Condo is the rather brilliant idea of Vanessa Carlos, co-founder of four year-old Carlos/Ishikawa gallery in Whitechapel. For the last week, just mentioning the gallery exchange project has invariably elicited nodding admiration from everyone who knows about it: in 2016, when the costs of participating in art fairs are sky high and sales erratic, this looks like a very smart solution to the problem of presenting your artists to a wider public. Since Saturday last, eight younger galleries in London are hosting 24 international galleries for a month. Predominantly US and European guests, there are also visitors from Shanghai and Sao Paulo, all creating a welcome moment of new interest at a time of year when everything still feels like it’s getting in to gear.
The Approach gallery is not participating in Condo, but the current show there called Is this living? was curated by artist Jack Lavender and Hannah Lees – who along with Puppies Puppies also features in the Artists’ Clothes show at Carlos/Ishikawa. Lavender and Lees have brought together a show pivoting on the subjects of consumption and waste at The Approach – food, the detritus of eating and its by-products too feature in a show that veers queasily between celebratory indulgence and dark memento mori. Stuart Cumberland opens the show with a new painting Gas Burner, elegantly turning the elemental cooking flame into a neat graphic. Inside the main space Cumberland’s oversized champagne bottle (Magnum? Jeroboam? Nebuchadnezzar?) stands for excesses both physical and financial. On the other side of the door, Charles Mayton has used two cardboard fruit boxes to paint the leering faces of Bacchic figures, with suggestions of vine leaves curling by their rubicund heads – these two artists providing the only direct intimations of the pleasures of the flesh. Elsewhere all is atomised detritus: in the minutely detailed paintings by Berlin-based Helene Appel, whose canvases are so proficiently trompe l’oeil that at a distance they look like delicate assemblages; or in the photograph of the remains of a campfire, printed on a vinyl banner on the floor that is Lavender’s own contribution to the show. Hannah Lees has collected animal bones, washed up at low tide on the banks of the Thames, and created threaded, hanging sculptures that remind us of the end-game for both consumer and consumed.
Over at Carlos/Ishikawa it’s amazing how much has been packed into the relatively modest size space, in a still un-gentrified corner of the East End. The entrance is hung with t-shirts and rugby shirts, bomber jackets, batman costumes and a comically medieval-looking male chastity belt. Sixteen artists were invited to make art in the form of clothes, or clothes in the form of art. Whatever. The invitation has unleashed previously unknown skills and enthusiasms. Helen Marten and Magali Reus’s collaborative project – creepily clear pigskin socks – is quickly recognisable, Puppies Puppies’ sweetcorn-printed t-shirt references his corn-oil installation at Vilma Gold last year, and Ed Fornieles has created an adult size costume version of the fox avatar he uses on Instagram.
Beyond the entrance, Essex Street and Mathew galleries from New York and Freymond-Guth Fine Arts from Zurich have divvied-up the main gallery space between them. Mathew has a solo presentation by Than Hussein Clark, a US born artist, who has studied in London and Hamburg and now divides his time between the two cities. A complex practice that addresses queer culture through performance and decorative arts strategies that occasionally recall Marc-Camille Chaimowicz, Clark is showing a painted screen and group of ten blown glass hanging lights whose liquid forms in Murano colours wittily suggest a Huysmans-scale decadence as well as nonchalently relaxed male organs.
Freymond-Guth have brought paintings by Megan Francis Sullivan, who incidentally has also shown with Mathew in New York. Each canvas is apparently a direct quotation of a Cezanne, the collection from which they originate is name-checked in the titles. All the paintings have been rendered in mauves and blues quite alien to the original colours, straining the viewer’s powers of recall. But that is not really the point of work that has in the past replicated the poster for Bridget Riley’s first ever show in New York and Guerilla Girls works enumerating shows by female artists in US museums. It’s a kind of slackerish, critical theory fandom. If you can even say such a thing.
Condo is a great opportunity to get a handle on a whole swathe of artists who up ‘til now have rarely made an appearance in London, in spite of their very international credentials. It will require a bit of dedication to get around all eight participating galleries, but it’s January. The year is young.
Is this living? Helene Appel, Stuart Cumberland, Jack Lavender, Hannah Lees, Charles Mayton, Puppies Puppies, Oliver Sutherland, Hayley Tompkins, Holly White.
The approach, 1st Floor, 47 Approach Road, London E2 9LY. Open Wednesday – Sunday 12.00 – 18.00 or by appointment. Exhibition continues until 7 February 2016.theapproach.co.uk
Artists‘ Clothes, Darja Bajagic, Ed Fornieles, Eloise Hawser, Helen Marten & Magali Reus, Jack Lavender, Korakrit Arunanondchai, Lloyd Corporation, Marie Angeletti, Oscar Murillo, Pilvi Takala, Puppies Puppies, Richard Sides, Stuart Middleton, Victoria Colmegna.
Condo: Fred Lonidier, Jason Loebs, Megan Francis Sullivan, Than Hussein Clark.
Carlos Ishikawa, Unit 4, 88 Mile End Road. London E1 4UN. Open Wednesday – Saturday 12.00 – 18.00. Exhibition continues until 13 February 2016. www.carlosishikawa.com