Soufiane Ababri
Their mouths were full of bumblebees

★★☆☆☆

Curated by Raúl Muñoz de la Vega
On until 30 June 2024

The Barbican’s architecture is an awkward setting for an exhibition. Ababri’s installation shows that part of the estate could easily be turned into an upscale gay cruise club. The space is lit dimly, plush red, and hidden by a suggestive chain link curtain hanging. Behind it, a series of homoerotic paintings marks the Curve’s walls like gloryholes at a truck stop. There is no maze and no foam party, either, but the show’s half-finished scenography and a one-off scheduled performance make an alluring promise.

One leaves this club unfulfilled. Ababri’s paintings of and for the Grindr generation are more cartoonish than they are from life. The men who occupy his frames engage in acts of narcissistic hedonism explained by phrases such as ‘bareback’ or ‘high and horny’ that litter the forms. These are the norms of Western sexual liberation that conquered this Moroccan artist’s world, too.

The gallery text suggests that Abarbi wants to resist Eurocentric queer theory, presumably to make room for some more true, local, or even Islam-friendly gay liberation. His paintings, however, do nothing of the sort. They barely offer a description of his subject’s condition that would root them in anything other than the international gay party circuit. These works are thus incapable of insight or critique and only serve as cheap titillation for the Western audiences, the sort of which the artist and his lovers hopelessly want to experience too.


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

Erick Meyenberg, Nos marchábamos, regresábamos siempre, the Mexican pavilion in Venice ★☆☆☆☆

Erick Meyenberg

Nos marchábamos, regresábamos siempre

★☆☆☆☆

Whatever the purpose of this confusion, it’s not to be found in the gallery.

Miranda Forrester, Arrival at Tiwani Contemporary ★★★☆☆

Miranda Forrester

Arrival

★★★☆☆

Forrester’s project is timely when foundational concepts like ‘mother’ and their ‘as-though’ counterparts are readily confused.

Justin Caguiat, Dreampop at Modern Art ★★★★☆

Justin Caguiat

Dreampop

★★★★☆

This is the sort of exhibition that makes a critic question the quality of their judgment.

Anastasia Pavlou, Reader at Hot Wheels ★★☆☆☆

Anastasia Pavlou

Reader, Part 2; The Reader Reads Words in Sentences

★★☆☆☆

In this game of aesthetic cognition, the idea which survives is of the artist thinking.

Nicola Turner, Edward Bekkerman at Shtager&Shch ★★☆☆☆

Nicola Turner, Edward Bekkerman

The Song of Psyche: Corners of a Soul's Otherworlds

★★☆☆☆

Who opens a space in Fitzrovia only to fill it with such drivel?

Sin Wei Kin, Portraits at Soft Opening ★★☆☆☆

Sin Wei Kin

Portraits

★★☆☆☆

This exhibition combines the most vulgar of all art school tropes: juvenile narcissism, NFT kitsch, and mindless referentialism.

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