With over forty participating galleries and three days of events, Mayfair Art Weekend opens with its Gallery HOP! on Friday 29th June – an evening of previews with galleries hosting special evening viewings and events from 6-8pm (with drinks sponsored by Sipsmith Gin).
In the lead-up to Gallery HOP! each week ArtReview is publishing a specially themed tour guide, to help you decide what to see and where to start in Mayfair’s busy art neighbourhood. And here comes tour number 2…
The Totally Abstract Tour
Abstract art might be one of the great inventions of the twentieth century, but as an idea spanning painting, sculpture and installation, abstraction refuses to be consigned to the history books. Which isn’t to say that history isn’t on show during Mayfair Art Weekend – see Yves Klein and Heinz Mack for starters – but that the conversation between artists about what abstraction can do goes on; between those who see it as distillation of psychological states and almost transcendent perceptual sensation, and others who find in it a space to play with the limits of representation and allusion… it’s all here…
Howard Hodgkin, Over To You, 2015-2017, oil on wood, 25 x 31 cm. © Howard Hodgkin Estate. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates. Courtesy Gagosian, London
Howard Hodgkin: Last Paintings at Gagosian, Grosvenor Hill, through 28 July
Starting out just north of Berkeley Square at Gagosian’s cavernous Grosvenor Hill space, fans of lush brushwork can feast eyes on (very) late paintings by Howard Hodgkin, the last six to be painted by the artist before his death at his home in India in March last year. Though there’s Hodgkin’s familiar, heavily-loaded brush strokes of intense colour, whose overlaying offers depth and an atmospheric suggestion of place and mood, there’s perhaps sense of mortality at stake – introspection shadows the titles (Don’t Tell a Soul, Elegy and Through a Glass Darkly) and Hodgkin’s trademark ‘window’ – a frame of emphatic strokes around the edge of the support – doesn’t so much look onto the outside as inward: the large Portrait of the Artist Listening to Music (2011–16) suggesting not things seen, but the sense of what it’s like to be conscious of your own existence.
Heinz Mack, Sand Relief, 1968, synthetic resin and sand on wood, in artist’s frame, 90 x 100 x 9 cm. Photo: Plastiques Photography. Courtesy Olivier Malingue, London
Heinz Mack at Olivier Malingue, through 26 July
A quick dash down Grosvenor Hill through Bloomfield Place onto New Bond Street gets you to Olivier Malingue’s show of classic works by Heinz Mack. Born just a year later than Hodgkin (he’s now 87) but an artistic world apart, Mack was one of the founders of the European ZERO group in 1957. All about purity and an almost scientific sense of objectivity, ZERO was partly a reaction to the splashy, intuitive and expressionistic painting that dominated French and American abstraction after the war. By contrast, Mack’s works were ordered and impersonal, more concerned with constructed visual effects than expressing individual experience. Rejecting colour for monochrome, these works focus on visual rhythm and geometric arrangements produce optical shimmers and vibrations that anticipated and influenced much of the Op Art of the 1960s.
Dominic Welch, Aeolian Sphere III, 2018, kilkenny limestone, 48 x 48 cm. Courtesy the artist and Messum’s, London
Jeremy Annear & Dominic Welch at Messums, 20 June – 13 July
Without getting too stuck window-shopping fancy stationery and expensive handbags, a brisk stroll down New Bond Street gets you to Cork Street, and Messum’s two shows by Jeremy Annear and Dominic Welch. Annear draws deftly on a century of hard-edged abstraction – with echoes of Cubism and Ben Nicholson – but his shifting angular compositions have a kaleidoscopic sense of landscape and light. Welch, meanwhile realises solid, yet fluid forms in Kilkenny limestone, Ancaster Weatherbed, Carrara marble and bronze. Rooted in the natural world, his purity of form is inspired by the organic logic of seeds, pods and shells.
Paul Jenkins, Phenomena Oracle Reckoning, 2007, acrylic on canvas, 240 x 377 cm. © 2018 Estate of Paul Jenkins
Paul Jenkins at Redfern Gallery, through 4 August
A mere fifty paces along Cork Street is The Redfern Gallery’s show of the vivid, sweeping abstract canvases and works on paper by the American Paul Jenkins, drawn from the mid-1980s to the last years of his life (Jenkins passed away in 2012). Studying in New York in the late 40s, he rubbed shoulders with the Abstract Expressionists, but settled in Paris and made contact with Japan’s Gutai artists – international channels the artists maintained through his life. Confronting veils of luminous colour with weighty impasto, Jenkins’s paintings have an often monumental quality, suggesting not so much known landscapes but an almost metaphysical sense of unknown worlds. Think back to Howard Hodgkin, compare and contrast…
James Turrell, Orca Blue-Red, 1968/2018, installation view. Photo: Stephen White. © the artist
Yves Klein | James Turrell at Lévy Gorvy, through 6 July
If you’re looking for abstraction’s unusually special relationship with ideas of infinity and the void, then a quick swerve round to Levy Gorvy gets you two masters of intense nothingness for the price of one. FOCUS: Yves Klein | James Turrell is a two-room presentation that brings into dialogue seminal immersive works by each artist: Klein’s installation Pigment pur bleu (1957/2018) and Turrell’s projection Orca, Blue-Red (1968).Orca, Blue-Red is an early example of Turrell’s ground-breaking Projection Piece series, a room-spanning installation comprising two beams of vivid projected light—one blue, one red. Between them is a narrow band of shadow, producing an uncanny effect of negative space, a perceptual illusion that challenges the very solidity of the gallery’s architecture.
The void is also referenced in Klein’s Pigment pur bleu, a large, white wooden tray containing a flat plane of blue pigment. Klein presents the raw material of painting – pigment – as a work in itself, allowing the colour to remain unfixed and vulnerable to the elements. Archival footage featuring Pigment pur bleu in its first installation in Paris in 1957 is also on hand.
Caziel, WC544 - Composition X/1965, 1965, oil on canvas, 65 x 54 cm. Courtesy Whitford Fine Art, London
Caziel: Paintings 1963–67, at Whitford Fine Art, through 30 June
To let your retinas recover from the effects of single-colour-overload, a leisured stroll south of Piccadilly winds you back, historically, to mid-century once more, and to another émigré son of the Paris school, the Polish-born Caziel. Shown here are canvases from the mid-1960s, a period of rapid transformation in the artist’s work, from more informal constellations of marks towards a flatter, more geometric assemblies of definite shapes. Running through them, however, is the same sense of marks and shapes operating in a kind of sociable congregation, in compositions that hint at the maps of cities or the components of organic systems. An art of visual, topological relationships rather than spatial illusion…
Martin Finnin, Free Falling Into The Fact of The Matter, 2018, oil on canvas, 120 x 180 cm. Courtesy the artist and John Martin Gallery, London
Martin Finnin: Go, Go, Pitch-Black Night! at John Martin Gallery, through 2 July
It’s almost as if ArtReview has figured this all out for you, but a final cross back across Piccadilly finds a similarly upbeat take on the playful potential of simple forms in the work of Irish painter Martin Finnin. If existential and mystical torment were the intellectual backdrops of an earlier era of abstraction, Finnin instead uses his canvases as reflections of a wry, deadpan and less exalted tone of everyday existence in the twenty-first century. Titles like A Seedy Flat in Disney Land, Traffic Jam and Rebel Without a Pause make these paintings into teasing self-conscious essays on the quixotic life of the abstract painter – tinkering with a grandiose artistic legacy, quietly keeping its promise and potential alive.
Next week: The Intensely Now Tour