Arts Editor’s Edit: Must See Exhibitions This Week

These are the top picks from our Arts Editor for this weekends’s MUST SEE exhibitions in London:

  1. Sotto Voce — Dominique Levy Gallery

Dominque Levy Gallery presents its second show since opening at its London gallery. Sotto Voce brings together artists from all over the globe through a unison of a common medium: the abstract white relief.

Alongside the earliest unfolding of figuration by Henri Laurens produced in Paris to the harmonious constructions of the Brazilian Sergio Camargo, the exhibition will feature works by Jean Arp, Ben Nicholson, Lucio Fontana, Piero Manzoni, Enrico Castellani, Agosto Bonalumi, Fausto Melotti, Günther Uecker and others. Sotto Voce will map the progression of the abstract white relief geographically and through time.

While the white palette may give the works a soft voice, their messages are loud and clear, whether they may be a cry of hope, an attempt at nothingness, an expression of aesthetic idealism, or a surge towards transcendence. Sotto Voce will demonst rate how this subtle yet forceful dialogue was carried out internationally through the language of the white relief by artists at the forefront of their respective movements, ranging from Surrealism to the Zero Group, Spatialism to Minimalism, and Conceptual Art to Constructivism.

Sotto Voce, opens from 10 February – 18 April.

Dominique Lévy Gallery, 

Old Bond Street, Mayfair, 

London W1S 4PZ. 

2) Julio Le Parc — Serpentine Sackler Gallery

The first major UK exhibition by Argentinian artist Julio Le Parc sees the Serpentine Sackler transformed with immersive light installations and the artist’s signature interactive games.

The exhibition highlights the different dimensions in Le Parc’s works, from his politicised drawings and interactive works to his iconic light installations. Experimentation with light as well as the physical involvement and visual stimulation of the spectator have been crucial throughout Le Parc’s career. The visitor’s participation is both passive and active, with the exhibition design reminiscent of an amusement arcade and its numerous booths. While Le Parc’s light installations offer an immersive experience, his interactive ‘game’ works become a place for activity. Born out of his political activism, the ‘games’ include unstable, moving floors as well as punch bags and cut-out target silhouettes upon which are depicted familiar political archetypes, such as a dictator, a politician, a pacifist, a policeman and a museum director

Known for using projected, moving, and reflected light to create works of art in constant flux, a desire to experiment with our engagement and perception of art lies t the heart of Le Parc’s practice. He alters our perspective on the roles of the artist, spectator and the institution. Through his experimentation with light, Le Parc creates a situation of visual instability, in the work and in  the viewer’s experience.

Opens from 25 Nov 2014 – 15 Feb.

Serpentine Sackler Gallery

Kensington Gardens

3)  Tony Oursler – Lisson Gallery

Lisson Gallery presents template/variant/friend/stranger, the newest body of work from Oursler in over five years. The exhibition sets focus around his fascination with the evolution of identity via techniques of facial recognition technology. The artist’s interest in the face as the locus of communication and identity, through features, movement and expression, is central to these works.

Each of these giant portrait heads bears the network of marks or nodes associated with different facial recognition systems, used by border controls, law enforcement agencies and even ATM machines. The images, staggered maze-like throughout the space in the manner of theatrical props, present themselves as potential police mug shots, closed-circuit camera stills or anonymous faces in the crowd, albeit magnified in scale and distorted by their mediation through surveillance technology.

The pursuit of biometric data in facial scans, iris patterns and fingerprints all add to our burgeoning and invisible electronic profiles, amounting to a sinister accumulation of personal information on databases that capture and categorise humans according to outward appearance, unique bodily traits and even DNA sequencing. Oursler himself has studied and written about various methods of facial recognition: “The illusory face triggers part of the brain that is used in pattern recognition – long thought to be important to the evolution of the species. Without it we would not learn from the stimuli around us. So keen is our ability to find patterns that it is more important to the species to make false positives than not.” Tony Oursler, On Chance and Face, from Vox Vernacular, 2013.

Opens 30th January – 7th March

Lisson Gallery

29 Bell Street 

London

NW1 5DA

4) The Gallery at Vault Festival

The Gallery at Vault Arts Festival will be playing host to two permanent artists for the duration of the festival – Katherine Leedale and Joe Wray. Leedale works primarily in London, creating imagery for theatre, dance and opera organisations and has developed a working relationship with performer and theatre-maker Anna Sulan Masing. The fruits of this relationship are seen here in her photographic series In The Hothouse, which is a visual continuation of the pair’s discussion of home, identity and self-realisation, made up of images taken at Kew Gardens and of plants under the sweltering Portugal sun.

Berlin-based Joe Wray presents Transformation, an exhibition exploring the process of image-making. Wray’s series of portraits were made by shining light   on to the surface of existing photographs and recording the shifts and distortions that resulted.

Two guest artists will also take residence over the course of the festival – Cat Roissetter (28th Jan – 8th Feb) and Lucienne O’Mara (11th – 22nd Feb). Roissetter’s dystopian creations seek a place between childhood and memory, using her family photo album as the starting point for what becomes a new scene, far removed from its original incarnation. Lucienne O’Mara’s huge watercolours reject traditional portraiture by blurring the features of her subjects. At first her paintings seem celebratory and sensual, but upon spending more time with them, they begin to reveal themselves as something stranger.

Open 28th Jan – 8th March

The Vaults

Leake Street

London

SE1 7NN

5) Ali Banisadr — Blain | Southern

‘People are always afraid of what they don’t understand, but artists have to step into the void – the unknown. The unknown territory is where it’s worth exploring.’

New York-based artist Ali Banisadr brings “At Once” to London, an exhibition of oil paintings created over the last two years as his first-ever solo show in the UK, it includes a 7-metre long triptych, his largest work to date.

Oscillating between the abstract and the figurative, Banisadr’s paintings feature fantastical landscapes populated with grotesque hybrids in a perpetual state of fren  zy. These characters – conflations of animal, god, machine and human – are deftly captured in whirling, exuberant brushstrokes. Frequently there is a sense of a heaven and earth: in the lower half, we witness temporal struggles, physical conflict and angst, while above the characters seem more at peace; as if they have surrendered themselves to the ether.

Sound is integral to Banisadr’s practice; indeed, the power of his work is attributable to the synaesthesia he experiences while painting. his began when he was a child growing up in Tehran during the Iran-Iraq war, where he drew the sounds of bombing and air-raids to make sense of what was happening. He says: ‘When I begin a painting, it is always based on an internal sound. As soon as I apply the brush, the sound begins, and I am able to compose the work based on the sounds I hear as I’m painting. It is the force that drives the whole painting and helps me compose the work and pull everything together.’

His art-historical inspirations are also extensive; Persian miniaturists, Kandinsky, Marinetti,Veronese, Richter, Abstract Expressionism and the nightmarish visions of Bosch and Brueghel. Alongside these are a range of literary influences, as well as contemporary motifs drawn from comic books, films and music.

For Banisadr, painting is evidently not just painting, but a means to reflect visually on his thoughts, memories and imagination. While intensely personal, it is a line of enquiry that allows him to chip away at artistic, political, cultural and  religious shibboleths. It is significant that he invariably eschews the Western tradition of including a central focal point or protagonist. In doing so he allows the beholder to commune with a bigger idea of humanity itself and imbues his work with a universal quality, offering an invitation to the viewer to renew not just their own visual and psychological references, but also to question larger conventional orthodoxies.

Opens 11th February – 21st march

Blain | Southern

Hanover Square

London