Highlights of CONDO, London
Two weeks ago, the second edition of CONDO in London opened to the public. The concept: 15 of the city’s most edgy, young and up-and-coming galleries would offer (parts of) their spaces to 21 edgy, young and up-and-coming galleries from other cities, including Oslo, Shanghai, Guatemala City and Warsaw, amongst others. These premises sounded exciting enough to book a flight and spend two days running from Peckham to Shoreditch under the humid British skies. There was a lot to see, and of that lot, a majority was worth the trip (mostly because it was great, and on a few occasions, because it was refreshingly terrible).
Here are some of the best moments, shows and works I witnessed during that weekend.
A certainly fruitful collaboration was the one between Arcadia Missa and Oslo’s VI, VII Gallery. In the center of the small space, a tent-like structure by British artist Emma Talbot (You Do Not Belong To You, 2016) seemed to float in the air. Fabric panels covered in colorful drawings and paintings – symbols, geometrical patterns, diagrams, text, cartoons – miraculously came across as both incredibly light and dense, forming a sort of etheric refuge – a less orthodoxly defined form of safe space so to say. Intelligent and unpretentious, Talbot’s work was framed by two of Than Hussein Clark’s elegant sculptures (Constant Lamppost (Verona/Saraosso) and Constant Lamppost (Cancer/Capricorn), both 2017), as well as a blunt, subtly radical abstract canvas by Brad Grievson (Captive, 2017) and, standing on the floor like an alien monolith, a work by Eloise Hawser (Circle, Dots and Gons, 2016). This smart show, which I saw on Sunday after spending fifteen minutes looking for the gallery’s entrance, left me soothed and invigorated. Thanks to an initial misidentification, I was also warmly greeted by gallery staff and offered ginger tea, which added to the pleasant feeling the whole thing gave me.
The Sunday Painter generously hosted three galleries – Jaqueline Martins from Sao Paolo, Warsaw’s Stereo Gallery and New York / London’s Seventeen Gallery. Particularly remarkable were Emma Hart’s works – glossy sheets of ceramic, some of them so shiny they seemed to have been dipped in hair gel – alternatively covered with dead-pan messages or skin-like prints, as well as cartoonish bird paintings in grey hues by Justin Fitzpatrick. At first glance the exhibition seemed welcoming and commercial, only to reveal itself an energetic commentary on the state of world politics. I would have loved to see Boris Johnson’s face when confronted with one of Hart’s work that simply read: THE TERRIBLE TRUTH, and then ask him if he’d think this would be an adequate artwork to hang above his desk at the Foreign Office.
Oscar Murillo’s work Human Resources (2016) at Carlos/Ishikawa was equally political yet much more terrifying. Life-size puppets of what I’d guess were agricultural workers sat on benches arranged in terraces on all four sides of the gallery space. While the kids there were amused by these naively executed golems, the adults (including myself) seemed insecure as to whether they should run away immediately or force themselves to look at the work for an hour and reflect on how much of the five pounds they paid for their latest flat white actually ended up in a Colombian coffee farmer’s pocket. Because of its overwhelming presence, Human Resources reduced the pieces by Ouyang Chung (Flying Moths, 2015, an oil on canvas triptych of what seemed to be young woman dancing or stripping) and Yutaka Sone (Aztec Light, 2016, a model for some hybrid structure between a Pre-Columbian temple and a primitive roller-coaster) into mere props. All works showcased an amateurish, “I don’t need to submit myself to the canons of my medium”-type quality, but only Murillo’s execution of this trendy adage convinced me.
However, works more modest in scale were equally successful. Greengrassi cooperated with the uber-cool Guatemala City gallery Proyectos Ultravioleta and staged a good group show titled These Architectures We Make, in which two small inkjet prints by Giuseppe Gabellone stood out. Technically photographs (both Untitled, 2009), each work showed a sculpture, standing outdoors against an industrial background and consisting of a frame, set in two concrete feet, with a piece of printed fabric loosely stretched on it. By defying any categorization with ease and pizzazz, these two works exemplified a relieving and tangible alternative to the tiring, often elitist discussion on and around “image making”, the self-consuming darling of every biennial panel discussion.
At Project Native Informant, four baby-blue reliefs by the collective ayr (OMA Décor TM #1 to #4,all 2016) mounted on the ceiling, read as a mix between the stuccos of bourgeois houses and spat-out bubblegum, something that could have been an integral part of Alice in Wonderland, if the story had happened in 2017 and Alice were a member of DIS. At Union Pacific, Yoan Mudry’s canvases (If value, then copy, 2016 and One day I will solve my problems with maturity, 2015), depicting amongst other 1) Britney spears shaving her head 2) Disney movies characters 3) the multifunctional names of Marx and Freud, were placed next to a large inflatable snowman by Jan Kiefer (Skiing Snowman, 2016) and Ken Kagami’s reinterpretation of an Yves Klein “Ahtropometry” painting (Comedy Klein (Chucky), 2016), with Chucky the Doll replacing Klein’s original naked female body as a “human” brush. All of this felt humorous and thought through, perfectly underlining the often bloated (and at times, simply absurd) importance we tend to attach to the oeuvre of popstars, dead white male artists and seminal theorists alike.
Also worth mentioning are the American artist Martine Syms’ presentation with Bridget Donahue at Sadie Coles and Franziska Lantz’s installation with Berlin’s Supportico Lopez at Rodeo. Syms impresses with her use of absence; she employs it like a discrete ingredient in a recipe, allowing the final dish to unfold in its full complexity and leaving you hungry for more. Her photographs and the looped video on view were mesmerizing, intimate and balanced evocations of black womanhood. Lantz, who hails from Switzerland and is also a musician, filled the room with a large amount of objects hanging from the ceiling she mostly collected from the shores of the Thames. Ranging from animal bones to army jackets, this inventory could have easily read as a gimmicky catalogue of trash, but the precision of Lantz’s arrangement and the strange, almost sensual mix of blackened, polished and rusted surfaces gave me the impression to stand in some badass sorceress’ meditation room.
Altogether I was charmed with what I saw. Sometimes I was annoyed by the lack of a readable press text; I also found it frustrating that many hosting spaces gave themselves much more room and importance than to their foreign counterparts. Ultimately however, CONDO was a successful affair that to a certain extend restored my faith in the cooperation between commercial galleries. It was freezing and unsurprisingly it rained; traffic was awful; I was anxious at the prospect of not being able to see everything I wanted to. In the end I did, managed to avoid a nervous breakdown because of not knowing which tube to take and forgot the cold, thanks to the good art. One improvement I’d suggest for next year, if I dare: dear gallerists, on the opening weekend, please try to keep the galleries open until 8 instead of 6 pm. You can schedule the gallery dinner for 9 and we’ ll put on our dresses or suits or new limited edition Y3 sneakers in the cab on the way to the restaurant, and we’ll still look great, fresh, fancy, and current, like the true citizens of the world Britain’s Prime Minister seems to abhor so deeply.
Text: Karim Crippa