BY Orit Gat in Critic's Guides | 03 OCT 16

Critic's Guide: London

Lynn Hershman Leeson, Mike Kelley, Laura Owens, and more: the best exhibitions on view during Frieze Week

BY Orit Gat in Critic's Guides | 03 OCT 16

Ed Ruscha, Years Months Weeks, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 1.8 × 3.2 m. Courtesy: Gagosian; © Ed Ruscha

Ed Ruscha
5 October – 17 December

An exhibition of new paintings by Ed Ruscha. It would almost be a disservice to use any more words to introduce an artist whose work is built upon such a succinct use of language. For ‘Extremes and In-betweens’, the LA-based giant, whose work has influenced generations of artists working in painting, photography, and artists’ books, presents a series of works from 2016, rendered in earth tones (‘a colour that forgot it was a colour’) and focused on geography and the way we see the world. With the recent closure of the fantastic exhibition ‘Ed Ruscha Books & Co.’, which surveyed Ruscha’s production in print (and the artists that followed it) and toured across a number of Gagosian venues, this show provides an opportunity for viewers to revisit Ruscha’s achievements in painting once more.

Simon Fujiwara, Joanne, 2016, film still. Courtesy: FVU and The Photographers’ Gallery

Simon Fujiwara
The Photographers’ Gallery
7 October – 15 January 2017

Simon Fujiwara’s autobiography has always provided fodder for his art. The installation, erotic novel, and performative work Welcome to the Hotel Munber (2008–10) described the hotel his parents ran in Spain; while Studio Pietà (King Kong Komplex) (2013) examined a relationship his mother had before she met his father; and The Mirror Stage (2009–12) honed in on the artist’s sexual awakening in front of a piece of art. Joanne, a new video commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella, The Photographers’ Gallery and Ishikawa Foundation, continues this trend. It is a portrait of Joanne Salley, who taught Fujiwara art at Harrow School for Boys and a few years later found herself at the mercy of the tabloids when her students found and distributed nude photos of her. Searching for a way of remaking Salley’s image, Fujiwara’s project is a statement and an attempt to revise the representation of women in mainstream media as well as a reflection on the relationship between the artist and his subject.

Laura Owens, Untitled (detail), 2016, yarn and tennis racket on dyed linen, 82 x 71 cm. Courtesy: the artist, Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York/Rome; Sadie Coles HQ, London, and Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne

Laura Owens
Sadie Coles HQ, (62 Kingly Street)
5 October – 12 November

Bordering both figuration and abstraction and always packed with energy, Laura Owens’s paintings are anything but predictable. Her recent exhibition at CCA Wattis Institute in San Francisco included wallpaper encasing a whole gallery, while the materials for the work itself ranged from acrylic to silkscreen ink and paper, with the geometric design broken up by phone numbers (which the viewers could text), printouts, and other miscellanea. The impressive range of imagery utilized here, and the fact that ‘Ten Paintings’ referred to in the title were concealed beneath the wallpaper, goes to prove that Owens is never at a lack for ideas and her work is currently at a height of invention.

Edward Thomasson, Pressure, 2016, video still. Courtesy: the artist and Southard Reid

Edward Thomasson
Southard Reid
15 September – 29 October

Edward Thomasson’s Pressure (2016) is a video work produced on the set of Volunteers, a play staged at London’s David Roberts Art Foundation earlier this year. An examination of situations in which people of their own free will allow themselves to be used by others, it hones in on situations such as a sexual encounter in an anonymous apartment and a training session for massage therapists. Pressure has the immediacy of performance, and yet, projected in the gallery, it communicates an uncomfortable remoteness, bringing up both the discomfort that we may feel in the face of others’ needs, and the tenderness that can be experienced in responding to them.

Latifa Echakhch, Forever Mi, Mi b, Do, Sol, 2016, bronze, dimensions variable. Courtesy: the artist and kamel mennour, Paris/London; © Latifa Echakhch 

Latifa Echakhch
Kamel Mennour
4 October – 12 November

Latifa Echakhch’s interest in migration and how it plays out in the form of cultural heritage leads her to create works that unsettle the idea of a coherent sense of identity. Born in Morocco but raised in France, her previous projects have seen her break Moroccan teacups in a gallery (Erratum, 2004) and hang a golden plaque that reads ALIEN OF EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY (the US visa classification for artist visas). Immigration is a complex issue in contemporary society, and Echakhch presents it as what it is: a personal state that forms the foundation of how we think about citizenship. She does this in work that is witty, poignant, and always imbued with a sense of poetics and irony. She inaugurates the Parisian gallery Kamel Mennour’s new Mayfair space, and will also present a solo project at their Frieze London booth.

Lynn Hershman Leeson, 'Trans Genesis: Evaporations and Mutations', 2016, exhibition view, Vilma Gold, London. Courtesy: Vilma Gold, London

Lynn Hershman Leeson
Vilma Gold
4 – 29 October

Lorna, which was included in ‘Electronic Superhighway (2016 – 1966)’ at the Whitechapel Gallery earlier this year, is proof of how ahead of her time Lynn Hershman Leeson has always been, and how current she still is. Made in 1983, the piece is an interactive video installation that sees viewers make decisions for Lorna, an agoraphobic woman who hasn’t left her small apartment in years.

Leeson is showing a lot at the moment – she recently had a highly praised exhibition at Bridget Donahue Gallery in New York, and her video installation Lynn Turning into Roberta (2016) was shown at Vilma Gold earlier this year, another in a longstanding series of works focusing on Roberta Breitmore, who Hershman Leeson first created in 1974. The work of this artist, who has been thinking about the relationship between human being and technology since the late 1960s, seems more pressing, current, and urgent the more technology enters into our everyday lives. It’s as if, finally, time has vindicated her.

Mike Kelley, Framed and Frame (Miniature Reproduction "Chinatown Wishing Well" Built by Mike Kelley after "Miniature Reproduction 'Seven Star Cavern' Built by Prof. H.K. Lu"), 1999, installation view, Hauser & Wirth, London, 2016. Courtesy: Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts and Hauser & Wirth; © Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts; all Rights Reserved / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY Rennie Collection, Vancouver; photograph: Ken Adlard

Mike Kelley
Hauser & Wirth
23 September – 19 November

The full title of Mike Kelley’s 1999 installation that currently fills Hauser & Wirth’s two rooms is Framed and Frame (Miniature Reproduction ‘Chinatown Wishing Well’ built by Mike Kelley after ‘Miniature Reproduction ‘Seven Star Cavern’ Built by Prof. H.K. Lu’). There’s a large-scale recreation of the entry gate to Los Angeles’s Chinatown in the first space; an assortment of objects that relate to it in the second. It’s an assemblage that is clearly personal, relating to Kelley’s own urban experience, but it’s also recognizable and accessible, characteristic of a marginalized community that feels so immediate it’s impossible to ignore. Art has, in some cases, the power to maintain relevance beyond its years; to consistently illuminate and provoke discussion around the present, regardless of its date of conception. In this current moment, one that finds the United States in the midst of a racial crisis following numerous police shootings of African-American men and Britain in a state of confusion as to what separating from the European Union (a vote that was arguably fuelled by increasing xenophobia) would mean, this work seems all the more instructive. 

Lead image: Mike Kelley, Framed and Frame (Miniature Reproduction "Chinatown Wishing Well" Built by Mike Kelley after "Miniature Reproduction 'Seven Star Cavern' Built by Prof. H.K. Lu") (detail), 1999, installation view, Hauser & Wirth, London, 2016. Courtesy: Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts and Hauser & Wirth; © Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts; all Rights Reserved / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY Rennie Collection, Vancouver; photograph: Ken Adlard

Orit Gat is a writer and art critic. She is a contributing editor of The White Review and Art Papers.