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Wangari Mathenge at Pippy Houldsworth Gallery

Best London Exhibitions: Experimental Styles and Subverted Expectations

If you are in London for Frieze Week, be sure to visit these exhibitions at the city’s top art spaces. Here, we’re sharing what’s on view at Whitechapel Gallery, Thaddaeus Ropac, Sadie Coles HQ, Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, and NOW Gallery.

NOW Gallery Anita Hlazo Anita Hlazo, “Afro Grunge,” courtesy of the artist and NOW Gallery.

“A Young South Africa: Human Stories”
October 11—November 19
NOW Gallery’s annual “Human Stories” exhibition shines a spotlight on South African photographers this fall. The diverse culture of the country and its complex landscapes—cultural, political, and socioeconomic—unfold through the images of six young artists. Their work represents the bold creative minds bringing the country’s vibrance to the attention of global cultural scenes amid issues like a lack of clean water and rising unemployment rates. Featured in the London exhibition are images like Anita Hlazo’s “Afro Grunge”series, capturing unapologetic subcultures in the context of her township in the Western Cape; the vibrant, saturated portraits of Fede Kortez’s Cape Town Vibes; and Bee Diamondhead’s Back to the Soil, which breaks down cultural gender stereotypes by capturing three queer male musicians. Also featured are works by Nikki Zakkas, Aart Verrips, and Karabo Mooki.

Nicole Eisenman at Whitechapel Gallery Nicole Eisenmann, “Morning Studio,” 2016, Oil on canvas, 167.6 x 210.8 cm; The Hort Family Collection, courtesy of the artist and Anton Kern Gallery, New York.

Nicole Eisenman: “What Happened”
October 11, 2023—January 14, 2024
The U.K.’s first major retrospective of Nicole Eisenman, “What Happened” features over 100 paintings, sculptures, drawings, animations, and monoprints from the last 30 years, organized in eight chronological sections. Viewers are taken through the artist’s creative evolution and topics prominent in her practice like identity, gender, sexual politics, activism, the impacts of technology, and governmental turmoil in the U.S. The show features early works like Untitled (Lesbian Recruitment Booth) from 1992, as well as a period of self-referential works following Eisenman’s professional success in the early 2000s, and more recent pieces like the 2019 oil painting Econ Prof and a bronze sculpture from 2018 titled Head with Demon.

Wangari Mathenge at Pippy Houldsworth Gallery Wangari Mathenge, “A Day of Rest (Inviolata, Rahema and Julia),” 2023, oil on tea stained canvas, 85 x 84 inches; courtesy of the artist and Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London.

Wangari Mathenge: “A Day of Rest”
October 7—November 4
New paintings and installations from Wangari Mathenge’s series “A Day of Rest” are at Pippy Houldsworth Gallery in the artist’s second solo exhibition in London. The portrait-focused series is fueled by the artist’s desire to engage viewers in shifting the narrative around the Kenyan workforce, inviting them to consider the recurring narrative of women leaving rural communities to search for work in cities. Mathenge’s canvases have been softly painted with muted strokes, depicting cozy interiors and a cast of female domestic workers, seen in groups and alone, in a concept that challenges generalized narratives and invites onlookers to remember them as individuals beyond their profession. The paintings are accompanied by a replica of the artist’s Nairobi studio, where she invited a group of 20 women working in domestic services to exchange stories and engage collaboratively.

Martine Syms at Sadie Coles HQ Martine Syms, “Ate or Act III,” 2023, video, colour and sound in custom frame, 39 3⁄4 x 39 3⁄4 x 11 3⁄4 inches, 4 min, 52 sec; photo by Katie Morrison, © Martine Syms, courtesy of the Artist and Sadie Coles HQ, London.

Don’t Miss Sadie Coles HQ’s London Exhibition

Martine Sims: “Present Goo”
September 14—November 4
“Present Goo” features three new groupings of work by Martine Syms, each representative of new facets in the artist and filmmaker’s ongoing look at narrative production. Three new film works are comprised of wide-sourced video clips and surveillance footage, accompanied by music scores the artist produced with Emir West, Ben Babbitt, and Colin Self. They look at technology’s power to alter impressions of perspective and character. Also on view is a series of photographic wallpapers featuring intuitive vignettes—a patch of lavender, a Harvard bus, and an empty airplane aisle—and journalistic drawings with written commentary like, “That’s that,” and, “9 months later it finally hit,” opening a window of insight into the artist’s creative practice and process.

Daniel Richter at Thaddaeus Ropac Daniel Richter, “Bernd on the run,” 2023, Oil on canvas; photo by Eric Tschernow, © Daniel Richter / VG Bildkunst, Bonn 2023, courtesy of Thaddaeus Ropac gallery, London • Paris • Salzburg • Seoul.

Daniel Richter Experiments with Style at Thaddaeus Ropac

Daniel Richter: “Stupor”
October 10—December 1
Daniel Richter continues a quest of stylistic experimentation in the London exhibition “Stupor.” The show features a series of large-scale canvases bearing a cast of humanoid figures in palettes of bright colors. Suggesting roots in cubism and figurative expressionism, the figures twist energetically atop scarlet-painted canvases. Beginning with the song titled Hollywooder Liederbuch(Hollywood Songbook) by Hanns Eisler, in which the composer responded to “the rat men” who persecuted him for having communist sympathies in the mid-20th century, Richter employs the peculiar lyrics to remind us that all current events “have their historic precursors.”

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