Sherman Sam

  • Leon Polk Smith, Constellation Q, 1968, acrylic on canvas, 55 3⁄8 × 47 3⁄8". From the series “Constellation,” 1965–73.

    Leon Polk Smith

    This refreshing first solo exhibition in London of the work of the American painter Leon Polk Smith, who died in 1996 at the age of ninety, not only afforded British audiences an opportunity to discover a pioneer of hard-edge painting but also offered a nuanced view of what’s possible in abstraction. Spanning the years 1966 to 1970, the show consisted of eight rarely exhibited, multipart shaped paintings (including five drawn from the artist’s “Constellation” series, 1965–73), and a large, freestanding doubled-sided screen.

    The “Constellation” works are generally regarded as a high point in

  • Lucy Dodd, Miss Mars, 2018, squid ink, hematite, onion skins, liquid smoke, avocado, phosphorescent pigment, and acrylic on canvas, 10' 2“ × 15' 2”.

    Lucy Dodd

    Imagine Kandinsky as a feminist performance artist channeling Beuys while painting, and you might get a sense of Lucy Dodd’s sensibility. Her first London show, “Miss Mars,” was inspired, she has explained, by both a legendary East London pub, the George & Dragon, and her newborn daughter.

    Dodd conveyed the idea of dragon slaying not with an image, but with wild spurts and spatters of pigment across canvas, as well as with her works’ titles: for instance, The Slay, The Sting, The Blow (all works 2018). Dodd’s is a revamped form of action painting; one is always aware of the artist’s sweeping

  • Caitlin Keogh, Playing a Song, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 72 × 54".

    Caitlin Keogh

    The charm of the six large paintings in “Alphabets and Daggers,” the first London solo show by the New York–based artist Caitlin Keogh, lay in their enigmatic nature. With their flat forms, bold outlines, and complex color palettes, these thinly painted, Pop-ish acrylic paintings combined motifs drawn from a wide variety of sources—from medieval marginalia and Victorian pottery to William Morris wallpaper and Fritz Kahn infographics—into compositions characterized by a beguiling, dreamlike lucidity. For instance, the mottled green ground of A Name is a Ribbon (all works 2018) morphed

  • Beth Letain, Winkles, 2018, oil on canvas 74 3⁄4 × 67".

    Beth Letain

    The eight paintings in Beth Letain’s first London show, “Signal Hill,” came as a breath of fresh air to those of us caught between the hectic chaos of the Royal Academy of Arts’s ever-popular salon-style summer exhibition and the London art world’s dominant ethos of post-YBA knowingness. The appeal of the Berlin-based Canadian’s stripped-back abstractions lies in their breezy sense of touch and rhythm delivered on a majestic scale.

    Letain constructed these large works—the smallest measures more than six by five and a half feet, while the biggest is about eleven and a half by ten feet—by

  • Walter Swennen, To Mona Mills, 2015, acrylic on canvas, 67 × 63".

    Walter Swennen

    Given his loosely painted figuration and freewheeling combinations of words with overlapping Pop imagery, Walter Swennen could easily be mistaken for a neo-expressionist. However, the thirty-six works in this small survey of the Brussels-based septuagenarian artist’s production underlined his continuing exploration of how to put a painting together. Along with canvases from the past four decades, it included one sculpture, a painted metal disk, and two large rolls of painted paper.

    Swennen studied psychology, wrote poetry, and taught psychoanalysis before seriously picking up a paintbrush in

  • View of “Fernanda Laguna,” 2018. From left: 56, 2013; 57, 2013.

    Fernanda Laguna

    Fernanda Laguna is an inspirational figure to many in Buenos Aires, where she was born in 1972. Though she is an artist, curator, activist, poet, and writer, her direct influence has come above all through the various project spaces she’s run there since 1999. Among them is Belleza y Felicidad (Beauty and Happiness), a space she cofounded with the poets and writers Cecilia Pavón and Gabriela Bejerman, which existed from 1999 to 2007 before morphing into a publishing house still active today. Laguna’s first solo show in the UK, divided into two separately titled parts, displayed some of the

  • Bjarne Melgaard, Untitled, 2017–18, oil on canvas, 70 7/8 x 70 7/8".

    Bjarne Melgaard

    Bjarne Melgaard’s recent exhibition had two parts, each separately titled. “Bodyparty (Substance Paintings)”consisted of fourteen works populated mostly by bulging-eyed, penis-faced figures with multiple protuberances; “Life Killed My Chihuahua,” meanwhile, was a takeover of the gallery’s Instagram account. Most of the square canvases (all Untitled, 2017–18, and measuring roughly seventy inches by seventy inches) that made up “Bodyparty” sat on marble tiles and leaned against the wall; four were propped up, back-to-back, in the middle of the room. Packed tightly into a small space, the front

  • Phillip King, Colour on Fire, 2017, waterbased polyurethane paint on polyurethane, polycarbonate sheet, 7' 6 1/2“ x 15' 11” x 4' 11". Photo: Luke A. Walker.

    Phillip King

    This two-part exhibition took place in both of Thomas Dane Gallery’s spaces: In one presentation, titled “Colour on Fire,” Phillip King showed two new polychrome sculptures; in the other, titled “Ceramics 1995–2017,” he displayed thirteen large clay objects. Together, the works showed him continuing to expand the notion of sculpture-in-the-round by exploring materials and inventing forms. Colour on Fire, 2017, is a freestanding, four-part work constructed from painted sheets of polyurethane foam. Two rectilinear elements—in pink and green, respectively, both riddled with cylindrical holes

  • Martha Jungwirth, Untitled, 2013, oil on paper on canvas, 56 1/8 × 76 5/8".

    Martha Jungwirth

    Martha Jungwirth’s first exhibition in the United Kingdom coincided with a period of broader international rediscovery. The Viennese septuagenarian was the only woman in the loosely gathered, short-lived Wirklichkeiten (Realities) group that exhibited together in 1968–72: The figurative painters offered a counterpoint to the prevailing Minimal and Conceptual tendencies of the era as well as to the local Vienna Actionists. But until lately, her expressive paintings have rarely been shown outside of Austria and Germany. This exhibition consisted of thirteen works made between 1998 and 2015, in

  • Bernard Piffaretti, Untitled, 1999, acrylic on canvas, 78 3/4 x 98 3/8".

    Bernard Piffaretti

    “Calligram” was Bernard Piffaretti’s first solo show in London. With nine paintings dating between 1988 and 2017, it also provided a tiny snapshot of his range and approach. Born in Saint-Étienne, France, in 1955, the Paris-based artist has since 1986 been making abstract paintings that are always divided in half along a central, zip-like, painted line, with one side a near repetition of the other. Always, the center line is the first move, the starting point; whether he then continues by painting on the left or the right varies from work to work. A subtler continuity within Piffaretti’s oeuvre,

  • Jiro Takamatsu, Oneness of Brick, 1971, paint on brick, 2 3/8 x 8 1/2 x 4". © The Estate of Jiro Takamatsu.

    Jiro Takamatsu

    “The Temperature of Sculpture” was an ambitious first survey of Jiro Takamatsu (1936–1998) outside his home country of Japan, significant not only because Takamatsu is a seminal postwar avant-gardist, but because the show was designed around key moments from his exhibition history. The seventy-two items on display included objects, photographic documents of actions and installations, sketches, and diagrams. Focusing on the period between 1961, when Takamatsu turned from painting to sculpture, and 1977, the year of his inclusion in Documenta 6, the show was divided into sections based on key

  • Tony Cragg, Migrant, 2015, bronze, 86 5/8 × 59 × 57 7/8". Photo: Michael Richter.

    Tony Cragg

    Peter Murray, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s director and the curator of “A Rare Category of Objects,” described the show as a survey rather than a retrospective of Tony Cragg’s work—a representation of the “state of [the artist’s] thinking at present.” With fourteen large sculptures dotting the grounds, and 143 works including drawings, prints, and photographs as well as sculpture housed in four galleries and a small project space, the exhibition consists mostly of recent pieces, interspersed with a handful of key historic ones. 

    The park’s Underground Gallery houses the bulk of the show: