Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Frieze Week 2008: Haunch of Venison

Haunch of Venison: Rafael Lozano-Hemmer
written by Ashley Elridge-Ford in London

Haunch of Venison was packed last night, both inside and out, despite the drizzle that always starts to build up to heavy downpours the weekend of Frieze.  The work of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, a Mexican-Canadian artist, is his first solo show in London.  Lozano-Hemmer has a busy few months in London and this exhibition is testament to all of the projects he is working on here in London, as well as elsewhere.  Making our way into the gallery on the ground floor are two works that are best viewed within a quieter room.  We went straight upstairs to the first floor with the intention of returning later after rush hour.  Ascending to the top of the stairs to the right hand side are two large black plasma screens.  As you move to stand before it, a hand lifts like a flower shoot, the palm upheld.  As you move from one side to the other, the hand detects your presence, and that of those around you, and turns to follow your progression like a sunflower following the sun.  
Due to the number of people, there were several of these hands on screen, each rotating as their movements were detected.  Glories of Accounting, 2005, is meant to signify restriction and inclusion and is supposed to feel slightly sinister.  There is something curious about the open palm following your path from one side of one screen to the end of the other, as though the hands take on a Big Brother personality - a watchfulness - and its placement at the top of the stairs is well chosen.  
Glories of Accounting, image: Rafael Lozano-Hemmer
I turn away still uncertain as to the meaning behind the title and hope that the press release will illluminate me further, which sadly, it does not.  Turning left into the gallery the farthest longest wall is covered by a network of light tubes that curve and meander their way across the length of the wall, each side completed by the tubes entering an intercom hung either side, comprising the work Less Than Three, 2008.   As one visitor speaks into one intercom and hastily runs to the other one to see if he can hear himself or strategically places a friend at one end whom he can bellow at, they are disappointed to discover no instant communication carried between the two.  It is only when I place myself at one end, curious to press the silent what-would-be doorbell, that one of the previous participants' sentence is broadcast through the intercom speaker.  Pressing this doorbell or buzzer, let's call it, causes a nonsequential flashing of light through various of the tubes in no particular directed movement.  This random flashing of tubes highlights the possible paths through which communications between intercomes can pass and is very much referential to what takes place in communication daily.
Continuing upstairs to the second floor one ascends into a darkened room that glows with hundreds of minimized headshots from reporters and presenters speaking in a quilt of colour, movement and the soft burble of sound.  Reporters Without Borders, 2008, has been comprised from a database of over 1600 video clips and arranged split on the same wall according to distinctions such as Male/Female or Mexican/US or Light-skinned/Dark-skinned.  It is visually stunning and hypnotic, like watching the television merely to see movement and hear sound but taking in nothing of consequence.  However, the piece becomes more clever because infra-red sensors detect the presence of the viewers standing or moving before the piece and where they are, the faces on screen move and talk animatedly.  Where viewers remain stationary for some time or where people are not, the faces freeze.  There is therefore an ebb and flow of movement constantly taking place across the screens.
Reporters Without Borders, image, artist: Rafael Lozano-Hemmer
The weakest pieces in the exhibition is Airport Cluster Plot, 2001, that overlays thirty-five international airports' floor plans.  It is meant to suggest the 'accelerated movement and hyper-activity of the contemporary global condition', however, after all of the clever, responsive and technologically playful pieces throughout the remainder of the exhibition, this piece is static and disappointing because of it.  Continuing past it, we enter the final room in which is Pulse Tank, 2008.  The room is darkened and a table stands in the centre, a perspex box containing a pool of water is its table top.  Four piped tubes dip their nozzles into the water.  When you place your finger within the nozzle, your heartbeat is translated into robotic solenoids - or rather - your heartbeat causes a pulse to ripple the surface of the water.  This movement of the water rippling is reflected onto the ceiling above left and onto the floor below and they are beautiful ethereal effects that would make stunning artworks on their own.
Pulse Tank, 2008, image, artist: Rafael Lozano-Hemmer
We return downstairs to the ground floor to see Alpha Blend, Shadow Box 7, 2008, and Microphone, 2008.  The former contains a hidden camera that records in four quadrants an image of the viewer as they pass by or stand before the piece, and merges this record with images of people who have passed beforehand.  As with his other pieces in this exhibition, and his work predominantly as a whole, this work requires the presence and movement of a subject to bring it and its capacity to life.  Alongside this is Microphone: a white circular spotlight is aimed at the wall where the shadow from the vintage microphone is elegantly silhouetted.  As a viewer you are instantly drawn to the inviting openess of the microphone laid out for you.  Like a parrot, the microphone squawks back at you the recording of a previous participant and saves your own input for another unsuspecting visitor.
The exhibition was excellent; playful, thought-provoking and engaging.  Lozano-Hemmer's ideas are fresh and insightful.  I very much look forward to seeing his exhibition, Frequency and Volume, at the Barbican's Curve Gallery (until 18 January 2009) and Under Scan on the northern terrrace of Trafalgar Square (14 - 23 November).
The Haunch of Venison after party in celebration of Lozano-Hemmer at the Bloomsbury Ballroom afterwards was fantastic.  Inspiration from Less Than Three, in the guise of neon blue tubing, welcomed the guests into the party rooms where they were greeted with an array of experimental cocktails and canapes served by waitresses in bicycle helmets delivering pizza box trays with an assortment of nibbles, including pizza, to the hungry guests.  Needless to say, it was a fun night.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Frieze Week 2008: A Turn in Taste, Part II

Frieze Week 2008: The Future Can Wait
written by Ashley Elridge-Ford in London

The Future Can Wait

The Truman Brewery is well worth the visit. I knew I was heading in the right direction when a Frieze VIP silver Mercedes cruised past me. How incongruous it looked surrounded by the markets of Brick Lane. The Truman Brewery is home this Frieze Week to Kounter Kulture, The Future Can Wait and the Saatchi Channel 4 New Sensations.

The Future can wait is running for the second year thanks to the hard work and dedication over the last decade of Simon Romney and Xavier Ellis. A stark wide open light space is reached upon ascending the stairs from the street below. The sound piece of Miranda Whall keeps the visitor company during the ascent. Her soundscape is a series of whispered confessions that start with the words, "Is it OK...?" and are the kind of guilty secrets that we all harbour. It is very enjoyable. 

There is a relaxed atmosphere to this fair although I would be hesitant to call it that. It was more of an exhibition of works that are being hosted parallel to Frieze that should in fairness to the visiting public be classified a little more accurately. The same goes for Kounter Kulture. What, one might ask, is it that defines a fair from an exhibition? I would argue that it is a series of galleries showing the work of their artists under one roof. These two 'fairs' merely show a selection of artists' work. There is a big difference. I think they are both worth visiting but it is a misconception to consider them as art fairs. Other artists work to note: 

Emma Bennett's The Dust Covers Everything, 2007, a beautiful still life. She is also being shown at Scope at Charlie Smith Gallery, London.

Kim Rugg's newspaper collages that are also being shown at Scope at Nettie Horn.

Kate McCgwire's Heave, 2008, comprised and composed of pigeon feathers that seem to pour out of the wall like a gushing of water.

Helen Dowling's video piece Breaker, 2008, that is moving and powerful.

Angela Bartram's rather nauseating video piece Licking Dogs, 2007.

Monica Ursina Jager's Never Talk to Strangers, 2008, and Non Grata, 2007.

Andrea Gregson's Headspace, 2006, a surprising intimate little world that reminds me of the toilets at Sketch, Mayfair.

Kounter Kulture 

Kounter Kulture, around the corner and at the back of The Future Can Wait, had a completely different feel. It is the first time the 'fair' has been hosted in London and they have an edgy funky feel that The Future Can Wait does not. As I walked in I was told that all guests had to leave by five thirty because of a "celebrity party". That gave me ten minutes.  As I completed my short trip up the stairs, I wondered what on earth a celebrity party was and why anyone would call it that? Just as well the exhibition was small but - and I emphasise this – it is totally worth the visit. There was a strength in painting throughout the show. The works are innovative, refreshing, colourful and playful. Once again, a plethora of Chinese artists whose works are of the same high calibre as those on show at Scope. There are many on my To-Watch and Wish-List. Some of the highlights are: 

Chen Qiuchi, Tank No. 2, 2008.

Piao Guangxie, entitled 2007 #18, 2007.

Liu Xin Tao's Collapse Night, 2007 No. 20 and Collapse Night 2008 No. 4.

Charlotte Latchum, Untitled 2008.

The photographic work of Rob Carter that unfortunately, due to the stark overhead lighting, I was not able to capture well on my camera. His photographs are seascapes that have been seen before in other notable artists' photographic works but there is an enhancement of colour in these that has not been seen before. 

The very Lichtenstein with a dark twist in the collage and painted works by Hush.

I then happened into the Saatchi Channel 4 New Sensations exhibition where the photographic portraits works of Matthew Robert-Hughes is well worth noting.

Back into Kounter Kulture...

The saccharine and rather frightening paintings by Laurie Hogin, most of which had sold. 
The paintings of Bai Tao.

Frieze Week 2008: A Turn in Taste, Part I

Frieze Week 2008: Zoo Art Fair
written by Ashley Elridge-Ford in London

Ah, the Zoo Art Fair. Firstly, let me say, that I am relieved that due to Haunch of Venison's relocation to the Museum of Mankind that Zoo will need to look for a new space. It is cramped, confusing and not a good venue for viewing as much art at as many galleries as it is prone to. After having seen Scope the previous day, I thought that a good portion of the artwork on display at Zoo was infantile and of graduate student level. Scope, on the other hand, had works of a mature, professional level that seemed aimed at appealing to the discerning, international collector. The work at Zoo is questionably so. It reminds me of being the platform for much of the work that ends up on display at Frieze in the smaller more experimental galleries.

The problem, or perhaps finally, the recognition this year, is that collectors are going for safer bets. This is, in my opinion a good thing but also an interesting one because it seems as though there is a turn in taste. This turn in taste is one that is also utterly apparent at each of the fairs I have been to – from Frieze, Scope, Zoo to Kounter Kulture and The Future Can Wait – many artists have drawn on past masters, past iconic paintings, past styles and subject matter: stark traditional still lives with a contemporary twist; small hunting scenes with a surrealistic addition that speaks of contemporaneity; Victorian Gothic taxidermy. It has been fascinating to see these cropping up.

Have we reached the end of experimentation? Are we reaching an hiatus where artists have fulfilled the zeitgeist stockpile of shock-value useless junk they submit as 'Art'. Pieces that will not be remembered in five or even ten years time? Is it the time in which artists will take a pause, look back and draw once more upon the art historical canon from which they will emerge in a year or two with a new refreshing 
oeuvre of work? Are collectors' tastes also changing? 

With a return to more at-home values through the bursting bubble of capitalism as egg on the face of us all, will collectors' tastes be satiated and soothed by this return to more traditional or conventional works of art? And by this I mean that there is finally a thread that links the art of the past with the art of today skillfully and with talent rather than conceptually and without artistic merit. The pieces that have caught my attention this week seem indicative of this – dare I call it what I am about to? – 
trend and yet they are by no means in the majority. 

It has thrilled me nonetheless to see familiar scenes, styles, genres, peering out at me from walls as diverse as Lord's Cricket Ground, Caruso St John's tent to the Truman Brewery on Brick Lane. Next week I will submit a piece focused solely on this – I shall use the word again – trend. In the interim, please see below the highlights from Zoo, Kounter Kulture and The Future Can Wait. 

Zoo Art Fair 

Shezad Dawood, The Waste Land, 2008, comprised of animal skulls sporting the inscription for the Hindu sacred symbol representing the sound of Om the essence of the entire universe. Paradise Row, London [C3].

MOT International, London, featuring the neon work of Ulrich Strothjohann [D24].

The paintings by Israeli artist, Nogah Engler, that hark back to Leonardo da Vinci's roughly painted landscapes and Madonna's. Ritter/Zamet, London [D36].

Xanada T1+2, London, is showing a truly interesting amalgam of artists' work. Most notable was that of Polly Morgan, called Under Study, 2008, a pigeon placed lying on its side staring away from its reflection with dead eyes as the shadow it throws onto the mirrored glass below it changes shade every few seconds. The other was that of Zatorski and Zatroski called Knot, 2007. The piece is of a swan that had the misfortune of flying into a bridge close to where the artists live on the river. They found it dead and put it in their freezer whilst deciding what to do with it. Placed high upon a plinth, it's neck knotted, is the result [E44].

The carefully chosen etchings by Troels Carlsen that have been painted over with light-hearted frivolity that give the rather Gothic originals a sinister feel at V1 Gallery, Copenhagen. Reminiscent of Jake and Dinos Chapman's Goya series. His other similar piece is dark but amusing [F57].


The beautiful and stark photographic work of Penny Klepuszewska whose mise-en-scène remind me Vermeer's paintings in their smoothness, light and suggestivity. The photographs are of keepsakes and mementos kept my inhabitants of an retirement home residents. ROOM, London [F51].

Monument 1, 03 by Zsolt Bodoni at fa projects, London [A14].

Saturday, October 18, 2008

FRIEZE 2008: SCOPE Art Fair

SCOPE Art Fair Review
written by Ashley Elridge-Ford in London

I returned to Frieze yesterday early afternoon to walk a friend of mine around and it was great to see that there was new work on show; some pieces had perhaps sold but also I know that some gallerists had determined to alternate their display. Could this possibly be their way of not letting on to what has or hasn't sold by doing so? A chosen curated changing display is as indicative of sales as a changing display to fill holes as collectors walk away with their purchased artworks. Or perhaps I am being too cynical. After Frieze we went to Scope Art Fair at Lord's Cricket Ground. This is a slightly bizarre place to host an art fair but the interior of the venue is the nicest I have seen of Scope's venues so far. It looks professional, smart and very well organised.

I have discovered that my taste in art is very much more of a conservative nature - predominantly more and more it is painting that catches my attention - and Scope is full of it. I think that the standard of artists showing at Scope this year is high. Each gallery offers something that is worth stopping and looking at. It is not overwhelming large, packed or crammed full of art. There is a more curated feel to the stands and the fair as a whole. It looks as though Scope has grown up and is the better for it. There is a plethora of artists from China and their work is strong.
The artists and work that caught my attention are the following:
  • Carrie Reichardt's glazed ceramic coated spray cans with a variety of designs on each from Victorian floral to skull and bones Gothic. There are slogans across a couple of them such as 'War is Peace' and 'Fuck the Law ... I Want Justice'. At Forster, London [102].

  • An Doan's Gerhard Richter-esque paintings - Emirates and Nightspace at Galleri A, Oslo [104].

  • The playful Tim Burton-like three dimensional sculptural work of Liz McGrath at Iguapop Gallery, Barcelona. Specifically a Manga-looking porcupine with a transparent midriff in which a late nineteenth century man and woman reside in a caravan [107].

  • The tongue in cheek sculptural busts of Charles Robb at Hous Projects. Robb takes the mickey out of a traditionally very serious medium for portraying dignity and decorum at Hous Projects, New York [124].

  • Noted photographer Hendrik Kersten's images of Vermeer-like women with plastic bags placed upon their heads emulating silks wraps at Dean Project, Long Island City [125].

  • The beautiful ink on white paper drawings built up using the repetition of one work. Shadow is created by overwriting letters from the word repeatedly using a rubber stamp. These are the work of Yoo Seungho and the word is Yodeleheeyoo! The effect is one from traditional Japanese or Chinese landscapes. Miki Wick Kim Contemporary Art, Zurich [122].

  • This theme of stamped repetition is also noteworthy in the work of Daniel Rapley's ink on paper nudes built up through the stamped repetition of the 3 March 2006. London's Vertigo Gallery [127].

  • Liu Fei's Foreigners Who Influenced Me, a Scope Special Project and so-called Cinema Installation; a florescent lit interior as viewed through Lucio Fontano slashed material.

  • Daniel Glaser and Magdalena Kunz's Voices II, 2008, a similar version of which - if not the same - was shown at Scope, Basel, from Gagliardi Art System, Toronto.

  • The slick photographic work by eccentric artist Dorothy M. Yoon who believes Angels direct her art and in some respects her career. Not so unlikely considering some people believe God directs them to rule a nation or declare war on other countries.

  • Of note at Andres James Art, Shanghai, is Venus [132] that reminds me a little of the juicy colourful hper-real work of Wang Qingsong.

  • Xu Weixin's large-scale painted portraits are striking and stunning. ChinaSquare, New York [109].

  • Kimi Sakaki's painting Help Me, 2007, at Gallery Terra Tokyo [134].

  • The delicate paintings of Lee Hyun-Young at art company Misool Sidae, Seoul [137].

  • The painting selection at Polan-Hardouin, Paris, is excellent. Of note are Humberto Poblete-Bustamante and Fred Kleinberg.

Scope is definitely worth a visit this year.

Friday, October 17, 2008

FRIEZE WEEK 2008: Camden Arts Center

Heading out to the Camden Arts Center. We have more coverage of Frieze Week forthcoming: Scope and Zoo Art fairs, Haunch of Venison, and Julian Opie at Lisson gallery.

Sent from my Nokia phone

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Frieze 2008: Jenny Seville

Jenny Seville, Bleach

FRIEZE 2008: Review of Frieze

written by Ashley Eldridge-ford in London

I had fully intended to spend a few hours at Frieze and then move on to The Future Can Wait art fair at Truman Brewery but I found myself at Frieze for seven and a half hours instead. The Frieze Art Fair is extremely enjoyable this year. There is less of a claustrophobic, panicked feeling to it. This is partly due to the design and layout by Caruso St John Architects who have lifted the height of the ceiling of the fair, amongst other things, to give the marquee an openness that has been lacking before, even if it makes the lighting a little starker than usual. The less panicked feeling might also be due to a downturn in sales. Dealers who normally have no time to talk and exude an air of extreme stress that is infectious during the VIP preview were relaxed and willing to have a chat with anyone who approached them on their stand. One interesting thing to note is the lack of little florescent orange stickers that usually tell if a work has been sold, which this year seem to have been banned so that the visiting public cannot tell how few pieces have sold.

The entire atmosphere was different to all of the previous Frieze Art Fairs. I thought that the quality of art has developed and there are certain ideas or motifs that are repeated by a few artists that crop up throughout the fair – like multiple sized framed images distributed across a wall; signed and autographed celebrity photographs; a reinterpretation or a harking back to the subject matter and stylistic techniques of some of the 'old masters' in the history of art: Pointilism; classical 18th century American landscape; miniature Persian painting; formal 17th century Dutch portraiture; Ruben-esque classical scene; Post-World War II thick-painted figurative works. It is a pleasure to take one's time and look closely at each stand, there is certainly a more conducive atmosphere to do so this year. The artists whose work stood out for me are not all contemporary hot shots but their work caught my attention and with so much to look at and choose from, they are worth noting for that alone: they are worth stopping to consider.

Lorna Simpson, Photo Book, 2008, Salon 94, New York [B13]. One hundred and fifty found black and white portrait photographs from the 1940s bought on eBay.

Lorna Simpson, Photo Book

Henrik Olesen's work on Kinship, Cross-Dressing, Pedestry, Lesbianity, Homosexuality, looking at, and highlighting, works of art and texts from the past from those involved in the Arts. At the Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Cologne [C4].

Henrik Olesen

Thomas Hirschhorn's Vitrine murale (Goya), 2007, the piece entitled with 'Portraits of Despair 'above famous works by the artist Goya and an assemblage of heads and other such paraphernalia that could come as much for Goya's work as from the Chapman Brothers'. Galerie Chantal Crousel [D3].

Thomas Hirschhorn's Vitrine murale (Goya)

Richard Prince's All The Best, 2000, 12 C-Print headshots signed by various stars from Cameron Diaz to Katie Holmes. Also, David LaChapelle's Children's Bacchanal, 2008. Both at the Jablonka Galerie, Cologne [D2].
Very similarly and hence worth noting at Casey Kaplan opposite is Jonathan Monk's Anyone, whose anyone? 1998, 21 found signed celebrity headshots [C2].
Washington Sex (Stuart/Brown), 2008, by Glenn Brown at Patrick Painter Inc., Los Angeles [D1].
Ruby Neri's work is worth mentioning at David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles [E6].

Stelios Faitakis' two large-scale contemporary Persian miniature-esque paintings of contemporary culture: an entwined couple sit facing away from each other on their mobile phones, gun wars take place around them. The Breeder, Athens [E17].

Frieze Projects commission by Norma Jeane for The Straight Story, a performance based installation, inviting the public to sit within the transparent cubicles and smoke a cigarette or take a cup of water whilst watching with muted sound the crowds walking past. Strangely, those inside were less inclined to look out than to focus their attention on one fixed point and smoke as though oblivious to their surroundings [P13 square between F23 and F24, F25 and F26].

Norma Jeane for The Straight Story

The exquisitely made cream figurative sculptures in silk by Lin Tianmiao, Mothers! series, 2008 at Long March Space, Beijing [E23].

Magical Artroom, Tokyo, was the second only gallery in which I overhead a couple wanting to buy one of the pieces, that of Daisuke Ohba called Uroboros (woods), 2008. An Impressionist or Pointillist-esque piece that looks quite monochrome from afar but is colourful in metallic hues when one steps up close. Also of note here are the photographs of blown fuses that are colourful explosions by Hitoshi Kuriyama called :. 0=1 – traces of light, 2008 [F34].

Christ as the Light of the World I and II, 2008 by William Daniels at the Vilma Gold Gallery, London, was the second piece I overhead being discussed for purchase [G22].

Casa Triângulo, San Paolo, showing the polka dot hole Old Master reminiscent work of Albano Afonso [F25].

Always a delight to see the work of Richard Wathen at Max Wigram, London [G18].

A playful fascinating table at Lehmann Maupin, New York, by Do Ho Suh, in which thousands of little colourful figures sandwiched between two sheets of glass push and hold up the top sheet. It was receiving considerable attention [F17].

I had been talking about Grayson Perry's maps to a friend earlier this week and I was therefore very pleased to see a version of it, Map of Nowhere, 2008, at Victoria Miro Gallery, London [G5]. Always interesting to look closely and see the humour in these maps.

The captivating work of Israeli artist Yehudit Sasportas at Eigen+Art [F5]. They like only a handful of other galleries have dedicated their main showing space to a single artist (another was Jacob Holding at Team Gallery, New York [G21]).

Two stormy works by Carla Klein Untitled, 2008, at Annet Gelink Gallery, Austria [G3].


Meltdown looming for Frieze?
written by peter duhon in london

Will the parlous global financial crisis dampen Frieze Week? No. Will it affect FW in any way? Irrefutably yes. In fact, it already has but that's another blog post entirely which will be addressed in the future.

The better and more intriguing question during this year's Frieze and beyond is which artist will seize the moment by creating something or a situation that provokes global artistic thought on par with the original FRIEZE exhibition curated by Mr. Damien Hirst some 20 years ago that was actually facilitated by the capricious nature of the art market and economy at that time.

Yesterday, our London correspondent attended the preview for Frieze, so visit again for her report. Throughout the week we will continue to provide coverage of Frieze, the satellite fairs and art openings here in London.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Design Art London Review
written by Ashley Eldridge-Ford

To describe this fair that supposedly merges the worlds of art and design together as bringing 'London to the forefront of the international art and design scene' is a slight exaggeration.  It is, more precisely, a fair that promotes excellence in modern and contemporary design furniture and the decorative arts.  The pieces that are displayed in each of the galleries showing are not unexpected pieces; they are iconic works or those of historical importance and rarity.  

I walked around the fair with two designers whose careers are already well on the rise, Yael Mer and Shay Alkalay of Raw-Edges Design Studio.  Already picked up by Established & Sons, showing currently at the Aram Gallery in Covent Garden and with Arts Co at the Biscuit Building in Shoreditch, as well as participating at the end of the month at the Tokyo's design week, DesignTide Tokyo, I thought that Yael and Shay would be the perfect duo to reflect on the fair that heralds itself as merging the two worlds of art and design.  Shay and Yael's work is playful, beautifully and concientiously made and their hopes to see London recognised as a capital for innovative design are high.

The entrance at Mayfair's Berkeley Square is understated and spacious and the striking exhibition by the David Gill Gallery the summation of everything that design has become known for in typical Zaha Hadid style - flashy silver modules, large-scale works with slick curves, sci-fi looking functional pods and hard frames with soft lighting.  

Yael and Shay tell me after a few minutes of walking around that so far, the most interesting thing for them are that the trees stationary in the park have been included within the marquee and utilised by the exhibitors throughout the fair.  They are quirky and in their respective locations seem to be part of the exhibiting stands.  We stop at the Carpenters Workshop, London, where their eyes are instantly drawn to the work of a friend of theirs from the RCA, Florian Ortkrass, from Random International, the London-based design collective.  His piece, Study of Three Mirrors, is based on an earlier full-length work.  The three 'mirrors' that are approximately 40cm x 20cm have been created using a creative tool that prints the digital information reflected in the white matt surface of the mirror onto itself.  It takes a few minutes for the 'printer' to eke out the image but when it has, a pixellated purple image of yourself is captured on the surface of the mirrors for a few minutes more before it continues in this vein.  

The second eye-catching work for Yael and Shay at Carpenters Workshop is French/Swiss designer, Ingrid Donat's Commode Engrenage II, 2004, the second version of what is deemed to be her most important work.  It is made from cast bronze and has seamlessly incoporated the cogs on each side that spin and twist around each other whenever one of the drawers is opened or closed.

At Mouvements Modernes, Paris, was a perfectly chosen designer called Pablo Reinoso whose work, Thonet 04, 2005, was the epitome of where Design Art are mutually recognisable.  The piece is comprised of one Thonet chair that had been manufactured at the beginning of the 19th Century - pine wooden frame and circular rattan seat - that discourses directly with the collage works of Braque and Picasso during their late - Synthetic - Cubist phase in the early 20th Century.  In this phase Braque and Picasso incorporated various materials, such as rattan or oilcloth, within their collaged paintings.  This Thonet chair reminds me of this work.  There are four seats, each in an advancing stage of weave, the earliest stage the first from the chair and the completed the fourth seat from the chair.  Reinoso created the works by creating a version of each chair in the Thonet catalogue.  I like the way in which, even if unintentionally, art and design meet within these works.

At Demisch Danant Gallery, New York, the work of Maria Pergay caught my eye.  Pergay is a Russian artist now living and working in France who has been creating pieces of design since the 1960s.  She created a bespoke collection for the gallery after a ten year hiatus comprising of between twenty and thirty pieces, according to one of the gallerists.  Draped Cabinets, 2005 (edition of 8), where striated macassar wood pulls back like a curl of silk fabric to reveal the stainless shiny steel skeleton of the cabinet.  A large steel safety pin adds a little rock'n'roll edge to the pulled back waved material that acts as a door handle.  The macassar door opens fully to 180 degrees to reveal shelving within.  Influenced strongly by fabrics and fashion, this and her second piece of note on the stand is Bracelet Pouf Color, 2007 (edition of 20).  This stool-looking piece is made from enameled stanless steel formulating a squared buckled belt.

Moving on, we stopped at the Clara Scremini Gallery, Paris, to look at the spiked sharded glass pieces that serve no function other than the decorative.  These two Cubes, 2008, reminded me of the work of David Altmejd (showing at Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London, from this week until 15 November) in its icy glued aggression.  They are the work of the German artist and designer Josepha Gasch-Muche.  The second piece that stopped Yael and Shay in their tracks was the work of Finish artist and designer Anu Pentinen.  There were a few of her rounded shallow moulded glass bowls that portray in bright colours against the black glass, the design of the streamlined anonymous streets of Paris.

At Christian Grajales Inc, New York, the work of Sebastian Errazuriz stood out.  Not only his now iconic Wing Chaise Longue, 2008, but more specifically his Piano Wall Shelf Unit, 2007, created from rauki wood painted white.  The shelf unit has four shelving platforms that look like like small white picket fences.  The segments of the shelves can be lifted vertically or placed horizontally to become functional.  One of my criticisms of the fair is that it would be more interesting if the galleries focused their curating abilities on one particular artist, which would avoid the House&Home stage-set feel of the entire fair and I applaud the news that Christian Grajales Inc. intends to do just that at Design Miami Beach in December.

This did become a real bug bear of mine, this and the fact that there was hardly any work that could be classified as innovative and exciting that warranted inclusion in a fair entitled DesignArt.  This fair defines itself as the home of DesignArt and yet the majority of works on display are defined as classics from the design world.  Are we reclassifying them?  Is that the purpose of this fair - to take these pieces from their previous classification as design icons and reclassify them as works of designart?  Does the fair intend to reclassify all design as art?  Or are they jumping on a newly popular bandwagon in the hope of making more sales?  If this is the case then it is the second bandwagon that DesignArt is hijaking; the other is that of a satellite fair to London's Frieze and its counterparts - each of which shows only contemporary art. 

Discussion over coffee with Yael and Shay

Yael and Shay seem despondent.  I asked them why. 

SHAY ALKALAY: The fair seems to be a market aimed solely at generating business.  The galleries are showing pieces that are very much expected to be shown in a fair like this without trying to push the boundaries in surprising new directions. And if DesignArt is the second name to experimental design, no such experiments where found.

(Is this not what all fairs are about, I ask myself rather cynically.)

SA: A lot of the pieces are neither design nor art, they are merely decoration.

YAEL MER: Many of the gallerists are preserving excellent qualities from past periods that are important to the history of design, even if they are not new.

SA: As designers coming here, we see that there is lots more for us to do.  Looking at the contemporary design being created around us every day, you see what you can do to add to what is being done around you.  Looking at the museum quality pieces here, you see how far design has come.  You also see how it has developed so little if this is what is classified as 'contemporary design'.

YM: Design art is mean to be experimental but this is just not.  There are these shiny three-dimensional pieces and the old familiar modernist pieces but they cater to two mainstream tastes.  This is a perfect platform where experimental design could be shown.

SA: It is interesting that the galleries, such as Gallery Creo and FAT Gallery both in Paris, Nilufar in Milan or Libby Sellers from London, that are specifically dealing with experimental design are not participating in this fair.  DesignArt seems to be merely a marketing name and not representative of what is being created by the merger of these two fields.

YM:  It would be so much more interesting if designers and artists were invited to collaborate together, or young designers invited, to create something different for the fair or if the gallerists focused their curated stands on singluar designers' work.

The final push for me - and I will not name galleries - was seeing traditional artworks - paintings and drawings - hanging on the walls behind the pieces of design filling the stands.  These galleries are not exhibiting works that merge design and art, they are exhibiting pieces for sale at an interior design fair.  On the Parisian scene the organisors of DesignArt London also host the Pavilion des Arts et du Design, which is testament to the history of the French decorative art tradition.  Bringing this established concept across the Channel to London raises the question: does this fit in with the London contemporary design scene?  It certainly doesn't fit in with the contemporary London art scene and I would argue, based on the comments od Yael and Shay that it doesn't fit in with the contemporary London design scene either.  As a fair for interior design and the decorative arts it is very beautifully curated and staged and the works are indeed expertly and carefully chosen for their quality and their history.  As a fair paying hommage to great iconic modernist pieces this fair excels itself.  However, it doesn't work as a contemporary design fair that claims to bring together the worlds of art and design.  Unless, of course, their intention is to reclassify design as art and if it is, then I think this raises some interesting questions about it's positioning.  If this is so, it might make more sense to host the fair at another time of year and give a more experimental design art fair the opportunity to use its platform.

Yael Mer and Shay Alkalay are currently showing in London at Under the Same Roof with the OKAYstudio at the Aram Gallery and From Now to Eternity with Arts Co at the Biscuit Building in Shoreditch  They are to show at DesignTide Tokyo : at the end of the month.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


written by
Ashley Eldridge-Ford in London

Josiah McElheny, Island Universe
White Cube, London

The run up to Frieze Art Fair began last night with openings at White Cube Hoxton Square and the Victoria Miro Gallery. The venues were busy, both inside and out and gave an energetic but laid-back foretaste of the upcoming the week.
Josiah McElheny's Island Universe (until 15 November) at White Cube was his second with the gallery. The ground floor was host to a series of five sculptural installations that are exploding scientifically accurate models of the Big Bang theory. Each piece is made from highly reflective chrome-plated aluminum, with rods of varying length that radiate from a central sphere. Each rod is completed by a cluster of objects such as smaller rods topped by hand-made glass discs and globes or a single light.

His influence seems to have come from the chandelier designs of JL Lobmeyr, specifically those in the Metropolitan Opera House. The design of these chandeliers and the discovery of the first data supporting the Big Bang theory both occurred in 1965 and McElheny considers that the conjunction 'of these two events in the same year is representative of a time when our understanding of modernity started to fall apart, to be replaced by a new set of narratives.' Just quite what these new narratives are is not expounded in this exhibition.

These sculptural chandeliers were created with the collaboration of cosmologist, David Weinberg: the varying lengths of the rods are based on measurements of time, the clusters of glass discs and spheres accurately represent the clustering galleries in the universe and the light bulbs mimic the brightest objects that exist: quasars (powerful and distant active galactic nuclei that are beautiful colourful explosions of shapes and light). These five sculptural installations are what cosmologists call 'The Multiverse', which are a set of variations and materialisations of other potential universes.
The upstairs gallery displays a film that is divided in five parts, each named after of the varied types of Multiverses displayed below and the theoretical structure of each element, such as Small Scale Violence, Frozen Structure and Late Emergence. The film pans around the Lobmeyr chandeliers and gives intimate close ups that reveal clustered dust motes that shiver with a breeze or a breath of air.

The soundtrack was commissioned from Paul Schütze, the Australian ambient and electro-acoustic musician. It is an ambivalent soundtrack with piercing sporadic notes and repetitive rhythm that might be better suited in the build-up to a particularly gory scene in a horror film. The filmed scenes are not flowing or linked, they are rather pieced together focuses on one or another of the chandeliers or the choreographed movement of them as they are lowered and raised. The short sharp switches are in harmony with the musical score only in this malcoordinated respect. The choreographed movement of the chandeliers were quite beautiful, as were the scenes when the lights have just been switched on or off and the bulbs glow within their mass of glass from the centre of darkness. These effects highlight the possibility of the beauty of the pieces in the room below.
I thought that the sculptural installations would have been more beautiful in a dimmed light within the gallery so that the sculptures could better be seen for their inherent beauty as representations of possible universes. This is what comes across more from the exhibition, after all. These pieces have been created as works of art that merge with metaphysics but also works of art that merge with design.

Are they stronger as pieces of design for their metaphysical representation? The works on their own without any additional information are merely intricately constructed lights that make one question whether there is any existing line between art and design these days. Is White Cube showing works of design written up as art? What makes these pieces and this exhibition art? Yet again we are left with the answer that these pieces are Art because of the concept behind them. I am unconvinced by the film being classified as art, it has none of the marriage with the music that one would like - so that at least it would feel as though the edited shots and the music had been coordinated within the same piece, even if discordent. There is the distinct feeling that the filmic shots are doing one thing whilst the music quite another. The Island Universe pieces downstairs are conceptually interesting but as lights, not as beautiful to look at as the Lobmeyr chandeliers subject of the film upstairs.
Emgreen & Dragset, Too Late
Victoria Miro, London

Victoria Miro opened Emgreen & Dragset's latest exhibition Too Late last night also (until 15 November). With the announcement of the winner last Saturday night of the architecturally renown Sterling Prize, my consideration of the importance of buildings for their influence on society and social behaviour is heightened.

Paraphrasing presenter Kevin McCloud, what if a building could change the society surrounding it, those who use the spaces every day, for the better? Wouldn't that be indicative of the power that a building can have and justify its creation more so than to merely look good? This has made me ponder the role that art can play within society. Wouldn't it be incredible if art could do something similar on such a large scale?

Not only do the buildings that were nominated for the Sterling Prize, and so many other buildings, put architects in raptures but they also have a direct effect on the general public. Frieze Week with all of its various activities and exhibitions taking place throughout London is important for all of those actively involved with it. Does it touch in any way those not in the art world and those not interested in the art world? People do not walk around with their eyes shut, hence they are bound at some point to see the buildings around them.

Likewise, I would like to argue with art. However, perhaps both can be missed if the person looking is not sufficiently aware of their surrounding? Is the appreciation of the Arts therefore dependent on awareness?

Elmgreen & Dragset use 'design and space to influence and reflect social conventions and behavioural patterns'. The architectural interior of the Victoria Miro Gallery has been transformed by their several interconnecting large-scale installations. Throughout mid-November the gallery is to appear as 'The Mirror' representative of a party that has ended long before with lights still blinking and a solitary disco ball spinning above an empty dance floor.

Too Late
reflects on the loss of common social ground through greater government controls and restrictions - from licensing and smoking laws, stringent surveillance to economic exclusion - and personal interaction minimised and stunted by - paradoxically - increasingly alienating online platforms such as Myspace, Facebook and Gaydar.

The artists intention with this installation is the 'reversal of the gentrification process and a disruption of socially sanctioned ways of behaviour'. Unlike the nominated buildings for the Sterling Prize, this exhibition is more of a strongly worded critique of contemporary social culture rather than an opportunity to rectify and influence it for the positive.

Although, perhaps one could leave and feel additionally buoyed up as one gets carried away with the hubub of Frieze Week that does somewhat put into question the truth suggested in this exhibition. If anything, the exhibition enables us to find a common social ground - are we not all there for the same reason: to look at art? We are part of the art world and as such art influences us through every interaction we have with it. Will it influence society? Doubtful.

However, our feelers are up and as we trawl London from East to West, we will be on the lookout to see whether it might. Certainly the popularity of Frieze and its satellite fairs, as well as the exhibitions and installations that take place during this period are indicative of the social change that took place in London - our city's very own Big Bang commenced with the launch of Frieze.