London Art: The City’s Hottest Exhibitions

whitechapelgallery.org

From the weird to the historic, the political to the poignant, it has been a diverse and illuminating year at art galleries in London, a metropolis that challenges any in the world in terms of showcasing the creative and the imaginative. It’s been diverse and spellbinding: Michael Jackson and Banksy have been featured, as have beach bodies and World War II. A history of light and photography has been explored, as well as the works of influential and iconic artists such as Dorothea Lange and Edward Bawden.

Then of course, for the most curious of art goers, London has showcased exhibits featuring a mirrored maze of infinite reflections (Lee Bul), a half-human, half-squash hybrid (Anthea Hamilton), and of course, semen straws (Maria McKinney).

Indeed, there is something for every art connoisseur or neophyte exploring London; here are some notable upcoming exhibitions, for the adventurous and the academic.

Amy Sillman  Landline

camdenartscentre.org

Amy Sillman is as diversely talented as she is prolific, and a collection of her varied, lengthy catalogue is on display this fall at the Camden Arts Centre. From silkscreens to digital prints, drawings to paintings, zines to animations, Sillman’s work explores the past, present, and future of art, challenging the limits of colour, depth, perspective, and other practical boundaries.

While it can be hard to specifically describe her style and work, and perhaps detrimental or simply pointless to do so, there is undoubtedly a personal energy and emotion palpable in every piece. Sometimes that energy is warmth and vigour, while at others it strikes of antagonism and restlessness. Regardless, engaging with any of her works will give you proper pause for introspection.

This is not to say that Sillman doesn’t dabble in political and social commentary; like her varied approaches, Sillman explores myriad ideas and issues. And just like her work, which has been layered, refinished, and left and returned to, her ideas are evolving. There is humour, self-deprecation, and wonderment.

Titled Landline, her forthcoming exhibition will see Sillman venture into new territory: for the first time in a new format, she will combine paintings and drawings on double sided paper. While that is a site-specific installation, patrons will be able to take away a catalogue of Sillman’s self-published zines. 

Yayoi Kusama

Chandelier of Grief, 2016 (victoria-miro.com)

Yayoi Kusama should be no stranger to patrons of the Victoria Miro gallery; the acclaimed artist is now being welcomed for her twelfth exhibition at the gallery. Presenting some old, some new, and some pieces that are a bit of both, Kusama’s latest offering looks to dazzle the mind, calm the soul, and maybe question your balance. 

Perhaps most notably, Kusama will once again immerse visitors in a seemingly endless, awe-inspiring environment. A large-scale infinity mirror room will bring artgoers into a boundless, space-like environment. Polka dot covered paper lanterns will hang throughout the mirrored room, as patrons can float effortlessly and aimlessly throughout the cosmic abyss. Or, depending on your feelings about the infinite, you might wander uneasily — that’s effective, too.

Naturally, there will be lots of dots and lots of pumpkins, as well as flowers — essentially, all those things that have made Kusama beloved and famous. Her noted My Eternal Soul series, an ongoing and expanding collection of introspection work, will also be available for viewing.

Be sure to plan ahead to get in early on this one; the last time she held an exhibit in London, in 2016, crowds were eager and lines were long. And that was before she brought a massive Infinity Room. You’ll go in, but when, where, and how you come out is another matter.

Elmgreen & Dragset: This is How We Bite Our Tongue

whitechapelgallery.org

Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset bring their imaginative sculptures and symbolic installations to Whitechapel Gallery, along with their wit, slyness, and artistic subversion. The Scandinavian duo, who have been collaborating for over twenty years now, showcase This is How We Bite Our Tongue, a title that should hint for those less familiar that this expo has quite a lot to say about the world’s current state of affairs, and not necessarily in a good way.

There will be six new sculptures from the two, which, according to them, speak of misguided reverence and of judgement, lust and fear,” as well as twenty-nine works completed over the course of their partnership. Sexual and social politics are the focus of the various installations — the promotional photo shows a young child staring at a shotgun — as well as the power structures that exist in our culture to prevent positive change or to keep people in check.

Viewers will behold sculptures and large-scale works, challenging one’s space (both in the moment and in the metaphoric) and commenting on where people stand in society. They are encouraging the hashtag #BiteOurTongue, which is rather — well, cheeky. 

Courtauld Impressionists: From Manet to Cezanne

La Loge by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (nationalgallery.org.uk)

For something a little more straightforward and classic, a selection of acclaimed impressionist pieces will be on display at Trafalgar Square. Expect all your favourites from school and pop culture homages: there will be women bathing naked, men in suits and top hats, and a seemingly melancholic bartender at the Folies Bergere.

We will have our chances at Manet, Cezanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir, Searat, and others —  the titans of the era that form the cornerstone of many art history classes. Better than reading in a textbook, these iconic images will welcome you front and centre, standing and studying, pondering and pontificating about all the possible meanings, implications, and ideas that make for interesting conversations. Many a scholar and artist have poured a multitude of words and thoughts over these famed, informing pieces of history — and now you can do the same, getting the best viewing possible. And maybe take a selfie.

Anthony Marcusa
Anthony Marcusa is a Toronto-based freelance journalist whose writing dabbles in film, TV, music, sports, and relationships – though not necessarily in that order. He’s simultaneously youthfully idealistic and curmudgeonly cynical. But he’s always curious.