Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou

 

We recently came across the haunting images of Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou at the Pangaea: New Art from Africa and Latin America exhibition which is currently on view at the Saatchi Gallery. Though all the photographers featured deserve mention when art from these regions is referenced, Agbodjelou’s images made us halt in our tracks.

One of the prominent photographers from Porto Novo in Benin, his work borrows from both the modern and the traditional, and throws light on how the world seeing Africa, leads it to see itself. Featuring dramatic masked Egungun figures, bare breasted women, and a colonial style backdrop in some of the images, Agbodjelou references both the history and the ritualism that cloud our gaze when we look at this continent. At the same time his images stand as testament to how Africa has embraced and shared those aspects of its culture that are rich and unique, while blending in with other social and cultural aspects that the globalised world favours.

Untitled triptych (Demoiselles de Porto-Novo series), 2012

 

Untitled triptych (Demoiselles de Porto-Novo series), 2012

 

Untitled (Demoiselles de Porto-Novo series), 2012

 

<em>Untitled (Egungun series)</em>, 2012
Untitled (Egungun series), 2012

 

<em></em>, 2012
Untitled (Egungun series), 2012

 

Untitled (Vodou Series), 2011

 

Untitled (Vodou Series), 2011

 

<em>Untitled (Musclemen series)</em>, 2012
Untitled (Musclemen series), 2012

 

<em>Untitled (Musclemen series)</em>, 2012
Untitled (Musclemen series), 2012

 

Pangaea: New Art from Africa and Latin America
2 April – 2 November 2014

Saatchi Gallery

United Visual Artists: Momentum

 

The sound of eerie.
a slice of light cutting through the fog,
then black again.


The shadow of the person standing somewhere in front of you,
the hollow shuffle of the group behind,
then lost again to the black that fills the Curve.

Welcome to Momentum, one of the latest works by the acclaimed United Visual Artists at the Barbican’s The Curve gallery. Combining light, sound and the movement of the visitors, this is a work like we’ve never experienced before. Being thrust into a darkness that alternates between pitch black and smoky shadows, depending on where you stand, is not something we’re used to. And the smoke is not exactly smoke we think, just the way the light feels….
Where’s Health & Safety when you need it?


Rest assured the maximum damage this work can cause you is knocking into the wall. Or bumping into the person in front/behind you.
But we guarantee that if you do take the first step into the darkened abyss that Momentum has transformed the Curve into, you won’t come away disappointed. And with many images in your head that no camera can capture, or no two people can witness.

 

United Visual Artists is a collective of London based ‘visual orators’ as they call themselves. With over ten years of work behind them including an intervention at Sou Fujimoto’s summer pavilion at London’s Serpentine Gallery in 2013, Volume at the Victoria & Albert Museum garden in 2006, and numerous projects for the band Massive Attack alongside re-designing the main stage for Coachella in 2011, we’re always in awe of their projects and the way they make us feel and see ourselves in space.

United Visual Artists: Momentum
Up to 1 June 2014
Barbican

 

Martino Gamper: design is a state of mind

 

We love exhibitions that make us want to walk slowly…
where it doesn’t matter whether you came alone or with someone, because you just forget…
where it feels like you’ve just spent an hour but then you end up with 250 photographs on your phone…how long were we here?
where you covet everything and delight in the colour and symmetry of someone else’s good taste.

Martino Gamper’s design is a state of mind at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery is all of these things and more. In a deeply aesthetic way, Gamper has curated a display of shelves that range from design classics to contemporary pieces, Ikea to iconic, all of which play host to an eclectic collection of objects loaned from artists, designers and creatives we enjoy and envy.

With his own background in exhibition and interior design as well as his close ties with the furniture industry, Gamper seems like the perfect curator/designer/artist to have crafted this exhibition with just the right amount of precision, restraint and joy.

Martino Gamper: design is a state of mind
Till 18 May 2014
Serpentine Sackler Gallery

http://martinogamper.com/

Ayşe Erkmen’s The Space Inbetween

Most of us who frequent art exhibitions and museums have a certain pace at which we walk from one work to the next.
Faster or slower than that and it doesn’t feel right.
Now imagine walking through a space and having to wait for Work A to move out of the way before you get a glimpse of Work B.
It could either be one of those ‘how long is this going to take?’ experiences. Or it could be magical.

For all those of you who venture to see Ayşe Erkmen: Intervals at Barbican’s The Curve gallery, we hope you feel the latter.

Members of the public admire an installation artwork by Ayse Erkmen entitled 'Intervals' in The Curve art space in the Barbican Centre on September 23, 2013 in London, England. The work consists of 11 large theatrical backdrops which periodically move up and down on an automated system, partitioning the 90 metre long space.

Ayşe Erkmen is an artist who investigates the history and the politics of the locations her work is sited at. This is interesting in the context of The Curve –  a space that wraps around the back of the Barbican’s Hall while sitting above its backstage area. Playing on the idea of ‘behind the scenes’, Erkmen has created eleven scenic backdrops that are placed in quick succession across the narrow semicircle gallery. By raising and lowering these backdrops on an automated fly system, she creates a scenic walkthrough for vistors, often making them pause between backdrops as they wait for the one one ahead to rise up.

Members of the public admire an installation artwork by Ayse Erkmen entitled 'Intervals' in The Curve art space in the Barbican Centre on September 23, 2013 in London, England. The work consists of 11 large theatrical backdrops which periodically move up and down on an automated system, partitioning the 90 metre long space.

That the verso of each backdrop is matched by the front of the one ahead is poignant; almost making the visitor feel like they’ve been sandwiched between two works. Not being able to move around them is also key to the experience; you have no choice but to wait.

Members of the public admire an installation artwork by Ayse Erkmen entitled 'Intervals' in The Curve art space in the Barbican Centre on September 23, 2013 in London, England. The work consists of 11 large theatrical backdrops which periodically move up and down on an automated system, partitioning the 90 metre long space.

A powerful work that doesn’t succumb to our need for instant gratification, Intervals also covers different styles and traditions of theatre design across the carefully selected backdrops.

 

Ayşe Erkmen: Intervals
Up to 5 January 2014
Barbican

Images borrowed with thanks (c) http://www.zimbio.com

On a Good Day

 

Al Vandenberg has this great series called ‘On a Good Day’ that captures Londoners doing what they do best – projecting a street-style that’s gritty and urban, yet possessing a warmth that is quintessentially British.

Vandenberg captured these images on what he called a ‘good’ day – a day both he and his subjects felt their happiest best. Though this comes across in most of his images, what would a series of street photographs be without a few token scowls.

London, 1970’s

 

London, 1970’s

 

London, 1970’s

London, 1970’s

 

London, 1970’s

 

London, 1970’s

 

Kings Road, London, 1975

London, 1970’s

 

Kentish Town, London, 1974

 

London, 1970’s

 

London, 1975

All images borrowed with thanks (c) http://www.vam.ac.uk

Friday Inspired: London’s Iconic Murals

 

This week’s Friday Inspired has Ruth Miller, mural expert and founder of The London Mural Preservation Society, give us insight into why she finds murals inspiring, and how she has grown up alongside some of Brixton’s most important murals.

‘With a father interested in local history, art and architecture, as a child, I was always encouraged to look around me and observe all the interesting sights and sounds of the places we were visiting. My everyday space was Brixton of the 1980s – an area full of character; the grand architecture of a Victorian Suburb contrasted against the new build housing estates, the hustle bustle of the busy market and the communities of West Indians, squatters, and the Irish, all adding something to the recipe that created the neighbourhood.

During this time, murals started to appear, often visible to me on my regular route to school or visits to Brixton market. There were two that I really liked. One is a portrait of local people at the local adventure playground. To little me, then about 10 or 11, I was so impressed by the fact the artist had created portraits that actually looked like the individuals. And I felt privileged to know people who someone thought were important enough to be painted on the public wall. This feeling of ownership to the piece was delightful and now when I see it, it triggers so many memories of playing at the adventure playground.

Slade Gardens Adventure Playground Mural, Lorn Road, Stockwell, London

 

The other mural which I noticed was Brixton’s Nuclear Dawn – a painting of a skeletal man dropping bombs on London whilst the Government hides in a bunker under Parliament. As a little child, the political message of the piece was lost on me, however there was a very real threat of the bomb being dropped on us while we slept; my siblings and I constantly talked to my mum about this. And the mural was (and is) a constant reminder of that fear.

Nuclear Dawn, Carlton Mansions, 387 Coldhabour Lane, Brixton, London

 

But asides from the moments of nostalgia with these paintings, they also taught me things about art, showing me strong compositions, use of colour and good technical skills. I’m sure too many of my own art works featured skeletons or a figure striding across an urban landscape such was the subliminal impact of this mural. Today I run the London Mural Preservation Society in the hope that we can collect and save the stories of these pieces and repair some of these murals so they can inspire future generations.’

Walking Tour of Brixton’s murals organised by the London Mural Preservation Society 

 

Children at Play mural, Brixton Academy, Stockwell Park Walk, London

 

The London Mural Preservation Society run walking tours of London’s murals in spring and summer. Keep an eye out on the website for future announcements.

Ruth’s sister Hannah Lee Miller has also made an animation featuring the Nuclear Dawn mural, which echos what Ruth says about murals becoming a part your everyday if you grew up in London in the 80s.

 

Thanks Ruth, for sharing your inspiration behind the London Mural Preservation Society with us.

To join or learn more about the Society, visit the website, blogFacebook, Twitter, Flickr or send Ruth an email.

All images courtesy The London Mural Preservation Society.

Elmgreen and Dragset’s Uninvited Guests

 

Tomorrow, the Elmgreen & Dragset exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) is probably one of our favourite exhibitions of this year. Quite big praise you might say, but not only did this show make us more aware of how conditioned we are as art audiences, but it also highlighted the fact that we can’t help but whisper and tiptoe, and revere art spaces even when obviously encouraged to do just the opposite.

Taking over five rooms of the V&A in what were formerly the Textile Galleries, Elmgreen and Dragset have converted this space into the fictional rooms of an apartment that belong to a retired and disgruntled architect Norman. The rooms include a parlour, living room, study, kitchen, bedroom and a passageway with doors in the wall that emit sounds of a running shower. The atmosphere is surreal especially when you see the gallery staff walking around in livery – almost like a modern day version of Downton Abbey. Do you talk to them or do you walk away? Are they going to stop you if you touch something?

As you walk through the doors, you are also welcome to pick up a little book that accompanies the exhibition and contains a script set within these very rooms. All this making Tomorrow slightly surreal as you wonder whether you’ve walked into an exhibition, a theatre set, or the ‘real’ apartment of someone lucky enough to reside at the V&A. All this adding up to the big question – are we the intruders here or the deliberate audience?

This exhibition comes with no instructions on the tin, no introductory wall text, no helpful gallery assistants to explain – they all seem to verge on characters in a play, making them quite daunting to approach. But they do stop you when you try to take pictures; and a smirk is the most likely answer you will get to a ‘can I sit on the chairs?’ It gets stranger still when you start to look at other visitors and try to figure out whether they are ‘genuine’ visitors like you, or whether they come with the display.

Most of Elmgreen and Dragset’s work focuses on how art is presented and experienced, and also on how different kinds of architecture and the objects within it can affect our behaviour. And in this case the objects featured in this apartment come from everywhere – a combination of objects from V&A Collections, artworks and objects from the artists’ collections, and thrift shop purchases – all presented in a completely non-hierarchical and matter-of-fact way.

But more than each individual object, Tomorrow is the sum total of the atmosphere they collectively create. And the fact that there are a multitude of references to former Elmgreen & Dragset works throughout the display, shows these artists doing what they do best – subverting meaning by reusing old material in different contexts.

 

As Michael Elmgreen says, ‘If you really respect your audience, you have to consider them as complex as yourself. And they will be very diverse. They will come from many different backgrounds.’ Which is very true in this case – every visitor to this exhibition will have a different understanding of Elmgreen & Dragset’s work, a different expectation of what they are going to see, and a different level of sensitivity to art. That they will all leave with an uncanny feeling, is what these artists have aimed for, and have successfully delivered.

Tomorrow – Elmgreen & Dragset at the V&A
Victoria & Albert Museum
Till 2 January 2014

More images and a recommended read.

Images borrowed with thanks (c) Courtesy the Artists and Victoria Miro, London and V&A.