Phillip Allen , Anthony Iacono The Approach, London E2, Feb 2019 – The Approach is a strange place, one of those galleries that doesn’t like to tell you it exists, no sign of a sign or anything like that, if it wasn’t for that familiar murmur of an opening night “private view” that a crowd makes you’d never know there was a rather decent gallery hiding there above the East London pub. There’s actually an unmarked door at the end of the (rather gentrified) bar, I’m guessing most of the locals have no idea the gallery is even there, I’m guessing most of the real locals don’t drink at The Approach any more anyway (it certainly isn’t our local boozer of choice). The gallery upstairs is a decent one though, A great space (beware of those stairs), and excellent couple of rooms and you pretty much know the shows will be good, that the art is always going to be worth your time and effort, it isn’t often anything that revolutionary, the exhibitions are always interesting though, always rewarding, always worth taking a look if you do catch wind of a new show happening.
There’s two shows opening tonight, one in the larger main room, a Phillip Allen show, a second one in the small annex featuring the work of Anthony Iacono. Rather busy in here, a bit of a buzz. Of the two, the room full of Phillip Allen’s paintings is the room that really excites (not that the two are in some kind of battle, they rather compliment each other actually). The Phillip Allen hang is a minimal hang, small pieces (and not many of them) on big white walls – polite and formal as it is the hang really works, the less is more focus on the individual pieces, the reverence of the space given for each piece to breathe properly – paintings, exciting paintings, relatively small, you could say modest, but no, these are big paintings, paintings that demand you go look properly rather than just politely glide by, they demand you go in, stand back, get close, that you walk around them, that you look from the side. These are paintings that really do demand you go see them, that you go experience them rather than just look at them via the comfort of a computer screen via a social media post, a little more than a “like” on Instagram is required here. The edges are so good, the middles look so good, the detail look so good, the colours are so inviting, these are modest paintings, small pieces, but these are big exciting paintings. Okay, so you can talk about the texture, you can make comments about breakfast cereals and e numbers – those colours are strong, they’re almost sculptures, they’re tactile, they might be playful, hard to not touch, they’re resonant, they’re beautiful, you kind of wonder what the process was, how he came to the conclusion, how did all that build up? What did he remove? Are they about the process rather than the result of that process? They look organic, like they’ve been left to grow themselves in the corner of his studio, like coral or something, you kind of don’t want to know too much about the process, you kind of just want to just enjoy them without question, to just stand there enjoying the paintings, the paint, the pieces in the paint, the lumps, the colour-ways, okay not colour-ways but there a real feel for the colour, for the paint. for the placing, the balance. Is there anything better than paint? Is there anything better than standing in front of a really good painting for a minute or two?
The Anthony Iacono pieces in the smaller room don’t initially look like collages, “meticulously assembled hand-painted and cut fragments of paper”, they rather look like paintings, slick, almost flat, almost deliberately so, marooned in polite (almost deliberately bland?) white frames, bits of lots of things hinted at. He’s from Nyack, New York, he hints at pop, at 70’s film posters, at lots of things, the pieces are a complete contrast to the excitement of Phillip Allen’s room, they’re worth seeing though, there’s something about them, about the tales they might be telling, about the hints… (sw)
The Approach, 1st Floor, 47 Approach Road, Bethnal Green, London E2 9LY, Access to the gallery via The Approach Tavern pub, there’s a brown door at the end of the bar that the staff may or may not feel like pointing out to you. Gallery open: Wednesday – Sunday: 12–6pm or by appointment, both shows run until March 24th
click on an image to enlarge or t orun the slide show.