Eastward Ho

Martin Herbert around London


On the left, Dryden Goodwin, video still from Stay, 2004; on the right, Juergen Teller, Araki Number One, Tokyo, 2004.

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 under-supported by a dealer naturally more attentive to his heavy hitters (Shonibare, Hirschhorn, Rovner). In his first show with Friedman in four years, Goodwin inexplicably gave up half of the main gallery to nugatory grids of badly mounted stills from Stay, 2004, the barreling video-loop tracing journeys through canals, tunnels, and forests that played in the other half. But the portrait and cityscape prints in the back room were superb—multiple perspectives had been etched onto the same plate, showing up as penumbrae of varying densities. Goodwin obviously likes the idea of himself as a modern artist using (and interrogating) modern media, but he's sometimes better when he gets all old-fashioned on us.

By contrast, Modern Art—a fast-rising young gallery with a penchant for edginess—will probably continue to show Juergen Teller for as long as he wants. This exhibition, the German photographer’s second here, continues in the gallery’s recent interdisciplinary vein; like September’s baffling exhibition of stills from a 1969 Kenneth Anger film, it felt calculatedly hip but tangential to what they normally show. A passing artist summed up the pre-show anticipation regarding Teller’s new photographs thusly: “We wondered how many times he’d get his cock out.” Answer: Quite a few. The nudes were interspersed with off-cuts from his editorial photography (including images of Marilyn Manson, Louise Bourgeois, and Helmut Lang) and self-consciously arty images of weeds. Certainly it all looked saleable enough, though the fashionable young crowd at the opening appeared less like potential buyers than window dressing for this cross-media love-in. Best shot: Nobuyoshi Araki, hair and sunglasses flying, serenaded by a middle-aged karaoke singer. Best bandwagon-leap: the press material’s isolation of a portrait of William Eggleston (Victoria Miro is currently holding a sizeable show of the photographer’s work).

On the left, Vladimir Dubossarsky and Alexander Vinogradov, Night Figure, 2004; on the right, Dubossarsky and Vinogradov.

Across the road, in the smoke-filled, wet-floored, sweaty den that their spiffy new gallery evidently becomes on opening night, Vilma Gold—previously a scruffy independent, but increasingly professional-looking—featured paintings by Vladimir Dubossarsky and Alexander Vinogradov. Dealer Chris Hammond, of East End gallery MOT, recounts the artists’ story: Trained in Russia in socialist realist style and subsequently spiking their art with Western influences, they arrived at Vilma Gold (then ensconced in a raw Hoxton walk-up) with a roll of canvases and asked which the dealers wanted. “All of them!” they said. Smart move; full of pictorial cleverness, easy-on-the-eye images of pretty women in pools, latent Soviet exotica, and more-than-passing references to Alex Katz, the work appeared likely to fly off the walls, thus helping to amortize the dealers’ new venue. But if anyone was discussing the artists’ acumen in the packed pub next door, my companions and I missed it by opting for a quiet-looking, old-style dive down the road—where, it turned out, the aforementioned Hammond had curated a forty-two-artist show, scattering the work amidst the dartboards and doodads. There’s no escape from art around here; but, by this point, we felt at liberty to ignore it.