Five Of The Best British Exhibitions 2015 Chosen By George Micallef Eynaud

London Art exhibitions

A truly immersive exhibition featuring a selection of 45 artists brought together by the highly influential American artist Glenn Ligon, Encounters & Collisions is a journey through the shifting attitudes represented through Postwar American Art. The ‘artist as curator’ has already become something of a trope, yet Ligon’s eclectic cast of artists is impressively comprehensive and, more importantly, sensitively considered. It includes key figures such as Cy Twombly, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Richard Serra, Bruce Nauman, David Hammons and Adrian Piper as well as younger practitioners such as Cady Noland, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Robert Gober, David Wojnarowicz, and Lorna Simpson; who all represent in very different ways the loaded issue of American identity and its related concerns surrounding language, power, race, gender and sexuality. This show makes the top of my list for its ambitious curatorial scope and its dedication to an intellectually rigorous examination of some very pertinent issues.

1. Glenn Ligon : Encounters & Collisions Nottingham Contemporary: 3 April – 14 June 2015 Tate Liverpool: 30 June – 18 October 2015 (Top Photo) 

Image: Glenn Ligon, ‘Untitled ‘, 2006. Courtesy of Tate

2. Thomas Hirschhorn In-Between

South London Gallery: 26 June – 13 September 2015

An elaborate smorgasbord of destruction; Hirschhorn evidently revels in the chaotic potential of ruination in this new monograph exhibition. Filling the central South London Gallery space with a sprawling installation with the detritus of our throwaway consumerist society. Based on the quote; “Destruction is difficult. It is as difficult as creation.” by Italian Marxist theorist and politician, Antonio Gramsci; the melancholic allusions of ruins and decay in the romantic convention might make for an all too easy rumination on the passing of time, however Hirschorn imbues the gallery space with an almost jovial generative quality. He seems to be challenging out own perceptions of the way in which we can shape our surroundings, and evaluate them in a new context – a valuable experience in our throwaway times. Hirschorn remains one of the most exciting and singular practitioners working today.

Image: courtesy of the artist and South London Gallery. Photos by Mark Blower and Andy Keate.

3. Works To Know By Heart – An Imagined Museum Tate Liverpool : 20 November – 14 February

An exhibition where the central curatorial remit takes centre stage over the actual material presence of the artworks themselves, Works To Know By Heart – An Imagined Museum takes its inspiration from Ray Bradbury’s 1953 novel, Farenheit 451, which depicts a distant future where works of literature are banished and the only way to save them is to learn them by heart. After viewing the

exhibition, viewers are invited to a performance space where they attempt to recapitulate all the artworks on display from memory. This makes for an interesting conceit and a well-judged re- staging of the themes explored in Bradbury’s novel, but what really made this exhibition for me was the works themselves – and what works they were! On loan from the collections of the Tate, Pompidou and MMK collections, the exhibition collected some rarely seen works as well as those by such artists as Marcel Duchamp, Sigmar Polke, Rachel Whiteread, Barbera Kruger, Bridget Riley, Andy Warhol and others. The stand-out piece for me, however, was Daniel Spoerri’s Shower of 1961, a late-Surrealist flourish that somehow manages to feel both enigmatically profound and hilariously banal. It is one artwork I wont be forgetting any time soon.

Image: Daniel Spoerri, Shower ,1961© ADAGP. Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN- Grand Palais / Philippe Migeat

4. Lee Ufan

Lisson Gallery : 25 March – 9 May 2015

Lee Ufan creates works of exquisite beauty and simplicity. Associated with the Japanese Mono-Ha school and Korean Dansaekhwa group, Ufan’s actions include the fundamental forces of nature, such as gravity and time. For example, he would drop a large boulder unto a pane of glass on the ground, or create paintings utilising only singular sweeping brush strokes until the paint runs dry. The results, for all their considered effortlessness, feel full of resonance in defiance of their economy of gesture. The result is work that although simple is never short of challenging, both physically charged and ethereal, charged with the potential of unseen forces. In the setting of the Lisson Gallery, Ufan’s collected works in painting and sculpture created a meditative haven just off the noise and bustle of Tottenham Court Road. For followers of the artist it was a welcome treat to see so much work brought together, and for newcomers it was a revelatory introduction to a ground- breaking figure of contemporary art.

 Image: Lee Ufan, ‘Dialogue’, 2014. Courtesy of Lisson Gallery

5. Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Verses After Dark Serpentine Gallery : 2 June – 13 September 2015

Having been familiar with Yiadom-Boakye’s work since her exhibitions at Chisenhale Gallery and Corvi-Mora in 2012, it was a pleasure to see her work in the Serpentine Gallery where the usually large-scale canvases could really come into their own, confidently claiming the viewer’s attention inside what could really be an overpowering space full of natural light and enclosed corners. Yiadom-Boakye’s striking range of figures, many of whom are cropped from the characters depicted in the artists stories and writings, are depicted with the painterly flourish of a Singer-Sargent. More lucid and free in her handling of paint then in her earlier works, the black subjects of the paintings present a seductive sense of mystery. Depicted in ambiguous settings and sometimes wearing outlandish costumes or emblazoned with colourful props such as a scarlet macaw (its vivid plumage gorgeously rendered), the figures seem empowered rather than exoticised. These are portraits of individuals; unique, strong, identifiable characters who still manage to speak on a universal level. The accomplished etchings were also an interesting look at other facets of the artist’s practice.

Image: Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, ‘Any Number of Preoccupations’, 2010 Oil on canvas 164 x 204 cm, Dr. Kenneth Montague / The Wedge Collection Courtesy of Corvi – Mora, London and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York 

Words: George Micallef Eynaud Photos: Courtesy Various Galleries