tue 11/05/2021

Visual Arts Reviews

Susan Hiller, Tate Britain

Fisun Güner 'Witness': It’s the dramatic staging of the piece that’s far more seductive than anything to do with what the work’s 'about'

Susan Hiller describes herself as a curator as well as an artist. She makes work out of objects that she’s collected over the years. She collates information, too, and personal testimonies. These all go toward making works whose primary aim is to question meanings and categories and belief systems. These belief systems are those that are often found on the outer fringes of mainstream norms – or, if you’re put off by the dry language of academe – which Hiller isn’t – the loopy stuff that’s a...

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Martin Creed, Hauser & Wirth

Judith Flanders Installation view of Martin Creed's 'Mothers' at Hauser & Wirth, Savile Row

Who could not love Martin Creed? The tweed-encased harumphers of the world adore him, because they can say, “That’s not art,” and, “My cat could do that,” and have an all-round wonderful time. Conceptualists have it easy: what could be more fun than his Turner Prize-winning Work No 227, a light going on and off in a room? And lovers of abstract art love him because his work is just there. “Take it or leave it,” it seems to say. And they love him because, well, because his work...

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Modern British Sculpture, Royal Academy

Fisun Güner Rebecca Warren's 'Helmut Crumb', 1999, conflates the names Helmut Newton and Robert Crumb and depicts female sexuality as imagined through both artist's eyes

Austere, elegant, impressive. Edwin Lutyens’s Whitehall Cenotaph is a thing of beauty, a monument that embodies permanence in the face of all that is impermanent, and solidity in the face of all that is ephemeral. It’s an inspired decision to bring it indoors, for inside a hushed gallery, away from the rush of traffic and stripped of its flags and sculpted wreathes, Lutyens’s memorial can at last be properly admired as a work of art.

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Robert Mapplethorpe, Alison Jacques Gallery

Josh Spero Peter Reed, clenching his buttocks, by Robert Mapplethorpe

The first thing to make clear is that Robert Mapplethorpe, notorious for his photograph of himself with a bullwhip up his arse, is not really a photographer: he is a sculptor who works in the medium of photography. What else can explain the marble and ebony of his chiselled subjects, or the fact that most of the works selected for this show as responses to Mapplethorpe are sculptures?

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Gabriel Orozco, Tate Modern

Judith Flanders

The show opens with his iconic 1991 piece, My Hands are My Heart, a double photograph of Orozco’s naked torso. In the first photograph his hands clutch a hidden object at chest-height; in the second the hands splay open to present to the viewer a piece of clay, now impressed with his fingermarks in the shape of a heart. In two simple images, Orozco encapsulates the artist’s act of creation, and then of offering the creation to the viewer.

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The Painter, Arcola Theatre

Sheila Johnston

Joseph Mallord William Turner - Billy to his intimates, such as he had - is the notional centre of The Painter, a snapshot of the great British landscape artist as a young iceberg. Toby Jones is the main draw in this world premiere of Rebecca Lenkiewicz's new play, and he emanates quiet charisma and sardonic...

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The Urethra Postcard Art of Gilbert & George

Fisun Güner '4 Views on Flag', 2009: Postcard of a London landmark arranged as angularised symbols of the urethra

Radio interviewer: “Are you Royalists?” George: “Of course! We’re not weird.” Gilbert & George may have been accused in the past of being coprophiliac pederast fascists (owing to their love of turds, anuses, young men with cropped hair and bovver boots and the Union Jack), but this art duo can certainly make you smile. In fact, Gilbert & George can often be quite irrepressibly funny – definitely "ha ha" as well as peculiar. And since they and their art seem as one, one senses they’d...

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Cindy Sherman, Sprüth Magers London

Judith Flanders Cindy Sherman, 'Untitled', 2010

One of the best things about a Cindy Sherman show is you never know what you’re going to get. And in this exhibition, of a new series of "Untitled" images, what you get is very surprising indeed. Sherman's photographs are not about her, but they are always her. Sherman has always used herself – or "herself", a manipulated, redacted representation – as the canvas on which she works. This time, however, the canvas itself has changed.

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Manon de Boer, South London Gallery

Fisun Güner Unlike Warhol's Superstars, Sylvia Kristel remains coolly composed in front of the camera

A well-groomed, middle-aged woman walks into view and lights a cigarette. She stands, she smokes, the camera gives us a steady close-up of her face. As she appears to reminisce, her face subtly registers a range of emotions. Is she agitated, sad, irritated? She takes long drags of her cigarette. The film ends and she walks out of view. A second film begins. Same woman, same duration. A cigarette is smoked, the camera lingers on her face. She’s lost in recollection, but wait, there...

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Ben Johnson: Modern Perspectives, National Gallery

Judith Flanders Johnson working on 'Looking Back to Richmond House'

Oh dearie, dearie me. Modern Perspectives sounded like it had such promise. Running alongside the big Canaletto show in the Sainsbury wing of the National Gallery, two finished works and one work in progress by Ben Johnson are on show in Room One. The idea is to look at a contemporary artist who, like Canaletto and his coevals, produces panoramic views of cities. Johnson, despite his quasi-illustrative, photo-realist style, says he produces not "topographical representations...

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