Sherman Sam

  • 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

    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

    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

    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

    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

  • 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

    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

    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

    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

    “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

    “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

    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:

  • Michael Krebber

    Just as any exhibition held every two years can be called a biennial, a piece of fabric hung on a wall, with or without paint on it, can plausibly be called a painting. And yet, just as the idea of a biennial carries a lot of baggage, so does the notion of painting, and the oeuvre of Michael Krebber constantly works at posing uncomfortable questions about it. 

    This was the second and smaller iteration of this New York–based German artist’s survey, “The Living Wedge,” which originated at the Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves in Porto, Portugal, curated by João Ribas and Valérie Knoll. The

  • picks April 11, 2017

    Zhang Enli

    Zhang Enli’s art stands in opposition to the cynical realism and political Pop of his contemporaries and predecessors. His works are more of a celebration than a critique of daily life. For some time, the Shanghai-based artist has been emptying out the more recognizable content of his canvases. In the beginning, depictions of people gave way to large still lifes; now, representational bits of the world get transformed into vast painterly abstractions.

    For instance, at the center of Tension 1, 2013—the earliest of the ten paintings currently on view—a tangle of emerald ropes wraps around what

  • Anthea Hamilton

    Starting in 1957, writer and former Tate Gallery curator Harold Stanley “Jim” Ede turned four nineteenth-century cottages near the University of Cambridge into a single home, called Kettle’s Yard, in which to display his collection of mainly British modern art. In 1966 Ede donated the property to the university, though he and his wife continued to live there until they retired to Edinburgh in 1973. In the process, Ede created a unique environment for art, characterized by a kind of studious informality. The gallery’s major renovation, now in its second year, provided an opportunity to tour its

  • Imre Bak

    The now-septuagenarian Hungarian painter Imre Bak describes 1968 as a pivotal moment. A visit to Documenta 4 showed him the radical changes taking place across the Atlantic. That, together with trips to London’s Tate in the previous years and his work with a German gallery that exhibited American art, opened the young artist’s eyes to innovations in abstraction—particularly what he called “the emerging American art scene, when the abstract versions of Pop Art appeared, such as Hard-Edge and Color Field Painting (Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly).” Offering a concise picture of the intellectual

  • picks November 22, 2016

    Rodolfo Aricò

    Italian artist Rodolfo Aricò resisted the primary aesthetic trend of his milieu—Arte Povera—and instead took to the developments in painting happening across the Atlantic. Indeed, his shaped canvases call to mind Frank Stella, Robert Mangold. But this former student of architecture didn’t entirely fall in line with the kind of pictorial logic espoused by those Americans. In the pieces on display here, dating from 1966 to 1974, Aricò turned to history—specifically, the arches of ecclesiastical painting and the fundamentals of perspective—to generate his geometric structures.

    For example, the

  • picks November 03, 2016

    Michelangelo Pistoletto

    Michelangelo Pistoletto describes his newest work as coming to him like a mirage. And indeed, the half-submerged golden car, Miraggio (Mirage), 2016, serenely located in a fountain of Blenheim Palace, pops out like a surreal prop from a Fellini movie. For Pistoletto, this work sits at the juncture of the natural and man-made—much like Blenheim’s manicured gardens. But it also points to another clash: Arte Povera. Or rather, the collision of blue-chip status with an art that valued the humble and quotidian. One palpably feels this irony in the octogenarian artist’s unusual retrospective, distributed

  • Jeremy Moon

    This two-part exhibition of works by Jeremy Moon, curated by the young, Glasgow-based artist Neil Clements, consisted of working sketches, studies, and archival material at Large Glass, while at PEER four of his paintings were accompanied by a slide show projected within a large sculpture by Clements. Having studied law and then worked briefly in advertising while maintaining an interest in classical ballet, Moon was inspired to turn to art after seeing the now-legendary “Situation” exhibition at the Royal Society of British Artists gallery in 1960. Aside from a few months at the Central School

  • picks July 06, 2016

    Markus Karstiess

    Within this minisurvey of Markus Karstiess’s sculptures from 2005–15 is a video of him excavating Robert Smithson’s 1969 asphalt pour in Rome, Was die Erde sieht (With the Eyes of the Earth), 2014. The result of this activity is Karstiess’s Scholar’s Rocks, 2015—a craggy ceramic base cradling fragments of Smithson’s work. That artist’s pours celebrated entropy and gravity, while Karstiess’s clay pieces draw on the primeval energies of this planet. His room-divider-like series, “Dirty Corners,” 2013, is another nod to the Land art master, and certainly Joseph Beuys’s “Fat Corners” of the 1960s.