Martin Herbert

  • Ugo Rondinone

    “Every day I set less store on intellect,” writes Marcel Proust in the essay “Against Sainte-Beuve,” privileging instinct and sensorial experience instead. In Ugo Rondinone’s first major London show, he would seem to work in the same spirit, since the exhibition’s melancholic title—“zero built a nest in my navel”—clearly speaks to gut feelings. Indeed, audiences at the Whitechapel Art Gallery initially have little else to go on, experiencing a considerable interlude of rebuffed quizzicality on first entering the galleries, followed by the realization that Rondinone’s cryptic installation is

  • Bob and Roberta Smith

    Brother-and-sister act Bob and Roberta Smith (no relation to the New York Times’s art scribe) is one—or, more accurately, two—of several pseudonymous identities that the British artist born Patrick Brill has adopted while distributing his homespun, semi-anarchic output over the past decade. But more than that, I am Bob and Roberta Smith—or so stated several button badges purchasable at Hales’s entrance; another recurrent phrase was ART NOT WAR.

    Declarative sentences, usually brightly painted on salvaged wood and reveling in the inept graphic flourishes of a novice sign-writer, are the tragicomic

  • Andrew Mania

    Outside is polyglot East London, but once inside Andrew Mania’s show “Gogolin” we are in Poland—albeit a Poland of the mind that compounds past and present, authentic and imaginary. The artist’s name, stenciled next to the entrance, reads as “Andrzej Mania”; the wall beside the reception desk bears a pointedly untranslated lyric from a Polish polka that, I later discover, concerns a woman’s departure from her partner. She’s going to Gogolin, in the country’s Krapkowice region, but she can’t tell him why. Sometimes, as when life feels stale, predictable, lacking romance, you just have to go.

  • CINEMATIC AFFECTS: THE ART OF RUNA ISLAM

    MARTIN HERBERT surveys the artist’s films in which coolly hypnotic, oblique narratives—haunted by the afterimages of ’60s avant-garde auteurs—straddle the borders between cinema and sculpture, art house and art gallery.

    I CAN’T HELP IT: I know the female character in Runa Islam’s five-minute 16 mm film Dead Time, 2000, is merely a cipher, a manipulated integer in a calculus of cinematic affectivity—but my heart goes out to her anyway. There she is in the first shot, framed against a blank sky, nearly expressionless yet radiating a sense of the kind of authentic interior life it often takes a

  • Jaki Irvine

    Soho’s Frith Street is no stranger to spooky goings-on. At No. 22, John Logie Baird invented the television: The crossover between the Victorian inventor’s wave-channeling invention and his belief in Spiritualism was evoked, some years ago, in a series of wraithlike projections by Tony Oursler in nearby Soho Square. No. 60, home of Frith Street Gallery, is a recurring flashpoint for coincidence, as one discovers in Jaki Irvine’s six-part video installation Towards a Polar Sea, 2005. In the opener, the only segment in black-and-white, gallery director Jane Hamlyn recalls how a Craigie Horsfield

  • Martin Herbert

    1 “AN ASIDE” (CAMDEN ARTS CENTRE, LONDON) Making a virtue of the ballooning art world’s deleterious impact on its own epistemology—i.e., no one can get a fix on the whole picture anymore—Tacita Dean’s superb curatorial venture foreswore holistic mastery in favor of a journey through the artist’s own cloud of unknowing. Chance meetings with art and artists (plus several Sebaldian coincidences) guided the collection of this daisy chain of works by, among others, Lothar Baumgarten, Paul Nash, Sharon Lockhart, Joseph Beuys, and Fischli & Weiss. An endeavor few “professional” curators would

  • diary October 10, 2005

    Eat to the Beat

    London

    I expect to be offered psychoactive drugs and scalped tickets outside a concert. But an apple? Then again, the Barbican Centre’s concert hall is used by classical musicians, and this is a Monday night Matthew Herbert gig—or, more specifically, a performance of the British electronica boffin’s recent eco-friendly platter, Plat du Jour. Someone has already pressed a complimentary copy of The Ecologist magazine into my hand, and the audience (gaunt metropolitan girls for whom the apple might be a little fattening and who say “dude” without a hint of irony, guys who work for hip-hop labels like

  • Hurvin Anderson

    Anyone who has visited Trinidad and Tobago—as British-born, Jamaica-descended Hurvin Anderson did before commencing the series of paintings he’s produced over the past couple of years—knows about “liming.” This Caribbean colloquialism has two sides: It’s what locals are doing when languidly propping up the beachside rum bars; it’s what travel brochures say moneyed tourists are up to when firing tennis balls around at the islands’ country clubs. On the evidence of his paintings, Anderson finds lime-time tough. His eye twitchily takes in places that semaphore colonialism (Trinidad and Tobago gained

  • Jonathan Monk

    Jonathan Monk loves first-generation Conceptualists like family: unconditionally and without compunction about teasing them for their foibles. The autobiographical tilt of the British artist’s output ensures its comic, critical impurity, whether in photographs taken on a car journey with his mother whenever she checked the route, wall texts inviting the viewer to dubious future assignations, or animations of both Sol LeWitt’s gouache cubes and a Rubik’s Cube. Monk’s first London retrospective will repurpose the ICA’s lower gallery as storage and its upper gallery as a

  • Michel Majerus

    Also on view at Deichtorhallen Hamburg from November 18, 2005–January 29, 2006

    The chief irony attending Michel Majerus’s tragic death in a plane crash at age thirty-five in 2002 is that his art—eyeball-strafing post-Pop paintings and installations colliding high and low imagery—could have gone on hacking through the mutating forest of signs forever. In Majerus’s view, progress was over and everything in our image-riddled culture was equivalent. These exhibitions—key components in an ongoing retrospective that, by 2007, will have spanned five separate institutions—should

  • diary July 29, 2005

    Wild Palms

    London

    Full of honeyed light, looming tropical fronds, and lazily splashing koi, the third-floor conservatory is one of the quieter corners in that Brutalist warren of exhibition and concert halls known as the Barbican Center. It’d be a good place to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon in its own right, but add in the fact that Cerith Wyn Evans has mobilized this paradisiacal green zone with a chancy, multistrand sound piece—not to mention that the city’s feeling somewhat torn and frayed thanks to the recent terrorist bombings and the police killing of an innocent suspect—and, as was clear from

  • Rezi van Lankweld

    For the longest time, following the example of a writer I considered nearly infallible, I thought the adjective that defined the quality inherent in clouds, rocks, and so on that permits us to see various things in them—perhaps most notoriously the face of Christ—was “magmatic,” and that this word got at the shifting quality of their anthropomorphism. It’d be a fair descriptor of Rezi van Lankveld’s paintings, too, had I not just looked “magmatic” up and found that, oops, it pertains exclusively to the actions of magma. Even so, at a stretch into geological metaphor it fits the Dutch painter’s

  • Milena Dragicevic

    Two or three things I know about Milena Dragicevic: She’s Serbian by birth, raised in Canada, and London based. She’s a twin, and her paintings have previously applied the no-doubt-peculiar feeling of observing something that looks like you but isn’t to the post-Communist East and West. A couple of years ago she made a few too many canvases that diagrammed fashionable nostalgia: Soviet-era modernist architecture floating over color fields or striped backdrops that resembled ’60s American abstraction at its Clem-pleasing zenith of flatness. But she had a sideline in cleverly composed portraits

  • OPENINGS: HANS OP DE BEECK

    The scene is a dimly lit diner. Hemispherical lamps hover over tables whose generic salt and pepper dispensers could date from the ’40s or from today, and the menu—in an unreadable script—furnishes no further clues about where (or when) you are. In any case, the proprietor has shut the kitchen and gone home. Outside the picture window, night has fallen over a landscape bisected by a highway that curves away invitingly. Of course it’s too dreamy to be true, not least because no institution—including GEM in The Hague, where Hans Op de Beeck’s etiolated walk-in environment Location 5, 2004, was

  • diary March 22, 2005

    Hello to an Idea

    London

    One of very few publicly funded galleries in the East End, the Showroom has a civic remit that primarily involves giving deserving artists their first London exhibitions. Last year, though, it expanded its brief to include an annual conference, which is why, during last Saturday’s freakish burst of warm weather, several dozen delegates elected to sit in the gallery’s windowless, triangular back room and listen to Thomas Lawson and Nicolas Bourriaud debate the modernist tropes encoded in The Incredibles. OK, so this was an uncharacteristically light moment but permissible: The conference’s title

  • diary January 24, 2005

    Picture This

    London

    A few days into rehearsals for Tino Sehgal’s Institute of Contemporary Arts show—which took place in the galleries, with staff and invited guests permitted a sneak preview—it was clear that not everyone appreciates the Berlin-based artist’s deployment of dancing, singing, and chattering humans (and nothing else) as art. Sehgal’s works, which seek to embody a categorical shift away from object-based art production, are never photographed or otherwise documented and are usually unencumbered by wall labels. This contributes to a certain mystique, but can also sow confusion. Unexpectedly

  • The Triumph of Painting

    Ostensibly celebrating the Saatchi Gallery's twentieth anniversary, this exhibition opens with a cherry-picking of his collection—forty-eight canvases by Kippenberger, Dumas, Tuymans, and three others—to make the case that Saatchi always knew what was best in painting. Thus awed, we're set up to predict a lasting future for the younger artists whose work he will display in subsequent months.

    While ostensibly celebrating the Saatchi Gallery's twentieth anniversary, this exhibition (actually made up of three parts over the course of a year) looks more like an aggressive defense of the beleaguered adman's taste. It opens with a cherry-picking of his collection—forty-eight canvases by Kippenberger, Dumas, Tuymans, and three others—to make the case that Saatchi always knew what was best in painting. Thus awed, we're set up to predict a lasting future for the younger artists whose work he will display in subsequent months. Sceptics may wonder what

  • London

    UNLESS SOMETHING EXTRAORDINARY HAPPENS VERY SOON, 2004 will go down in the annals of British art history as the Year of the Momart Fire. And—without denying that the immolation of over a hundred artworks (including key pieces by Jake and Dinos Chapman, Tracey Emin, Patrick Heron, and Gillian Ayres) in an allegedly undermonitored East London storage unit is a disaster for all concerned—that’s a shame. Not only because it’s impossible, in retrospect, to separate the event from gleeful attempts by British mainstream journalists to spin it as a supremely appropriate Viking funeral for Young British

  • diary November 28, 2004

    Eastward Ho

    London

    If your evening of private views begins on the gleaming avenues of Piccadilly and officially ends with an undignified scrabble for the last lukewarm bottle of Rolling Rock from a plastic bucket, it’s likely you’ve been on an eastward trajectory. And on a night when the three most promising openings were spread across town, with the less formal East End shows tending to stay open later, there was really no other way to go. I headed first for Dryden Goodwin’s second solo at Stephen Friedman Gallery. A long-term fixture here, Goodwin exemplifies a classic predicament: potentially interesting artist

  • the Turner Prize

    “EVERYBODY GETS A TURN. THAT’S WHY IT’S called the Turner Prize,” quipped Dinos Chapman to Time Out (London) last year, when he and his brother Jake were nominated for the UK’s most prestigious art award. There may be no love lost between the Chapmans and the Turner jury’s chairman, Tate director Nicholas Serota (it’s been widely bruited that the brothers’ public Tate baiting cost them the prize), but here’s one thing they can agree on: Everybody does get a turn. OK, not everybody—no doubt veteran protesters the Stuckists will once again camp out on Tate Britain’s steps during the show’s run,