London Art Calendar’s Fiery Re-ignition: What’s In Store For September 2015

Ai Weiwei

August is a notoriously quiet month in London’s artistic calendar. A time of year witness to the widespread fleeing of the capital’s resident art impresarios from its otherwise innocuous grip, the month sees many exhibitions at their tail end pulling in the final throngs of visitors. By the time September 1 rears its head however, it’s a sure signal of the calendar’s fiery re-ignition. In true cyclical fashion, the month ahead forecasts an array of hotly anticipated exhibition openings in the nation’s capital. What follows is a mere petit goût of what’s in store.

Placed indisputably at the top of the list is the Royal Academy’s landmark solo-exhibition of Honorary Royal Academician, Ai Weiwei, opening on September 19th. As the artist’s first major institutional survey in Britain, the show promises a rich survey of Weiwei’s artistic output from 1993 to the present day, with specially conceived works and installations for the RA’s galleries and courtyard. Since 2010, Weiwei’s work has steadily captured the nation’s attention, largely resultant from his monumental sunflower seeds installation in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. With the subsequent confiscation of the artist’s passport by Chinese authorities in 2011, Weiwei’s artistic vision for this solo-exhibition has thus been restricted to a virtual navigation of the RA’s Main Galleries from his studio in Beijing. Just how this could serve to impact the show in its totality remains to be seen but from the initial outset it may reinforce the challenging themes examined in the show: that of creative freedom, human rights and censorship. With works constructed from porcelain, marble and jade to twisted rebar (the steel rods used in the construction of reinforced concrete buildings) the show promises to challenge contemporary conventions of value in a wholly tactile fashion.

Ai Weiwei, Royal Academy, 19 September – 13 December 2015

Image: Ushio Shinohara, Doll Festival 1966

After the success of its 2014 programme, which included the critically acclaimed Matisse: The Cut-Outs, Tate Modern looks set to continue its crowd-pleaser streak with an exhibition exploring the spirit of Pop and Pop art. Arguably an exhaustively curated subject, The EY Exhibition: The World Goes Pop will however seek to ‘explode’ the traditional story of Pop art by looking at how cultures and continents from across Europe and Asia to the Middle East contributed and responded to it. From September 17th, around 160 works produced in the 1960s and 70s will be amassed in a presentation of alternative Pop stories. From the overtly politicised visual language of Kiki Kogelnik’s anti-war sculpture Bombs in Love (1962) and Eulàlia Grau’s photographic montages, the exhibition reveals the subversive underbelly of Pop’s exploration of modern commercial culture. Another key element to the show will be its showcasing of many women artists otherwise omitted from the canon of Pop history including Evelyne Axell, Nicola L and Anna Maria Maiolino. For those seeking to have a selfie with Marilyn, this is probably not the show for you; but those in need of perspective altering art histories should not fail to miss it.

The EY Exhibition: The World Goes Pop, Tate Modern, 17 September 2015 – 24 January 2016

It’s another time of firsts at David Zwirner in their comprehensive exhibition Concrete Cuba opening on 5 September. As the UK’s debut presentation of works by Los Diez Pintores (Ten Concrete Painters) a group active from 1959-1961, this exhibition will focus on the origins of concretism in Cuba during this historic period. Coinciding with radical and political cultural shifts in the country, notably the 1952 military coup led by Fulgenico Batista, this decade marked Cuba’s rising nationalist sentiments and rapid urbanisation. In seeking a new visual language amid this turmoil, Loz Diez Pintores formed to create a form of abstract art which could actively serve a function in the changing sociopolitical sphere. Including works by Pedro Álvarez, Wifredo Arcay, Mario Carreño, Salvador Corratgé, Sandú Darié, Luis Martínez Pedro,Alberto Menocal, José Mijares, Pedro de Oraá, José Ángel Rosabal, Loló Soldevilla, and Rafael Soriano; the show will highlight an array of artistic concerns surrounding theories of universalism and utopianism to those of space and time.

Concrete Cuba, David Zwirner, 5 September – 3 October 2015

Image: Tetsumi Kudo, Pollution—Cultivation—New Ecology (Pollution—cultivation—nouvelle écologie), 1971-1972

‘Kudo’s works looked less like sculpture than like movie props from lurid science fiction films’ – Mike Kelley. If this succinct description doesn’t propel the footfall of Hauser and Wirth’s upcoming exhibition on works by Tetsumi Kudo (1935-1990) then it’s uncertain what will. As of 22 September Hauser & Wirth’s North Gallery will present a key selection of work by the Japanese artist dating from the first 10 year sojourn he spent in Paris (1963-1972). Known for his installations, performance-based work and sculpture, Kudo’s oeuvre is driven by a sense of disillusionment with the modern world; particularly ideas around ‘human progression’ and ‘technological advancement’. Flanked by examples of the artist’s terrarium-like dome and cube series, the exhibition’s main feature will be the room-sized installation Garden of the Metamorphosis in the Space Capsule (1968) – a post-apocalyptic internalised environment wherein UV light illuminates a scattering of body parts, penises and artificial flowers stems. Such disturbing fusions of the biological and mechanical are sure to sound a timely ring with today’s post-technological landscape and the realities of environmental pollution and political corruption.

Tetsumi Kudo, Hauser & Wirth London, North Gallery, 22 September – 21 November 2015

Concurrently in its South Gallery, Hauser & Wirth will present Phosphor on the Palms, Anj Smith’s first solo exhibition in London since 2011. Alluding to the the poem ‘Fabilau of Florida’ by Wallace Stevens (1879-1955), the exhibition will include a previously unseen body of portraiture-based paintings built upon Smith’s Dutch-inspired meticulous detail. Natural elements combine with the man-made to reach new configurations, transcending any formal categorisation in the history of art. Miniature skulls, insects and rodents adorn androgynous sunken-eyed sitters: a macabre display of internalised thought and the permeated boundaries between life and death. Psychologically charged and ambiguous, Anj Smith’s oeuvre reflects the instability of meaning, particularly in painting, and the complexities of representation. For those unfamiliar with the artist, this show will stand for a comprehensive introduction.

Anj Smith | Phosphor on the Palms, Hauser & Wirth London, South Gallery, 22 September – 21 November 2015

Image: Joanna Kirk, Mothership 2014

From 9 September, a comparable redressing of the relationship between nature and the human condition will be explored by Joanna Kirk at Blain|Southern. Comprised of large-scale works in pastel, the artist will present psychologically-infused and complex landscapes inspired by the veritable topographies of Iceland and North Wales, featuring subtle lone figures hidden beneath the immense complexity of pictorial detail. Simultaneously abstract and organically magnified, Kirk’s style very much reflects the intangibility of the concepts she seeks to illustrate; those namely in this show are ideas of motherhood and isolation. For a medium rarely employed on such a scale, this show will demand precise visual attention which will undoubtedly be rewarded handsomely.

Joanna Kirk, Blain|Southern, 9 September – 3 October 2015

Words: Hannah-Rosanne Poulton © Artlyst 2015 all rights reserved


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