HEADED TO LONDON? Frieze, Frieze Masters and the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair likely top your list of things to do, but make certain exploring the gallery scene is a priority too. A group of highly regarded black artists is currently showing in London galleries and art spaces. Six must-see solo exhibitions featuring British artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen and U.S.-based artists David Hammons, Glenn Ligon, Kerry James Marshall, Wangechi Mutu and Carrie Mae Weems are on view, in a few instances for the first time in the UK:


KJM - club couple
Kerry James Marshall, “Untitled (Club Couple),” 2014 (acrylic on PVC panel) | © Kerry James Marshall 2014. All rights reserved. Courtesy David Zwirner, London


KERRY JAMES MARSHALL @ David Zwirner Gallery, London | Oct. 11 – Nov. 22, 2014
In many ways, “Look See,” Kerry James Marshall’s exhibition of new paintings at David Zwirner, harkens back to the foundation of the artist’s practice. Responding to what Marshall has described as a “crisis of representation” both in terms of the absence of images of black people in museums and art history books and the notion that representation and figuration somehow lacked a modern thrust, he dedicated himself to unapologetic depictions of black people using black paint. In name, concept and visual representation, Marshall’s first exhibition at the gallery since joining earlier this year, further examines the central premise of his oeuvre. Presenting cleverly staged scenes and figures whose gaze averts the viewer, Marshall’s new body of work considers how we define “looking” vs. “seeing,” the relationship between subject and viewer, engagement and aversion, and the freighted acts of “observing, witnessing, and exhibiting.”

Responding to what he has described as a “crisis of representation,” Kerry James Marshall dedicated himself to unapologetic depictions of black people using black paint.

Study for Come Out No 1 ver 2
“Come Out Study #1” by Glenn Ligon | Courtesy Thomas Dane Gallery. © Glenn Ligon


GLENN LIGON @ Camden Arts Centre, London | Oct. 14, 2014 – Jan. 11, 2015
For the uninitiated Glenn Ligon’s explorations of the written word deliver poignant lessons, both historical and cultural; For the informed, he offers an insightful new lens through which to view identity, introspection and literary wisdom. The testimony of the Harlem Six, a half a dozen black youth arrested for murder during the 1964 Harlem race riots is the genesis for his latest series of large-scale, text-based paintings. The works in “Call and Response,” his first exhibition in a UK public gallery, consider matters of race, representation, assumptions and language. The presentation at the Camden Arts Centre also includes a neon work and a multi-screen video featuring Richard Pryor.


Steve McQueen, Ashes, 2014. Installation view. Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Dane Gallery, London (2)
Installation view of Steve McQueen, “Ashes,” 2014 at Thomas Dane Gallery, London | Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Dane Gallery


STEVE MCQUEEN @ Thomas Dane Gallery, London | Oct. 14 – Nov. 15, 2014
A presentation of two new works confirms that Steve McQueen, who directed the Oscar-winning “12 Years a Slave,” hasn’t abandoned visual art for filmmaking. On the contrary, the two pursuits are likely mutually enhancing. At Thomas Dane Gallery, “Steve McQueen: Ashes” features an “immersive projection with sound,” entitled “Ashes,” pairing Super 8 footage shot in 2002 with audio captured recently in Grenada. “Broken Column,” a sculptural installation, serves as a complement. The gallery describes his critically regarded moving image works as “[hovering] between the specific and the universal, the literal and the abstract, evading definition and multiplying experiential and interpretive possibilities.”

Steve McQueen’s work “hovers between the specific and the universal, the literal and the abstract, evading definition and multiplying experiential and interpretive possibilities.” — Thomas Dane Gallery

WM - if-we-live-though-it-she-ll-carry-us-back
Detail of Wangechi Mutu, “If we live through it, She’ll carry us back,” 2014 (collage painting on vinyl). | via Victoria Miro Gallery


WANGECHI MUTU @ Victoria Miro Gallery, London | Oct. 14 – Dec. 19, 2014
Wangechi Mutu is on a formidable tear. After presentations in Durham, N.C., Brooklyn, N.Y., Miami and currently Evanston, Ill., her first U.S. survey remains underway as her second solo exhibition at Victoria Miro opens in London. Based in Brooklyn, educated in Britain and born Nairobi, Kenya, Mutu’s international pedigree is reflected in her otherworldly collage works, drawing on African mythology, colonialism, feminism and contemporary perceptions of black women and their bodies. “Nguva na Nyoka” (which means “sirens and serpents” in Kiswahili) features a body of new works created in 2014—video, sculpture and collage-paintings that “shift away from her much-documented use of Mylar as a substrate to a use of vinyl and linoleum as the basis for the works, allowing for a more densely textured and sculptural ground.”


carrie mae weems - color real and imagined
From left, Installation view, Carrie Mae Weems, “Color: Real and Imagined”, 2014 (archival pigment with silkscreened color blocks, edition 1 of 10, 2 AP) and images from “Kitchen Table Series,” at Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London. | via Pippy Houldsworth Gallery


CARRIE MAE WEEMS @ Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London | Oct. 10 – Nov. 15, 2014
Carrie Mae Weems probes notions of identity in visual culture, the ways in which history and perception influence depictions of gender, race and class. Her first solo exhibition in a UK commercial gallery, “Color: Real and Imagined” features a selection of key works that define her photography-based practice over the past three decades. “Kitchen Table,” “Roaming,” “Colored People,” “Untitled (Colored People Grid),” and series exploring history, locale and architecture in Senegal, Cuba and Rome, are among the works on view at Pippy Houldsworth Gallery. An encore presentation following her immersive, traveling retrospective that concluded at the Guggenheim Museum in New York earlier this year, the exhibition also includes several videos and a new work, an archival pigment overprinted with silkscreened color blocks, from which the exhibition takes its name.


UPDATE 10/18: DAVID HAMMONS @ White Cube, London | Oct. 3, 2014 – Jan, 3, 2015
Finally, you would be remiss (as I was for not initially including this exhibition) if you didn’t also head over to White Cube for a rare opportunity to experience the work of David Hammons. A survey of new and recent paintings, drawings and sculpture by Hammons is on view and described as his first major gallery show in London. CT


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