Emerging art exhibitions to see in London this weekend

From Jack O'Brien's scally sculptures to Josephine Baker's mutated construction site

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Jack O’Brien: Waiting for the Sun to Kill Me, installation view. Courtesy: the artist and Ginny on Frederick, London

Jack O’Brien: Waiting for the Sun to Kill Me, installation view. Courtesy: the artist and Ginny on Frederick, London

Spotlighting the hottest new talent in London, our bi-weekly emerging art feature reviews shows by artists who have not had a solo institutional exhibition. All works are priced under £15,000.

Jack O'Brien: Waiting For The Sun To Kill Me

Until 17 October, Ginny on Frederick, 91-93 Charterhouse St,EC1M 6HL (open weekends by appointment). Price range: £2,500-£4,000

Two tall, erotically charged sculptures by Jack O'Brien inaugurate Ginny on Frederick, a compact space located in a former East End sandwich store. Each work consists of an article of clothing that has been twisted and torn to be nearly unrecognisable. In Lover (2021), a white t-shirt is stretched by a mass of barbed wire descending from the ceiling. Drummer (2021) fills two football socks with black wax to resemble gleaming bones. In its middle is a tube of fencing that evokes a viewfinder or, depending on your proclivities, a glory hole. Set against the room's faded white tiles, the works calls to mind a changing room or public lavatory—both spaces commonly used as gay cruising grounds.

By using materials that are loaded with connotations of sex, sweat, and violence, O'Brien explicates the keen mixture of excitement and danger that fuels an act of clandestine public sex. Similarly, the articles of clothing he uses contain charged links to both tropes of the working class and hyper-masculinity, and their intersections with gay and kink communities, hinting to the underlying power structures that are expressed via design. Yet these works, elongated to near-abstraction, invite such readings only to cast them away. Their vaguely totemic structures could equally be interpreted as spiritual figures, or perhaps their resemblance to kebab spears could chime with the space's former life. In undermining a linear or sequential understanding, the logic that underpins O'Brien's work seems to mimic the aimless, circular choreography of cruising itself—an endless dance in which one loses themselves within a network of social and sexual relations.

Josephine Baker's Excavator White Cliffs (2021). Courtesy of the artist and V.O. Curations


Josephine Baker: Clear Out The Wounds Closest To The Sun

Until 7 October, V.O. Curations, 56 Conduit St, W1S 2YZ. Price range: £1,000-£7,500

Searching for inspiration while trapped in London during her residency at V.O. Curations earlier this year, Josephine Baker turned to one of the city's most ubiquitous—yet also hidden—features: the construction site. These transitional spaces become something of a playground for Baker, who turns industrial materials into a group of sculptures that populate V.O's first floor exhibition space, all of which appear whimsical and hazardous in equal measure.

The largest work, Excavator White Cliffs (2021), recreates a digger in child size and with childlike imagination: constructed largely from chalk, it resembles a brontosaurus dinosaur, mixing the fantastical and absurd with the mundane and mechanical. Baker also draws our eye to the construction site's dangerous side: a winged hacksaw is adorned with jagged shards of glass, threatening to cut the viewer if they get too close. A wall mounted-plywood work resembling mountain peaks also mirrors the construction industry's conversion of the natural into the man-made. Throughout, Baker uses metaphor and association to subvert and reify the distinct qualities of these off-limits spaces, and in doing so draws our attention to processes that hide in plain sight throughout our urban centres.

On our radar:

Every two weeks we provide a snapshot of the most exciting, forthcoming emerging art shows in London, as selected by Seb’s Art List.

Pigeon Park

Until 3 October, 33 Manor Place, Walworth, SE17 3BH

Pigeon Park features work by 15 established and emerging artists, mixing together the likes of Alvaro Barrington and Mark Leckey with rising talents such as Sophie Goodchild, Rose McGinn and Georg Wilson. The show, which is on for just one week, takes place in a former Victorian public baths and international boxing venue.

Guts Gallery: REALITY CHECK

Until 3 October, Anderson Contemporary, Carpenter's Wharf, Hackney Wick, E2 2PA. £500-£10,000
For the inaugural exhibition at the new artist-led space Anderson Contemporary, Guts Gallery presents paintings and sculptures from 20 of their associated artists. Each artist will also create a series of charity prints and drawings, with proceeds being divided equally between the artists and the Anderson Foundation.

Peter Doyle: Bitter Ruby Eye

From 1 October-13 October (Opening 30.09 6-9pm) - Changing Room Gallery, 13 Manette St, Soho W1D 4AW

Changing Room Gallery, a rooftop space in a former Victorian school located in the heart of Soho, presents the first solo show of self-taught Irish figurative painter Peter Doyle.


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