Sunday, November 26, 2006

Yinka Shonibare, MBE , Stephen Friedman Gallery, London

Stephen Friedman Gallery is pleased to present Flower Time, an exhibition of new work by British artist Yinka Shonibare, MBE. Flower Time is Shonibare’s first major presentation of work in London in several years. The exhibition includes a new film, sculptural works and a large painting installation.

Over the past ten years Shonibare has gained critical acclaim for his work, which mines the rich history of societal and class self-identification expressed through the genre of eighteenth and nineteenth century portraiture. The artist typically investigates political and social histories, drawing from his own experience and dual upbringing in the UK and Nigeria to create a complex and cosmopolitan response to post-colonial debate. In previous works, the artist has reconfigured iconic imagery from the canon of western art history with both a playful and ironic touch. Working in sculpture, film, photography and painting, the artist is best-known for his tableaux scenes where characters are dressed in spectacular period costumes and props created from his signature material – a type of Indonesian designed fabric, produced in the Netherlands that has become popularly assimilated in West Africa.

The title work of the exhibition, Flower Time, is inspired by a hand-made bouquet of flowers composed of roses, orchids, anemones and ivy fashioned out of the Dutch wax printed fabric. This delicate work is somewhat a momento-mori and establishes the melancholic tone of the exhibition – described by the artist as a response to the current global political climate. Considering the violent clashes of identities and beliefs taking place in the Middle East and beyond, the artist asks “can art evolve absolutely oblivious to our time of extreme trauma?”, or “can dealing with trauma be a valuable solace?”.

Odile and Odette (2006) is a new film made in collaboration with the Royal Opera House and choreographer Kim Branstrup. Here, Shonibare re-imagines a classical episode from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, where the lead roles engage in a close dialogue of gestures and movement. Odile and Odette are characters which embody ‘good’ and ‘evil’ and are traditionally danced by a sole performer. The artist transforms this classical part into a complex and subtle interplay between two dancers in which the duality of the characters is played out in racial difference. Mirroring each other’s expression on either side of an ornate Baroque frame, Shonibare suggests that their movement is both estranged and united.

The figure of the dancer is mirrored again in Flower Cloud (2006) – a surreal sculpture in which a life size ballet dancer in full costume balances atop a nuclear mushroom cloud. This apocalyptic vision is a totemic and powerful icon for the exhibition, bringing together Shonibare’s diverse concerns and situating the exhibition as a highly personal protest and a lament for the flower power of a previous era.

Black Gold is an installation composed of a series of round black and gold painted canvasses presented on a viscous black ground, suggesting that these works have emerged from an oil spill. In previous wall painting installations, the artist has engaged with the specific history of abstract painting of the late twentieth century. The title of the work poetically refers to the rich and potent qualities of the surface of these oil paintings and their derivative source that has become such a fundamental and contested resource in recent years. Black Gold also carries an implication about the politics of oil, mineral and metallurgical extraction and refers to the exploitation by British imperialists in Southern Africa up until the collapse of the Apartheid regime.

During the course of the exhibition Shonibare will also be participating in Alien Nation at the ICA, London (17 November 2006 – 14 January 2007). In 2007 the artist will present a major new commission at the South Bank Centre, as the inaugural commission in a series of flag-works shown on a 65ft flagpole on Jubilee Gardens – initiated by Hayward Gallery Director, Ralph Rugoff. This will be followed by an artist’s talk at the Hayward Gallery. Also in 2007, the artist presents newly commissioned work at the V&A for Uncomfortable Truths – the shadow of slave trading on contemporary art and design (20 February – 17 June 2007), an exhibition marking the bicentenary of the outlawing of the British slave trade. In April 2007, Yinka Shonibare will present a major new site-specific work Jardin d’Amour at the Musée du Quai Branly, Paris.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


the PAC of Milan is celebrating the creative genius of a great interpreter of our times, Andres Serrano, with a dual appointment: the exhibition Salt on the wound, curated by Oliva María Rubio, in co-operation with La Fábrica of Madrid, a selection of some of his most significant photographs taken in the last twenty years and the exhibition, The Morgue, curated by Alessandro Riva in cooperation with Tomaso Renoldi Bracco, ten works never shown before and taken from a controversial series of photographs of 1992 with the same name. These macabre and shocking images, long kept hidden by wish of the artist himself, are now being displayed exclusively, for the very first time, in Milan. A cursed and highly provocative artist, this is the image that Serrano has always created of himself. In reality, on closer analysis, his works appear complex and rich in subtlety. The rebel genius par excellence, Serrano expresses his criticism in the subtle dichotomy that underlies his photographic images, unblemished and flawless, terrifying and transgressive; he refuses imitations of the contemporary world and illustrates its inner disturbances and manias. The photographs of Andres Serrano (New York,1950) have never ceased to depict the most controversial and polemical subjects of the convulsive world in which we live since he first started his work at the beginning of the nineteen eighties. Religion, fanaticism, the human body, xenophobia, illness and death have all been subjected to his meticulous attention in series like Bodily Fluids, The Morgue, Nomads, Ku Klux Klan, The Church, A History of Sex etc. What seems a provocation manifests as a vocation: that of addressing subjects and issues which concern us as human being by means of images which are also distinguished for their beauty. Beauty is an essential component of Serrano’s work. This artist uses it to intensify the tension that seduces his spectators with the forbidden fascination of taboo subjects. Serrano has in fact confessed that his objective as an artist has always been that of beauty: “I believe that it is necessary to seek beauty even in the least conventional places or in the candidates you would least suspect. If I don’t encounter beauty I’m not capable of taking any photos”. The effectiveness of his images is similar to that of advertising mechanisms, the declared use of Caravaggesque lighting, the bright colours, the precision of the titles and, above all, the use of concise but always eloquent language. Serrano has no specific interest in the photographic process; he is rather a formalist who identifies strongly with the traditions and with the great masters of baroque painting, defining himself as a religious artist of the past with contemporary ideas. His compositions are rigorous and allegorical symbols appear in each of his series of photographs. He constructs elaborate tableaux which adopt the quality and the virtuoso mannerism of the great seventeenth century painters. Serrano never censors his photos and never indulges in compromise. By moving on the thin line that separates the sacred from the profane, the moral from the immoral, the licit from the illicit, Serrano’s works have avoided the limitations of mere decorativism. The artist goes beyond the confines of what is permitted, in both the personal and the social sphere, to entice and surprise his viewers, putting images before them, which on first impulse would make them close their eyes if they weren’t presented in an attractive and picturesque fashion.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Guy Allott until 16.12. F.A.Projects, London

The exhibition showcases a series of new paintings and sculptures by the artist, including the painting series Landscape Spaceship, which explore ideas of the primitive, innovation and the visionary.

Whimsical and intriguing, Allott’s works allude to the grand narrative of Western civilisation exploring the preoccupation with discovery, conquest and edifice that continues to hold such prevalence in contemporary society. The artist’s paintings and sculptures present a fantastical merging of the philosophies of science and culture that not only offer a critique of historic social beliefs but also has great resonance for an investigation of the contemporary.

The Landscape Spaceship series depicts a motley collection of anthropomorphic exploration structures that physically owe as much to 19th Century illustrations of innovative prototypes for journeys into the air and sea, as they do to early 20th century science fiction novels. The spaceships presented in these works are the antithesis to the slick high tech constructs of modern space travel: made from wood and metal, the structures are reminiscent of amateur prototypes of new inventions. Presented in anonymous but palpably foreign locales, the landscape of this other world references the historical landscape works of European artists struggling to articulate the alien landscapes of the New Worlds. The use of such a traditional visual language as a means to evoke the unfamiliar is further inferred in the very decoration of the spaceships themselves, as each ship is decorated with a quaint pictorial scene that is at odds with the barren and desolate surrounds. In constructing a representation of the unknown the comparison to the familiar is inevitable but ultimately misleading. It reveals more about the society it is communicating to than the subject itself. Guy Allott’s fictions then create a space, which enables a rethinking about the present as much as an investigation of the past.

For this exhibition, Allott also shows low-tech sculptural constructions in painted cardboard and wood, which echo the investigations of the paintings and introduce parallel subject matters, heraldic motifs and narratives which similarly conflate the historic and the futuristic.

Guy Allott is currently a finalist for the John Moores 24, at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. Recent exhibitions of the artist include Jesus Loves You Cooling Spot, One in the Other, London; Jagsalon, Kreuzberg Kunstraum/ Bethanien, Berlin in 2006; Jagsalon, Kunstverein Ettlingen, Germany and Drawing200, The Drawing Room, London in 2005; and Guy Allott, Neil Hamon, Claire Pestaille, IZO, London; The Great Unsigned, Zoo Art Fair, London in 2004; and the solo exhibitions Summerpaintings, the miracle agency, London in 2001 and Ein Tag Stüle, Luna International, Berlin in 2000.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

DANIEL RICHTER until 30.11. Grimm Fine Art, Amsterdam (NL)

Daniel Richter until 30.11. Grimm Fine Art.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

NAFAS BEIRUT until 17.11 Espace SD, Beirut

The multimedia exhibit includes more than 40 artists of different backgrounds, hailing from around the world. These works are reactionary; they were made out of an urge. To highlight a few, they are raw as seen in the 12-poem piece of Wissam Nouchi entitled "Remember to Forget Beirut". They are emotional as Sintia Karam, trapped outside of Lebanon wanders around Berlin hoping that somehow her footsteps would take her straight back to Beirut. All the way from Australia, Maissa Alameddine and Fadia Kisrwani Abboud, create an installation entitled "Return to Sender," in reaction to the millions of Israeli flyers that were dropped on Lebanon. Lina Hakim creates an installation in homage to her real heroes of the war: the teenagers she met while volunteering at a shelter. Zena el-Khalil paints a portrait of Hassan Nassrallah as seen through her eyes. Raed Yassin displays his daily adventures with Nabil Fawzi, a.k.a. Superman. Maria Kassab's delicate drawings portray her downward spiral into darkness and depression. And already, some find themselves moving on as Rowina Bou Harb reveals in her blank white canvas entitled, "Don't Feel Like Talking Anymore, I Almost Forgot What I Felt."