notes and notices

notes and notices are short and curt reviews of exhibitions at (mostly) London galleries.

  • Choon Mi Kim, ACID—FREEEE at Ginny on Frederick ★☆☆☆☆

    Choon Mi Kim



    On until 28 October 2023

    Some forms of abstraction simply scream ‘my kid could have made that’. Choon Mi Kim’s work looks like the result of an idea the artist had as a sixteen-year-old while doodling with one of those multi-coloured BIC pens. Sadly, the idea only degraded with access to a canvas. The paintings are marked sparsely with long strokes that meet at acute angles in colour transitions that suggest the brushes gradually getting dirty. Occasionally, traces of another idea appear: gestures of calligraphy, some emoji.

    The gallery’s method to compensate for this immaturity (Kim only left art school this Summer) is to give no context for the endeavour in the hope of cultivating an air of mystery. That may work commercially. But it’s not likely to help the work grow.

  • Atiéna R Kilfa, Primitive Tales, at Cabinet ★☆☆☆☆

    Atiéna R. Kilfa

    Primitive Tales


    On until 11 November 2023

    This is an uninspired re-staging of Kilfa’s intriguing installation at Camden Art Centre, only assembled opaquely and with a couple of extra but missable works.

  • Lutz Bacher, AYE! at Raven Row ★★★★☆

    Lutz Bacher



    Curated by Anthony Huberman
    On until 17 December 2023

    There’s joy in repetition. Bacher was a master of the animated gif – a fragment of reality so brief that it must be examined recurrently – long before TikTok colonised the trope. The show starts at the beach where Tereza from The Unbearable Lightness of Being repeatedly asks her lover if he’s happy. Judging by the tones of the piano in the background, he must be, but we’re swept away to the start of the sequence before any happiness occurs. Back indoors, Leonard Cohen continually tries to launch into one of his ballads but runs out of time. Roberta Flack vocalises Killing Me Softly so many times that her voice turns dissonant and hurts. Then Andy Warhol’s Empire crumbles even though Bacher made multiple copies. And as if this wasn’t frustrating enough, she plays the bells from Princess Diana’s funeral on repeat and to no conclusion.

    Bacher’s trick is so disarmingly simple that its repeated deployment slips up the brain’s internal clock. It’s easy to get lost in this infinite scroll – indeed, there may be one or two works too many in this show – but unlike the one on a phone screen, this one braces the entire body. There’s joy in repetition.

  • Christo, Early Works at Gagosian Open ★★★★☆


    Early Works


    Curated by Elena Geuna
    On until 22 October 2023

    There are a handful of artists in the canon of contemporary art who are so keenly rewarded for their monumental productions that they forget the work they made before they made it. Christo became a household name in the 1980s when he started wrapping islands, bridges, and buildings in shiny fabrics – a practice that even he admitted was mostly administration – and with this habit cured his earlier addiction to wrapping everyday objects in sheets of fabric and plastics. And he wrapped everything: shoes, jerry cans, a child’s pram, typewriters. He even wrapped ‘packages’ – objects which had already been wrapped – and paintings. 

    Gagosian’s sexy marketing of Christo’s 1950s and 60s wraps in the quirky ‘open’ space of an unrenovated 18th-century Huguenot house in East London may just save this artist from art history’s cruel type-casting of his practice as ‘environmental’ or ‘political’. They’re made of the right materials which aged as though to fit perfectly next to Beuys’ felt piano. And the show is sure a joyful crowd pleaser. But Christo himself lost faith in these objects. To appreciate them truly against his wishes, one must forget his later stunts. That would require more goodwill than the art market has for anyone.

  • Iris Touliatou, Outfits at PEER ★★★☆☆

    Iris Touliatou



    On until 16 December 2023

    The popularity of Institutional Critique – the artistic practice which takes the management of museums and galleries as its subject – has waxed and waned since artists like Michael Asher in the 1970s began to rearrange gallery walls and floors as though the fabric of the exhibition space was more interesting than the artefacts. Touliatou’s intervention at PEER – stripping a section of drywall, moving a door, and altering the gallery’s location on Google Maps – returns to this tradition as though nothing had changed in the meantime.

    She has a point: the very purpose of art institutions is once again in question. But can Institutional Critiques’ failed experiments produce different results today? Touliatou’s twist takes her to the museum store where she assembled a collection of dozens of ceramic figurines of Jennings Dogs, the ornamental canine guardians found in the gardens of suburban homes whose 2nd-century Roman predecessor belongs to the British Museum. These gestures remind the gallery that it is a social space in which the vernacular should be at home. Unfortunately, they also inadvertently point to the gallery’s sorry end: art-free but dog-friendly.

  • Gray Wielebinski, The Red Sun is High, the Blue Low at ICA ★☆☆☆☆

    Gray Wielebinski

    The Red Sun is High, the Blue Low


    On until 23 December 2023

    On my first visit to this exhibition, I thought I’d misunderstood the ICA’s new opening times and missed half of the show. Returning, I found nothing more: a largely vacant space with some seats set in a circle, a photo wallpaper with multiple sunsets, and an electronic scoreboard like at a basketball court. In another room loosely styled as a military bunker and only dimly lit, I played with an unresponsive touchscreen to unknowingly change the score outside. Underwhelmed and unaffected, I moved to the gallery bar.

    Reading the exhibition’s pamphlet in search of something to chew on, I found it full of vague observations and dubious claims. The title came from some Cold War science fiction. Time’s arrow is broken. There’s a world outside. We’re living in the end times. Some things mean other things.

    This illuminated nothing. I knew that it was possible to understand art and life less after seeing an exhibition. I didn’t, however, imagine that experiencing Wielebinski’s work twice would only compound such damage.

  • Abel Auer, The shadow of tomorrow draws an ancient silhouette at Corvi-Mora ★★★☆☆

    Abel Auer

    The shadow of tomorrow draws an ancient silhouette


    On until 4 October 2023

    Abel Auer’s paintings are consumed by the apocalypse. A nuclear mushroom cloud washes over the landscape in one with a sinister orange hue. Another captures an encroaching forest fire. Things are no better in the city where a hurricane has toppled towers. In a literal example of ‘zombie figuration’, Death himself makes an appearance on one canvas, while in others, the dying are busy counting hell’s circles. It’s a memento mori but death is the future and the past perfect at once.

    For its concern with the natural and the inevitable, this isn’t an exhibition about the climate crisis. It is, nonetheless, opportunistic: like every artist, Auer tries to turn the disaster to art’s advantage. But he is more interested in the fate of painting than humanity and thus stands apart from the army of zealots who make eco art today. Unfortunately, a ‘key’ painting – a kind of sales pitch that calls to the Illuminati, the pyramids, and aliens – undermines the show and turns it back into propaganda. 

  • The last train after the last train at Public ★★★☆☆

    The last train after the last train


    On until 28 October 2023

    Even though the press release cites Derrida and Žižek, this exhibition could be arranged after the films of Rainer Maria Fassbinder. Aline Bouvy’s steel, plaster, and neon S&M mural, for example, is straight out ofQuerelle. One could imagine Emmi, the office cleaner from Fear Eats the Soul dusting Rob Branigan’s peculiar architectural maquettes and tinsel forests and after she damaged them sobbing as earnestly as she cried over her dying Gastarbeiter husband Ali. The failed magic tricks in Lyndon Barrois Jr.’s canvases would hang in the final scene of Chinese Roulette in which everyone turns against everyone because disdain is the most comforting feeling. Fassbinder would have Lou Castel’s drunk film director scoff at Jacopo Pagin’s surrealist compositions on the set-within-a-set of Beware of a Holy Whore before all three forgot all about it after another drink.

    Not a terrible filmography. Only Héloïse Chassepot’s slim, rainbow-coloured panels would be the odd ones out, like the all too real 2022 remake of The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant in which François Ozon bafflingly turned Petra into Peter.

  • The Otolith Group, I See Infinite Distance Between Any Point and Another at greengrassi ★★☆☆☆

    The Otolith Group

    I See Infinite Distance Between Any Point and Another


    On until 4 October 2023

    The art world ‘discovered’ the late Lebanese-American poet and painter Etel Adnan when she was in her eighties and ‘broke out’ with her painting straight into Documenta. It celebrated her wisdom and heritage in that sombre but hollow way the art market reveres older women. 

    After the Otolith Group met Adnan in Kassel, they filmed her reading her poetry. They trained the camera over her shoulder, showing neither her face nor the page. The result is a collection of abstract images of the seas and stars that is as meditative as it is affected.

    Why should we listen to Adnan? Why these poems? Why now? There are no answers in the film. The only plausible explanation is that the exhibition is a private memorial for Adnan accessible only to members of the art world’s inner circle. And that’s a pity because Adnan’s ideas could be better shared with many others.

  • Trevor Yeung, Soft Ground, at Gasworks ★★☆☆☆

    Trevor Yeung

    Soft Ground


    On until 17 December 2023

    The gallery is dark, except for the faint glow of those nauseating ‘bisexual lights’ with purple and blue LEDs designed to prevent people over forty from straying into nightclubs. Water trickles against a patch of soil and the air smells like Dow Chemical’s idea of the forest. A massive tree trunk is the centrepiece and, save for some patches of amorphous mess, that’s about it.

    Only on reading the gallery handout did I understand that this environment was Yeung’s study of the gay cruising area in the woods on Hampstead Heath. The trunk is the infamous ‘fuck tree’, the water is piss, and the splats of paint stand in for cum. 

    I may be over the club’s admission age but I find art’s predilection for ‘celebrating’ minority sexual behaviours reductive not because they’re distasteful but because they inevitably reinforce the mechanisms of governance that practices like cruising try to evade. It’s stressful enough to fuck in the forest for fear of passers-by or the police; imagine having to also look out for curators.

Inspired in form and attitude by Manhattan Art Review.