A Guide to London’s Finest

Legacy Russell
Oct 12, 2014 3:01PM

This September marked my celebrating two years here in London. I came here for graduate school and spent much of my first months here in the U.K. lamenting, “Why isn’t this place more like New York City!?” As a born-and-bred East Village, New York native, used to regular cultural banter, streets in a grid, 20-minute commutes, hailing taxis with ease, and the ability to see multiple shows in different parts of town all in a single day, I didn’t understand this city at all. Two years and counting, I’ve hit my stride. London, while it is much like New York in its fast-paced and cosmopolitan heartbeat is a different sort of beast entirely. The art world here mirrors the geography, making the different areas of the city—many having once been villages—“art villages” in their own right, each with their own aesthetics, communities, vernaculars, and unique approaches in their contributions to contemporary art history. While New York City serves up contemporary art with ease, London makes those who want it have to break a sweat to get it—and often, depending on where you're coming from in this gloriously wry city, take a tube, bus, and a 20 minute walk as well. This means that traveling to galleries, exhibition spaces, and museums the journey becomes somewhat of a spiritual pilgrimage, with walking shoes required and a sense of pride, joy, and true focus and meditation once one has arrived. 

Here’s an overview of some of the best shows on in London right now—ones worth the trip, and guaranteed to inspire some in-depth introspection. When it’s all done, wrap up as any good Londoner would: put your umbrella away and duck into the nearest pub to revel in a pint.

London, you minx—I’ve fallen for you.

In East London:

Yonatan Vinitsky at Limoncello Gallery | 340-344 Kingsland Rd., E8 4DA

The title of Yonatan Vinitsky’s show, “Crisscrossing the world”, is actually quite apt, considering that Vinitsky weaves back and forth across a dizzying scope of medium, material, and gesture in this new exhibition at Limoncello Gallery. The colors are ’80s, the patterning mathematical and geometric, the wire-work oversized and expressive (whisperings of Calder-gone-jumbo), the spatiality of it all imbued with a gentle humour, a nod toward the acts of replication, production, and, further the Pop-histories of reproduction as well. The “crisscross” structure of an “X”, as appearing in many of the works, manifests a sense of physicality, of active torsion, breathing motion into works that cannot actually move on their own. These works therefore both exist on a flat plane while somehow also entering a third dimension, suggesting movement into a dimension beyond the 2-D and creating an alluring performativity. Vinitsky’s work demonstrates an adroit, skillful approach to the “crisscrossing” constructions of a playful world turning on its own colourful axis, dominated by the inevitable architecture and regulation of lines.

Rachal Bradley, Marie Lund, and Hannah Weinberger at Seventeen Gallery | 270-276 Kingsland Rd., E8 4DG

Seventeen Gallery brings together three stellar female artists for “A picture is no substitute”: Rachal Bradley, Marie Lund, and Hannah Weinberger. In their respective practices, each of these three different artists makes a presence out of absence, often combining new media material to produce installations that challenge the structures and processes of sculpture and installation-making. Seventeen Gallery has just moved to a new stunning location right off of Dalston Kingsland Road; if you’re visiting Limoncello Gallery, make a day of it and swing by Seventeen to see what’s cooking.

Korakrit Arunanondchai at CARLOS/ISHIKAWA| Unit 4, 88 Mile End Rd., E1 4UN

Korakrit Arunanondchai is a dazzling explosion of paint, indigo denim, tie-dye, and fire, existing somewhere between the realm of The Real and that of the neon-saturated glittered celebrity oasis of virtuality. On the heels of the artist's summer exhibition at The Mistake Room in L.A., London’s very own CARLOS/ISHIKAWA—breeding ground for art stars such as Oscar Murrillo and Ed Fornieles—has brought this rising Thai-born star to The Smoke to raze things to the ground. If you have an interest in a visual assault that just might inspire you to roll yourself a joint, paint yourself gold, set yourself ablaze, and do the Harlem Shake all at the same time, then I’m going to categorise this as a “must” for any person coming through London between now and November 1st. 

Shinro Ohtake at Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art |14 Wharf Rd., N1 7RW

Once you’ve calmed down and cooled off, stop by Parasol Unit Foundation to rev up again, as it has brought to London one of the world’s most inspiring contemporary artists, hands down. When I first discovered Shinro Ohtake’s work via Take Ninagawa, I quite literally didn’t move for about an hour, I was too busy trying to see everything, all at once. That’s what this work requires—attention. Layers of thousands of images, works on paper collaged together and often bound within in large bible-like books (a series begun in 1977 and noted by the artist as ‘Scrapbooks’), these anthems make sacred relics of the quotidian and make psychedelic milieus of popular culture. The act of looking cannot possibly be passive in the presence of Ohtake’s astounding celebration of combinations—cutting, pasting, remaking, reworking—that seats itself in the artist’s solo exhibition that presents works spanning an oeuvre of thirty years time. If you saw Noda Tetsuya’s “Diary” at The British Museum earlier this year, this most certainly will resonate as a continuation of that conversation, a meditation on the everyday, and another artist’s act of archiving and preservation of memory-making therein.

In Central London:

Carrie Mae Weems at Pippy Houldsworth | 6 Heddon St., W1B 4BT

The exhibition “Color: Real and Imagined”, presents the legendary multi-media African-American artist Carrie Mae Weems. Weems puts forth that which she is most well known for in this exhibition: her photographs. Quiet and reflective yet stunningly poignant and impactful, each piece poses queries surrounding race, gender, identity, site, origin, family, space, and representation. Weems’s 30-year retrospective at New York’s Guggenheim wrapped up in May 2014; needless to say, those of us across the pond from the Big Apple are thrilled and blown away by the arrival of these works to the shores of Central London.

Noemie Goudal at Edel Assanti | 272-274 Vauxhall Bridge Rd., SW1V 1BB

Another brilliant female photographer has just opened a show at Vauxhall’s Edel Assanti: Noemie Goudal. An artist that constructs and builds that which she photographs through a process of staging and intervention as part of her act of image-making, Goudal often explores the blurred boundary between fantasy and reality. This particular exhibition “In Search of the First Line,” presents works that challenge one’s understanding of organic and inorganic by dropping the viewer into landscapes and territories unknown, rendering us explorers who are both called upon and confronted by breathtaking architectural compositions and structures that distort physical and psychological geographies, both without, and within.

Kerry James Marshall: Look See at David Zwirner | 24 Grafton Street, London, W1S 4EZ

With his first show in the UK since a 2005 exhibition at the Camden Arts Centre, African-American artist Kerry James Marshall is back at London’s David Zwirner with a fresh and exciting presentation of new works. Marshall’s works aim to offer new modes of representation of black culture and identity, and with this series explores the act of bearing witness as a mode of documentation and socio-cultural observation. How can we be active in observation? Marshall’s Crowning moment (2014) at Zwirner, along with an astounding grouping of other paintings that delight and provoke, sets out to answer this question.

In Peckham:

Maja Cule at Arcadia Missa | Unit 6. Bellenden Road Business Centre, SE15 4RF

It’s great to see Maja Cule at Arcadia Missa. With her first solo show in the UK, the New York-based artist has plans to take the perilous possibility of failure within “DWYL”-culture (“Do-What-You-Love”). Inspired and influenced by the culture of digital practice, online presence, internet culture, and the artifice of media as constructed through social platforms and virtual identities, this exhibition—opening this weekend and running through the 15th of November—promises to jar.

Day Trips:

Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool | 19 Mann Island, Liverpool Waterfront, Liverpool, L3 1BP

Psyched on Open Eye’s contribution to the Liverpool Biennial! Their exhibition “Not All Documents Are Records: Photographing Exhibitions as an Art Form” takes on the exhibition itself as central subject, a particularly relevant topic given the flurry of biennials past and upcoming. This history of presentation, captured through a lens, provides glimpses into social movements and cultural climates that define the art world as we know it today.

Hauser & Wirth Somerset | Dropping Ln., Bruton, BA10

In the gorgeous green of Somerset, check out the current showings of Phyllida Barlow, Franz West, and Pipilotti Rist. Afterwards, stay true to the British tradition and grab an afternoon tea and some scones at the farm-to-table gastronomic delectation, Roth Bar & Grill.

See more of City Guide: London on Artsy.

Legacy Russell