The Old Sorting Office, New Oxford Street, London.W1
Until August 29th
LA-based street artist, Thierry Guetta, aka Mr Brainwash, has risen to international eminence over the last decade. He featured in Banksy’s Exit Through the Giftshop and also designed the cover for Madonna’s Celebration album in 2009.
In his first UK solo show, Thierry has taken over the gigantic vault-like Old Sorting Office, transforming the former Post Office property into a wonderland of brash large-scale installations.
Several life-sized horses, washed with primary paint overlook popular icons, depicted in collage and vinyl.
The crowds can’t seem to take enough photos of the work on display which is a spectacular and tangible narrative about the process and defiance of performance art. The artist has clearly had as much fun creating a giant gorilla out of tires, as more intricate iconic portraits and tableaus.
Brainwash also clearly loves paint, which is dripped, splashed and drenched over otherwise perfect Conran chairs and tables, using the empty paint cans to then assemble new sculptures.
Attendees are generously lavished with posters and postcards as they leave.
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Lello // Arnell – Echo Chamber
Beers.Lambert Contemporary, ECI
Until August 12th
Jørgen Craig Lello & Tobias Arnell are a leading duo, currently making waves on both the Norwegian and wider contemporary art scenes.
Beers.Lambert present the pair’s first solo exhibition in the UK. This challenges what viewers expect to see, deconstructing shapes and motifs from everyday life.
The exhibition combines photography, collage and painting to do this, resulting in a monotone, modernist aesthetic. On closer viewing we realise this is highly reductive and quite political. For example a world map is reversed, rendering it loaded with commentary, perhaps on its Western bias, yet useless.
What appears to be a lamp is presented as a dark deformed and useless sculpture. Their work frustrates and is disquieting at times. This makes the viewer appreciate the value of ergonomic design and the political potential of objects.
Optimism, shock and awe
When the tired, pollution stained Southwark Towers was demolished by a 100,000 lb wrecking ball and workmen started laying the foundations for Renzo Piano’s Shard of Glass in 2008, many Southwark residents felt a surge of optimism on seeing the image of Europe’s tallest building, half a kilometre from their doorsteps.
Over the last four years that optimism has alternated with architectural pride, a forced and tested trust in technology, incomprehension of its scale, a sense of material inequality, awe, not to mention momentary paralysing vertigo.
The bold, simple and futuristic lines of the building championed London as the home of cutting-edge design: especially as it embodied architectural values which Britain has historically shied away from. It marked a possible paradigm shift.
Some environmentalists and most urban planners also champion it for encouraging vertical development, which reduces urban sprawl and reduces the resources, needed to transport consumers to out-of-town business parks.
Gusty winds and vertigo
Towards the end of 2010, St Thomas’ Street, at the foot of the tower, had noticeably been transformed into a virtual wind funnel. Awe alternated with nervousness as local workers contemplated 5-ton concrete crane counterweights suspended above their heads, whilst rushing to work.
Anyone looking closer would have noticed that the cranes themselves were clamped onto the sides of the Shard, stretching our trust in the construction sectors capacity to innovate, literally to new heights.
As gale force winds blew grown men over in January 2012, construction was paused. Even then, the Shard was terrifying against the freezing winter sky, reflecting the surrounding electric glows and twinkles, like the Terminator’s sunglasses.
As I introduced it to my five-foot tall mum, I was reminded of the hobbits beholding Mount Doom. Personally, I couldn’t look at the tower without feeling a bit sick and easy to crush. I felt some relief when the rain gave me an excuse to put my umbrella up, like a shield against its looming presence.
Appreciable from a distance
In Spring 2012 construction of the outer shell of the building draws to a close. Londoners may take pride in the Shard from the many vistas it commands around South East London. From here the full shape and effect of the development can be appreciated.
As the London region is the shape of a bowl, the Shard easily stands out from outer London boroughs, as far away as Harrow-on-the-Hill, 50 kilometres away in West London. Here it pinpoints London Bridge Station like a Monopoly piece. At night, from the warren-like side streets of Elephant and Castle, it functions as a helpful Northern Star.
Bolstering London’s two-tier housing market
However, the idea of the tower growing, like a column of bar chart indicating the level of economic regeneration to the London Bridge area, now seems more far fetched. As the upper floors of Europe’s tallest building are transformed into world-class hotel suites and pent houses, Southwark will now become one of the worlds most unequal neighborhoods for house prices.
Homes in the Shard are forecast to sell for £30 to £50 million each, demonstrating that the development is more likely to bolster the gulf between London’s two-tier housing market, for the foreseeable future, rather than bring tangible benefits to the local community. Unless partnerships are organised to develop supply-chains with local businesses the tower risks becoming an isolated bubble of wealth.
Material inequality, which one aspect of the Shard represents, may be tastefully out of sight so many floors above us. As it looks down its nose at us, how can this inequality not be tangibly sensed, when the building which contains it so jarringly reminds those at its base how tiny we are?
Follow this writer at @sssukiii
By John Rogers
Steve Roggenbuck is an American poet, video blogger, vegan, buddhist and internet celebrity who creates a continuous stream of output via his Live My Lyf webite.
If you happen to decide Steve is doing something brilliant and get totally interested in his lyf and his work, you can donate money to support his travelling and blogging here. He says: “This winter I decided to drop out of my school and travel the country to stay with friends while I blog/write full-time. I’m doing this because think I’ve found my lief purpose in blogging, and I’m stubborn about doing anything else. If you want to support me in following my dreams, and you don’t really need a t-shirt, then I am very very grateful for your donation. Thank you so much friends. Your support means so so much to me. I am working hard to be your poet.”
By Alan Hindle
I don’t think I learned anything at art school except a deep distrust of the art world. Everything I know about drawing I stole from Ronald Searle. It’s inexplicable, but I have only to look at the scratchy, squiggly, pulsing lines of his doodles and I’m happy. I always thought maybe, somehow, I would go to France and bribe my way with a bottle of champagne to an audience with Searle. Now that will never be. Ronald Searle has died peacefully in his sleep at the age of 91.
Every cartoonist since the fifties has been influenced by him, whether they are aware of it or not. His visual record of life and death in the Changi prisoner of war camp, created under devastating conditions and at huge risk, are still powerful today. But what he is best known for are the joyously raucous illustrations of his St. Trinian’s cartoons and the Molesworth books he did with Geoffrey Wiilans, followed by his gloriously human cats, travel illustrations, caricatures, and intensely detailed, baroquely curliecued cityscapes. His commercial illustrations helped shape the look of glossy magazines after WWII, right through to the seventies and his legion of devoted acolytes/grateful thieves now permeate the graphic design world.
He will be missed. I will miss him. But at least, whenever I scribble my own doodles, I am tapping into my love for his work and feel a little of that happiness still.
By Mike Pollitt
Today is officially London sculpture unveiling day! First, the bizarre, massive Ronald Reagan near the US Embassy:
According to the Beeb, the statue proclaims: “Ronald Reagan won the Cold War without firing a shot”. Which translates as “Stop your boasting, once oppressed peoples of Eastern Europe. It was the rich white American wot won it.”
Now compare Anish Kapoor’s Sky Mirror unveiled today in the City:
It’s, inclusive, interactive and pretty. The Reagan statue is intrusive, redundant and ugly. I really hope that the age of boring statues of rich men is pretty much finished now. Off with their heads, says I!
And let’s not forget this blast from the past, where Ronald Reagan denied illegally selling arms to Iran to fund his illegal war in South America then was caught and made this breathtaking apology.
By Lauren Down
All photographys by David Levene, Courtesy of The Hayward Gallery
Little remains unknown about Tracey Emin, as her life after all is the subject of her very public art works: from the drinking, the sobering, the parties, her travels from Margate to Spitalfields and the emotional trauma in between. Inextricable then she seems to have made art and life, her trademark quilts and signs embroidered with violent outbursts of hate and understated pans of sadness.
Whilst some still remain unconvinced by Emin’s particular brand of nostalgic, self-indulgent artistic explorations this major retrospective is easily her finest to date and one that might persuade even the harshest of critics.
Spanning the length and breadth of her career, ‘Love is What You Want’ is from the start expertly curated by Ralph Rugoff and Cliff Lauson. Matching the melodrama of the artists oeuvre with the layout of the exhibition, the pair have laid out some of Emin’s most famous works in and amongst lesser known, seldom seen pieces of painting, video and photography. Drenched in a pink a hue, ‘Knowing My Enemy’ – a partially collapsed pier – stands tall in the main room, looking over her famous blanket confessionals as the neon light flickers.
Soon we are lead down a dark corridor, with the black walls framing her luminescent neon signs that blaze in lavender purple, bright pink, blue, white and green.
As the Western Cowboy inspired film plays out at the end of the room, the entire exhibition is awash in its soundtrack as the lights static fizzes underneath. The sexually provocative and fiercely feminist artists has also created new outdoor sculptures especially for the Hayward Gallery.
Until 29 August.
The Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, Waterloo, SE1 8XX
0207 960 4200
By Lauren Down
‘Manhattan’ – Michael Craig-Martin, 1981 – The artist and Alan Cristea Gallery
Michael Craig-Martin: Drawings 1967 – 2002
Alan Cristea Gallery, 31 Cork Street, Bond Street, W1S 3NU
The most comprehensive exhibition of drawings by conceptual artist Michael Craig-Martin, this show tracks the development of the artists trademark everyday object artistic vocabulary over 40 years. Including 60 unique works that have never been seen in the public domain before, some of which have been created at the Alan Cristea gallery specifically for this show. Until 4 June
Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow
Hidde Van Seggelen, 2 Michael Road, Fullham Broadway, SW6 2AD
An unusual gallery space, the self-contained white cube that is Hidde Van Seggelen plays host to a small, international assortment of works that supposedly revolve around the title’s apocalyptic Biblical connotations. And even though only a few works seem to actually fit this loosely thematic thread, Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow is a compelling display of film and other works. Until 28 May.
The Wayward Gallery, 47 Mowlem Street, Bethnal Green, E2 9HE
Having found in each other a mutual approach towards photography, Lydia Garnett and Vic Lentaigne formed the collaborative platform LGVL after meeting whilst studying at Brighton University. Exploring fashion and youth culture, their elegantly composed images are on display for one week only. Until 29 May.
The Foul Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart
Matt Roberts Arts, Unit 1, 25 Vyner Street, Cambridge Heath, E2 9DG
Drawing inspiration from craft and cubism Julie Cockburn’s mixed media works reveals dramas of the every day man through a manipulation of found photographic and painted portraits. Retrieving characters from obscurity, Cockburn takes ownership of their fates, cherishing them and creating something monstrously exquisite. Until 28 May.
The Print House, 18 Ashwin Street, Dalston, E8 3DL
Anyone who has ever held a camera in order to take someone portrait knows that communication is paramount: to relax the subject, get to know what might reflect their personality and in order to get them to pose in the right manner. Unable to speak, Martin Zähringer latest exhibition explores different means of discourse between artist and model. Until 31 May.
By Lauren Down
Art editor Lauren Down’s art picks for May.
By Darren Atwater
Joan Miró, ‘The Tilled Field’, 1923/4 – Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York ©Successio Miró/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2011
Tate Modern, Bankside, Southwark/London Bridge, SE1 9TG
In his first major retrospective in the UK for over 50 years, The Ladder of Escape brilliantly captures not only the genius and beguiling abstract works of Joan Miró but expertly explores the artist’s ceaseless dedication and progression. Filled with wavering lines, personalised calligraphy and intricate symbolism, his vivid canvases and daring brush strokes are irresistibly captivating and even though blockbuster exhibitions are often hollow events, this is an experience you won’t want to miss. Until 11 September. www.tate.org.uk/modern