus that of connectedness.

The imposing concrete Brutalism of The Barbican serves as the perfect foil for the light, airy, prefabricated structures of Japanese minimalism designed to exist harmoniously with the natural environment. Conversely, the interaction of the two contrasting architectural styles, as the temporary exhibition structures weave in and out of the columns and staircases of The Barbican, highlights the fact that they do share one thing in common: concrete. Not just concrete as a practical material to add stability, for example in the event of an earthquake, but concrete as a flexible, malleable material from which aesthetic beauty can be created.

White U, Toyo Ito, 1976, © Tomio Ohash.

White U, Toyo Ito, 1976, © Tomio Ohash.

This was the fundamental belief of architect and former mathematician Kazuo Shinohara (b. 1925) who, in 1962, proclaimed ‘a house is a work of art’. Shinohara rejected the commodification of architecture and instead focused for the majority of his career on the single family home, emphasising that homes are spaces in which to dwell, spaces where the inhabitant can be creative and thrive. This idea stands in direct contrast to the more prescriptive, modular megastructures of Metabolism.

The exhibition explores the identity crisis experienced in Japan’s built environment following the war, owing to the westernisation brought by the occupation of the allied forces. It traces the rise of Metabolism in the 1950s and 60s and its subsequent rejection by the following generation of architects and the shift in the perception of the home as a fortress in which the occupant is protected from the outside world to one of the home as being accepting of its environment and fundamentally connected to it.

House in a Plum Grove, Kazuyo Sejima, 2003. Source: arqiteso2010.blogspot.com.

House in a Plum Grove, Kazuyo Sejima, 2003. Source: arqiteso2010.blogspot.com.

The work of architects such as Kazuyo Sejima (b. 1956), whose structures are characterised by connectedness, demonstrates dialogue between man-made buildings and their natural surroundings, while the exhibits by the ‘Bow-Wow’ atelier show the recent return to vernacular architecture by anonymous designers.

The show’s centrepiece is a full-scale reproduction of the ‘Moriyama House’ by Ryue Nishizawa (b. 1966) and the accompanying film Moriyama-san by Ica Bêka and Louise Lemoine which presents glimpses of the life of the owner, an “urban hermit” named Yasuo Moriyama. By recreating the ‘Moriyama House’ to scale, visitors to the exhibition are invited to inhabit the sprawling conglomeration of single and multi-storey white cubes and experience the details that make the house so functional for living yet inherently entwined with nature for themselves.

Office of Ryue Nishizawa, Moriyama House, 2005, © Takashi Homma.

Office of Ryue Nishizawa, Moriyama House, 2005 © Takashi Homma.

In keeping with other recent exhibitions, such as ‘Do Ho Suh: Passage/s’ at the Victoria Miro gallery, ‘The Japanese House’ offers an altogether on-trend and immersive exploration of an important period in architecture, presented in a manner suited to the digital age.

This ambitious exhibition underlines how ideas surrounding architecture in the second half of the 20th century are still very much relevant to  21st century urban environments, resonating with modern city-dwellers who seek to live in balance and harmony amid the chaos of the metropolis.

‘The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945’ is on show at The Barbican Art Gallery, Silk Street, London until 25th June 2017.

A mass of colourful figures is scattered across the floor of the Lisson Gallery (London), resembling discarded children’s toys. On closer analysis, it becomes apparent that these “toys”, these silicone figures -the creation of artist Nathalie Djurberg- explore often repressed elements of the human psyche.

Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, Who am I to Judge, or, It Must be Something Delicious (2017) © Naomi Sparks.

Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, Who am I to Judge, or, It Must be Something Delicious (2017) © Naomi Sparks.

The figures are restless and chaotic as they eat, play with, and are tormented by anthropomorphic faeces, which sport human-like facial expressions and sprout cartoon-esque arms and legs. The composition of tiny sculptures creates a sprawling collection of tensions in a dream-like setting where animals wear clothes, houses can move and familiar childhood characters wrestle excrement.

Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, Who am I to Judge, or, It Must be Something Delicious (2017) © Naomi Sparks.

Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, Who am I to Judge, or, It Must be Something Delicious (2017) © Naomi Sparks.

A doorway leads to a darkened, purpose-built room at the back of the gallery where a larger-than-life video projection is accompanied by thumping techno beats composed by musician Hans Berg. Stop-motion animation abruptly juxtaposes debauched imagery with familiar childhood themes, creating an invasive, overwhelming experience that assaults the senses. The aural and visual combine to create a wholly immersive environment. Certainly not what one expects from a visit to the Lisson on a sunny, spring afternoon. This is the sort of art which cannot be read about or viewed in a photograph but needs to be experienced first-hand.

The animation comprises three films shown in a continuous loop, seemingly with no beginning, middle or end, which adds to the intensity of the whole experience. There is no crescendo, only a constant barrage of complex and often troubling imagery.

Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, Dark Side of the Moon (2017) © Lisson Gallery London.

Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, Dark Side of the Moon (2017) © Lisson Gallery London.
at Lisson Gallery, London, 31 March – 6 May 2017

These claymation films explore the often-repressed elements of sexuality which drive human beings. The first, Delights of an Undirected Mind (2016), presents a melange of fantasy, role-play and sexual awakening, while Worship (2016) explores ideas of voyeurism, scopophilia and exploitation. The third, Dark Side of the Moon (2017), takes on a different tone. Set in a dream-like woodland landscape, the film moves beyond infantile impulses and carnal urges towards connection and emotion.

Video and sound artists Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg have been collaborating since 2004 to produce interdisciplinary works exploring the human condition. The Swedish duo have now brought their distinctive, multi-sensory installations to London in an exhibition that is designed to awaken the audience to the salacious elements of their own subconscious.

Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg,' Worship' (2016) © Lisson Gallery London.

Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg,’ Worship’ (2016) © Lisson Gallery London.

Faeces is a recurrent image which pervades Djurberg’s work, yet its purpose is somewhat ambiguous. Perhaps it is intended as a criticism of capitalist society, shown to be literally consuming its own excrement. An obvious conclusion to reach is that they are intended as a condemnation of the state of contemporary art. Perhaps it is a comment on infantile scatological fascination, or simply no more than the result of a feverish nightmare. Regardless of the reading, the installation is designed at first to draw in, then to shock and finally to engage the viewer.

Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, Who am I to Judge, or, It Must be Something Delicious (2017) © Naomi Sparks.

Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, Who am I to Judge, or, It Must be Something Delicious (2017) © Naomi Sparks.

It is Djurberg’s mode of representation, rather than the themes themselves, which makes for particularly harrowing work. The juxtaposition of bodily functions and sexuality with the innocence of childhood is nothing new (ask Freud) and has indeed become a tired trope in art. However, the specific visual language employed by Djurberg to represent this medley of images is particularly uncomfortable. Cherished protagonists from childhood stories, such as My Little Pony, Pinocchio, or the Big Bad Wolf, appear in playful compositions which, on closer inspection, show them in compromising situations. The stop-motion animation and a vibrant colour palette are reminiscent of childhood television programmes. This seemingly innocuous mode of representation is subverted to present the brazenly perverse and depraved tendencies of human nature.

Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg’s exhibition Who am I to Judge, or, It Must be Something Delicious (2017) is on at Lisson Gallery, Bell Street, until 6th May 2017.

The Gutai movement set about to embody human creativity in material form. With an emphasis on radical experimentation, the movement has come to be associated with North America’s Abstract Expressionism and France’s Art Informel movements.

This Japanese avant-garde collective, which arose with the liberal mood of post-war Japan, is experiencing something of a resurgence. Works by associated artists, which have until recently been overlooked by the art market, are being featured in a number of European exhibitions and are fetching high prices at auction.

Gutai, which translates variously as ‘concrete’ or ‘embodiment’, originated in Osaka, Japan, and came into being in 1954 with the founding of the Gutai Art Association (GAA). The movement’s guiding principle was two-fold, with an emphasis both on the autonomy of the individual artist to be creative and on an international outreach. The global influence of Gutai is evident in the inclusion of works by artists such as Enrico Castellani, Lucio Fontana and Piero Manzoni in the recent Tsuyoshi Maekawa exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery in San Francisco.

Born in 1936 in Osaka, Maekawa belongs to the second generation of Gutai artists, having joined the movement in the early 1960s. Following the groups’s disbandment after the death of the its co-founder Yoshihara Jirō in 1972, Maekawa shifted his focus from a radical rejection of artistic practices to a focused experimentation with his chosen materials: oil paint and hessian (burlap).

Tsuyoshi Maekawa, '1963 G 100-2', 1963. Oil and burlap on canvas. 63 3/4 x 51 1/4 inches (162 x 130 cm). Signed and dated 1964 (on the reverse). © Lévy Gorvy.

Tsuyoshi Maekawa, ‘1963 G 100-2’, 1963. Oil and burlap on canvas. 63 3/4 x 51 1/4 inches (162 x 130 cm). Signed and dated 1964 (on the reverse). © Lévy Gorvy.

Maekawa’s work proved to be among the most popular from the Gutai movement. His first solo exhibition was held at the Gutai Pinacotheca, Osaka, as early as 1963, with his work having previously been featured in every Gutai group exhibition since he joined the collective. More recently, Maekawa’s work has appeared in major exhibitions such as ‘Splendid Playground’ at the Guggenheim Museum, New York in 2013 and his work now features in the permanent collections of international institutions including the Tate Modern.

A solo show comprised of Maekawa’s work from the 1950s and 1960s, at the height of Gutai, is currently on display at the Saatchi Gallery, London. The selection of works forms the inaugural exhibition of the Saatchi’s new space SALON, launched in February of this year with the aim of showcasing international artists to new audiences.

Exhibition view. Image courtesy of Lévy Gorvy.

Exhibition view. Image courtesy of Lévy Gorvy.

The exhibition, a collaboration between Saatchi Gallery and Lévy Gorvy, presents a group of works from Maekawa’s most productive period, including two pieces originally shown at Maekawa’s first solo exhibition, ‘Untitled (A5)’ (1963) and ‘Mountain with Lines’ (1963) and a selection of his work on loan from the Axel Vervoordt Gallery, Antwerp.

The canvases are presented uniformly in the windowless lower-ground floor of the Saatchi Gallery. No context for the works is offered to the visitor because none is needed: Maekawa’s creations can be enjoyed on a purely visual level.

The artist’s work is preoccupied with the dichotomy between flatness and three-dimensionality. The viewer is confronted with undulating folds of hessian cloth and ejaculatory spatters of paint in an explosion of colour, which call attention to the surface of the canvas and undermine the notion of a painting as a two-dimensional plane. That said, Maekawa does not wholly reject the representational, and the viewer could be forgiven for picking out recognisable forms in his Pollock-like canvases.

Tsuyoshi Maekawa, ‘Untitled’, 1967. Oil and burlap on panel, 10 5/8 x 8 7/8 inches (27 x 22 cm) . © Lévy Gorvy.

Many of his compositions seem biological, evocative of flesh wounds or of the human circulatory system. Nonetheless, Maekawa’s primary concern is with the materiality of his work. In the case of an untitled piece from 1967, the smooth surface of the painted hessian rolls is abruptly interrupted by a gap in the composition, emphasising the tactile physical nature of the fabric. Maekawa’s visceral works, punctuated by rips and tears which are sewn and stuck back together again, raise questions about temporality as well as space. The experimental cut-and-stick creation process, resulting in works comprised of fragmented parts, has led his work to be likened to that of Joan Miró, Paul Klee and Alberto Burri.

This Tsuyoshi Maekawa exhibition represents just one facet of the resurgence of interest in Gautai, with exhibitions featuring the work of Kazuo Shiraga (b. 1924) at Lévy Gorvy, Old Bond Street, in February and March, and at the Axel Vervoordt gallery, running concurrently with the Maekawa show at the Saatchi SALON.

Tsuyoshi Maekawa is on display at SALON, Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York Square (London) until 14th May 2017.

 

The work of Richard Serra has become synonymous with a fluidity of form and meaning.

Serra, born in 1938 in California, first encountered steel while accompanying his father, a pipe-fitter, to a San Francisco shipyard. Serra said of his experiences at the shipyard: “all the raw material that I needed is contained in the reserve of this memory which has become a reoccurring dream”. And, indeed, metal has recurred throughout the artist’s later works.

Now Serra’s works feature in the collections of world-renowned institutions such as MoMA, Tate Modern and the Guggenheim Bilbao, among others, but this hasn’t always been the case. In the early days of his career, Serra took to working in steel mills on the United States’ West Coast to support himself, becoming increasingly familiar with the raw material that would, from the 1970s onwards, form the basis of his monolithic sculptures.

Richard Serra. ‘Band’. 2006. Weatherproof steel. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Gift of Eli and Edythe Broad. © MoMA.

Although Serra has produced a prolific number of works on paper throughout his formidable career, it is his sculpture which has captured the imagination of both the artistic establishment and the general public alike. His undulating masses of steel, contorted in ways that make them appear almost weightless, seem to defy gravity. The sheet metal that characterises Serra’s work mimics rippling natural forms. To create them, the artist takes many tons of this solid material and transforms them into towering vertical planes.

In his work NJ-2 the viewer becomes immersed in the meandering curves coated with a rusty patina, the amber tones reminiscent of the Golden Gate Bridge of his native San Francisco. The viewer is invited to walk not only around the piece but through it, as if lost or wandering among winding rocky outcrops and crevasses, with snatches of white-hot desert sun penetrating from high above.

Richard Serra, ‘NJ-2’. 2016. Weatherproof steel. Gagosian Gallery. © Naomi Sparks.

Serra’s forms bend and twist, often striking a stark contrast to their environs. These monumental monoliths seem almost malleable and are open to a variety of interpretations. His sculpture is concerned with ineffability and expresses the unsayable through visual means. The works simultaneously point to recognisable forms whilst also bewildering the viewer. It is no surprise, then, that Serra counts Roland Barthes and Gilles Deleuze among his notable influences. The artist’s sculpture transcends pre-existing linguistic systems, stepping outside of the constraints of human language. Serra could be described as reticent: his minimal sculpture gives little away, leaving it to the viewer themselves to derive meaning. His work could be interpreted as the visual counterpart to that of the great philosophers and poets of the twentieth century, who struggled to represent meaning as they negotiated the world.

A key facet of Serra’s sculpture is its relationship to and dependence upon place. This site-specificity quality characterises his art and ascribes meaning to it. In fact, the work’s purpose relies so heavily on its environment that Serra himself said that to remove it from its intended site would be “to destroy it”. This is evident in the case of his infamous commissions for the Federal Plaza in New York City and the California Institute of Technology. Following a controversy, the former was removed while the latter was never installed, and so the works were “lost” or at the very least not realised in their intended capacity. Though the locations of Serra’s pieces vary enormously, ranging from east to west, city to desert, public space to private gallery, the gently undulating yet imposing metal facades, tarnished with a rusty patina formed naturally over several years, remain recognisably Serra nonetheless.

Richard Serra. ‘The Hedgehog and the Fox’. 2000. Cor-Ten steel. Princeton University, gift of Peter T. Joseph, Class of 1972 and Graduate School Class of 1973, in honor of his children, Danielle and Nicholas. © Richard Serra.

In contrast to Serra’s usual site-specific works, installed in public squares or national parks, three recent works were nestled in a gallery by London’s King’s Cross station. The large-scale steel sculptures, each on display in their own room of the Gagosian gallery, were disconnected from the natural environment and instead presented in a vacuum. Here, prevented from interacting with external influences, their ambiguity and uncertain meaning was intensified. This mode of display bridged the gap between Serra’s site-specific sculptures, created for and bound to their environment, and his two-dimensional canvases displayed on the distraction-free spaces of contemporary art galleries.

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