This installation of “A. R. Hopwood: False Memory Archive” at two sites—the Carroll/Fletcher Project Space and the Freud Museum—is the most recent event in artist Alasdair Hopwood’s ongoing exploration of the malleability of memory. Hopwood has been particularly interested in the research of psychologist Elizabeth Loftus, who since the 1970s has conducted experiments showing that with narrative prompting, subjects will testify to memories of events that never occurred.
In the hands of A. R. Hopwood—Alasdair Hopwood’s alter ego, a dry mischief-maker who operates via faxed contracts—the unreliability of memory creates an absurd universe in which a hired clairvoyant writes a subject’s past, fictions might be facts, and at a satellite of the exhibition at the Freud Museum, the father of psychoanalysis plays an apt host to the mischief. The works in the show result from Hopwood’s collaborations with various people, including psychologists. In Hot Air, 2013, Hopwood displays the photographic prompts created by psychologist Kimberley Wade of Warwick University for an experiment. The photographs themselves are typical of the visual material in the exhibition in their accidental absurdity: Tiny, imperfectly cut out people, often out of scale, clearly taken from family portraits and miscellaneous snapshots, have been shoddily glued into identical postcard-sized pictures of a hot-air-balloon basket floating into the air. The silliness turns sinister when one realizes that even these crummy, doctored pictures successfully implanted false memories of something as extraordinary as a balloon ride in the experimental subjects who viewed them. As if to repair the damage done to faith in photographic evidence, Hopwood sent Wade on a real balloon ride, strapping around her neck a camera designed for amnesiacs that takes a picture every thirty seconds.
In Wade’s case, the psychologist comes out from behind the one-way mirror of the laboratory, and as Hopwood recedes behind his contract-faxing alter ego, the line between a psychologist’s props and an artist’s productions appears as thin as the one between recall and imagination.
“Ends Again,” features four emerging artists offering forms of networked memento mori for a world in which one’s data might be worth more than one’s body. In Cecile B. Evans’s video AGNES (The end is near), 2013–14, the artist’s flute-voiced, interactive algorithm AGNES—who lives, for now, on the Serpentine Galleries website—delivers a soliloquies on her own potential demise, which are accompanied by pop-funerary piano refrains from Rhianna’s Stay, 2012. Philomene Pirecki’s ongoing series “Reflecting,” begun 2008, includes prints that are rephotographed each time they are exhibited. They capture the artist figure, dissolving into the shadowy reflection of the C-prints—as the series continues to be exhibited, the human form will be completely eliminated, leaving just the object itself.
Eloise Hawser’s video Sample and Hold, 2013, depicts the artist’s father standing obediently still as red lasers of a 3-D scanner digest his body as data. Placed on the floor nearby are pale green rubber casts of his tasseled loafers. And the frailty of human bodies is most explicitly conveyed by Jesse Darling's Standing Sculptures, 2014, which consists of two frail steel stands reminiscent of those used to hold IV bags above hospital patients. Each is strung with exhibition support materials, such as air cushions used for packaging and fluorescent lighting. The sculptures’ electric cables snake across the space as though sucking at the walls for a life force more precious than air.
Curator Catherine Wood takes Yvonne Rainer’s 1966 observation that “Dance is hard to see” as a point of departure in this exhibition, making the polymath’s groundbreaking choreography from 1961 to 1972 visible in a variety of media. Four times daily, dancers who were trained for this occasion by Rainer and her longtime collaborator Pat Catterson file into the heart of the gallery and perform a forty-five-minute program consisting of four of Rainer’s key pieces from the 1960s. These include Trio A, 1966, the most oft-cited piece to emerge from Rainer’s early experiments with neutral, nonexpressive, and ordinary movement.
If dance is hard to seefleeting and multidimensional even in the immediateit is harder to archive. Yet when displayed in combination with live performance, materials such as those shown hereearly choreography scores, film and photography of performances, an audio recording from one of Rainer’s performative lectures—enhance one’s ability to see dance, rather than having to supplant it. For example, Rainer’s earliest scores and choreographic instructions, displayed in the first rooms, prepare visitors to perceive a precision in the dancers’ ticks and twists. Jagged trajectories drawn in crayon map the overlapping spatial interactions of three dancers (Three Satie Spoons, 1960–62) while a typed list enumerates commands such as “15. Stop left foot - draw right leg turned in across left as arms jazzy 2nd...” (from Holst Solos, 1963). In the performances that punctuate this show, the minimalism of these instructions is complicated by the freshly visible bodily effort to carry them out.
Twelve works by the late Mario Schifano are on view in this tight survey produced between 1960 and 1967—a key period in which his practice matured. The exhibition has been divided into two groups and the earliest pieces depict rectilinear O shapes, painted with enamel on paper attached to canvas in a matter-of-fact way. Schifano was fond of the flickering, changing nature of new media, and these forms hint at television screens. The second group ushers in imagery in the form of stars, palm trees, clouds, car accidents, and handwritten texts; while these show the artist’s continued use of enamel, industrial materials such as Perspex have also been introduced. The experimental qualities of the Libyan-born Italian’s intuitive approach signals a gradual opening out to the world. For example, Tutte stelle + particolare dell’oasi (All stars + detail of the oasis), 1967, consists of two abutted panels with two palm trees under a starry sky stencilled on with spray paint. The work is completed with a transparent Perspex cover that suggests a window or door.
The paintings created after 1963 possess a romantic and playful quality, as if trying to find the poetry in modern life through new materials. Though Schifano was included in the now-historic 1962 New Realist show at Sidney Janis that introduced European and American Pop art, his paintings, though celebratory, are not quite like the cool detachment of Warhol’s or Lichtenstein’s, nor are they a politicized realism of some works by Europeans such as Polke or Richter. A big personality with a checkered life, Schifano was an artist who experimented with many mediums, however, based on this exhibition, it would seem that his paintings are his lasting legacy.
Combining modernism’s obsession with ritual and a bitingly humorous, but nevertheless intensely critical, cast of art-historical characters, Travis Jeppesen’s “16 Sculptures” exhibits a freshness that is largely absent in hyper-conceptual contemporary installation shows.
Each of the sixteen works on display consists of a chair, a vinyl record, headphones to listen to an mp3 recording, and blackout glasses, which together turn the gallery into a Blues Brothers convention. Artists as diverse as James Turrell, Isa Genzken, and Auguste Rodin have had their works transformed by Jeppesen into incantatory poems that, as the result of a sophisticated mixing process, reverberate and crackle like a priest giving a sermon through an unholy amplifier.
A special treat is Venus of Willendorf / Artist Unknown, 2014, a decidedly different take on Jeff Koons’s iteration of the famous statuette as a container for Dom Pérignon champagne. Jeppesen, speaking to us as the Venus of Willendorf herself, melancholically states, “Grazing on contradictions, I am skin without organs, worth more than diamonds, and yet nothing—female without sheen. The first phallus and the last to bleed. Touch without tactility.” Venus embodied by Jeppesen thinks of herself as “a fat bitch for the world to abuse with its eyes,” thereby addressing head-on the politics of neoprimitivism and misogyny by which the unfortunate Venus, and countless other representations of women, have been confined. Jeppesen leaves us wondering who speaks for artworks and, perhaps more important, how they speak.
The eight-plate engraved series of William Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress, published in 1735 and currently on view at the Foundling Museum, tells the story of Tom Rakewell, a merchant’s son who arrives in London to remake himself as an aristocrat but whose vanity and profligacy land him in debtor’s prison and the madhouse.
“Progress” brings together responses to Hogarth’s series produced between 1961 and 2014 by four artists, three of whomDavid Hockney, Grayson Perry, and Yinka Shonibareenjoy near-Hogarthian status in Britain. (The museum also commissioned a set of drawings for the occasion by emerging artist Jessie Brennan.) While this may seem dully straightforward as curatorial structure, it proves wise given the multiwork, narrative complexity of the responses, particularly Perry’s six-tapestry series The Vanity of Small Differences, 2012.
With Perry’s tapestries in such close proximity to the Hogarth work, it is an absorbing game to follow Perry’s symbolic substitutionsthe French press for the gambler’s wine, L. S. Lowry for Titian, and the self-satisfaction of modern yuppies for the posturing of old-world aristocracy. In the eighteenth century Hogarth cannily exploited the Foundling Hospital, then a home for abandoned babies, as an exhibition site outside the typical channels of royal patronage. Perry, too, commits to expanding a public for art: His tapestries’ imagery resulted directly from “All in the Best Possible Taste,” the artist’s Channel 4 television exploration of consumption and identity in British households.
In contrast, Hockney’s A Rake’s Progress, 1961–63, transposes Hogarth’s morality tale into an abstruse private journal, in feverish etching and aquatint, of the artist’s arrival in America. As in the case of “Diary of a Victorian Dandy,” Shonibare’s 1998 series of photographs in which he casts himself as the rake surrounded by cheats and sycophants, Hockney identifies no less with Hogarth as master of ceremonies than with the vulnerable and vain arriviste.
The works in “On the Passage of a Few People Through a Rather Brief Period of Time,” American artist Mary Kelly’s first London solo exhibition in more than a decade, consider how an era is shaped by political events and their media representations. Circa 1968, 2004, for instance, is a cast of compressed lint depicting photojournalist Jean-Pierre Rey’s iconic image for Life magazine of a girl waving a flag during the May 1968 general strike when Paris was brought to a halt by civil unrest. Kelly’s version, enlarged and rendered in her signature material, is installed directly opposite her latest work, Tahrir, 2014. This work is based on a photograph taken by photojournalist Peter Macdiarmid of protesters in gas masks during the 2011 Tahrir Square uprising in Cairo. The Web address bar at the top of the work reading “www.tahrir.com” is a conspicuous reminder of the important role the Internet’s technological advancements played in the creation of citizen journalism.
A series of lint works, “7 Days,” all 2014, take on the left-leaning magazine of the same name that Kelly cofounded in 1971 with feminists and activists, marking the development of an independent-press movement that went beyond mainstream media in challenging the status quo. Their composition in a quotidian household material places these images in a domestic context—a subtle nod to the connection between public demands for change and rebellion within the private sphere of the home. Their fragility and Kelly’s focus on activist movements also reflect how ephemeral movements can become, mirroring the invisibility of domestic labor.
Diego Perrone’s latest exhibition engages the viewer in a conversation on the relationship between morphology and history. In the first room of this gallery/apartment, Perrone has chosen to “cool” the space, covering the floor with black linoleum onto which he has drawn a large red dragon. This legendary animal is here an iconic element, or rather an extraordinary motif, which is linked to two nearby sculptures in cast glass, each approximately thirty inches tall. Inspired by Alexander McQueen’s “Armadillo” shoes, these latter works feel like a kick to the face, and on close examination reveal an ear and an eye like fragments of a visage. The artist here also plays with chance, since he does not control the various chemical substances held in these works, which change color, particularly under the strong gallery lights. The sculptures also seem to have no texture: At times, they appear to turn into a transparent frame that allows one to see through them.
Along with his interest in alchemical processes, Perrone also plays with the opposition between the coagulation of materials and the instability of forms. On the gallery’s second floor he tackles ancient bas-relief technique. Here he shows five pieces, each created using various materials (plaster, sheet iron, PVC). Molded chairs emerge from the material, like bodies from the bowels of the earth. Four drawings in red ballpoint pen on paper complete the project; their subjects revive the motif of the glass sculptures in the first room, like the cast of an idea that has produced an autonomous image.
Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.
“A Volatile Medium,” the title of this exhibition, is also how Keith Vaughan referred to gouache, the material and technique he employed increasingly in the last fifteen years of his life, following his 1962 retrospective at Whitechapel Gallery. He would often mix his gouaches with other materials, such as vinegar, to further increase the process’s volatility, finding a new sort of freedom in chaos and uncontrollability. As journal excerpts included in the exhibition reveal, Vaughan was something of an automatist, producing inspired studies of the male figure faster than his dealer could sell them.
In Warrior, 1960, a male figure is depicted with his back to the viewer. The background landscape is smudged with swaths of color, as is the figure himself, his body nearly becoming one with its surroundings. Often, Vaughan depicted myriad figures in a single image, the delirious thick black lines that form their bodies intersecting and merging, one on top of another, as in an untitled gouache on paper work from 1975.
That there is a certain degree of gloominess haunting these late works is fitting and understandable, given the circumstances under which they were created. Vaughan wrestled throughout most of his life with depression related to his homosexuality and difficulties in sustaining long-term relationships, although these struggles never depleted the prolific outpour of his work. Indeed, his melancholy may well have helped feed his work’s increasingly expressionistic and dreamlike qualities. He was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1975 and committed suicide two years later, documenting the process of dying by writing in his journal as the pills kicked in. Yet the joyful and desirous frenzy of the line emerging in drawings such as Man Feeding Birds, 1975, implies that art was also, for Vaughan, a zone of happiness, and perhaps the sole domain where the potentialities of hope could flourish.
Jim Lambie’s current retrospective opens with a deceptively simple installation. Shaved Ice, 2012–14, is a crop of brightly painted ladders, all extending from floor to ceiling; a mirrored panel fills each space between the rungs, distorting the reflected room and the visitors in it. It’s a trippy transformation that offers the perfect segue to the hypnotic floor-bound installation Zobop, 1999, which starts at the lower landing of Fruitmarket’s main staircase and proceeds to blanket the entire top floor. Composed of concentrically laid strips of Technicolor vinyl tape that follow the outlines of the gallery’s floor plan, Zobop looks like a Lynda Benglis latex pour crossed with a Bridget Riley canvas, and the work’s effect—even though it has been reprised numerous times since its 1999 debut in Lambie’s first solo show—somehow manages to remain fresh.
Zobop is enjoyable enough on its own, but at Fruitmarket, it also plays up the psychedelic tendencies of Lambie’s sculptures, many of which similarly transform quotidian objects into minor fascinations, ranging from a tinfoil mask lined with men’s underwear (The Kid with the Replaceable Head, 1996) to a piece created out of record-album covers taped together into a serpentine accordion (Stakka, 2000) that writhes over the surface of Zobop. The exhibition is rife with allusions to music and, by extension, to Lambie’s involvement with Glasgow’s music scene, which offers a context for understanding his duct-tape-covered shirts and glitter-bombed turntables. But biography is gravy here. At its best, Lambie’s work is mere play, pure color, unabashed love of junkyard-bound material; it embodies a formally restrained exuberance that feels almost incidentally enriched by a wry (and no doubt intentional) relationship to histories of abstraction and the readymade.
Among the coterie of contemporary artists embracing theatrical installation and narrative—Mary Reid Kelley, Allison Schulnik—Scottish artist Rachel Maclean is emerging as a politicized addition. The upcoming referendum this year on Scotland’s independence sets the tone for this exhibition where politics, celebrity, and the prospect of national unity in the context of the British class system are rendered as allegorical spectacle in luridly colorful CGI. Utilizing green-screen techniques common to film and television, Maclean constructs long-form videos with painstakingly detailed costumes and transformative makeup to invoke a cast of archetypal characters such as Oliver Twist, whose staying power in the popular imagination is nurtured by England’s diffuse pop-cultural influence.
Most beguiling here is a two-channel video, Please Sir. . ., 2014, a tour de force borrowing The Prince and the Pauper’s storyline (1881) wholesale and proceeding in entirely appropriated dialogue cobbled from sources well known in British popular culture. When the Pauper, whose poverty is hammed up by Maclean garbed in artfully ripped Adidas workout gear and greenish teeth, appears before a line of courtiers segregated by a screen at the opposite end of the gallery, his pose and speech are unmistakably ripped from Spud’s interview in Trainspotting (1996). The yawning middle space separating the two would seem to speak to a unbridgeable class divide, but there’s a scene where the Prince proffers the Pauper a goblet-like pipe, curiously assuring him in a velvet-smooth voice that it’s “smack,” then cutting to each in a throbbing club populated by the gyrating peers of their respective class tiers. There’s no difference in the staging of the two; only the cosmetic and prosthetic getups of the revelers differentiate them. Rather, what is performed is a grossly ironic unity engendered under the nagging, faded sign of empire.
With her characteristic font splashed across Modern Art Oxford, Barbara Kruger asks “IS THAT ALL THERE IS?” in her latest exhibition, which consists of a new installation, two video projects, and highlights of her early photocollages. This quandary is as pertinent to the level of critical discourse surrounding her career as it is to the fiber of that individual work. Despite her complicated output, Kruger’s practice often becomes buried under truisms of the Pictures generation—the male gaze, consumer culture, and appropriation. This exhibition of Kruger’s work adroitly proves that her output exceeds such truisms by allowing for an intimate and complex venue for viewing the breadth of her practice.
That Kruger has cited architecture as a major influence should not be disregarded when viewing these works. A variety of green and black words pointing to classes of people—intellectuals, survivors, artists, lovers—covers the gallery’s blistering brick walls from floor to ceiling. This massive spatial overload is followed by a presentation of Kruger’s photocollages. From time to time, pasted words might be slightly mismatched, some even coming over the paper’s edge, creating embodied spaces rather than purely linguistic ones. Similarly, Kruger’s videos Twelve, 2004, and Plenty LA, 2008, comment on the absurdities of human interconnectivity by capitalizing on the gallery space as a medium. Kruger projects Plenty LA onto the corner of a wall, for example, so that the video appears to ebb and flow in space. As this exhibition makes clear, to look outside simplified postmodern frameworks is to approach innovative and unexpected analytical spaces.
After his passing in 2012, this first major UK retrospective of Franz West’s more interactive works has added poignancy, given that it was originally intended to be a collaboration with the artist. The exhibition focuses on his combination pieces, recombined with his friends’ works and grouped salon style, as well as the famous “Passstücke” series, or “Adaptives,” which he began in the mid 1970s. The “Adaptives” are white, biomorphic plaster forms built around metal rods that serve as handles. Four are on display in Adaptives with Box and Video, 1996. Enjoyable objects to touch and wear, these were the result of West wanting to add an extension to the human body. However, as he found the public shy to play with them, West turned to creating furniture, where interaction was more inviting.
West’s idea of sculpture was less like a conceptual game and more akin to exuberant play, in contrast to relational aesthetics as theorized by Nicolas Bourriaud. In a large gallery filled with Ordinary Language, 1995, his signature metal-rod divans covered with vibrant, patterned fabrics, several video monitors screen interviews from The Ordered Oval, 1992–93, a three-hour film West made with Johannes Schlebrügge and Bernhard Riff with individual time slots given over to figures such as Slavoj Žižek. In this environment, visitors find themselves falling easily into thought or conversation—just the effect that West had hoped for.