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. So to get things going, here’s tour number 1…
The Pioneering Legends Tour
From computer art to environmental art and from conceptual art to feminism, artists in the 1960s and 70s led a revolution in how art could be thought about, what it could look like and how it engaged with a fast-changing society. It might be a half-century ago, but the art of those radical decades still defines how we think about contemporary art today. Five galleries at Mayfair Art Weekend go back in time…
Vera Molnár, Untitled, 1972, computer drawing, 30 x 30 cm. Courtesy The Mayor Gallery, London
Writing New Codes at The Mayor Gallery, 6 June – 27 July
At The Mayor Gallery, ‘Writing New Codes’ presents three pioneers of computer art – the Brazilian Waldemar Cordeiro, American Robert Mallary and Hungarian Vera Molnár, three artists who, during 1960s and 70s explored how computers could produce visual art. Influenced by aspects of Constructivism, Op Art and Concrete art, these artists seized on the first developments in computer programmes and printers to produce both representational and abstract images and objects, based on algorithms programmed into computers via punched cards or paper tape.
2018 marks the fiftieth anniversary celebrations of Cybernetic Serendipity, the now legendary exhibition of 1968 organised by Jasia Reichardt at London’s ICA, the first international exhibition in Britain to explore how computers could be used in the arts. The show featured work by Mallary, who exhibited was what was probably the first sculpture created by computer, Quad I. Quad 3, from the same series, will be exhibited here. Writing New Codes will present extraordinary digitalised photography by Cordiero, Molnár’s dancing, musical patterns and Mallary’s dense, totem-like accumulations of interweaving curves.
Giulio Paolini, L'Indifferent, 1992, mixed media, 230 x 130 x 180 cm. Courtesy Cardi Gallery, Milan & London
Difference and Affinity: Alighiero Boetti, Vincenzo Agnetti, Emilio Prini and Giulio Paolini at Cardi Gallery, 19 June – 7 September
Eye and mind suitably dazzled, it’s a couple of street corners to Cardi Gallery, which specialises in postwar Italian avant-garde art. Difference and Affinity presents works by four artists associated with Italy’s Arte Povera movement as well as developing their own approaches to conceptual art. Emilio Prini worked with photography, performance and writing to explore the dynamic between language experience; Vincenzo Agnetti began as a poet, developing a philosophically-driven form of texts and diagrams which touched on questions of human consciousness, history and politics. Guilio Paolini, by contrast, developed a sculptural language which brought conceptual analysis to the place of the art object in art history, his works often citing and duplicating classical artistic and literary references. Alighiero Boetti, perhaps the best-known of the artists represented at Cardi, produced an esoteric body of work in which he ruminated on the nature of human time, geography and identity, often having his works made by others as he himself wandered the globe restlessly.
Rosemarie Castoro, Land of Lashes, 1976, mixed media, dimensions variable. Exhibition View: MACBA, Barcelona 2017. © The Estate of Rosemarie Castoro
Land of Lads, Land of Lashes: Rosemarie Castoro, Wanda Czelkowska, Lydia Okumura at Thaddeus Ropac, 25 June – 11 August
If the stop at Cardi is a bit man-heavy, a few doors down it’s nothing but women. Land of Lads, Land of Lashes presents, for the first time in the UK, sculptures and paintings by three female artists who, working in response to the Minimalist and Post-Minimalist art of the 1960s and 70s, broke new artistic ground. Rosemarie Castoro brought surreal and sexual connotations to the cool, mathematical rigour of Minimalism; Lydia Okumura expanded the tradition of the Brazilian geometric avant-garde with her multi-dimensional abstract environments; and Wanda Czelkowska challenged artistic traditions by fusing anthropomorphic sculpture with brutalist, industrial structures.
While their male contemporaries rose to international prominence, these revolutionary female artists weren’t afforded the same visibility and institutional support. Guest-curated by Anke Kempkes, a leading historian of womens’ avant-garde art, the exhibition looks back to a key moment in which female artists pioneered new art movements and subverted the avant-garde language of their time.
Greta Schödl, Untitled, c. 1970, mixed media, 29 x 24 cm. (c) the artist. Courtesy Richard Saltoun Gallery, London
Tomaso Binga & Greta Schödl: VOCALIZING at Richard Saltoun, 31 May – 7 July
Maybe it’s something to do with the post-#metoo moment, but proto-feminist practice gets another showcase down the road at Richard Saltoun, in two solo shows of work by the Austrian Greta Schödl and Italian Tomaso Binga – both artists now in their eighties – who gave artistic shape to theories of patriarchy and language that would drive feminist art in the 1970s. Both artists work with the written word, but in very different ways.
Tomaso Binga is the alter ego of the Italian poet and visual artist Bianca Menna, who decided to adopt a man’s name as a form of protest against male privilege. Since the 70s Binga has worked in performance, film, painting, collage and poetry. On show are Binga’s ‘Typecode’ works of the late 70s, comprising typewritten letters and symbols which are repeated and overlaid to result in obscured, abstract graphic compositions. Like her decision to change her name as a mark of liberation, Binga’s coded geometric diagrams represent a language freed from the restrictions of a male-dominated society. Her 1970s ‘Body Alphabet’ collages show each letter of the alphabet, drawn in different fonts, with an associative word and collaged photographs of a female nude in different poses.
In contrast, Schödl’s delicate and intricate works range from postcard size to several metres long. Geometric forms and bold colours are interwoven with written words, repeated obsessively until their meaning dissolves. Gold leaf, wire and thread are fused onto different surfaces; handmade paper, books, personal letters and materials associated with the tropes of female domesticity, such as ironing boards and pillow slips. The results are otherworldly, mystical compositions, in which Schödl’s domestic world is transcended by the hypnotic materiality of her script.
Christo, Surrounded Islands (Project for Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida), 1983, mixed media, 28 x 71 cm. Courtesy Stern Pissarro Gallery, London
Christo & Jeanne-Claude: A Life of Projects at Stern Pissarro, through 21 July
If, by now, you’ve compared and contrasted the strategies and attitudes of male and female artists during the 60s and 70s, a good place to finish up might be with that most famous of husband-and-wife teams, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, whose half-century of collaboration is recalled at Stern Pissarro. Yet it’s worth remembering that for many years, the couple chose to present their work under Christo’s name, Jeanne-Claude going unacknowledged until they retrospectively reattributed their work together, in 1994. It’s a strange echo, maybe, of a time when even supposedly radical artists were still most often men.
Wrapping entire buildings in fabric, or running hanging curtains across miles of landscape, or surrounding islands with bright textiles, the couple are responsible for some of the most ground-breaking examples of environmental art since the 60s. At Stern Pissarro, one can find a collection of the project drawings which the couple made to finance their wildly ambitious projects, from the Wrapped Reichstag to the Surrounded Islands.
Next week: The Totally Abstract Tour