David Owens

Frieze London 2019

Subversive, playful and politically engaged: our pick of Frieze London's budding stars

This year's focus section is full of surprises

Much of the commentary on Frieze London this year has been about its relative conservatism: plenty of saleable paintings on a modest, domestic scale. But the Focus section remains the most diverse part of the fair: as unexpected, subversive, playful and politically and socially engaged as ever. Here are six stands to remember.

Sol Calero, Patrizio Di Massimo, Petrit Halilaj, ChertLüdde: Here are three artists of the same generation but working in different media and modes. Sol Calero, born in Venezuela, creates an ironically exotic cabin for the ChertLüdde gallerists to sit in, featuring her customary combination of paintings, plants and objects, and subverting clichéd perceptions of Latin America. Patrizio Di Massimo’s painting plays with Classicism and Orientalism, quoting directly from the French 19th-century artist Hippolyte Flandrin’s Young Male Nude (1835-36) in the Louvre, an icon of queer desire in the 20th century. And Petrit Halilaj’s steel reconstructions of desk doodles from the artist’s now destroyed Kosovan school suggest a longing for a distant past and the loss of innocence.
David Owens

Sol Calero, Patrizio Di Massimo, Petrit Halilaj, ChertLüdde: Here are three artists of the same generation but working in different media and modes. Sol Calero, born in Venezuela, creates an ironically exotic cabin for the ChertLüdde gallerists to sit in, featuring her customary combination of paintings, plants and objects, and subverting clichéd perceptions of Latin America. Patrizio Di Massimo’s painting plays with Classicism and Orientalism, quoting directly from the French 19th-century artist Hippolyte Flandrin’s Young Male Nude (1835-36) in the Louvre, an icon of queer desire in the 20th century. And Petrit Halilaj’s steel reconstructions of desk doodles from the artist’s now destroyed Kosovan school suggest a longing for a distant past and the loss of innocence.

Ishmael Randall Weeks and Giancarlo Scaglia, Revolver Galeria: This is a stimulating juxtaposition of two Peruvian artists. Giancrlo Scaglia has spent time on the uninhabited Frontón Island, off Lima, once a prison and the site of a horrific massacre in the 1980s. Using frottage techniques, he took an imprint of walls scarred from shootings. He also left canvases with circles of gold paint, reflecting the sun back at itself and allowing seabirds’ guano to accrete on the surface. Ishmael Randall Weeks’s sculptures evoke the layering of cultural histories—elegant sculptural assemblages include elements of Modernist design, historical Peruvian objects and local geological materials.
David Owens

Ishmael Randall Weeks and Giancarlo Scaglia, Revolver Galeria: This is a stimulating juxtaposition of two Peruvian artists. Giancrlo Scaglia has spent time on the uninhabited Frontón Island, off Lima, once a prison and the site of a horrific massacre in the 1980s. Using frottage techniques, he took an imprint of walls scarred from shootings. He also left canvases with circles of gold paint, reflecting the sun back at itself and allowing seabirds’ guano to accrete on the surface. Ishmael Randall Weeks’s sculptures evoke the layering of cultural histories—elegant sculptural assemblages include elements of Modernist design, historical Peruvian objects and local geological materials.

Kapwani Kiwanga, Galerie Tanja Wagner: This two-part installation evokes the historical surveillance of African American people and its legacies in the present. In her sculptures, Kapwani Kiwanga recalls “lantern laws” passed in New York in 1713 that forced black and First Nations slaves to carry candles after dark when not accompanied by a white person. Essentially abstract, the sculptures are at human height and made of evocative materials: black marble was historically used in depictions of slaves and the LED lights set into the stone suggest the lanterns. Around the sculptures are texts from the Negro Motorist Green Book from 1961, a guide to the—damningly few—safe spaces for African American travellers in Jim Crow-era America.
David Owens

Kapwani Kiwanga, Galerie Tanja Wagner: This two-part installation evokes the historical surveillance of African American people and its legacies in the present. In her sculptures, Kapwani Kiwanga recalls “lantern laws” passed in New York in 1713 that forced black and First Nations slaves to carry candles after dark when not accompanied by a white person. Essentially abstract, the sculptures are at human height and made of evocative materials: black marble was historically used in depictions of slaves and the LED lights set into the stone suggest the lanterns. Around the sculptures are texts from the Negro Motorist Green Book from 1961, a guide to the—damningly few—safe spaces for African American travellers in Jim Crow-era America.

Nicholas Pope, The Sunday Painter: Nicholas Pope made Yahweh and the Seraphim in 1995 as part of a grand (and as yet incomplete) project: the Oratory of Heavenly Space, a non-denominational chapel. This cluster of bulbous and bodily ceramic forms was intended to sit behind the altar of the chapel and relates to another group that was shown in Tate Britain’s Art Now space in 1997. Pope was part of the New British Sculpture scene in the 1980s, but his work is strikingly more in keeping with sculptors working in ceramics today. It might not be a new work, but it certainly looks like one.
David Owens

Nicholas Pope, The Sunday Painter: Nicholas Pope made Yahweh and the Seraphim in 1995 as part of a grand (and as yet incomplete) project: the Oratory of Heavenly Space, a non-denominational chapel. This cluster of bulbous and bodily ceramic forms was intended to sit behind the altar of the chapel and relates to another group that was shown in Tate Britain’s Art Now space in 1997. Pope was part of the New British Sculpture scene in the 1980s, but his work is strikingly more in keeping with sculptors working in ceramics today. It might not be a new work, but it certainly looks like one.

Joy Labinjo, Tiwani Contemporary: Unsurprisingly, Joy Labinjo’s paintings sold quickly. At just 24, Labinjo has developed a distinctive painterly language that has led to a solo show at Baltic, Gateshead, opening later this month. The works here are based on family photographs she recently discovered, from which she makes collages that lead to the paintings, where figurative elements sit amid abstract passages of pure colour. The figures and their clothes are captured in patches of colour, breaking their unity and gently distorting their form. Labinjo explores her British-Nigerian identity but also emphasises the elusiveness of memories conjured through images.
David Owens

Joy Labinjo, Tiwani Contemporary: Unsurprisingly, Joy Labinjo’s paintings sold quickly. At just 24, Labinjo has developed a distinctive painterly language that has led to a solo show at Baltic, Gateshead, opening later this month. The works here are based on family photographs she recently discovered, from which she makes collages that lead to the paintings, where figurative elements sit amid abstract passages of pure colour. The figures and their clothes are captured in patches of colour, breaking their unity and gently distorting their form. Labinjo explores her British-Nigerian identity but also emphasises the elusiveness of memories conjured through images.

Nikita Gale and Patrick Staff, Commonwealth and Council: Patrick Staff, who is on the crest of a wave with a touring UK and Ireland show and another opening at the Serpentine Galleries next month, is showing prints and a sculpture at Frieze that reference The Prince of Homburg, a 19th-century play by Heinrich von Kleist. The prints, based on photograms and featuring silhouetted blades and a text simply saying “Fuck the Clock”, evoke the violence and exhaustion in the play and what the gallery calls “surreal states of queerness and transgression”. Meanwhile, Gale’s mangled steel barrier, sound cables protruding from the shiny silver walls and a photograph featuring microphones raise questions around freedom of expression in the context of surveillance.
David Owens

Nikita Gale and Patrick Staff, Commonwealth and Council: Patrick Staff, who is on the crest of a wave with a touring UK and Ireland show and another opening at the Serpentine Galleries next month, is showing prints and a sculpture at Frieze that reference The Prince of Homburg, a 19th-century play by Heinrich von Kleist. The prints, based on photograms and featuring silhouetted blades and a text simply saying “Fuck the Clock”, evoke the violence and exhaustion in the play and what the gallery calls “surreal states of queerness and transgression”. Meanwhile, Gale’s mangled steel barrier, sound cables protruding from the shiny silver walls and a photograph featuring microphones raise questions around freedom of expression in the context of surveillance.