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LONDON CALLING
by Brooke Lynn McGowan
 
"It would be very much ‘above the shop’," Victoria Miro said, musing on the possibility of taking up residence in her new space at 14 Wharf Road, just steps away from the Victoria Miro Gallery at 16 Wharf Road. The recently renovated "Number 14," as Miro casually refers to the space -- which features a luxurious duplex gallery with office, storage and catering facilities constructed on the upper floors of an existing building -- is rather too imposing for living, she felt, though it can serve as a showplace for her personal collection.

"We lost so much work in the Momart fire," noted the eminent dealer, referring to the infamous inferno that hit the premises of the British art handlers in May 2004, destroying a large number of works by Young British Artists and others. Miro’s new space looks to prevent the possibility of such a tragedy striking the gallery again.

Conrad Shawcross at Victoria Miro
Currently installed in this galerie privée is Continuum, a monumental work by Conrad Shawcross suggesting a large wooden spiraling model of time. It had been previously seen at the Maritime Museum in Greenwich. The son of eminent historian William Shawcross and celebrated author and thinker Marina Warner, Conrad Shawcross has made quite an impression with his wooden constructions, most recently seen this fall at Miro in a show titled "No Such Thing as One." Wood is a "human" material, according to the artist, whose sculptural works, often mechanical in form, are always stridently conceptual in function.

Shawcross’ three new major works, Paradigm, Binary Star and Space Grid, can be said to be visual interrogations of the concept of singularity, both as a scientific construction or as a natural anomaly. Concerned with epistemology and mathematics as well as notions of mapping space, Shawcross points to ancient Greek natural science as his inspiration.

"Since the Greeks coined the name ‘atom,’ meaning indivisible, man has sought to reach this basic unit," the artist said. Prices for works in the show range from £2,000 for a drawing to £85,000 for major pieces.

Gabriel Orozco at White Cube
Superstar gallerist Jay Jopling, who helped launch the career of many a Young British Artist and currently manages the revel-making standouts Jake and Dino Chapman, has stepped out himself this fall with the opening of his new space in Mason’s Yard, off Duke Street in the western London district of St. James, the first free-standing building to be constructed in the area in over 30 years. Although the move west may seem a bold one, in fact in Jopling’s case it is the return of the prodigal son, as he began his career as a gallerist in a small space provided by Christie’s in King Street.

The new facility, which has exhibition galleries on three floors, debuted with "Twelve Paintings and a Drawing," a show of works by the celebrated Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco. Undeniably impressive is Orozco’s installation in the basement, titled Dark Wave, a skeleton of a 14-meter-long Roqual whale, covered with an intricate graphite tracery like so many contour lines -- the "Drawing" of the exhibition title. On the ground floor are 12 paintings of interlocking circles done in luxurious gold-leaf and tempera, which realize, in the abstract, the possible moves of a knight in a chess game.

Like his previous work, the cross-shaped Ping Pong Table (1998) with a lily pond at its center, this series looks at the philosophical processes implicit in the game form. "Every game has a connection to how we conceive nature and landscape," Orozco said. "So, I think it’s not just a game. Probably they are more like philosophical games. I believe that philosophy has to be a practice. Practical philosophy."

James Rosenquist at Haunch of Venison
"But it’s really about putting disparate things together and that makes a spark that should give you an idea," said James Rosenquist, whose new London retrospective has prompted the illustrious Bond Street gallery Haunch of Venison to expand to a temporary space in East London’s Truman Brewery.

Rosenquist’s massive, brightly colored paintings, marked by a playful juxtaposition and re-consideration of the most banal objects, have always taken their cues from contemporary events, as one might expect from a man trained as a billboard painter. For instance, The Flame Dances to the Mirror While the Charcoal Draws (1982) is a reflection on the ethnic conflict in Yugoslavia. "It’s about the self-immolation of the landscape -- people watching their homes burn up in conflict while artists just continue," he said. Rosenquist notes that his art is not necessarily about politics. Rather, he said, "It’s really a matter of asking a question."

A more recent work, The Xenophobic Movie Director or Our Foreign Policy (2004), features an image of a cow skull, sitting atop a tree stump and wrapped in an American flag, a visual metaphor for "W," as the current U.S. president is sometimes called. Describing the collaged image further, the artist said, "There’s a pair of golfer’s legs and he is hitting this light bulb out of the rough made up of numbers. The filament of the bulb is an Arabic inscription which means ‘Praise god, the creator of our world’. So he’s dealing with things he knows nothing about."

Rosenquist gained prominence during the 1960s, an era of political activism, and he mourns the disaffected nature of many in the current generation. "I think the whole country’s asleep," he said. Rosenquist’s works can by had, by the way, for prices between $25,000 and $3,000,000.

Mariko Mori at Albion Gallery
The London-educated Japanese artist Mariko Mori seems happy enough to take all things lying down. Her new exhibition opened in October at the Albion Gallery in Battersea, a sleek modernist glass-and-aluminum structure opened two years ago by young London dealer Michael Hue-Williams. "First Tokyo," she said. "Then London, Paris, Times Square." For her new project, Mori has circumnavigated the globe, producing a series of 13 large-format photographs over the past 11 years at sites ranging from Egypt and Tiwanaku to New York and Piccadilly Circus.

A performance piece that has been enabled and recorded by a 360 degree revolving camera, each image features Mori placed in the landscape, clad in a neutral body suit, suspended prostrate, literally lying down, in a clear pod. The photos are held in massive circular frames hung above the heads of gallery viewers.

The first of these works, completed in 1995, shows Shibuya square in Tokyo. Among the strewn plastic bags and litter that act as traces of the area’s intense activity lies Mori, sedate in her pod. "The body capsule itself signifies the transcendence of time and space," she said. And time is the topic of this epic work. If Shawcross’ Continuum suggests "a model of time as a giant slinky" doubling and spiraling back upon itself, Mori’s work regards the space of time as curved.

"Past could be present, past could be future, present could be future," said Mori enigmatically. Time, for the artist, is like a moebius strip, a single, endless path whose bottom and top are the same, doubling and curving back upon itself. "You never really know about time," said Mariko. "We measure it with a clock, but we know it is never the same. The concept is constantly re-invented."

Albion also is hosting an installation of Mori’s monumental 18-foot-tall glass sculpture embedded with LED lighting that flickers and changes in response to the movement of the planets. A kind of 21st-century Celtic standing stone, the work refers to the birth and death of stars: the lighting within the sculpture is connected by satellite to the neutrino detection laboratory at the University of Tokyo. Neutrinos are conceived as tiny sub-atomic particles with a nearly undetectable mass, which are emitted from stars and are tiny enough to pass straight through the earth on an unending trajectory.

At the birth and death of stars, the amount of neutrinos emitted into the universe multiplies exponentially. And with each of these bursts of neutrinos, as they occur, Mori’s monument will likewise burst with light.

But, for an overwhelming sculpture that speaks at once to landscape and illumination, life and death, where would she like it installed? In the East? In the West? "Somehow by water," she says. "Somewhere by the sea." For now, as the Albion borders on the Thames, a river will have to do.


BROOKE LYNN MCGOWAN is a writer and curator who lives in London. She is arts editor for All Access magazine.



 



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