Crimson balloons festooning the ceiling, a black and white checkerboard dance floor under foot, shimmery white curtains partially covering views of the Manhattan skyline… I could be walking into a cocktail party of an Upper East Side socialite married to a one-percenter. Instead, I find myself in the gallery space of Arcadia Missa under the railway arches in Peckham for Amalia Ulman’s latest solo show entitled Labour Dance (until 5th November 2016).
Ulman, an LA-based Argentinian artist who grew up in Spain before moving to London to attend Central St Martins art college, is widely known for her Excellences and Perfections durational Instagram performance in 2014 where she played the part of a beautiful, vacuous young woman in LA doing the things that beautiful, vacuous young women do in LA: shopping, dating, exercising, having a boob job – all documented daily by selfies taken with her blinged-out iPhone camera. Call her the Kim Kardashian of the art world. As the vanguard of the social media performance practice, Ulman has taken to Instagram once again this year for a six-month performance entitled Privilege where a purportedly pregnant Ulman and her pet pigeon Bob mime office politics from her studio in a downtown LA block of offices filled with lawyers, accountants and beknownst to them an art world superstar.
Whether Ulman’s feathered co-star is her boss, colleague or alter ego is open to interpretation. Each Monday, Ulman posts a hand-drawn cartoon inspired by New Yorker cartoonist Charles Barsotti of the artist dressed as a clown with Bob often perching on her head.
Going IRL from URL is often tricky but Ulman pulls out all the stops for this exhibition, creating an immersive installation in a square space that mimics the format of her Instagram feed that is diligently followed by 126,000 people and counting. A coherent colour scheme runs throughout the online artwork and gallery space as if the artist was advised by a corporate branding executive – white, black, red and shades of grey.
Video clips from her Instagram performance are looped on two chunky TV screens placed on the floor of the gallery, largely critiquing the dominant aesthetic of power and legitimacy that drives today’s capitalist engine forward. Deflated red ceramic balloons are scattered around the space, referencing the state of a woman’s breasts post-childbirth. The ‘labour dance’ of the exhibition’s title becomes clear when I glance at the press release that features headlines and social media feeds about pregnant women ‘dancing their babies out’. One headline particularly piques my interest: “Pregnant Lady Twerks til her water breaks TOO FUNNY”. With Ulman’s Privilege performance due to end on election day in America, I cannot help but wonder what the climax will be: Ulman dancing to Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies’ and giving birth to a miniature Donald Trump covered in grey feathers?
With museum shows at Tate Modern and Whitechapel Gallery earlier this year, Ulman returns to London, all dressed in red and turning her nose up at capitalist society’s obsession with slaving away in office cubicles to afford the ‘Gucci lifestyle’ of celebrity culture. Make sure you do not miss this exhibition.
All Photos: Courtesy of the artist and Arcadia Missa
About the Artist
Amalia Ulman (born 1989, Argentina) lives and works in Los Angeles, CA after graduating from Central St Martins in 2011 (BA Fine Art). Recent solo exhibitions include: James Fuentes, Los Angeles (2016); James Fuentes, New York, Mama, Rotterdam, and Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, Salt Lake City (all 2015); LTD, Los Angeles and Smart Objects, Los Angeles (both 2014); Marbriers4, Geneva, Future Gallery, Berlin, and Steve Turner, Los Angeles (both 2013). Selected group exhibitions include: Berlin Biennale, Berlin, Performing for the Camera, Tate Modern, London, and Electronic Superhighway, Whitechapel Gallery, London (all 2016); The St. Petersbourg Paradox, Swiss Institute, New York, Poetry will be made by all, LUMA FOUNDATION, Zurich, and DISOWN, RedBull Studios, New York (all 2014). Ulman’s work will be presented by Arcadia Missa at Paris Internationale 2016 (19-23 October 2016).
Crampton’s approach to craft and making is a perfect fit with Muggenburg’s finely crafted pieces of jewellery on display. The structures that Crampton has built for the presentation of her sculptures also mimic the display strategies often employed by high-end boutiques and fashion brands. Reminiscent of the work of the Memphis Group of designers in Milan in the 1980’s, in colour, form and materiality, Crampton’s new works slyly straddle the line between craft and fine art, hinting at functionality and playing with various textures and materials. Since she graduated from the Royal Academy Schools in 2014, Crampton has continually surprised viewers with her mastery of new skills – from welding steel and beating copper to woodworking, designing light fixtures, throwing pots and knitting, embroidering and upholstering various textiles.
Featuring three sculptures that resemble shade trees spreading their branches in all directions, the exhibition entitled “Bowers: from form to public” invites the viewer to perform a dance of sorts under the arbour created by these sculptural forms, like a bird fluttering around a garden looking for its hatchling. Accompanying this exhibition are three commissioned poems by Daniel C. Blight. Picking out a few choice lines of verse, Crampton’s work comes alive.
“In movement we will live
A place in the garden
Below the sky
Cancel the summer.”
With her unique sculptural language, Crampton is a confident young artist whose work demands to be seen.
About the Artist
Coco Crampton (b. 1983, London) lives and works in London after graduating from the Royal Academy Schools in 2014. Recent exhibitions include RA Summer Exhibition 2016, Royal Academy of Arts, London; All Over (five-person show), Studio Leigh, London (2016); Gradation (recent graduates of the Royal Academy Schools), Art First, London (2016); Gardeners & Astronomers (a two-person show with Nicole Vinokur), Caustic Coastal, Manchester (2016); Kingly Things (a two-person show with Agata Madejska curated by Gareth Bell-Jones), Chandelier Projects, London (2015); Handles on Romance & Other Girls also Common Tongue, a solo exhibition at The Minories in Colchester (2015); Cassius Clay (group exhibition curated by Marcelle Joseph Projects, London) and Protected Space (two-person exhibition with Jonathan Baldock), Belmacz Gallery, London (2014).
London-based sculptor Jonathan Trayte mines the tropes of today’s food obsessed society in Polyculture, his first solo exhibition in a public gallery in the UK. After showing his work at the Royal Academy of Arts in 2015 as one of the five finalists of the Converse x Dazed Emerging Artists Award, Trayte’s work rises to new heights at The Tetley, a centre for contemporary art and learning, located in the former headquarters of the world-famous Tetley Brewery in Leeds. Having worked his way through university in Canterbury in one of the UK’s first daily farmers’ markets with an on-site food hall and restaurant using only locally-sourced produce, Trayte draws from his culinary background, creating beautifully made, voluptuous and often vibrantly coloured casts of food in bronze, ceramic or concrete that comment on contemporary society’s production, marketing and consumption of food. Trayte is particularly fascinated by the global food packaging industry and its attempt to entice us, which results in his own work having a highly glossy finish, recreating the industry’s similar attempts to create a seductive appeal. For this exhibition, in fact, Trayte picked the brains of Professor Charles Spence at the experimental psychology laboratory at Oxford University, to understand how consumer decision-making is manipulated in commercial environments using various means, materials, lighting and temperatures.
Interested in cutting-edge contemporary art but fancy a late summer day in the English countryside? Make your way to Hauser & Wirth’s outpost in Somerset at Durslade Farm for Martin Creed’s What You Find exhibition (until 11 September 2016).
Turner Prize-winning artist and musician Martin Creed had the pleasure of residing at this idyllic, rural farm for two months this spring before the opening of his solo exhibition in May 2016. Not wanting a press release for his show, Creed gave his gallery the following quote: ‘You find yourself here in this world with feelings and thoughts. It’s difficult to accept what you find you do. But if you can it seems to help.’ This quote is indicative of what is to come in this exhibition, having a little bit of everything from all strands of his conceptual art practice and including new paintings, films, drawings, sculpture, spoken word and performance as well as the release of a new album by his band. From a neon confronting his phobia to cheese to a giant abstract painting made by young local people recruited by the artist, Creed’s work is always equal parts art and life. Other works include a series of portrait paintings made by Creed when blindfolded, a tree in the garden hung with plastic carrier bags (N.B. Creed never throws anything out) as well as an exquisite and hysterical film with a backing track of Creed’s music, featuring the artist at least twenty different times, each time with a different hair style and costume – like the male version of Lady Gaga but with the voice of The Proclaimers. Another highlight is an installation of two vintage Fiat cars and one van from the artist’s burgeoning Fiat collection, each containing a painting in the boot that complements the lines and colour of the respective vehicle. This exhibition is a rare gem as it gives a snapshot of the inner workings of this conceptual genius’s mind.
London-based artist Nicolas Deshayes creates some heat at his debut solo show, Thames Water, at Stuart Shave/Modern Art in London (1st – 24th September 2016).
Upon entering this gallery space housed in former printing works in Clerkenwell, you immediately notice metres and metres of industrial silver piping running across the walls of this pristine white cube with peaked skylights providing lashings of sunlight against the minimalist interior. On closer inspection, these amorphous anatomical concrete-grey protuberances pop into focus, scattered here and there on the walls like three-dimensional drawings made of cast iron. Once you get closer, you feel the heat emanating from these uncanny objects. The epidermis of these warming sculptures is bumpy and scarred, with their forms resembling flattened earthworms or the small intestines of the human alimentary canal. Architectural support and spatial placement seem vital, as these functional objects are hung at radiator height and operate by attaching themselves to the existing water pipes in the gallery.
Akin to Adele naming her latest album “25”, Norwegian artist Ann Cathrin November Høibo turned 36 this year and has titled her third solo show at STANDARD (Oslo) that same number. The expression goes that ‘age is just a number’ but in the press release for this exhibition, the artist references what 36 means in mathematics, measurements, science, religion, culture, sports and other fields. Did you ever know that 36 is the atomic number of krypton or the number of vehicles that run in each race of NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series? In the exhibition itself, the viewer starts to understand the significance of 36 to Høibo.
The group show “Carpet for a Lord” at the Berlin gallery of Supportico Lopez takes its name from a 1991 work by Henri Chopin (1922-2008), the avant-garde artist, poet and musician, and features the work of eight artists, including early career artists, Charlie Billingham, Than Hussein Clark, Daniel Milvio, Jill Mulleady and Ola Vasiljeva, and established artists, Judith Hopf, Ettore Spalletti and Haim Steinbach. Opening on 8th September and running until 22nd October 2016, this exhibition aspires to create a melody, from the references and forms of the artworks, about aesthetics, representation, enigma, personality, past, future and death.
At Stour Space in Hackney Wick
Today I visited the Stour Space in Hackney Wick for the first time. It is a proper hyphenated all-purpose space. Artist studios-exhibition space-shop-hipster café. First the art... I went to see the solo exhibition of Thomas Langley entitled "Art type stuff". Tom is a multidisclipinary artist who is currently studying at the Royal Academy Schools. Presenting sculpture and painting in the exhibition, Tom explores the universal truths of the artistic condition with text paintings like "Buy My Mum a House" and anti-aesthetic gloopy sculptures made from bits of coloured polyurethane, wood and foam. My favourite work is a sculptural work called "Blaggers" that incorporates a framed text work on paper that says "The canapés will be great" (see image). Artist NIgel Cooke wrote the exhibition text. My favourite bit of that text that I think appropriately describes Tom's work -- "a contemporary ambivalence made physical, a vacillating question turned into a brute fact". Now on to the food, please visit this space on an empty stomach as the Counter Café - located on the ground floor and spilling out onto the River Lea on a floating wooden terrace - serves a delicious all-day breakfast. My "Veggie Breakfast" had all my faves - poached eggs on sourdough bread, avocado, portobello mushroom, grilled haloumi and roast potatoes.
Last work installed...
...after a full day of angle-grinding. Don't miss this sculpture hidden in the forest in the back garden by Andrew Mealor.
Rebecca Ackroyd hard at work. At Home Salon: Double Acts opening 14 May.