Dirk Stewen untitled [Bronx Monkey II] at Maureen Paley
I’ve been enjoying quite a few shows recently which are likely to be blown out of the water by the imminent frieze fair and so with mighty respect to the latter I thought I’d flag them up as alternatives…
Future Movements Jerusalem at Liverpool Biennial [18 Sept-28 Nov 2010] is an essential exhibition of work from and about Palestine. I posted on Raouf Haj Yihya’s Meter Square here, the New Statesman bravely ran a rather muted piece here and my own review will run at Babelmed shortly. Surprise yourself if you can get to it, or wait for it to travel south as I know it is scheduled to do. But be sure to see it.
Otherwise, Liverpool is a far better Biennial than scarce notice of it by lazy old journos suggests; everyone rightly notes the almost painfully compelling acid-Warhol-mashup-vids of Ryan Trecartin’s but there’s much else, including NS Harsha’s very nice installation [right] at 52 Renshaw Street and not least at Tate Liverpool -where a dubiously conceived but actually nicely put together show called The Sculpture of Language by Carol Anne Duffy exhibits some great and rarely aired works.
Dirk Stewen at Maureen Paley [08 October — 14 November 2010] is the most winning new work in town for me. If you do make it to the frieze jamboree then add this show to your bottom-line schedule otherwise you’ll have failed yourself and London. If you’re not friezing it then take advantage and spend some time in a show spread over two floors, beautifully arranged/hung works combining utopian gesture with extraordinary concentration, tentativeness and beauty. The work seems hardly there at all and yet surprises/delights with a precision that makes for indelibility. It’s Stewen’s first show in London, I’d never seen the work before and this exhibition made me happy to be alive; don’t miss it!
Also in London, well when you hit the Turner Prize show, take time out or go instead to the recently hung room on the British Constructivist Group; Victor Pasmore, Anthony Hill, etc. It’s a few pieces and a vitrine kind of room on the ground floor eastside, which you won’t regret reminding yourself or encountering it for the first time. Pasmore’s beardiness belies the refined work on display…
[Of the Turner Prize show? Well, somehow it should be better than it is, the work that is most made-for-me [on both Turner and Booker lists] falls pretty flat perhaps because it’s almost a pastiche of things done and seen 20 years-plus ago when they were new, contentious, even ‘demanding’! [There was a comparable moment in pop music recently, now transformed I think. Let’s hope art and lit can get themselves out of rehab/sh mode too. I mean where were people when Sankofa and Black Audio Film Collective were alive -pre-artboom- for example? Age, in this case, is no excuse. If you want a Marker-inspired trajectory, then you could be watching the films of Zineb Sedira, for example, recently short-listed for the Jarman Award. And theory-infused fiction? I don’t know whether it’s worse to have been a dumb refusenik then and since or to pretend the old stuff has bite or package it as ‘new’ now?] Otherwise, some of Dexter Dalwood’s canvases are wonderful-weird, but the work I’d missed and which is worth not-missing most is Angela De La Cruz’ peculiarly broken canvases.]
Linked in a small way to Pasmore is the second show in a series that revisits, revives and re-archives the extraordinary work of Pakistani artist Amran Jalal Shemza at the brilliant Green Cardamom [10 Sept-22 Oct 2010]. Shemza taught alongside Pasmore in London for a while, influenced that most influential of Pakistani artists Zahoor ul Akhlaq, himself such a key influence on the current generation of artists from Lahore and Karachi, including Imran Qureishi and Aisha Khalid [whose book Name, Class, Subject was recognised at the London Artbook fair recently] as well as further afield in the work of Nasreen Mohamedi. Green Cardamom have published two pamphlets [Iftikhar Dadi here, Rachel Garfield here] on the artist who has finally been allowed into the Tate’s collection but the show is one you must see if the art of the last century holds any interest for you.
Speaking of Nasreen Mohamedi, Stuart Shave’s Modern Art [who represent the notable Katy Moran too] are presenting her first one person show in London [13 Oct-13 Nov 2010] which is yet another chance to enjoy, recognise/realise her brilliance and importance. Don’t miss it this time!
I was delighted by the modest scaled but insistent work of Mahmoud Bakshi who is showing at Delfina Foundation an early part of a short season of Iranian art there; The Knowledge – Stop 2: Tehran. Bahman Cinema  consists of four mini cardboard cinemas showing short films on loops laid out on a carpet on the floor there; that’s all. Miss it at your peril.
I recommend you catch Klara Lidén at The Serpentine Gallery [7 Oct-7 Nov 2010], a very strong announcement show of early work but this is an artist to watch. It reminded me that much as I love it, The Serpentine is quite a difficult space to succeed in. I can think of some favourite artists of mine who have shown unhappily there, it pains me too much to give examples. Whereas, for example the show I remember most vividly from recent years was Paul Chan who made the place his own. Lidén achieves something similar, with a range of videos, installations and canvases of layered billboard posters that look better than they sound. There is lo-fi angst, sweet and muscular, aplenty here.
Finally, two shows in Cambridge, one at the Fitzwilliam is a mesmerising exhibition of illustrated manuscripts from the Shahnameh [11 Sept-9 Jan 2011]. It’s worth journeying to Cambridge for this alone, it’s near the station! It’s free! You may not have the chance again [check out the link above to the very rich page at the Fitzwilliam too]. The show ranges over centuries and a wide geography, it contains exquisite pages, is lightly but well noted so that, for example, the arrival of a key edition of the work in India in the hands of Babur [left] can be seen to have brought tremendous influence there in terms of the subsequent flourishing of ‘miniature’ painting. Go along, see what you recognise -I liked one characteristically annoted volume from Gujarat- and trust yourself with it…
John Cage Every Day is a Good Day at Kettle’s Yard is the other show in Cambridge [25 Sept – 14 Nov 2010]; a Haywood Touring show [curated by Roger Malbert and Jeremy Millar] which began at BALTIC. It will keep moving without stopping in London which makes this the best chance for Londoners to catch it. Catch it you must, if only because there’s so much Cage in the air and behind so many conversations and yet the show is also a re-archiving job. I was as surprised by the academic necessity of it as I was by the work in the show by Cage’s hand. His art is not tokenistic but for me was both a revelation in itself and then resonated much more deeply the more I looked and learnt about it. Much of what is on show is too lightly impressed by a range of pencils to reproduce very well, indeed the entire collection has been rephotographed to put together an essential catalogue of the art for the show. Altogether this is it, The Time, one time. Go! [More on this to come…]
Then just to add two more notes; one of my favourite art projects/spaces in London, Wolfgang Tillmans’ Between Bridges on Cambridge Heath Road is back in business with an opening of the work of Gerd Arntz and Isotope this week. It’s quickly followed by an archiving show of the archival artist Walid Raad at the lively, engaging but unfriendly Whitechapel Gallery; another must-see…
I will update on the itinerary of Future Movements and my review of it -as well as a not entirely unrelated show I’ve just agreed to contribute to in the New Year in London, soon.