Knock knock review – ‘I like a laugh as much as the next miserable critic!’

There are old jokes, new jokes, even Welsh sheep jokes. But the real star of this show about humour in art is the rescued fire station much of it is housed in

Eyes that follow you round the room … Ryan Gander, Dominae Illud Opus Populare, 2016. Photograph: Ryan Gander. Courtesy the artist and Lisson Gallery.

Knock Knock! Who’s there? A Welshman overly fond of sheep. Rodney Graham, seated on a park bench, eyeing the world through two small holes torn in the newspaper he’s pretending to read. A clown and a tin-foil flailing rock-god guitarist. Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse and the real Snow White. Here comes everybody.

Filling the South London Gallery and its new expansion into the 19th-century fire station across the Peckham Road, Knock Knock – the title taken not just from the hoary old formula for a joke, but also from a drawing by Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein – has been curated by South London Gallery director Margot Heller and artist Ryan Gander.

Roy Lichtenstein, Knock, Knock Poster, 1975. Photograph: Estate of Roy Lichtenstein/DACS/Artimage 2018

Knock Knock jokes usually evince a groan. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Stop me before I kill again. Artists who are genuinely funny, and whose wit is complex enough to sustain, and even to deepen, on repeated viewings are uncommon. Swiss duo Fischli and Weiss, David Shrigley, Ed Ruscha, Nicole Eisenman, Paul McCarthy, Bruce Nauman all come to mind. They’re not here. Nor is Andy Holden, whose recent animated films, as well as being very funny, analyse humour itself in deft, often sly ways. Perhaps a funny thing happened to him on the way to the gallery.

I like a good laugh as well as the next miserable art critic. Featuring a mix of old works and new, of pieces and artists who have shown previously at SLG, much of the humour here really has to be worked at. One-liners and no-liners, impenetrable sight gags that leave me dumbfounded, things that just aren’t funny at all, and perhaps aren’t even trying to be, fill the galleries. In one of the best works, Harold Offeh’s 2001 video Smile, the artist grimaces with a rictus grin to Nat King Cole’s 1954 version of the song Smile (Charlie Chaplin composed the music). Offeh follows the song’s injunction to smile, but it looks like a terrible ordeal.

The big, open space of the original 1891 gallery is dominated by Joyce Pensato’s Take Me to Your Leader, an enormous charcoal drawing in which Mickey Mouse confronts a group of Donald Ducks. I like the drawing well enough, though its scale seems unnecessary. Martin Creed’s big, black diagonal stripes on an adjacent wall evince a sort of blank fury. A saw seems to be about to cut a circular hole in the gallery floor from below in a work by Ceal Floyer. Maybe she’s trying to help us escape. A brick foot and a brick ball, by Judith Hopf, aren’t going to have a kick-about soon, and if you try to have a go with Masim Bagdy’s basketball hoop you would break it. It is made of glass. Ba-boom.

Joyce Pensato, Black and White Mickey, 2018. Photograph: Joyce Pensato; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Many things here defeat me. Heman Chong has printed the internet 404 error phrase “Something went wrong. We’re working on getting it fixed as soon as we can” on one of the doors, while Maurizio Cattelan’s stuffed flock of pigeons have infested the gallery eaves. An old gag, but sometimes they’re the best. Bedwyr Williams has parked his bike in the corridor. The bicycle’s frame has been upholstered in sheep fur, the handlebars are a pair of horns and there’s a sheep skull poking out the front. Fucking Inbred Welsh Sheepshagger, it is called, turning the xenophobic English insult against the Welsh back on itself.

The real star of the show is the building across the street, where the show continues in the old Peckham Road Fire Station, donated anonymously to the gallery after it was sold at auction in 2008 and left derelict for several years. Built in 1867, the fire station – with its horse-drawn carriages kept on the ground floor, and the firemen and their families housed above, has been gutted and rebuilt. 6a Architects have provided a stack of larger and smaller exhibition and project spaces, an archive room and a kitchen. Various original features remain (a fireplace hangs high on a blank wall in the opened-up full-height stairwell, and a replica of the original station gaslight hangs outside, the word ENGINES printed on the glass). A small group of concrete sheep nestle in the vertiginous stairwell. Basic concrete blocks mounted on old table legs, Judith Hopf’s little flock are only identifiable as sheep by the cartoonish sheep faces drawn on the bare concrete. Better keep Bedwyr Williams away from them. He might do himself a mischief.

(left to right): Campaign Volunteer (2018) by Rosemarie Trockel, Yves (2018) by Sarah Lucas, and Biological Clock 2 (1995), Call Me (1987) and Seduction (1985) by Lynn Hershman Leeson. Photograph: Andy Stagg

On the floor a man lies sleeping. Wrapped in a sheepskin and a towel, and his face painted as a clown, Ugo Rondinone’s lifelike sculpture has a drift of glitter at his feet. Like several other works here, the title of Rondinone’s sculpture is at least as intriguing as the 2002 work itself. If There Were Anywhere But Desert, Friday, it is called. Upstairs, Sarah Lucas’s latest mannequin perches on a chair. With her lewd breasts, long bendy legs and clumping blue velvet shoes that look far too big, Lucas’s Yves (named after Yves Klein, maybe because of the blue heels she wears) is as vulnerable as she is provocative. Ryan Gander’s animatronic pair of eyes, inset in the wall, blink and follow you round the room. Tom Friedman’s kitchen-foil guitarist flails his silver-foil hair. On a grainy video, Lucy Gunning’s 1994 The Horse Impressionists whinny and neigh. Still funny, Gunning’s work also feels old-fashioned, even quaint, like an old comedy re-run on a dead-zone channel. In its way, there’s human pathos in there, too, oddly amplified, like Offeh’s Smile, by the passage of time.

With its beautiful Gabriel Orozco garden, its incursion into adjoining buildings and the council estate behind, where it hosts community projects and art classes, and now with the fire station across the street, South London Gallery has slowly, incrementally expanded over the past decade. And the works keep coming, as you mount the stairs and go from room to room. Cartoons, sound works, an ice cream cone, slightly sinister drawings and in-jokes I’m still trying to get. It’s not exactly a bundle of laughs but it keeps you on the move, looking for a punchline, which might be the point.


Author: Adrian Searle | The Guardian


The Clock review – ‘The longer you watch it, the more addictive it becomes’

 Christian Marclay’s epic work – a clock created from film clips that tells the actual time – ought to be bleak. But time really does fly when you watch this 24-hour miracle

Time’s up … Christian Marclay’s The Clock. Photograph: White Cube


It’s 8.10am and I’m late for my appointment at Tate Modern. I watch the faces of passengers as the train pulls into London Bridge. It’s a Monday and the time is going too fast. One man sweats as he checks his watch. On his way to a bank heist, perhaps.

I didn’t think any of that on my train at the time, though. I revisited my journey after sinking into a white sofa and watching The Clock, Christian Marclay’s epic montage of film clips featuring clockfaces that tells the actual time. Only then, gazing at the cinema screen that’s been built at Tate Modern, did I understand that everyone on a rush-hour train is united by something magical: we’re all sharing the same instant in time.

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Costumed canines by William Wegman – in pictures

Igor or Ivan

Since the 1970s, the American artist William Wegman has photographed his dogs in a variety of poses; now a collection of his Polaroids is being exhibited in the UK for the first time. The series started with Man Ray, named after the surrealist artist, followed by Fay Ray and several generations of her puppies. All of them are Weimaraners: “As pointer-retrievers, they have an innate ability to hold still and focus,” explains Wegman.

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Zaha Hadid’s only house in Russian forest

New photographs and a movie reveal Zaha Hadid’s only completed private residence – a house in the Barvikha Forest near Moscow, for a man she called the “Russian James Bond”.

The late Iraqi-British architect designed Capital Hill Residence for businessman and philanthropist Vladislav Doronin, who runs property companies Capital Group and OKO Group, and is also the owner of luxury hotel and resort brand Aman.

The house’s defining feature is a master suite set atop a slender concrete stalk that raises it high above the tree canopy.

Set 22 metres above the ground, this element of the design offers Doronin complete seclusion. Glazed walls, tucked back from the edge of the floor to create two balconies, afford views out over the tree tops.

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Future Vision of Fashion: Customization of Outfit for Every Individual

Sand & Birch Design Studio plans to walk out from the ‘old fashioned’ stage of mass production by adding customization feature

Mass production has been the final goal of design industry for the majority in global market. Despite of its lower cost and efficiency that bring along great economy interest, it however results in wasted resources and limitation of designer’s creativity and choices of outfits for individuals. Those results are indeed not what we what to see regardless to the benefit mass production can bring. So why don’t we change this phenomenon to break the limit?

Customization of outfit for every individual according to their body information

Curve of woman. Graphic by Sand & Birch.

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As summer draws to a close, the design calendar starts filling up and Paris Design Week’s autumn edition is always a highlight. This year, the week’s cornerstone event Maison et Objet fair is restructuring its layout to align with its core themes, ‘Maison’ and ‘Objet’. Meanwhile in town, the fair’s young talent show Le Off moves to a temporary art venue owned by the national railway company SNCF, while in galleries, designers celebrate new launches and group shows, with a focus on Lebanese design appearing across the board. Here’s our edit of five exhibitions to look out for..

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Royal Academy to be flooded with water and mud for Gormley exhibit

Details of 2019 programme include Phyllida Barlow show and Lucian Freud self-portraits

Antony Gormley’s Lost Horizon will be one of the works featured in his major solo exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in 2019. Photograph: Royal Academy of Arts

One of the Royal Academy of Arts’ historic main galleries is to be flooded with water and mud for a major solo exhibition devoted to the work of Antony Gormley.

Other spaces will be “engineered” to take some of the more technically challenging works made by an artist best known for landmark public sculptures, such as the Angel of the North, and the casts of his body which are installed across the world from Crosby beach to the Austrian Alps.

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New exhibition and project space put spotlight on civic activism and emerging voices

Sweden’s national centre for architecture and design, ArkDes, has long been overlooked, tucked at the back of Stockholm’s mighty Moderna Museet. Until recently, the centre’s future was uncertain, but its British-born director is now making changes to the building and programme that aim to put it at the forefront of national debates.

The Boxen gallery at the Modern Museet will have displays of radical new design. Photo: Johan Dehlin, courtesy of ArkDes

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Tŷ Pawb review – an art gallery that truly is everybody’s house

A covered market in Wrexham has welcomed a new exhibition and performance space in an understated revamp that unites art and commerce

There was a time when you would have known what to expect of a lottery-funded art gallery in a middle-sized town like Wrexham. It might have been a new building, or at least a conspicuously transformed old one, standing alone, its architecture making some sort of statement about its cultural contemporariness. It would probably have had more space than it really needed, a sign of optimism that it would grow to fill it. If that town also had, as Wrexham did, something like a 1990s covered market that was struggling to function as originally envisaged, that would have been a separate problem. But times have changed. Local authorities have less money to spend than they did on running things like art galleries. Ingenuity is called for. So, in the case of Wrexham, they addressed both questions at once. They put the new premises for the town’s Oriel Gallery inside the covered market.

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Whatever else 2017 brings, there can be no doubt that it is a bumper year for major art events. Here are a few stand-outs in a very crowded calendar.

The Grand Tour

Once every decade, international contemporary art’s three most prestigious events – the Venice Biennale, Documenta and Sculpture Projects Munster – all take place in the same year, resulting in much frantic scheduling by dedicated followers of very latest in visual culture. 

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