ORGAN THING: Exploring the East side of Condo, is this really the cutting edge and the best of the new young galleries?

So Condo started or opened or kicked off or did whatever something like Condo does? Condo kicked off last weekend.  To get to it all over the preview weekend is impossible of course, the art event is spread far and wide, bits over here in the East, bits overseas in South London, Condo has kicked off, let’s grab the map and go explore…

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The London-wide art even Kicked off last Saturday with afternoon preview openings at all fifteen of galleries taking part. A collaborative event returned for a second year and featuring 36 galleries across 15 of London art spaces.  The event happens between 14th Jan and 11th Feb (the previews took place on Saturday 14th January and Sunday, midday until 6pm).

Condo is a coming together of contemporary art galleries from as far afield as New York, Berlin and São Paolo, the guest galleries are taking up month-long residency in what we are told are some of “London’s best young galleries”. The deal is that the visiting galleries get a place to exhibit in London, the host gets to show their own artists’ work alongside the work selected by the visiting guest galleries. “It’s a massive art party, it’s a festival, an art fair: a coming together of the international gallery scene” so shouts the press statement.. The event made a “highly successful debut in 2016”, and has now apparently doubled in size. “The complete opposite to the London Art Fair” (taking place in the city at the same time),  you get to view art from what we’re told will be some of the “most cutting edge and innovative spaces” and you get to “see the work in a gallery setting rather than art shoe-horned into a cattle market exhibition centre art fair”.

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19: Vilma Gold, Condo, Jan 2017 – Anna Zacaroff

Well yes, give us proper gallery spaces over cattle market art fairs every single time. Let’s go explore some of the previews, lets down paint brushes and cans and go see what some of the the event’s East End spaces have to offer. Not quite sure what qualifies the host spaces as “London’s best young galleries”, surely some of these galleries are rather old “establishment” now? Not sure about that “most cutting edge and innovative spaces” statement either, some of these spaces are hardly ever open and when they do they appear to present rather conservative shows that politely drag on and on (and on) for months and months. Come on, so cynical and we haven’t set foot on any of the participating Condo spaces yet! Let’s get out there, let’s go see what this Condo thing is all about, let’s go explore the streets of East London and see what we can find – art excites, exploring art is exciting, let’s get out there and see.  Things have been rather good in terms of art so far, the art year over here in East London has kicked off in promising style already, we had the opening of Adam Hennessey’s joyous Smile show at Fred Mann’s New Art Projects last Thursday evening as well as the opening night of Cacotopia at Annka Kultys Gallery on the Hackney Road – the first of five installations from in the Annka Kultys space with Olivia Strange was indeed a good start to the East London art year (rather looking forward to the second week of Cacotopia, they promise a new artist taking over the space every week, four more to come after Olivia’s fractured beach utopia of last week) , Condo then, down with the paint brushes, on with the warm clothing, never mind the rain, let’s get out of the studio and go explore the Eastern extremities of this year’s snake-riddled Condo.thing…

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2:Up The Bracket Alley, East London, Jan 2017

Quick cut through Up The Bracket Alley where the marker pens of the disciples of those Libertines continue to joust with the layers of graff and the occasional bit of street art (did Sweet Toof calculate that that piece high up on that wall would be seen so perfectly from the busy Liverpool Street train line?), cut down the alley and over the Hackney Road to Minerva Street and our first destination.  Last time I attempted to go see a show at Vilma Gold gallery, the guy on the door of the new home of the one time Vyner Street art space decided I didn’t look like I had the least bit of interest in art and that I was clearly only there for the free beer, he blocked my entry and told where me to go, don’t you just love art gallery attitudes.  No such problem today, there’s no one on the actual door this afternoon (guess there’s no beer to guard today, this is a preview, not an opening). The Current Minerva Street Vilma Gold space is a really beautiful place in terms of experiencing art – raw walls, good light, good size, shame it isn’t open more often  (I thought they’d closed down, they’ve been very quiet in recent times).  Two shows in the space today and there’s people walking around clutching those (useless) Condo maps – the event certainly has interest, people are out exploring, Frieze bags on shoulders, (useless) maps in hand, phones at the ready – we’re not talking massive crowds, but there’s clearly people out exploring Condo, looks like imaginations have been captured, people want to engage, there a respectful buzz for a cold wet Saturday afternoon in early January.

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21: Vilma Gold, , Jan 2017 – Eric Schmid

There’s two shows running side by side at Vilma Gold, the gallery is hosting Frankfurt’s Neue Alte Brücke gallery as their part of Condo. There’s a solo exhibition from Anna Zacaroff in the main room, several of Zacaroff’s paintings alongside four works from Natalia Goncharova.(1881-1962), four more restrained conservative pieces from the Russian avant-garde artist, painter, costume designer, writer, illustrator, and set designer (don’t you just love Wikipedia). Rayonism and underwater sea creatures? Anna Zacaroff paintings are “populated with all kinds of marine life: sea snails, oysters and fish rendered in delicate watercolours, oils and pastels”, the putting together of the two is an interesting move, the sunken statues and the mostly beige seascapes are, well, shall we politely say the Frankfurt-based artist doesn’t really excite us that much and move on?  Actually, it isn’t really that clear which part of the gallery is devoted to Condo, information is rather thin on the ground, maybe the Eric Schmid work in the smaller adjacent room is the Condo part? The gallery’s website lists Schmid as being “presented by Neue Alte Brücke” – This is a little more interesting, the visual side assembled? Artifacts, slices of the collaged side of the artist’s sound? Record sleeves, vinyl, all visual, no sound – ideas cut up, I kind of want some of his sound in here, I kind of feel like only part of the artist is in here, maybe the silence is important in terms of this show? Graphic rawness, violation? Broken glass in frames hosting vinyl records? The room and the work is intriguing, provoking, I imagine Eric’s work sounds like it looks, the bits I’ve previously heard (on Resonance first I’m pretty sure) sound like this looks. Something interesting here, should I go back armed with headphones and a soundtrack loaded?  Kind of want to not like it and kind of want to really really like it at the same time, who is Eric Schmid? is this the Condo bit? Does i matter? Why no sound? Surely there needs to be sound? Not sure about the underwater sea creatures in the bigger room, those four Naralia Goncharova pieces might be worth a closer look and the world of Eric Schmid certainly needs exploring some more while this show is on – his hang isn’t that exciting, does it feel a little half-hearted and boringly formal in the smaller of the two gallery rooms? Do big beige seascapes and sea snails reallt make for a cutting edge art event? Does the conservative soundless Eric Schmid hang? Schmid’s work certainly ignites interest, first taste of Condo is not as impressive as it might have been though, doesn’t feel like we’re at the cutting edge here….

Where shall we go next?  No good consulting the map, it might look good as a piece of art but as a functioning piece of visual information, nah (useless!).  These galleries don’t like to make it easy for people do they? The Approach has been hiding upstairs above a Bethnal Green pub of the same name for years and years, you really wouldn’t know unless you were in the know, do they do it on purpose? Is it art world policy to discourage the riff raff? There’s no sign outside there’s no sign inside, just a semi-secret side door beyond the end of the bar. The Approach gallery has been hiding above the Approach pub for almost twenty years now (what was that about cutting edge young galleries?), the Condo element is hiding in the hidden gallery – an outside room, a blank door, they must do this on purpose? Heaven forbid the general public mighty dirty the freshly painted floors.  When you do find tho door at the back of the wardrobe and you so scale the deadly freshly-painted stairs, then there’s a beautiful big white cube of an upstairs gallery waiting for you (as well as the small “secret, hidden” second gallery room outside)

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50: Condo at The Approach – Sonia Almeida

“Simone Subal Gallery is pleased to feature Sonia Almeida’s work at Condo 2017, hosted by The Approach”, the Simone Subal Gallery is from New York, “Sonia Almeida’s presentation combines a new tapestry installation along with works on paper and continues her exploration into the mechanics of communication. Almeida is interested in how non-verbal communication (body language, hand movements, voice pitch, touch, and eye contact, for example) contributes to the dynamism of interaction and helps weave spoken language” and so the small white room (this really is a white cube, no room to swing a paint brush in here let alone a cat, actually I rather like this intimate little room, good use of space).  The small white gallery cube of a room houses a wall rack full of woven tapestry – rather like one of those poster racks they had on the wall in every record shop ever back in the day. There’s a digital flavour to the tapestry, is it fair to say it kind of feels like a late 80’s textile student’s output in here?  That point somewhere around 1987 where the possibilities of computers were just coming in and the marks they made were kind of exciting textile designers? Sonia Almeida was born in 1978 in Lisbon, Portugal, the paintings on the wall are colourful – oh look, we’re kind of underwhelmed again, is this really a the nest a so called cutting edge New York gallery can come up with for an art event that’s supposed to be one of the trumpeted “innovative and exciting spaces” of London?  We’ll politely leave the room and the weaving codes and the textiles and the paintings and go explore some more…

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62: Sophie Bueno-Boutellier at The Approach

Over in the much bigger main room of the gallery space “The Approach is pleased to announce its second solo exhibition of new paintings by the French, Berlin-based artist, Sophie Bueno-Boutellier. Le Don de Gaïa is the second part of a trilogy of exhibitions reassessing the feminine and addressing reproductive labour, which Bueno-Boutellier began with La Ritournelle du Peuple des Cuisines at the Fondation d’entreprise Ricard, Paris in 2016….” – there a lot of what we’re told is “Bueno-Boutellier’s signature gesture of cutting, folding and wrapping raw, unstretched canvas that reveals her simultaneous engagement with painting as a pictorial surface and a textile material”, – did I ever tell you I studied textiles and played around with early computers and weaving looms and folding bits of canvas and hanging then on walls? It seemed exciting for a time back there as a teenager back in the last century.  Is this really the exciting cutting edge of international art in 2017? Awfully polite in here. Shall we carry on? Shall we explore East London some more?

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74: East London, January 2017

Shall we make our way over to Herald Street then? Condo isn’t exiting us much so far, there is something posrrive to be said about these shared events and galleries uniting but we haven’t found the promised cutting edge quite yet.  On we go, there’s a couple of galleries hiding down the back street beyond the organic layers of graff and the colours battling colours in that way that one writer tagging (working?) by his or herself could never come up with, that unplanned overlapping of that pink tag there next to the blue and silver bit of graff  and that accidental bit of texture and those signs on that closed down building.

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91: Condo at Maureen Paley Gallery

There’s two Condo hosts on Herald Street, we’re heading for the back streets of Bethnal Green, we’re in Cockney Reject country now, we’re heading for the Maureen Paley gallery, the space is hosting Dépendance gallery (Brussels), and once again it isn’t that clear which bits of the building hosts the guest Condo element and which but is dedicated to the exhibiting of the gallery’s regular show.  Don’t know what I was expecting from Condo, they promised “cutting edge”, some kind of exciting coming together of international art galleries and a taste of something fresh and exciting, something that maybe punched me in the face and as an artist demanded I up my game? Did I expect to see something that made me want to go grab hold of people and say hey, you got to come see this! Was it unreasonable to expect something as exciting as say Rocco and his bothers or that Kembra Pfahler show from last year or maybe Aida Wilde and her crew’s take over of that old pub or that Play show in that decommissioned East London warehouse that time? What was I expecting? Something more than the art on the walls Clare Street or the marks gathering on that Stik piece on the yellow doors of the flower warehouse on Cambridge Heath Road? The East London walls are exciting more than the galleries so far this weekend.

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88: Condo at Maureen Paley Gallery – Michaela Eichwald

There’s a couple of “nice” paintings, the oil on canvas work of Serban Savu, in Maureen Paley’s own group show – a show curated by Michael Bracewell, a group show called Hounded By External Events.  The show has been there hiding in the big space since late November – and it is a big space, spread over two floors, we finally figure out the Condo element here in the Maureen Paley Gallery is down at the end of the big upstairs room, beyond the quotes and the smoke and mirrors of the mildly interesting Bracewell-curated seven-artist group show. There’s eleven artists in the Dépendance show down at the end of the upstairs room of the Maureen Paley gallery, nine of them we assume are currently working, the other two are Hendrick Dubbels (1620 – 1676) and Adriaen Van De Venne (1589 – 1662), the placing of the installation on (most of) the floor space, the work of Nora Schultz, is interesting, as is the Michaela Eichwald piece on the wall, a piece from five years ago, that one catches attention. The whole Dépendance show is put together rather well – strongly curated, well hung, I guess the show is kind of interesting, but is this really it? Is this all Condo has to offer? With all the trumpeting we were maybe expecting a little more, hardly the promised cutting edge is it?

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83: Hounded By External Events, Serban Savu, at Maureen Paley Gallery

Down the other end of the street, the imaginatively named Herald Street Gallery can be found, well we think it can, we know the space is  here somewhere, supposed to be at number 2 but all there is is a roll down garage door with “no parking” painted on the front – the side door is open, is the gallery in this garage?  The only clue is a pile of empty beer bottles stacked in the corner that hint that there may have been a gallery opening somewhere in here recently? Shall we try this door? No sign of a sign, no indication, there’s a cat over there, no hint of human life?  Apparently the gallery has been hiding here for over ten years, don’t ask me how all this works, someone suggests part of the fun is trying to find these damn places and I should stop being so grumpy about the elitism of galleries and their apparent reluctance to engage with people..  The Herald St gallery is hosting Tanya Leighton & The Modern Institute as their part of Condo, and yes it is beyond the closed unmarked door inside the garage (we could so easily have been pushing open a door and waling in to a drug deal or Tony two-doors offloading some old bed, could have been anything, thankfully we’ve found the gallery – “The Modern Institute is a contemporary art gallery founded in Glasgow in 1998”, while the Tanya Leighton Gallery is from Berlin, they’re sharing the one room East London space and once again information is thin on the ground but hey, this is more like it! Something good in here, at last! A decent art show, Condo has finally delivered! There’s a playfulness with Amalia Pica’s “Catachresis ♯69 –  Head of the broccoli and elbow of the pipe” – found materials apparently, did she find the broccoli? Playful?  No, this is not playful, this is good, the three sided mirror in the middle of the gallery plays all kinds of games with the viewer (maybe it is playful?), the set of i-phone headphones are inspired, “PC Sirens” (the work of Sam Anderson) as are the gang of projectors on the floor – this show is a delight, this is a little nearer to the cutting edge we were hoping for, this is more like what we were expecting. :Martin Boyce’s “Same Place as Always” is beautiful, the whole show uses the space beautifully, there’s work from Sam Anderson, Martin Boyce, Pavel Büchler, Robert and Trix Haussmann,  Bruce McLean, Amalia Pica and Pádraig Timoney (or at least I think there is, information is thin on the ground). Rather like this show, rather like this space, starting to kind of like the way it was hidden and took a little bit of exploring to find – love those projectors talking to each other on the floor over there…

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134: Condo at Herald Street

Condo then, the idea of galleries coming together like this has to be a celebrated, if you are going to trumpet it as the most exciting art from the most exciting cutting edge galleries then you maybe need to back it up a little bit more? Four spaces explored so far, Herald Street delighted, the rest was rather underwhelming, Eric Schmid probably needs to be explored a little more….  on with exploring of art, wonder what else Condo has to offer? Wonder what Emalin have served up? Stay tuned now, there must be more it Condo than this?  (sw) .

Full list of participating galleries (and addresses) here. Alternatively more information from the official Condo website   condocomplex.org

Click on an image to enlarge or to run the fractures slide show and the East London explore in the cold and rain…

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One thought on “ORGAN THING: Exploring the East side of Condo, is this really the cutting edge and the best of the new young galleries?

  1. Pingback: ORGAN THING: The art vandals have struck, East London’s much loved Clare Street buffed… | THE ORGAN

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