In whatever media he is manifesting himself, the multifarious Martin Maloney is not known for his reticence. He has filled up the Saatchi Gallery with colossal tableaux of mop-haired slackers on the job; he has whipped up a sizeable spat with the Chapman Bros on the pages of Flash Art, and his shows of young artist comrades are as anticipated as much for their titles—“Multiple orgasm”; “White trash”; “Die yuppie scum”—as for their contents. But this month at Anthony d’Offay he has surpassed himself with the extravagantly hyperbolic “Death to the fascist insect that preys on the life of the people” in which the seven young painters he has selected—Kirsten Glass, Michael Ashcroft, Martin McGinn, Nicholas Barker, Dan Perfect, Elizabeth Neal and the collective Hobbypopmuseum—are described as a “rabble gang” who “scavenge the dregs of art’s past, hoping to inject some new life into the dead dog of painting.”
In fact, apart from a bit of soft-core 70s porn from Nicholas Barker, and an overall dominance of a collage aesthetic, there is not much to rock the establishment or threaten any fascist insects.
The paintings of Martin McGinn, who is also showing at Houldsworth Fine Art, render even the most banal of strip-lit interiors into delicate, intricate explorations of light and atmosphere, and are almost suffocatingly meticulous in their execution. Prices for these celebrations of artificial illumination range from £4,000 to £18,000 for the large triptych, “Phobia”.
Peter Davies is another Maloney protégé who has also come a long way since those mid-90s shows in Maloney’s Brixton flat. For his first solo exhibition at Gagosian Gallery, Davies has upped the ante on his trademark list and patterned paintings; the patterns have become more architectural and the lists more intricate. His billboard-sized “The fun one hundred (fun from rear)” floats the whole checklist of artistic hilarity on top of interlocking planes of colour which spell out the work’s title, while ‘What goes around comes around—Jackson Pollock text painting” comprises an elaborate flow chart in shades of grey in which a Spaghetti-Junction of artistic connections coalesce around the confused, congested 90s, a perfect cultural backdrop to both this and Maloney’s shows.
Bruce Nauman’s classic neon not only crops up in the title of Peter Davies’ new “Fun one hundred”, but the maestro himself is part of a must-see lineup of early video work at Anthony Wilkinson Gallery which features five pioneers of the medium whose impact continues to be all too strongly felt today. As well as Nauman’s classic “Bouncing in a corner 1” of 1968 (where he does just that, for an hour) there are fine and rare pieces by Vito Acconci, John Baldessari, Joan Jonas and Paul McCarthy, all of which provide an auspicious opening to the gallery’s new video project space.
The media are decidedly mixed at Laurent Delaye’s mixed show “Self-portrayal”, in which strange conversations take place between perverse pot maker Grayson Perry’s portrait photographs of his transvestite alter ego Claire, which appear alongside Hideatsu Shiba’s painted rows of bleached-out figures in protective spectacles who gaze up at the lethal light of nuclear explosions, while Ulli Knall’s ceramic shrine to mutable Star Trek hero Odo looks across to Guy Bar-Amotz’ strap-on missile-come-karaoke kit.
Christine Borland uses whatever means and media she considers most appropriate to perform her multi-layered investigations of the systems—legal, medical and historical—which underpin and control both how we live and how we view our existence. Her current show of new work at the Lisson Gallery includes mobiles of semi-precious stones which render in three dimensions family histories of inherited disorders; a video projection of a golden orb weaver spider being “silked” for its super-strong thread which is currently being used to develop bullet proof fabric; and an installation of an “ecbolic garden” of plants traditionally grown to assist in abortions.
Less sombre, but no less dedicated to unravelling the vagaries of the human condition, is David Shrigley, whose new drawings and photographs line the walls of the Stephen Friedman Gallery with an outpouring of bizarre activities, black humour and excruciating situations that everyone can relate to, even if it is in their worst nightmares. The cost of one of the artworld’s most original and idiosyncratic practitioners ranges from £500 for the supremely suggestive ink on paper “Untitled (tick one box)”, where the boxes in question are entitled “yes” or “no”, to £1,900 for the vividly coloured acrylic-on-paper spiral “Untitled (me doing this)”, which contains a tiny drawing of the artist making a black and white version at its centre.
Another tragi-comic chronicler of the conditions that both define and plague homo sapiens is Angus Fairhurst, whose current show at Sadie Coles “More or less Angus Fairhurst” echoes its ambiguous title by consisting of works on paper—sketches, drawings and proposals—in which elements are erased or partially obliterated. Three text animations also add to a absurdist breakdown, in more ways than one, of how ideas and images separate and/or come together.
There is more than a touch of madness at Richard Salmon this month where Markus Eisenmann has elevated four Alsatian dogs to near majestic status in the form of giant silkscreens on canvas, nearly two metres high and framed in heavy oak. Value systems take a nosedive with the artist’s decision to combine these bright-eyed, winningly alert pooches with a pair of ridiculously ornate Fabergé eggs, a dangling car tyre and a gold plated pair of fondue forks.
Leading Australian artist Tracey Moffatt is making her presence felt in the UK this spring. A mid-career survey show currently at Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket is complemented by her latest new work at Victoria Miro, all of which will be joined by exhibition of film and video works at the newly-converted Wapping Hydraulic Power Station opening in May. “Invocations” at Victoria Miro finds Moffatt returning to the large scale format and rich colour of her earlier works, and for his series she has hired film studios and commissioned the construction of elaborate sets to place her protagonists in both a menacing enchanted forest as well as a barren desert. In the upper space of the gallery, sculptor Alex Hartley has made his most ambitious work to date, a nine-metre slice through a steel-and-glass building, based on the houses of the California Case Study Programme which was started in 1945. Encased in a giant wedge-shaped frame of etched glass, this giant fragment of architectural history breaks away from its specific origins to become something altogether more rich and uncertain.
On a rather smaller scale, the Multiple Store—the cheapest way to buy works by some of the best known names in contemporary art that are not in the form of a print—is setting up temporary shop this month at the Shoreditch Gallery. Here, along with existing pieces by the likes of Fiona Banner, Cornelia Parker and Simon Periton, new commissions include Alison Wilding’s acrylic and pigment sculpture in an edition of 35 for £1,200; Dan Hayes’ empty hamster cage which, as a painting won him the John Moores prize in 1997, but which has now been re-interpreted in an edition of 50 as a shimmering 3-D lenticular priced at £450, or Rose Finn-Kelcey’s mini-LED of scrolling “House rules”—including no spitting/no soliciting/no farting—which can be worn or wall-mounted for a mere £350. All prices are exclusive of VAT.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Painterly hyperbole at D’Offay'