Joshua Leon
The Missing O and E

★☆☆☆☆

On until 21 April 2024

The gallery is empty except for a couple of battered wooden benches styled from the design of a violin. A single speaker periodically pipes isolated musical passages performed by the same instrument. This sound is extracted from an Elgar recording on which Leon’s grandfather, a Jewish refugee, played second violin. 

The music is lost without context in the open-plan gallery dominated by the invigilators’ chatter. A series of musical ephemera from the artist’s collection half-heartedly situates the project in post-war Birmingham of the 1940s, but also too vaguely in the sprawling lineage of Beethoven, Schubert, and Vivaldi.

The gallery text finally explains the aim of this confusion: Leon believes that the symphony is “cacophonous” and wants to rescue his ancestor from the oblivion of music. He disowns the tradition in which fulfilment came from playing part in a collective, rather than individual endeavour. This could have been a tender homage, or maybe a political charge found in a life’s work. Instead, this embarrassing display indicts today’s second-fiddlers with narcissism and egomania.


notes and notices are short and curt exhibition reviews. Read more:

Amanda Wall, Femcel at Almine Rech ★★★☆☆

Amanda Wall

Femcel

★★★☆☆

There’s no dignity in paint when the arc of art history tends to “show hole”.

Open Group, The Polish pavilion in Venice ★★★☆☆

Open Group

Repeat After Me II

★★★☆☆

The applause was rapturous. A sense of tragedy, however, was altogether missing.

Ed Webb-Ingall, A Bedroom for Everyone at PEER ★☆☆☆☆

Ed Webb-Ingall

A Bedroom for Everyone

★☆☆☆☆

How can art improve the lives of communities? Wrong answers only.

Soufiane Ababri, Their mouths at Barbican ★★☆☆☆

Soufiane Ababri

Their mouths were full of bumblebees

★★☆☆☆

Ababri’s paintings for the Grindr generation are more cartoonish than they are from life.

Aleksandar Denić, The Serbian pavilion in Venice ★★★☆☆

Aleksandar Denić

Exposition Coloniale

★★★☆☆

Denić took the Biennale’s theme literally, as though he was not in on the art world joke.

Pakui Hardware, Maria Terese Rozanskaite, Inflammation at Lithuanian pavilion Venice ★★★☆☆

Pakui Hardware, Maria Terese Rožanskaité

Inflammation

★★★☆☆

One of the novelties in Venice is the artwork that looks good but on reflection isn’t.

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