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Notes from recent exhibitions

November 14, 2012

Here are some notes from a few exhibitions I’ve been to see recently.

‘Screen Practice’  at England & Co gallery was a screen-base exhibition featuring several different artists. The piece that interested me most is ‘Unauthorised Biography’ by Michael Druks, a set of 56 photographic prints made circa 1975, all lined up on a wall in identical frames. In these prints the artist has taped a photo of himself to a TV screen and then photographed it, his face superimposed over the person the TV should actually be showing. By putting himself over the characters on the screen, he is in a way making the world revolve around himself. He becomes the central character in films, soaps, news clips, even ‘wanted’ adverts!

An exhibition I particularly enjoyed was ‘For the LOL of Cats: Felines, Photography and the Web’ at The Photographer’s Gallery. This exhibition on The Wall in the entrance of the gallery is the sort that you have to sit down and watch, as The Wall is basically a set of screens which play the exhibition as a form of slide show. This aspect of the of the context of the exhibition particularly suits the content and genre, which is about the phenomenon of cat photographs being shared on the internet, a form that can be displayed fleetingly as the web user hops from site to site, as a moving-image gallery space The Wall here acts like a web page. The exhibition shows collections such as ‘Cat Graphics’ 1995-2012 collected by Glenda Moore, which is a series of cartoons, animations, moving photographs, gifs of cats. It also shows ‘I Can Haz Family Tree’ by Helene Dams, which takes the web phenomenon of Lolcats and makes a family history, all starting with Happycat. The exhibition also has more serious cat photography, including Maru, a cat made famous by being photographed repeatedly by Mugumogu, his owner, and ‘Tokyo Cats Blog’ by Toru Umeda, who has photographed cats hiding in urban streets, the anonymous cats of the city going about their daily business. There are also cats who are taking the photographs, as their owners have attached cameras to their collars and they capture a cats-eye view of what they get up to during their day! If you like cats, photography and the internet this is a super fun exhibition to watch.

I also saw ‘Sarah Lucas: Situation Franz West’ at Sadie Coles gallery. This exhibition was quite hard to find, being in a flat above the gallery itself. The first time I went with a friend but we weren’t that determined to get in. The next time I went alone and worked up the courage to ask how to get in, which basically involved opening an unmarked door on the street next to the gallery’s main entrance and going up the stairs. Anyway, I was glad I saw it, though it’s not a huge exhibition. It’s basically a take-over of the space by Lucas, a converted space which is a bit like an old dilapidated flat with an industrial feel. There is a small kitchen, with a sink with a plastic moulded toilet on top, chairs stacked in a sculptural pile and a generally old-fashioned sense of disrepair, including a bin full of tissues and a frying pan on a hob, making you wonder if these things are purposeful? A toilet hangs from a hook on the ceiling with wire, there are exposed light bulbs, frosted glass windows make you wonder if this was once someone’s home. A more drastic indicator of the take-over by Lucas is the wallpaper which features exposed bodies, private parts barely covered by steaks and painted bright colours. A light bulb rises upwards on a chain forming an impromptu stalagmite from the concrete floor. A rock with a fried egg on top of it is cast in light that changes colour. Tights are stuffed to make anthropomorphic forms that sit on the sofa and hang over the edge of another toilet. There are framed pieces on the walls made of cigarettes acting as lines in a form of drawing. Also on a wall there is a canvas photograph of a nude clenching a milk bottle between their legs/buttocks. There is a sculpture that looks like a plaster cast on a table acting as a plinth-like structure, which elevates it, but it is possibly the least remarkable thing in the room. It is clearly a space taken over by the artist in a form of installation in a way that’s got a purposefully derelict feel.

I also saw the ‘Tim Noble and Sue Webster: Nihilistic Optimistic’ exhibition at Blain Southern gallery. It was the first time I’d seen Noble & Webster’s work in person, and it was just as clever as I’d expected. Intricate sculptures formed out of what appears to be studio detritus are lit up and form huge detailed shadows  on the walls. ‘Wild Mood Swings’ 2009-2010 was a particular favourite of mine, featuring what appears to be both the artists sitting on stools facing away from each other, back to back. All these shadow pieces show the artists, either alone or together. Seeing this makes you think about just how clever the pieces are, how all these weird piles of dismantled objects form such detailed and realistic shadow portraits of the artists and makes you wonder how the making process happens, how much is meticulously planned and how much is an experimental process of moving objects by a millimetre and checking the shadow! A small show, but a must-see if you’re in London, ending on the 24th of November.

More to come, as there’s a few more exhibitions I want to see soon, including Judy Chicago and Cindy Sherman! Exciting!

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