The inexorable expansion of Frieze London, from tented contemporary art expo into citywide cultural extravaganza, means that the capital’s galleries are under increased pressure to show their best side to the world. As with displays at the fair itself, gallerists face a choice between putting on a nakedly commercial exhibition, to exploit the influx of international collectors, or an inventive show that boosts the gallery’s reputation. We picked five exhibitions that will attempt to negotiate that balance this October.
Marcel Dzama, It is big big business (or We s’port…and necessitate one another, thought to brush, word to image hand in hand…for the greatest interest…of writing thou art), 2016. Image courtesy of David Zwirner, New York/London.
The exquisite corpse method, by which a piece of paper is folded up like an accordion and filled out incrementally by contributors who are blind to the whole, will be equally familiar to enthusiasts of Victorian parlor games and students of the historical avant-garde. Dzama and Pettibon take on this simultaneously playful and progressive tradition with a collaborative exhibition, “Let Us Compare Mythologies” at David Zwirner, a follow-up to their well-received show “Forgetting the Hand” in New York earlier this year. Famously co-opted by the Surrealists to pursue their vision of art uncoupled from the conscious mind, the exquisite corpse was a parallel and precursor to the cut-up and collage techniques that were so integral to punk and postmodernism. Dzama and Pettibon promise to provide an anarchic, witty mash-up of those histories; a collaborative, limited-edition zine takes advantage of the zeitgeist for independent publishing.
Jim Nutt at Cabinet Gallery
Oct. 1–Dec. 17, 132 Tyers Street, Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, SE11 5HS
Private View: Sep. 30, 6–8 p.m.
A different strain of surrealism is practiced by the American painter Nutt, a founding member of the Chicago art movement the Hairy Who. Where the exquisite corpse foregrounds the conceptual mission of surrealism to negate or downplay the artist’s intention, Nutt’s thrillingly anarchic work takes pleasure in exploring the darker corners of the mind. His paintings of imaginary women seem at first to be aggressively lowbrow, comic-strip compositions of the type that have become so popular among so many emerging London-based painters. But closer inspection reveals not only the intricacy of their composition but also the careful application of layers of paint to create a surprisingly rich surface. This is the first show at Cabinet’s new space in Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, and is not to be missed.
Installation view of “Edward Thomasson: Other People” at Southard Reid. Photo by Lewis Ronald, courtesy of the artist and Southard Reid.
Thomasson has for several years been building a reputation as one among the most exciting of a new generation of London-based artists seeking to address social and political issues through a new style of performance-based art. Taking inspiration from such mundane choreographies as the way that space is organized in the workplace to maximize productivity, or how people in a relationship move through a domestic environment, Thomasson (who often works in collaboration with Lucy Beech) produces fragile, affecting portraits of the way that bodies interact. His show at Southard Reid, titled “Other People,” includes recent works on paper and a new video recorded on the set of Volunteers, the play which was rehearsed and performed at David Roberts Art Foundation earlier this year.
Tony Cragg, Willow, 2014. Photo by Michael Richter. © Tony Cragg, courtesy of Lisson Gallery.
Frieze Week is an opportunity for London’s blue-chip galleries to wheel out their big guns, and Lisson obliges with an exhibition of Cragg’s sculpture across its two spaces. Cragg has long been engaged in his own particular sculptural project. Many years ago, he passed the point at which it mattered greatly whether or not his investigations—into the possibility of finding new forms by testing the tensile properties of industrial and natural materials—aligned with whatever critical trend was in vogue. The apparent aspiration to timelessness of Cragg’s work can sometimes make it feel aloof from the crowd, but in the course of a long weekend in which the art enthusiast is likely to be bombarded by displays foregrounding the spectacular and the novel, his eloquent investigations into the relationship between the individual and the natural world might offer some relief and reflection.
Left: Justin Fitzpatrick, A rabbit imagines what his insides look like, 2016. Image courtesy of the artist and Seventeen. Right: Victoria Adam, Sunset bathrooms thrifty, 2016. Image courtesy of the artist and Seventeen.
“Lonesome Wife” at Seventeen Gallery would earn inclusion on this list for its title alone, borrowed from a bristling, playful novella by the great American vanguardist William H. Gass. Willie Masters’ Lonesome Wife is narrated by an ex-stripper who employs a variety of literary techniques—cut-ups, collages, mirror-effects, split texts—to literally seduce the reader. So, one assumes that this group show will further develop the (re-)current curatorial preoccupation with the physical expression of the body, and desire, through words and images. The East End gallery’s reputation for breaking new talent makes this show of new names worth a look. Meanwhile, visitors to London from the U.S. might want to check out the gallery, as it will open a new space in New York this November with a show by the London-based filmmaker Marianna Simnett.