Well there’s certainly something of a buzz in this part of East London tonight, it isn’t an the 2018 Whitechapel Open though. Stolen Space Gallery is buzzing tonight, there’s a line up the street waiting for the gallery to open, we’re right around the corner from Whitechapel Gallery itself, two East End galleries within a stone’s throw of each other and at the same time a couple of art gallery a million miles away from each other. One opening what could be respectfully called just another in a long list of successful exciting engaging opening nights to successful shows – that Seen and Risk show still lives in our heads, that Alexander Chappell show, that Adventures in Modern Abstraction group show, the last time we saw Roa in a gallery in London, Stolen Space does keep on delivering – the other looking like something of a rather tired old dinosaur that just wants to be left alone to sleep it all off. Whitechapel Gallery itself has a long illustrious history, a vital part of the London art seen for many many (many), a place steeped in decades of history, an important space, a vital space, a much loved place, and their annual Open show has quite a history in its own right.
Tonight there’s an opening at both galleries; Sandra Chevrier’s solo show at Stolen Space feels exciting, it feels like an event, it feels like people are engaged, people are excited, it might not be the best show there has ever been at Stolen Space but it does feel like most shows do at that space, it feels like another exciting engaging gallery show in a long line of rather exciting shows at the gallery. There’s an excited line outside waiting for the doors to open, there’s chatter in the air, it feels like art is an exciting thing, that going to an art show is an exciting thing to do, the show tonight might not be to my personal taste, but – rather like that excellent show at Gallery 46 that was the actual reason for us being in this part of town tonight – art feels alive at Stolen Space tonight (shall we say exciting again?). Meanwhile the opening night of the 2018 Whitechapel Open feels flat, it feels lifeless, it really doesn’t feel engaging, it doesn’t feel like it wants to engage. Is the opening of 2018 Open even happening tonight? Have we got the date wrong? It isn’t that easy to find a way in to the actual show somewhere in the back beyond the cafe and the gift shop and the darkened film room, and when you do find a way in, it looks like a bit of a confused mess, the first impression is that of jumble sale in a church hall, or maybe one of those East London “vintage” markets with bits of this and that all over the place.
The art really is all over the show, the sight-lines are in chaos, you can’t really see the wood for the trees. The 2018 Open feels like a group show that doesn’t seem to know what it wants to do or be anymore, a show that doesn’t have a focus, a purpose, that doesn’t have a heart or soul anymore. The art is crammed in in a rather haphazard way, and most of it really not that exciting or engaging, there’s no buzz, nothing much really jumps out, it all feels rather beige, rather tired, it feels rather bored with itself – it really does feel like a tired old dinosaur of a gallery tonight and the 2018 Open feels like a show that’s been put together by a rather bored committee who were jsut going through the motions. There’s one or two pieces, Hannah Brown’s rather delicious painting stands out, there’s the banners at the top of the stairs, is that “Liars” banner actually part of the show, it isn’t really that clear? There’s one or two pieces but hey, is this really it? is this all they have to offer? Fair to say the 2018 Whitechapel Open did not excite us enough to say excited too many times.
So you’ve got two gallery spaces almost next door to each other, you wonder if anybody else bothered to go to both or if the different art tribes even knew about the existence of the other tribe’s event? The Sandra Chevrier solo show at Stolen Space, is packed, there’s a buzz in the place (there’s buzz on the street outside) the artist is dressed in stars, she’s beaming, the crowd is buzzing, they’re clutching their tubes, they’ve bought the print (actually most of the original paintings have sold already if the red dots are to be believed).
The paintings at Stolen Space are beautifully executed (and beautifully hung once more), Chevrier’s style is a slick one, very slick comic book pop art, big paintings alive with colour, with precise energy, very easy to appreciate – “a fresh series of Chevrier’s iconic ‘Cage Paintings’, juxtaposing feminine subjects with comic book iconography in order to explore concepts of social expectation via the female gaze” – it is easy to to politely respect her work, and it does (like we might have already said), feel like an exciting art event, but these pieces in all honesty are really not my thing. I want a bit more danger, a bit more attitude, a hint of a mistake or two, a drip, the sense of a risk taken or an artist challenging their own art, and every time I come into this gallery I get a flashback to those Seen paintings and the humanity, to the faults and the lines and the layers and the sheer excitement those paintings fuelled – the show here tonight lacks most of that, but then I rather suspect there’s going to be one or two people who will (loudly) disagree with that opinion, it is hard to argue with the majority, the place really is buzzing, people really are enjoying it, engaging with it, and if taking comic book imagery to large pieces of canvas in a very very slick graphic kind of way in 2018 does it for you then Sandra Chevrier does her chosen thing rather well, and big respect to her, (it isn’t you, it really is me, I really do respect what you do, it really is just me). And with that we were off to Gallery 46 and that Paul Renner and Paul Sakoilsky show (via those white vans of Whitechapel market and an art drop or two,, of to Gallery 46, now that was an opening that will surely live long in people’s minds, now that really is a show to go to Whitechapel to see before it closes.. (sw)
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