Top Five Shows to See in the UK This April

From Celeste Rapone's evocation of not-so-blissful domesticity at Josh Lilley, London, to Leo Robinson’s dense webs of allusion and appropriation at Chapter, Cardiff 

BY frieze in Critic's Guides , UK Reviews | 31 MAR 23

Celeste Rapone

Josh Lilley, London

23 March – 29 April 

Celeste Rapone, Blue Basement, 2023, oil on canvas,

2.3 × 2.1 m. Courtesy: the artist and Josh Lilley, London

Recently, as she approached her late 30s, the New Jersey born-and-bred painter Celeste Rapone bought a home with her husband in Chicago. Call it putting down new roots or call it (in the self-ironizing argot of her generation) ‘adulting’, either way this life decision seeded the idea for her show ‘House Sounds’, which focuses on that most intimate (and exposing) of locations: the domestic interior – a perennial subject for Western painters from Johannes Vermeer to Édouard Vuillard. What Rapone brings to the (kitchen) table, however, is both a radically honest humour and an astonishing facility with pictorial space, bending and buckling it around the anxious, contorted figures who populate her work. – Tom Morton 

Isaac Julien

Tate Britain, London 

26 April – 20 August 

Isaac Julien, Pas de Deux with Roses (Looking for Langston Vintage Series), 1989/2016, Ilford classic silver gelatin fine art paper, mounted on aluminium and framed, 58 × 75 cm. Courtesy: © Isaac Julien and Victoria Miro, London

My investigation into the ways in which there were so many absences and erasures in archives led me to view them as a springboard for reinvention. When I started to look at works from the 1920s and ’30s, it was a revelation to discover that I had never been taught about the Harlem Renaissance as a Black arts movement in any of my art history classes. – Isaac Julien in conversation with Deborah Willis

Leo Robinson

Chapter, Cardiff 

10 December – 16 April 

Leo Robinson
Leo Robinson, And the running blackberry would adorn the parlours of heaven, watercolour and collage on paper, 2021. Courtesy: the artist and Tiwani Contemporary

Claims of artists as ‘world-makers’ seem to be everywhere. Unfortunately, such curatorial hubris often has the opposite of its intended effect, diluting a viewer’s capacity to register an artist’s ambitions on their own terms. However, Glasgow-based polymath Leo Robinson’s solo show at Chapter, ‘The Infinity Card’, does a rare thing. By privileging speculation as both method and principle, the work is full of sincere and gentle invitations to contemplate environments other than this one, and conditions other than these. It is neither forceful nor passive in its vision of how they might come into being. – Dylan Huw 

Lynda Benglis

Thomas Dane Gallery, London

03 March – 29 April 

Lynda Benglis
Lynda Benglis, 2023, exhibition view. Courtesy: © the artist, Pace Gallery, Thomas Dane Gallery and VAGA at Artists Rights Society, NY

Known for her alchemical handling of materials such as poured latex, knotted metal and sculpted wax, Lynda Benglis – whose new, self-titled show at Thomas Dane Gallery presents a collection of works being exhibited together in London for the first time – seems to freeze motion into visceral shapes that act against themselves. – Daniel Culpan 

Mike Nelson

Hayward Gallery, London 

22 February – 07 May

Mike Nelson
Mike Nelson, The Deliverance and The Patience, 2001, installation view, various materials. Courtesy: the artist and the Hayward Gallery, London; photograph: Matt Greenwood

Mike Nelson and his team have transformed the Hayward Gallery on London’s Southbank into a journey through reconfigured iterations of his best-known spaces and sculptures. Fragments of his Venice Biennale commission, I, IMPOSTOR (2011), appear in a re-creation of his vast storage facility, bathed in red light. The Asset Strippers (2019), a work for Tate Britain’s Duveen Galleries in which Nelson posited British industrial machinery as reverent modernist sculpture, also re-emerges, as do labour-intensive re-imaginings of his celebrated warrens of filmic interiors, such as The Deliverance and The Patience (2001). – Sean Burns

Main image: Leo Robinson, Nine Dyads (detail), watercolour, collage, pen, Sumi ink, pencil, tape on paper and mountboard, 2021. Courtesy: the artist and Tiwani Contemporary

Contemporary Art and Culture