The Dude Has a Show
It's a lovely evening, the sun slung low over the city, heavy blocks of sunlight lying across the roads and propped up against the sides of buildings. I'm out early, I'm feeling good and the whole of the east end of London is bursting with private views. I check out White Cube and the Gary Hume opening. Everyone likes Gary and the show is bigtime. I spot Sarah Lucas there, dressed in sand coloured top and brown camouflage trousers, consequently looking like she's just come off duty in Iraq. Jay Jopling is there with his curious, slightly larger than lifesize head, and well, most people are there. It's that big, baying mob that collects around the beer bins. I check in with one of my favourite barmen - Matt, who does all the White Cube launches and is clearly in the running for Best Barperson at a Private View - currently it's neck and neck between him and Pearse at Rokeby....and voting opens soon - via text message, phone line or just by pressing your red button. Anyway, I scoot round the gallery. Hume's done a whole load of new stuff in marble. They're so big and so heavy they look like they are gonna fall off the walls - or just bring the walls down with them. It's full on.
I pay my respects to these works and then head up to Store and Claire Harvey's show. I've seen her work before and really liked the stuff she did on post-it notes so I think she is pretty special already. Tonight is no disappointment. She has a bunch of paintings which are all great, but I can't help but be caught up with the stuff around these. Namely, tiny, delicate, little drawings of people on scotch tape, stuck directly to the wall, that are simply wonderful. People walking, sketched from behind, their shadows shifting about before them. Niru Ratnam, who co-runs the gallery, is fiddling around with a record player (remember those?) trying to play a white label 7", called 'Sorry'. This is also by Claire, a gentle song about a fly that died when it flew into the wet paint on a canvas she was working on. Above Niru, on the wall, is a photograph. It's called Self Portrait Disguised as a Mountain. It's of Claire, hunched under a sheet with a small mirror on the floor in front of her, the whole scene spotlit in her studio. It's a captivating work, perhaps because it has no immediately understandable meaning, perhaps because she has used the word
'disguised' in the title (stroke of genius, that), perhaps because it stands so elegantly apart from the rest of the show. I ask her about it. Thankfully she can't provide a neat answer to it. She had a camera with a ten second delay on it, which meant she could take her own portrait, and she was in the Netherlands which is, like, quite flat, and it was the end of the day in her studio, and well...the mirror is like a lake at the bottom of the mountain. Sounds great, I think. I like works which lie just outside the artist's ability to articulate them. That's why it was necessary to create it, because you couldn't describe it in any other way. We also talk about the figures drawn on the tape on the walls. These pieces are called 'easily removable'. Then she has to run and greet her mum who has turned up and then I take a couple of photos of her, both with her eyes half closed in that way that echoes a thousand million photos in a thousand million family photo albums throughout the world. I take another. It looks ok. I show Claire. She's not so sure. We show Niru. He thinks it's fabulous! 'Claire,' he says, 'you've got a really good photographic face! It's brilliant!'. I don't think Claire is that convinced, but I guess that means it's good enough. Outside, Ryan Gander has turned up. He kindly agrees to be tonight's hand model for what we are drinking. I also ask him about the project he started in Becks Futures last year, called The Grand National. I like this a lot. It's a very relaxed and friendly atmosphere here tonight and it seems a shame to leave, but there's more I want to see tonight...
I pass by White Cube again, the crowd now twice the size of earlier. I can't think Matt and the beer will hold out much longer. I quickly nip into Standpoint, a painting show by Rebecca Scott - I looked her name up in google. It turns out she's a famous Playboy model - she was Miss August 1999, hmmm, plenty of images too...click, click...but maybe tonight it's a different Rebecca Scott. I can't imagine the one in these images doing any painting...anyway, the vibe is wrong for me here so I head to Redchurch Street and Studio 1.1. It's a group show called Unsteady with Craig Andrews, Rafael Sanchez and John Summers and I'm very much here to see the latter.
I arrive and find Will Cunningham. He's leaving the ICA as Gallery Manager at the end of this week and going to work for Haunch of Venison (some private view reports from there in the future, then...). John Tiney and Tom Cox-Bishop are there too and I go get a beer. Ron is on the bar again like last time I was here (I wonder if all the people of 1.1 should be in the running for best barperson...). I get a beer and have a look round. Lisa Penny arrives and we both catch up with Summers. He goes off to get me and Lisa a drink. Time passes. Quite a bit of time. I go and find John at the bar, confused about the drinks. I think maybe he has had a beer earlier... I chat to Will for a bit and others, then Summers is back. 'Hey, man, I'll get you another beer, yeah?' Figuring this could take some time again I quickly nip along the road to have a look in at Trolley and Abigail Fallis's show. She's probably most well known for doing pants with British flags. Tonight I'm looking at all these big sculptures of newspaper hands holding typical fast food - kebabs, hot dogs, burgers - or bottles of wine and fags. One of the hands is holding Billy the Singing Sea Bass which was like some stupid craze thing a few years back. (What happened to the Crazy Frog in all this I wonder?) Well, I guess there's still some allusion to Britishness here like her last works. And her work certainly has a bit of a following. It's just unfortunate that most of that following seems to be amongst a media/fashion crowd - or maybe it's just me, but tonight I have to try and concentrate on these works with the 'mwah, mwah' of airkissing bursting loudly across the gallery and a guy standing in front of me, the nexus of his braces clasped together with a picture of a dick. (It occurs to me later that maybe he didn't know this and he was the butt of someone's joke. Even so, I wasn't laughing either way). So I take myself back to 1.1 and meet up with Lisa and we decide to quickly head down to the Hauser and Wirth opening, in Cheshire Street, of the Kippenberger/Roth show. It's enormous and it's heaving. It's a big, fat, money packed, back pages of Art Review kinda of thing. Not the kind of opening I'm usually around. I bump into Joe Frazer again from Truck Art. He mentions the job at the ICA Bookshop. We have a part time vacancy. Most people I meet tonight ask me about the job at the ICA Bookshop. It goes with the territory. I also see the guy who played Mr Endon in the last Truck Art piece I saw. And, whaddya know, he's in costume again tonight. Yes, black trousers, black shirt and a name badge saying 'Hauser and Wirth'. I look around, but, sadly, the truck's not here...
Lisa meets up with Dallas and Tom Ellis and we head back up to Redchurch Street. Outside 1.1 I bump into Simon Ould. He's talking about 'Mad' Mark McGowan and an upcoming show. 'He's going to eat a horse, he's going to be in the street eating a horse. Mmmmmm,' he says, then:'horseradish, yum yum' and makes an action like he's rubbing it all over his body. That's about as coherent as it gets with Simon. I then recognise one of the girls who played the part of a nurse at the Timecreep thing I was at last week. Then Summers is back saying, 'hey, where did you go, dude, I got you a beer and then someone said you'd gone to Trolley, dude...'
Anyway, I'm back and I'm talking to Summers about his work. Imagine a cat, maybe 30 or 40 feet tall, a real monster of a thing, terrorising the city. And imagine it living off chemical and industrial waste and all kinds of mouldering detritus, then imagine that every now and again it has to bring up a furball of all that stuff - hack! hack! HACK! Eurrghh! Out it comes, drops on the floor. Ok, that furball? That's what Summers's work looks like. I like it a lot.
He's talking to me about a piece in the front gallery. 'This piece is called, aw, no, I can't remember what it's called, dude. What's it when someone, like, gives something to someone?' 'A helper?' I say. 'No, no, dude, like, like... a feeder, what is that?' 'Enabler?' 'Yeah, that's it, dude, Enabler...'
It looks like a giant furry mouth made out of asbestos and fibreglass with a big red glittery lollipop thing hanging in front of it. Grotesque, and clearly leading on from his earlier works - the stuff which looked like horror films and bomb blasts (check that stuff out here). And now he's pointing inside it - 'I put a whole bunch of stuffed toy animals in there and the whole thing really expanded, but I thought that was really cool too, dude...'
And it is cool. I just find myself thinking back to the soft strains of Claire's song from earlier, from a gallery that seems a long time ago.
I wonder what would happen if a fly got into his studio?