Highlights of CONDO17 across East, West and South London
Whoever said the contemporary art world was a cutthroat industry…well, they’d be right. But, it’s gems like CONDO that contradict its clichéd status. A sort of art fair-cum-festival, CONDO offers dealers a way to showcase artists in a different city or country without the commercial pressure of a traditional art fair. Conceived by Vanessa Carlos - co-founder of Carlos/Ishikawa in Stepney Green, which represents the likes of Oscar Murillo and Ed Fornieles - this annual event allows international galleries to transcend geographical boundaries and collaborate.
The whole scheme is based on generosity and mutual respect: participant galleries only have to pay their host a fee of £600 to cover expenses. Considering most art fairs cost over five figures, CONDO offers younger galleries an alternative way to introduce their artists to a wider audience. Now in it’s second year CONDO includes 36 galleries (from 24 last year), hosted in 15 spaces: from blue chips such as Sadie Coles to younger South London spaces like Arcadia Missa. To tackle it all in one weekend is quite a test of endurance – galleries are situated all across London from Mayfair, Bethnal Green, Lambeth and Peckham. But in a city with an art scene as diverse as London’s, it figures.
Union Pacific (Hosting: Misako & Rosen, Tokyo & Jan Kaps, Cologne)
Walk into Union Pacific and you’ll be confronted with a giant, slightly squished, inflatable snowman by Jan Kiefer. It looks rather sad sitting there – a reminder that Christmas is well and truly over, allowing us to wallow in the mid-January blues. But move two yards to your right and have your spirits lifted by Comedy Twombly (Texas Chainsaw Masscare). A suited figurine wearing a hockey mask and clutching a chainsaw faces a bloody looking mini Cy Twombly canvas. Twombly’s signature red circular brushstrokes do look as though they’ve been created after a violent murder. Artist Ken Kagami has also used a Chucky doll (from the horror film) to emulate Yves Klein’s Anthropometries series. Instead of naked women the artist has used the doll to create the bodily imprints with the same deep blue coloured paint Klein was famous for. Kagami playfully re-presents The Greats without the worthiness.
Emalin (Hosting: Galerie Gregor Staiger, Zurich)
Emalin have certainly crammed a plethora of artists into this dark and disturbing show full of menacing faces and forms hanging in various guises. Two creepy-looking turkey heads by Jeffrey Joyal are stuck onto oversized, upside down light bulbs suspended from the ceiling. On the adjacent wall, a cushion-y face made from skin coloured patchwork by Evgeny Antufiev, bears its teeth whilst a homemade shank dangles next to it. I am however calmed by the eerily relaxing music which features as part of Shana Moulton’s film, Sand Saga. In it, a woman dressed in a dowdy brunette wig stands in front of the mirror and carefully applies a face mask. Once the cream has dried she proceeds to eat it, sinking her teeth into its brown rubbery surface. It’s grotesque and horrifying but it effectively ridicules the rituals that women often undertake to reach the unattainable standards of ‘beauty’ frequently perpetuated by the media. It’s bedlam in here, but of course, hell is other people.
Carlos Ishikawa (Hosting: Tommy Simoens, Antwerp & ShanghART, Shanghai)
At Carlos/Ishikawa the majority of the gallery has been given to Oscar Murillo’s immersive installation, Human Resources. The whole space has been transformed into a wooden stadium, seating life-size papier-mache effigies of Columbian labourers dressed in wellies, polo shirts and sun hats. Their expressions are painted in various states of awe, amusement and surprise as if they’re all in on the same joke. You’re welcome to sit with them, take selfies and spectate: viewing the audience from the perspective of the artwork. In the centre of the room sits, Aztec Light by Yutaka Sone: a kitschy looking roller-coaster model built around a dark green mountain of roughly painted polyurethane foam made to look like grass. The contradiction of labour and leisure between the two works creates a curious cross-cultural dynamic.
Arcadia Missa (Hosting: VI, VII, Oslo)
It’s incredible how a keen eye can transform a diminutive space like Arcadia Missa, which is nestled under a railway arch just up the road from Peckham Rye. Than Hussein Clark affectively frames the space through his sumptuously coloured post-modern-esque lampposts made from hand-blown glass but it’s Emma Talbot’s silky tent like creation which captures my attention. The fabric is covered with trippy brightly coloured patterns and the occasional poetic line: ‘what are words? Just made up shapes and sounds.’ The motif of a faceless woman is repeated, undertaking various domestic activities: she holds a child, showers, lies on the sofa, gets a smear test. Occasionally her character drifts into obscurity, entering the void into mysterious dark worlds or lying with her arms behind her head whilst her chest is on fire. It’s a humorous storyboard of female anxiety.
Sadie Coles (Hosting: Bridget Donahue, New York)
New York based gallery Bridget Donahue presents The Easy Demands a hard-hitting solo exhibition by Martine Syms. In Lesson LXXV a screen lies face up in a dark purple box. The film is of the artist whose face has been splashed with a thick milky white paint substance. She blinks continuously; her eyes look towards the floor. The liquid drips back and forth from her chin and onto to her brown sweatshirt. The video is on a continuous loop – only a few seconds long. It instantly conjures ideas of white privilege and disharmony: a poignant work in light of Trump’s alienating inauguration speech, which was recently counteracted by millions of women who marched around the world, demanding their voices be heard.
Project Native Informant (Hosting: Mother’s Tankstation, Dublin & Queer Thoughts, New York)
As if stark white walls weren’t quite enough for Project Native Informant, the gallery extends it’s exhibition to the ceiling and floor too. åyr, an art collective consisting of professionally trained architects (formerly AIRBNB PAVILLION) have taken stock images of chandelier ceiling mounts and through a process of editing and 3D printing, turned them into sculptures made from baby-blue Styrofoam, fixed with dressmakers pins to the ceiling. On the floor, Yuri Pattison has sliced open a series of modems to create digital landscapes made from cables, microchips, miniature shipping containers and trees. Pattison consistently challenges the common misconception that the internet is intangible by presenting the digital through physical objects and technological paraphernalia.
Written by Wilhemina Madeley, a Contributor to Arteviste.com