BY frieze in Critic's Guides | 19 JAN 24

The Best Shows to See in the UK This Winter

Amid various exhibitions, CONDO returns to the capital after a four-year hiatus to promote international collaboration between galleries

BY frieze in Critic's Guides | 19 JAN 24

CONDO / Various London locations / 20 January – 17 February 

Nika Kutateladze, They Were Born Together, They Will Die Together,2024
Nika Kutateladze, ‘They Were Born Together, They Will Die Together’, 2024, exhibition view. Courtesy: the artist and Modern Art, London; photograph: Michael Brzezinski

The preview of CONDO takes place across London this weekend, with 23 of the city’s commercial spaces hosting 50 galleries from abroad. Taking its name from a contracted version of the word ‘condominium’, the event intends to foster international collaboration between galleries, encouraging sharing of resources and enabling artists to show in a new city and context. London audiences can familiarize themselves with the tastes and trends operating in spaces as far afield as Mexico City (Pamela Weissenberg hosted by Mother’s Tankstation), Tokyo (Misako & Rosen hosted by Union Pacific) and Warsaw (Import Export hosted by RODEO). Other highlights include the group exhibition ‘Portals’ at Soft Opening, which hosts LambdaLambdaLambda from Prishtina, Kosovo, and Arcadia Missa’s solo show by artist and founding member of BANK, John Russell, presented with Bridget Donahue, New York, and High Art, Paris. Plus, Modern Art Bury Street hosts Artbeat, Tbilisi, for an exhibition of enigmatic paintings by Georgian artist Nika Kutateladze. All the shows across the programme continue until February 17. – Sean Burns

Bhenji Ra / Auto Italia, London / 20 January – 17 March 

Bhenji Ra, Biraddali on the Horizon, 2024
Bhenji Ra, Biraddali on the Horizon, 2024, film still. Courtesy: the artist

Filipina-Australian artist Bhenji Ra opens their first solo show in the UK at Auto Italia with their new moving image commission, Biraddali Dancing on the Horizon (2024). The project reflects Ra’s ongoing exploration of performance as a method to destabilize and question hegemonic Western dance conventions. Initially adapting a documentarian tone, the film follows the phantasmagorical journey of the artist and their teacher and collaborator, Sitti Airia Sangkula Askalani-Obeso, a Tausug elder, through a dreamlike ancestral plane. As Obeso instructs Ra on practicing pangalay, a pre-Islamic dance of the Tausug people of the Sulu Archipelago and the eastern coast Bajau of Saba in the Philippines, their dynamic moulds into one of mother and daughter, leaning into the significance of intergenerational learning. With time, the narrative becomes subverted by its own mythology and slips into fable as they encounter a celestial being known as the Biraddali, portrayed by Ra as a beautiful trans, non-human figure and the originator of the dance. The film seeks to merge precolonial understandings of gender identity with Tausug genealogies.  – Ivana Cholakova

Paul Mpagi Sepuya / Nottingham Contemporary / 27 January – 5 May

Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Daylight Studio with Garden Cuttings (_DSF0340), 2022
Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Daylight Studio with Garden Cuttings (_DSF0340), 2022, archival pigment print, 1.5 × 2 m. Courtesy: the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles; photograph: Jeff McLane

Back in LA, I started photographing flowers. Poppies, roses. I was especially drawn to roses at night, illuminated by artificial sources: car brake lights, gas station lamps, house and apartment lighting. Excessively watered rosebushes can be found across class divides in LA. In that first year, I spent most of my time walking and biking – the roses became a way for me to orient myself in the city.

As I first began my studio-based work, I brought in fragments of these images of flowers, as well as ambient light and distorted figures from gay bars and dancefloors. In the last few years, I have dedicated myself to native landscape gardening; it’s become a side-project on its own. Along with a home and space to garden, LA has afforded me a much larger physical studio than I would have to access in New York, and that has hugely affected my work. But, perhaps the roses are the real secret to the city. – Paul Mpagi Sepuya

Andrew Cranston / The Hepworth Wakefield / 25 November 2023 – 2 June 2024

Andrew Cranston, cat and cheeseboard, 2018.
Andrew Cranston, cat and cheeseboard, 2018. Courtesy: © Andrew Cranston and Ingleby, Edinburgh; photograph: Andy Keate

‘What Made You Stop Here?’ – Scottish painter Andrew Cranston’s first solo exhibition at a major public gallery – contains 38 large-scale compositions and intimate, off-kilter miniatures often painted on the linen-bound covers of second-hand books. Bringing together largely new and recent work, the show presents a world of quiet interiors and warping landscapes on the edge of the imagination – not quite dreamlike, not quite real.

Blending everyday objects and personal history with scenes prompted by wayward scraps of painting, literature, hearsay and film, Cranston’s work creates a hybrid environment, where the familiar – fried eggs, watermelons, jars of tadpoles, wheels of cheese – is balanced out by strange and unexpected moments. At times, the paintings seem like memories, already hazy and obscure, punctuated suddenly by details drifting in from other contexts – evidence, perhaps, of what Cranston, writing in a brief text to accompany his painting Clots (2022), has termed ‘creative misremembering’. – Rowland Bagnall

Barbara Kruger / Serpentine South, London / 1 February – 17 March

Barbara Kruger, ‘THINKING OF YOU, I MEAN ME, I MEAN YOU’, 2022, installation view. Courtesy: the artist and Sprüth Magers; photograph: The Art Institute of Chicago

In the catalogue introduction to Kruger’s 1999–2000 survey at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Gary Indiana wrote that people who get ‘freaked out’ or ‘threatened’ by this work are those who ‘never got the joke’ or ‘don’t want to get the joke’. While Indiana’s assessment came of having witnessed Kruger’s rise during the 1980s, when her frank collages – a poignant suite of which lines a narrow gallery that runs like an aortic artery through the middle of this show – did indeed, as Kruger herself wrote in a 2012 Artforum article, ‘cut through the grease’ of the AIDS crisis and the corporate conservatism of Ronald Regan’s administration, it perhaps did not foresee either her work’s inevitable mainstreaming nor the nature of a new era of large-scale mortality and injustice. – Jessica Baran

Pope.L / South London Gallery / 21 November 2023 – 11 February 2024

Pope.L, How Much Is That Nigger in the Window a.k.a. Tompkins Square Crawl, 1991
Pope.L, How Much Is That Nigger in the Window a.k.a. Tompkins Square Crawl, 1991, digital c-print on gold-fibre silk paper, 25 × 38 cm. Courtesy: © Pope.L and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York

I first heard about Pope.L’s work at the 2002 Whitney Biennial, where he had recently embarked on the multi-year performance, The Great White Way (2001–09). It was a confounding spectacle: a Black man crawling down Broadway in a Superman costume with a skateboard strapped to his back. I subsequently had the opportunity to hang out with him a few times. Conversations with Pope.L were just as confounding as his work. His words were thought-provoking yet funny, the sound of his laugh often formed an intrinsic part of any debate. 

My last encounter with his art was ‘Impossible Failures’, a joint exhibition with Gordon Matta-Clark at 52 Walker, New York, last year – an aptly titled show for an artist who was dedicated to experimentation no matter the outcome. I was amazed, as I have been with so much of Pope.L’s work, by what he was able to do with the simplest of materials: Vigilance a.k.a. Dust Room (2023), for instance, employed simple Home Depot products to create a magical scene in which Styrofoam flew around like snow in a blue, wintery light. Ever the trickster, he ensured the piece could be seen only through a small window cut into the side of a dumpster. I could have watched it for eternity. I will greatly miss Pope.L and his startling work. – Ari Marcopoulos

Main image: Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Daylight Studio with Garden Cuttings (_DSF0340), 2022, archival pigment print, 1.5 × 2 m. Courtesy: the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles; photograph: Jeff McLane

Contemporary Art and Culture