• Tim Shaw

    Kenneth Armitage Foundation

    Far off almost anyone’s London contemporary art map is Kensington, the posh residential neighborhood where the only galleries are the sort that might be expected to exhibit small bronze figurines—like this foundation, sited in the former studio of the prominent postwar sculptor Kenneth Armitage. And small bronze figurines, by the little-known midcareer sculptor Tim Shaw, do occupy the top floor, which made the installation hidden at the back all the more astonishing.

    Shaw has spent part of his two-and-a-half-year residency here building Casting a Dark Democracy, 2007–2008, a gargantuan, more than

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  • Julian Rosefeldt

    Max Wigram Gallery

    Julian Rosefeldt’s four-screen installation (Super 16-mm film transferred to DVD) The Ship of Fools, 2007, at first seems a kind of study in art history or visual culture. It features a stock of unmistakable European Romantic motifs, references to landscape painting that double as stereotypical cinematic mise-en-scènes (a moonlit forest at night, early morning mist rising off a lake, and so on), and symbols signposting German political history. However, what initially looks vaguely sociological ends up reading as more broadly structural and philosophical—an excavation of existential preoccupations.

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  • Merlin James/Serge Charchoune

    Mummery + Schnelle

    Over the past two decades, Merlin James has quietly established himself as one of the more interesting painters around, as well as one of the best critics of painting. His work might be taken for that of a nostalgic academic or a postmodern pluralist, but the very fact that these two distinct, if not opposed, identities present themselves suggests that settling on either one would be a misprision of his project. It’s true that his paintings dredge up styles from the past, and lots of them at that, but he neither invokes them as eternal verities nor toys with them with insouciant lightness.

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