Become immersed in deep lustres of black punctuated with luminous 24-karat gold and opulent ultramarine blue hues in Lina Iris Viktor’s singular artistic universe.
Her photography, painting and sculptural installations are infused with cultural histories of the global African diaspora and preoccupied with multifaceted notions of blackness: as colour, as material and as socio-political consciousness. To Viktor, black is the proverbial materia prima: the source, the dark matter that birthed everything.
This is the British-Liberian artist’s first major solo exhibition in the UK, with more than 60 works on display in two galleries, many seen for the first time.
Viktor’s large works on paper and canvas draw on a variety of artistic traditions and visual influences, from European portraiture, classical mythology and astronomy, to ancient Egyptian and African symbolism. The works in the first gallery are exclusively black and gold.
Viktor’s Dark Continent series dominates the space: its solitary female figure in a monochromatic landscape is illuminated by gilded solar and lunar symbols. The figure is the artist’s own form, her body shrouded in deep, matt black paint, her hair golden; at times contemplative and elusive, at other times provocative and alluring. These works represent an imaginary riposte to imperial narratives of empire and expansion, and the nineteenth-century myth of Africa as the ‘dark continent’.
Viktor often deploys her body in her conceptual art practice, the sole performer in a meticulously crafted cosmology. Combining photography, performance, painting and sculpture with ancient gilding techniques, she creates intricate, densely layered surfaces characterised by her ritualistic use of 24-karat gold leaf. For Viktor, gold is both substance and symbol, a conduit to spiritual transcendence.
In the centre of the gallery, The Black Ark invites visitors to move through a site-specific installation of large-scale latticed panels of carved wood, an architectural structure inspired by the nets of Liberian fisherman and mashrabiyas. Exploring notions of ‘race’, history and ownership, the installation obscures some artworks while highlighting others, making them in the artist’s words ‘at once visible and obfuscated’. The darkened, tropical foliage of the Dark Continent series reappears here as sculptures (Black Botanica), liberated from the confines of the painted, still image.
Constellations IX foregrounds the artist’s interest in the coded languages of abstraction. In this elaborately gilded canvas, a maze of signs and intricate imagery alludes to subliminal, universal modes of communication beyond the restrictive boundaries of language, evoking more visceral forms of expression. In three variations of Materia Prima, the mother work that inspired the Dark Continent series, Viktor appears as a commanding pan-cultural deity, emanating an aura of power, authority and regality.
The second gallery is painted in deep ultramarine blue, emulating the ‘Blue Room’ in the artist’s studio. A meditative space is built within the gallery featuring Syzygy, Viktor’s first figurative canvas reflecting the aesthetic vernacular the artist has developed over the past four years. Also on view are three works from A Haven. A Hell. A Dream Deferred. These works reinterpret the Libyan Sybil, a prophetess from antiquity invoked by eighteenth-century abolitionists as a mythical oracle who foresaw the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
The series explores the extraordinary story of the founding of Liberia to examine fraught narratives of migration, colonialism and oppression. The works brought together in Some Are Born To Endless Night —Dark Matter constitute a bold reclamation of creative agency, and historical and transcultural reimagining. The exhibition reflects the artist and curator’ shared desire to create an all-immersive, symbiotic environment, in which to engage viewers and provide a transformative experience.
“At the core of Lina Iris Viktor’s distinctive practice are complex, cultural narratives and potent mediations on blackness and being: every single one of Viktor’s sumptuous works is layered with profound provocations on history and culture, fuelled by her astute interest in etymology, astrophysics and remedial recovery. In a productive tension between aesthetics and politics, history is creatively reimagined through an emphasis on the circularity of time, and an affirmative excavation of our collective pasts.” – Renée Mussai, Curator
AUTOGRAPH, Rivington Place, London, EC2A 3BA
13 September – 25 January 2020
When the first photobooth, or photomaton, opened for business at Luna Park in Paris in the late 1920s, André Breton, the “father of the Surrealism”, and his circle were among its most enraptured users, returning frequently to make automatic self-portraits that show them not as untouchable artworld legends but as fallible human beings joining in with the latest social craze.
Though usually treated as throwaway, these black-and-white photobooth portraits have survived to the present day. In homage to the spirit of Surrealism, not to mention disposable materials, nine of these portraits have been rendered in Play-Doh.
To watch over these reimagined, large-scale technicolor portraits of André Breton, Salvador Dalí, Suzanne Muzard, Paul Eluard, Louis Aragon, Yves Tanguy, Jacques André Boiffard and Marie-Berthe Aurenche, the walls of Elephant West will be alive with gigantic Play-Doh eyes, collaged together from earlier series of Play-Doh work. The collages have been created specifically for Elephant West’s Surrealism season, playing on the motif of the eye in Surrealism.
Elephant West, 62 Wood Lane, London W12 7RH
22 November 2019 – 5 January 2020
Observe Experiment Archive explores the parallels between photography and scientific methods such as observation, experimentation and archiving.
The exhibition considers how contemporary photographic artists can respond to both scientific innovation and historical collections, their work transforming our world through light and lens.
It delves into the age-old sense of wonder we feel when faced with the complex nature of our ever-changing world and the ongoing struggle to learn more. The exhibition also considers the power of human inventiveness in meeting global challenges.
Observe Experiment Archive features photography by Mandy Barker, Tessa Bunney, Liza Dracup, Sophie Ingleby, Helen McGhie, Maria McKinney, Robert Zhao Renhui and Penelope Umbrico.
Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, Burdon Road, Sunderland, SR1 1PP.
15 November 2019 – 5 January 2020
The complete Works from the project Under Surveillance ( series: File 1214/87; Beyond Orwell; Die wunderbaren Jahre ) are shown.
Christiane Zschommler investigates into the records the Stasi had held on her whilst East Germany existed. The images are beautiful. darkly beautiful. Ghosts of letters lie over each other, scribbled, confused. Layers like memories, like the imprint of text left behind on the underneath pages of a notebook. Like microfilms stuck in the reader. Carbon paper copies, facsimiles, Gestetners. Stamps and marks, unidentified, Xrayed. The outlines of envelopes form the shapes of houses. Invaded homes, bugged, watched and trespassed upon.
We are all under surveilence, and whilst we feel we are free we don’t care so much about that, but history shows us that things can change overnight, and we should be more awake to the world.
Read the Shutter Hub Close Up on the project here.
Maison Heinrich Heine Fondation de l’Allemagne (German Foundation); 27 C, Boulevard Jourdan; 75014 Paris
15 November 2019 – 29 December 2019
Heroes – The Exhibition explores The SSE Arena, Wembley’s history as the world-renowned home of music and live entertainment.
Sourced from the world-renowned Getty Images’ archival and contemporary libraries, it will feature over 100 photographs of artists at London’s iconic music and live entertainment venue. From The Beatles and The Rolling Stones in the 1960s, to present day chart-toppers Kendrick Lamar, Queens of the Stone Age and The Prodigy. The exhibition will showcase The SSE Arena, Wembley’s rich history and the many famous artists who have graced its stage.
Key photography features performances by the genre-defining David Bowie and Leonard Cohen; the first headline rock show performed by T-Rex; the band holding the record for the most rock performances, Status Quo; Alice Cooper, who has so far performed in every decade since the 1960s; the female performer with the most performances, Whitney Houston; American pop superstar Prince, who played 35 concerts at the venue; iconic performances by Queen; and more recent performances by chart topping acts such as Taylor Swift, Beyoncé and Rhianna. Alongside photography of era-defining concerts, the exhibition showcases behind-the- scenes imagery from sound checks to crowd interaction, photocalls and artists leaving their handprints in the Wembley Park’s famous ‘Square of Fame’.
The exhibition features the work of renowned music photographer Michael Putland, who photographed five decades of music, and both former and current Getty photographers Dave Hogan and Brian Rasic. Bringing to life the story behind the images, The SSE Arena, Wembley’s Vice President and General Manager John Drury’s personal stories and anecdotes add a personal touch to iconic concerts from its historic programme.
Presented in a variety of formats, Heroes – The Exhibition will present the venue’s musical history in a relaxed format enabling music fans to experience concerts in a more in-depth and engaging way. All photography is available to buy from Getty Images Gallery.
Getty Images Gallery, Olympic Way, Wembley Park HA9 0FJ
28 November 2019 – throughout winter (end date to be confirmed)
The Michael Hoppen Gallery is proud to present the first private gallery exhibition of Tim Walker’s photography, which has graced the pages of magazines around the world for more than 15 years.
The Michael Hoppen Gallery’s exhibition Wonderful People will celebrate his portraiture, and this show will run alongside the Victoria & Albert Museum’s major solo exhibition. Walker’s images, whilst iconic and much-coveted on the pages of magazines, have a completely different presence as pictures framed on the wall.
Tim Walker and Michael Hoppen have delved through the archives to uncover wonderful pictures of wonderful people in wonderful places – often doing wonderful things! Walker’s portraits bear testimony to his playful and imaginative vision, which conjures extraordinary worlds in which his subjects and friends are immersed. His sitters don’t merely sit for Tim, but are transformed by the roles they assume within his fantastical imaginative landscape.
Tim’s meticulous and eclectic eye for composing portraits is instantly recognisable. The props, styling and framing devices which underpin great fashion photography are turned on their head in these pictures, revealing subtleties of personality and relationship rarely elucidated in his famous sitters. Gilbert and George are shown stiffly suspended amongst their stuffed animal collection, whilst the famous portrait of Alexander McQueen hunched over a skull acknowledges a darker facet of the designer’s character. Whether capturing the many faces of Monty Python or his long-term muse Tilda Swinton, Tim’s richly imaginative tableaux present an irresistible invitation to play before his lens.
Tim prefers to use old analogue cameras to make many of his pictures, eschewing the convenience of digital photography that is so much the norm today. We are delighted that this exhibition, and Walker’s much-anticipated V&A show, will at last formally display Walker’s extraordinary talents, and will serve for many as an introduction to this feast of truly wonderful photographs.
Michael Hoppen Gallery, 3 Jubilee Place, London, SW3 3TD
25 October 2019 – 25 January 2020
“Food – and how it is photographed – defines how we live and how we value ourselves, and, at its very best, connects us to our dreams and desires.” – Susan Bright, Co-curator
Feast for the Eyes is a major exhibition at The Photographers’ Gallery, exploring the rich history of food photography through some of the leading figures and movements within the genre. Encompassing fine-art and vernacular photography, commercial and scientific images, photojournalism and fashion, the exhibition looks at the development of this form and the artistic, social and political contexts that have informed it.
Food has always been a much-photographed and consumed subject, offering a test ground for artistic experimentation and a way for artists to hone their skills. But even the most representative images of food have rarely been straightforward or objective. Food as subject matter is rich in symbolic meaning and across the history of art, has operated as a vessel for artists to explore a particular emotion, viewpoint or theme and express a range of aspirations and social constructs. With the advent of social media, interest in food photography has become widespread with the taking and sharing of images becoming an integral part of the dining experience itself, used as instant signifiers of status and exacerbating a sense of belonging and difference.
Feast for the Eyes looks particularly at how food is represented and used in photographic practices and brings together a broad-range of artists, including such luminaries as Stephen Shore, Man Ray, Weegee, Nan Goldin, Nobuyoshi Araki and Cindy Sherman, all of whom harness the history and popularity of food photography to express wider themes. Crossing public and private realms the works on show evoke deep-seated questions and anxieties about issues such as wealth, poverty, consumption, appetite, tradition, gender, race, desire, pleasure, revulsion and domesticity.
Presented over two floors, and featuring over 140 works, from black and white silver gelatin prints and early experiments with colour processes to contemporary works, the exhibition is arranged around three key themes:Still Life traces food photography’s relationship to one of the most popular genres in painting and features work that is both inspired by the tradition and how it has changed in the course of time. Around the Table looks at the rituals that takes place around the consumption of food and the cultural identities reflected through the food we eat and people we eat with. Finally, Playing with Food shows what happens when food photography is infused with humour, fun and irony. The exhibition will also feature a number of magazines and cookbooks which provide an additional visual and social history of food photography.
Feast for the Eyes traces the history and effect of food in photography, simultaneously exploring our appetite for such images while celebrating the richness and artistic potential of one of the most popular, compulsive and ubiquitous of photographic genres.
The Photographers’ Gallery, 16–18 Ramillies Street, London, W1F 7LW
18 October 2019 – 9 February 2020
Shutter Hub have teamed up with Free Space Project to bring you EVERYDAY DELIGHT – an exhibition all about looking for the joy in the small things, finding the magic in what might at first appear mundane, and discovering the beauty in the everyday.
It’s there, but you might not always be able to see it.
EVERYDAY DELIGHT might be something to be enjoyed between the rise and set of the sun, it’s a prompt to look for joy, to appreciate the little things – flowers growing through cracked pavements, cake crumbs on a plate, rippled shadows, low sun through high trees, accidental colour schemes in the street, raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens… hang on!
In a world where we seem to have more to worry about every day it’s not always easy to find the positive view, but we are hoping that this collation of over 100 images, will give viewers something to think about and to focus on temporarily, and perhaps to come away seeing things differently.
Free Space Project, Kentish Town Health Centre, 2 Bartholomew Road, London, NW5 2BX
05 December 2019 – 28 February 2020