Question. How do you distil 2,600 artistic submissions down to a final list of just 22?
Answer. With love, care, and attention.
The London Open is a triennial exhibition with over 80 years of history, taking place at The Whitechapel Gallery. The selected artists, all 22 of whom are working in London, are engaging with topical concerns including the environment, urban changes, technology, representation of race and gender, human relations, and activism. The art forms are varied, from painting through video, sound, sculpture, and performance.
As with any open exhibition, flow can be an issue, but the way the submission invitation to The London Open 2018 had been themed around some of the topics listed above, I felt the level of artistic dissonance on display provided useful contrast, rather than just noise.
There is much to enjoy in the exhibition. I’m often drawn to art which contains a sense of geometry, and there is plenty of that on offer here. The small intricately painted panels by Gary Colclough, which are enhanced with unusually designed, extended frames, are particularly beautiful.
As an older white man (currently 52) trying to understand how to be a better dad, husband, and person, I was particularly moved by the works of Rachel Ara and Andrea Luka Zimmerman. Both artists are exploring relationships and power dynamics. Rachel Ara’s work, titled ‘This Much I’m Worth (The self-evaluating artwork) displays its own value, calculated from a series of algorithms that reflect things such as age, gender, sexuality, race and provenance.
Andrea Luka Zimmernan’s work is a whole room occupied on one wall by a powerful film tracing activism in Newcastle, complemented by a series of posters and other works, including a feminism board game you can sit down and play. There are stories attached to all the pieces of this activism puzzle, I enjoyed listening to Andrea talk about this assembled work, including this flag. made by women at Greenham Common. Apparently, the makers sought and obtained a high court agreement to fly the flag upside down. The contents of this room are very moving, I was able to spend a minute or two in this space alone and the experience brought me to tears.
I got lost for a while in the beauty of Hannah Brown’s work which depicts the English landscape and the tension between town and country.
I spent about two hours wandering about the whole show, and while I’ve shared a few personal highlights here, I get the sense there’s something for everyone at this ambitious, enjoyable, and challenging exhibition.
The London Open 2018 is on at Whitechapel Gallery until 26th August 2018.