Tesfaye Urgessa
Prejudice and Belonging

★★★★★

Curated by Lemn Sissay
On until 24 November 2024

Urgessa’s collective portraits exude unsettling calm. Groups pose for the painter having arranged themselves as though for an anthropologist’s camera. The bodies on the canvases are half undressed, half hidden among ritual but contemporary objects that make up symbols of deep time and even deeper knowing.

The artist’s hand is present in these pictures, too, along with his arm, torso, and in one painting his buttocks. Some of the subjects’ faces turn out to be mere reproductions, as if collected from some forgotten atlas. Others are contorted in love, death, or merely life and it is no longer obvious if Urgessa walked in on a wedding feast or some backroom orgy. 

Perhaps this is a timeless idyl, perhaps some personal and tragic stories make up this dance of body parts. But even when doubt becomes overwhelming, Ugressa grants his subject the command of his canvas. In the politically rigged Venice, this gesture is as necessary as air.


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

Ignacy Czwartos, Polonia Uncensored, Venice ★★☆☆☆

Ignacy Czwartos

Polonia Uncensored

★★☆☆☆

Czwartos’ painting proves little and his sign-writer’s hand loses art history’s bet.

Deimantas Narkevičus, The Fifer at Maureen Paley ★★☆☆☆

Deimantas Narkevičus

The Fifer

★★☆☆☆

In the age of the decolonial, this is as quaint as it is outmoded

Yoko Ono at Tate ★★★☆☆

Yoko Ono

Music of the Mind

★★★☆☆

This show will sell tickets. But it won’t change the weather.

Alexandre Canonico, Still at Ab Anbar ★★★☆☆

Alexandre Canonico

Still

★★★☆☆

Conanico’s slight structures look like they could take flight at any moment.

Ksenia Pedan, Revision at Cell Project Space ★★★★☆

Ksenia Pedan

Revision

★★★★☆

Pedan’s paintings would rather be anything but.

Bhenji Ra, Biraddali Dancing on the Horizon at Auto Italia ★☆☆☆☆

Bhenji Ra

Biraddali Dancing on the Horizon

★☆☆☆☆

Such work was once a mere grift. Now, it is an outright stitch-up.

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