Yeah, I know, where has it all been? Does any of it matter? Does dancing around the architecture of art matter? This is to a what? The opening night was busy, that hum of a good opening night, those elbows and people standing in front of paintings talking, cheap wine or whatever happens to be on offer in hand, get out of the damn way. Thank heavens for openings and that hum and the cheap wine and yes, the art on the wall and the people in the way, we took all this for granted back in the old normal. Had to go back for a second (and third look) and well, I mean, come on, what do you want me to say? What is the point other than the point in telling you it is happening now, giving you an image or two and the basic facts
As is the established way now at Fred Mann’s Hackney gallery now, you get two shows for the price of one in his beautiful basement gallery. This is a great space, the walls are big, the light is good, the decent to the basement is dramatic, the four rooms make for a circuit you can lap again and again, it allows for more than one show. As always the conversations between the rooms and the two shows are positive, the curation is as good as ever, I don’t think there has been a time when the shows have upset each other and right now you have two shows in perfect harmony with each other.
We surely all know about the beauty of Franko B and his art by now? his show (or his part of the show) go b the title of Cross My Heart, it takes up two of the gallery’s four rooms. Franko’s show immediately looks and feels exciting, an instant hit, a sugar rush, a superficial hit of eye candy it looks and feels exciting and that before you start to unpack what you’re actually looking at. Does it need unpacking? Is the eye candy enough? Well yes, this is exciting, this is enough, those figures, that big heart, that cross, enough, excellent eye candy, exciting eye candy, that’ll do, brilliant. And then you look again, you start to read, you add the information to what you already know of Franko B from his previous shows, his art and his heart, he doesn’t hide any of it.it is all there to read, to interoperate, to decipher, to question, it is all there to enjoy, but this is deeper than just eye candy to enjoy, to want, to buy a piece to hang in our collections. There’s whole slices of life, of lives here, big piles of emotion, of confusion, of examination.
In 2019 Franko B was commissioned to make a major exhibition and installation at Rua Red in Dublin curated by a/political. It is our great pleasure to present two major pieces from the show for a London Audience in 2021 and to include them in this, his first solo show at New Art Projects.
Franko B was raised in an Italian orphanage and Boarding School run by the Italian Red Cross, and it these experiences that he discusses in this exhibition. He has created a particular vision of a childhood surrounded by many other childhoods and alongside images of home, such as it was, and as how it could have been.Working in glazed ceramics which he fires in his own kiln, B has made multiple small childlike figures that together form a giant red cross and a giant heart. Fixed onto the walls, they collectively form, document and represent all of the children who like Franko, passed through the hands of the Red Cross and comment on the continuing scandals and abuse of vulnerable children. The resulting installations are monumental in scale placing the viewer in front of a towering walls, that represent the scale and scope of the problem.
Smaller in scale and displayed on plinths, are ‘Houses’ which Franko B has constructed out of sheets of glazed, fired clay. These houses represent the safe spaces that are constructed by the mind, which stand up as walls of protection, to enclose historical events and memories. As with much of B’s work they resonate with love, memory and loss, and become poetic reminders of security, once held dear.
Franko B has also included a series of portraits on mirrored glass. These works both represent images to the viewer and reflect the viewing drawing your own image into the work. Along side these pieces are some new objects Franko B has been making in his kiln, Constructed from delicate white glazed ceramic, and embellished with gold and silver leaf, these small sculptures are figurative, abstract and votive. The combine a tactile surface with a fragility that singles them out as both precious and desirable.
I’ve been back three times now, I expect I shall go back again before it all comes down. Franko B is a complex artist, a beautiful artist, there are lots of layers, he does wear his armour, but he is there to read – Franko B (1960) was born in Milan. His practice spans drawing, installation, performance and sculpture. A pioneer of body art and a leading performance artist and activist, Franko B uses his body as a tool to explore the themes of the personal, political, poetic, resistance, suffering and the reminder of our own mortality and vulnerability. This is a very personal show, an exciting show, on several levels this is beautiful show, a fragile show, a strong show, as show to see at least three or four times,, a show that tells us a lot but not everything, there are mysteries here, secrets, he still has things to reveal., there something almost cathartic about standing in the basement all alone.
And then there’s Sadie Lee’s half, I almost want to say dominant half, and then there’s Sadie Lee’s two rooms full of paintings, powerful paintings – Sadie Lee — ‘Shocking Blue: Paintings of Sandy Powell and Other Stories’. –
For her first solo show at New Art Projects British Painter Sadie Lee has taken the title from Shocking Blue, a Dutch-based Rock / Pop band from the late 60’s/early ’70s whose biggest hit was Venus. In this show, Lee looks at gender through this lens and finds a contemporary vision of Venus that explores both gender and identity.
Lee has made six new portraits of Academy Award-winning costume designer Sandy Powell. The paintings are displayed in pairs, representing the front and back of the same pose, which mirror the style of costume designs. The reverse pose suggests the pictorial trope of the ‘Rückenfigur’, particularly the Caspar David Friedrich painting ‘Wanderer Above The Sea Of Fog’, which this pose closely resembles.
I don’t know, like I asked (myself) already up there, what do you want me to say? What is there to say that the paintings don’t say for themselves? Exquisite paintings, powerful portraits, challenges, intense, warm, cold, private, public, the paintings say so many things – wonderful paintings, aware paintings, brilliant paintings. Almost classical, deliberately so I’m sure, hand on hip classical pose. – Also on display is a mannequin dressed in Sandy Powell’s shirt, tie and suit, which feature in the paintings. Sandy Powell wears blue, and blue mostly refers to the suit that Sandy is wearing (and not wearing), blue is the colour. In both rooms of this ground-breaking show, Sadie Lee continues her investigation into ways of presenting gender. It feels like glam rock, like Quentin Crisp, like Bowie, like…. But I really shouldn’t say any of this, I should let those exquisitely painted portraits say it all, nothing needs to be added, these words are just for the sake of it, these are wonderful paintings.
The second room of her show will consist of a never-seen-before diptych of non-binary writer Libro (formerly Laura) Bridgeman. The piece is composed of two canvases, both portraits of Libro in the same pose, one in a thick herringbone suit and tie and the other naked after top-surgery. It was inspired by the Gwen John paintings of the artists’ model Fenella Lovell, where the subject is depicted separately in the same pose, both clothed and naked. Also in the room will be two paintings, ‘Holly Woodlawn Dressing’ II and III, from Lee’s series ‘And Then He Was A She – Paintings of Holly Woodlawn’ from 2007. These two paintings are of Warhol Superstar Holly Woodlawn putting on a blue satin dress. The title of the series is the first verse of Lou Reed’s hit song Walk On The Wild Side, which documented Woodlawn’s transition from Miami To New York and her transition from Harold to Holly.
I love this show, I love these shows, I love these paintings, this place, I love this, no, love? That’s not the right word. these are two excellent shows though, I do love these paintings, the hang, the show, both shows, “yeah yeah, you like everyting”, nah, I just don’t see much of point in writing about the bad shows, we are very picky about thiwhat we choose to shout about, love these two shows, . (SW)
New Art Projects is at 6d Sheep Lane, Hackney, London, E8 4QS. Just by Broadway Market, not far from the Regents Canal and a stone’s throw from Beck Road. Both shows are on until 22nd December 2021. l –
Previously at New Art Projects
As always, do click on an image to enlarge or to run the fractured slide show