Your London Exhibition Guide

What to see in April 2022

There’s no excuse not to see art this month. We’ve sprinkled in a bit of everything — artists who make films, artists who paint, artists who photograph, artists who weave objects and stick them in vitrines, artists who cut apart their canvases. We’re taking you all over town, both north and south of the Thames, so don’t forget your rain boots.

Korakrit at Carlos Ishikawa

Korakrit Arunanondchai & Alex Gvojic at Carlos/Ishikawa

Last Chance — Closes May 15!

Who doesn’t love a good bonfire? While the next Guy Fawkes Night isn’t until November, fans of pyrotechnics can still get their fix at Songs for Living, whose focus is the timeless thrill of fire. The titular piece is a twenty-minute video, featuring masked figures with black wings, tai-chi dancers, and unicycle delivery riders — plus the aforementioned blaze. The film draws on weighty material, including excerpts from two French philosophers and one Polish-American writer. All three survived various forms of oppression, and shared an interest in spirituality and questions of power.

The artist duo Arunanondchai and Gvojic are known for their gritty works that combine serious political thought with the stage effects of a warehouse rave (they are partial to strobe lights and smoke machines). If you like your gallery visits intense yet thought-provoking, make this your next stop.

Exhibition Site

Rachel Jones at Chisenhale

Rachel Jones say cheeeeese

For those looking for a smile

In addition to regular flossing, your dentist also recommends a trip to the Chisenhale Gallery to see say cheeeeese, a show of rambunctious new paintings by Rachel Jones. Using oil sticks and pastels (both are thick and greasy implements you shouldn’t eat), Jones has produced a series of works inspired by teeth and mouths. The orifice theme spurs any number of thoughts about openings, closings, entrances, etc., but arguably more intriguing are the shapes and images themselves: teetering between abstract and representational, Jones’s paintings gnash and spit and smile at you with irresistible personality. It is always fun to see paintings that seem like they were fun to paint, and on this particular point say cheeeeese is as good as they come.

Exhibition Site

Titus Kaphar at Gagosian Grosvenor Hill

Titus Kaphar New Alte̲rs: Reworking Devotion

For those looking for a history remix

A work of collage, whether by a second-grader with zigzag scissors or an artist with blue-chip representation, is a curious thing. Just about anyone can cut and paste images together. But few can do it with singular beauty and meaning. While not strictly collage — Kaphar himself paints, prints, and sculpts with precision and poise — the works in New Alte̲rs combine historical images that, despite their literal size and cultural weight, seem pieced together by one giant, omnipotent hand. Baroque goddesses, Civil War-era photographs, and crumpled wads of painted canvas jostle within their shared frames and often extend beyond them, creating illusions of scale and perspective that upend the norms of traditional painting. Kaphar’s jumble of highly charged images links Renaissance angels with the struggles of post-industrial Detroit, and the horrors of slavery with the indulgences of classical European art. While not the first to draw such comparisons, Kaphar’s bold renderings and surprising distortions invite longer looks and deeper thoughts.

Exhibition Site

Louise Bourgeois at Hayward Gallery

Louise Bourgeois The Woven Child

For those looking for some female empowerment

Louise Bourgeois is not for the faint of heart. Her long and storied career, which saw her participation in many of the 20th century’s major art movements, was built on the bedrock of childhood trauma. Born in 1911 in France, she suffered not just the hardships that followed the First War but also serious abuse at the hands of her father. Bourgeois wove her experiences of guilt, violence, and womanhood into a towering body of work that, despite its frequent darkness, ultimately expresses great hope and humanity.

The Woven Child is dedicated to works made during the last two decades of the artist’s life, when she began working with textiles. The sculptures, collages, and installations at the Hayward incorporate bed linens, handkerchiefs, tapestry, and needlepoint. These materials held particular significance for Bourgeois, as symbols of her parents (who worked in textiles), womanhood, and even forgiveness. While much of her work can be difficult to view — her famous, gigantic Maman spiders never fail to send chills down your spine — Bourgeois’s conviction that the needle held a “magic power” that could repair damages both physical and emotional gives her later work a nuanced, cathartic force.   

Exhibition Site

Ming Smith at Pippy Houldsworth

Ming Smith A Dream Deferred

For those curious about IG filters before there were IG filters

Yes, a Snapchat filter can give you a cat’s ears and whiskers, turn your cluttered bedroom into a sparkly unicorn forest, or lift your cheekbones above their disappointing genetic reality. In an era that takes photographic manipulation for granted, we might overlook the artist merits of altered images. Thank goodness then for Ming Smith, who for nearly six decades has been pushing the limits of photography to produce subtle, poignant, and captivating works of art. Starting with her own silver gelatin prints, Smith applies gentle tints and energetic dabs with a painter’s intuition, creating images both visceral and poetic.

A Dream Deferred also presents more straight-forward photographs from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. But even in these shots of concerts, street life, and portraits, Smith has nudged her camera beyond simple documentation: stark shadows, jittery reflections, and blurry lights imbue her images with emotion and intimacy.

Exhibition Site

A Century of the Artist’s Studio: 1920 - 2020 at Whitechapel Gallery

A Century of the Artist's Studio: 1920 – 2020

For those who love to snoop

Are you one of those people who peek into your friend’s bathroom cabinets when you visit their home? If so, you’ll likely enjoy A Century of the Artist’s Studio. The sprawling survey brings together more than 100 works by over 80 artists, ranging from masters such as Francis Bacon, Louise Bourgeois, Pablo Picasso, and Andy Warhol, to contemporary figures like Walead Beshty, Lisa Brice, and Kerry James Marshall. This multi-media exhibition feels deliciously intrusive. Like a wallflower at a party, you get firsthand insight into the artistic psyche through depictions of their studio in the form of actual artworks. A series of ‘studio corners’ also recreate the spaces where some of the greatest hits from the last century were made. Some sections may feel conceptually less relevant than others, but it’s a good mix from iconic works to the lesser known. Dotted with pockets of brilliance, this exhibition will leave you fittingly overwhelmed given the nature of studios — messy, idiosyncratic, and crammed with delights.

Exhibition Site

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