Critics’ Picks

View of “Friends of London,” 2013.

View of “Friends of London,” 2013.


“Friends of London”

The Roberts Institute of Art
111 Great Titchfield Street
June 7–August 3, 2013

Acknowledging London as an intensely productive gathering place, “Friends of London” is an extensive survey of works made by artists living between Britain and Latin America during the 1960s and 1970s. To the credit of its curators, Pablo León de la Barra and Carmen Juliá, this exhibition is felt as much as seen, starting with its structure, which is clearly aimed toward movement as the artworks are arranged in a series of four rooms with overarching titles.

The first is the “Acclimation Room,” where domestic objects like a reclining woven-back planter’s chair (the kind that could be found in the social clubs of Spanish colonial countries) induce a relaxed atmosphere. Nearby, a record player belonging to Brazilian artist and vocalist Cibelle is placed on the floor along with a collection of vinyl recordings by Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso, made while he was exiled in London between 1969 and 1972. Across the room on a wooden newspaper rack hang ten issues of the 1960s London avant-garde art journal Signals Newsbulletin, identifying this space also as one for reading.

The “Documentation Room” is the exhibition’s centerpiece, and includes vitrines, video pieces, and large-scale installations that tell the stories of the artists belonging to these circles. Mexican artist Felipe Ehrenberg’s film It’s a Sort of Disease Part II/La Poubelle, 1970, for example, is a visual recording of the accumulation of garbage as durational sculpture, reflecting similar aggregate strategies used within ’70s Conceptual art practice. Yet the show’s most striking element is not read, viewed, or heard, but encountered, near the entrance, in the “Transitional Room.” Here, David Lamelas has reinstalled his 28 Plaques Placed in Two Unconventional Forms, 1969, a nearly impassible monochromatic expanse positioned in the exhibition’s thoroughfare, obliging viewers to walk carefully between the painted steel panels and into the immersive atmosphere evoked by the surveyed artists. Thus the exhibition becomes a conversion of impermanence from a lived condition to a means of articulation, maintained by an art production network without borders.