ORGAN THING: Touch at East London’s Gallery 46, one of those group shows that demands a second look…

Axel Void – Untitled (detail_

There is something about a well considered well curated group show, group shows are important, some might say vital, and sometimes you really need to go back for a second look to really see it. This show over at Whitechapel’s Gallery 46 was packed for the opening night, almost impossible to really see and properly appreciate the art. It might well be that we’re just not match fit in terms of opening nights now as we kind of limp out of all the various shades of lockdowns and avoiding the crowds that once upon a time really didn’t bother any of us that much. Must confess I don’t know any of the names taking part in this show, I know very little about the show, but Gallery 46 has earned a reputation now, there’s almost always something good to see and the publicity ahead of the show looked promising, there was never a question of not going..     

 Touch is a group show curated by Stephanie Seungmin Kim. The “private view” was last Thursday, it was rather crowded. We missed the percussionist performance so we can’t really tell you if it was any good or not but there is a bloody big drum kit taking up way too much space in the main room and really not letting us get to the detail of the actual art, maybe this kind of stuff should be left for the bigger spaces or maybe the concert halls? Tripping over bits of drum kit it to get to the art is a little annoying.  There is some rewarding art here though, that big gorilla that was part of the on-line preview had us interested, even more so that painting of Axel Void that we had featured on these pages ahead of the show without knowing who the artist was.

“The exhibition brings back ‘touch’, something that has been tabooed and sterilised recently with the pandemic. While our touch has been scrutinised and recorded, touch-screen devices became windows for human interaction. Some people were in touch with nature, finding respite from the sudden halting of normal life, some had to suffer in the proximity of others and some were alone, devoid of touch. The exhibition began with thoughts of revitalising the joie de vivre, much needed after repeated lockdowns, but it inevitably brought the memory of our recent loss and heightened perception. The exhibition will present celebrated work from Axel Void, Cosimo Sturniolo, Dongwuk Heo, Hanuk Jung, Hayoung Kim, Jihyun Yu, João Villas, Joon Choi, Koh Sang Woo, Kristina Chan, Ligyung, Mimi Joung, Sangyong Lee, Vakki and Zoë Marden”   

João Villas

It was very much a case of needing to come back in the cold light of day, there was more than enough art spied on the open night to demand a return to a hopefully slightly more peaceful gallery.  And yes there was “Touch” on that opening night, nails being painted in the downstairs room, the latex curtain you had to  touch to enter one of the upstairs rooms where Zoe Marden’s work was featured (the room smells wonderful in the warmth of a very sunny Tuesday afternoon). There’s some intriguing little pieces (little only in terms of size) from Sangyong Lee and we do want to find out more about Axel Void. That big João Villas piece hanging on the outside of the building is rather impressive as is the small piece in the main room from the same artist, a clever piece quietly hanging in the corner, that once again couldn’t really be appreciated during the chaos of the opening night.  Opening nights are great but you do really have to go back once you’ve scouted the situation and got a flavour of things, you never ever see everything, there is almost always a treasure missed.

A good group show is a vital thing, not every group show is a good show, some people think we like everything we go to, not everything gets reviewed, not everything we go to is worth the time and effort, there is an art to putting a group show together and when it does come together like Touch does, then a group show can be vital, especially when, like this one, you know nothing about any of the artists involved. (sw)  

Gallery 46 is found at 46 Ashfield Street, London E1. The show ends on September 9th, there is a late opening that night, more detsils via the gallery website     

Do please click on an image to enlarge or to run the slide show

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