Critics’ Picks

View of “Revolt of the Sage,” 2016–17.

London

“Revolt of the Sage”

BlainSouthern | Hanover Square
4 Hanover Square
November 24 - January 21

We live in interesting times—something Giorgio de Chirico signaled to us long ago when he painted Revolt of the Sage, 1916. In this exhibition, that painting’s metaphysical interior is explored through the works of sixteen artists who probe the old T.S. Eliotism of “time present and time past,” mortality, and transcendentalism. One can feel a dark spirit in front of Michael Simpson’s large oil on canvas Squint 33, 2016. At first it appears serene, a pared-back altar, a road to enlightenment. It is, however, the view from a leper’s squint—an aperture built into the wall of a church so that the sick or other “undesirables” wouldn’t come into physical proximity with parishioners. Paloma Varga Weisz’s icon-like Woman, boarded, 2016, carries on this disturbing holy dynamic before we encounter a profusion of images, via John Stezaker’s collages and Sigmar Polke’s manipulated photocopies, that seem to hint at obscure, unreliable truths. Hanne Darboven’s Ohne Titel Monate mit Postkarten (Januar 1990) (Untitled Months with Postcards [January 1990]), 1990, as well as Horst Ademeit’s inscribed Polaroids, play with writing—the information is out of reach, difficult to decipher.

The Night Gallery, 2014, one of three digital projections by Mark Lewis, depicts ancient marble statues tinged with an eerie, alchemical green. David Noonan’s monochromatic silkscreen, Untitled, 2013, is full of James Whale flair, calling to mind the laboratory of a demented inventor. Facing it, Weisz’s Still Life, 2016, presents a body in repose beneath a glass chemistry set. It resembles the morbid double-decker tombs of the Middle Ages. Is he our sage, resplendent in death? Is his final revolt to lie in silence, keeping his secrets from those hungry for wisdom in this time of precariousness? Or has he simply gone to some higher, otherworldly realm? Lewis’s filmic statues smirk silently nearby—they know, but they won’t tell you.