Thursday evening. PV night. Heels at the ready. Boys to direct me.
Beginning on Cork Street with Alon Zakaim’s wonderful summer show including works by David Breuer-Weil, Will Thorburn, Lorenzo Agius, Terry O’Neill and Lynn Chadwick, I then popped into Flowers. Flowers have devoted both their gallery spaces to the artist Patrick Hughes. Kingsland Road presents a retrospective, whilst Cork Street, which opened last night, shows his new works – a range of exciting three-dimensional Reverspective images which appear to be moving, confounding the viewer and drawing us in for a closer look. As we move, so do his works – his optical illusions have enticed viewers for 50 years and show no sign of stopping. Patrick, now aged 71, who was wandering around the private view, was a delight to chat to – you can’t help but be charmed by him and his works.
Patrick Hughes, Corner Stores, 2011. Image via www.flowersgalleries.com.
Maybe I chose the wrong heels for last night as my feet were already a tad sore when we crossed Piccadilly, which didn’t bode well with another two galleries to go. Jake and Dinos Chapman have supposedly not collaborated for a year and this exhibition presents the results of them breaking free from the shackles of their partnership. For two brothers who have always prided themselves on being one artist, the cynic in me doubts the complete truth in this claim.
But that’s by the by…
Boldly spread over both White Cubes, ‘Jake or Dinos Chapman’ (originally entitled ‘F*** you Jake’ and ‘F*** you Dinos’) presents a mixture of work by both artists as individuals. We are not meant to know whose work is whose but the secret seems to have been badly kept and, apparently, Jake’s work appears at Mason’s Yard while Dinos is at Hoxton Square. Some still claim the works are muddled (who knows?) but all the pieces distinctly bare the Chapman Brothers’ trademark style returning to their previous themes that we love and hate – themes that once shocked us but that we have come to expect. They haven’t managed to depart from their norm enough. Either that, or their individual styles are not strong enough to triumph. But is this the point? Let’s see…
Jake and Dinos installing the Nazi mannequins. Image via www.guardian.co.uk.
These are a pair of remarkable exhibitions. The PVs were cleverly timed so that when Mason’s Yard closed at 7.30pm, those with enough stamina (of which I was, of course, one) headed over to Hoxton Square. The Great City Road Race caused London to grind to a halt and a queue of taxis approached Hoxton in near-stately procession (the lengthy taxi ride gave my feet a chance to rest). The paparazzi were out in force capturing the celebs and art world elite who attended both exhibitions. And, what a crowd! White Cube had certainly worked their magic and both galleries were chock-a-block.
Hoxton Square. Own photograph.
Now this may be a wonderful coincidence but Jake and Dinos, who were both at both PVs, chatting jovially to guests, were never seen together. Whenever I saw Jake, Dinos had vanished. Whenever I saw Dinos, Jake was nowhere to be seen. Is this me projecting a continued performance of their separation or was this the case? Who can say!
Downstairs at Mason’s Yard a mass of large scale mannequins are surrounded by typically-defaced Goyas. The often sexually explicit black-fleshed Nazi-like characters (their swastikas have ironically been replaced by smiley faces) were perversely fascinating; they became art connoisseurs, gazing at the works. The mannequins were the audience and we joined them.
A Jake or Dinos Nazi up close. Image via www.guardian.co.uk.
For me, upstairs disappointed with the corrugated cardboard works attempting to depart from the Chapmans’ norm and not quite making it. Admittedly, these are some of the most shocking pieces in the exhibition – shocking in the sense that we did not expect to see them and they are not trying to shock.
Upstairs at Mason’s Yard. Own photograph.
Hoxton Square, in my opinion, is the more impressive of the two exhibitions. If it wasn’t for the absurd number of people pushing their way through, I could have gazed at the sculptures for ages. As much as I loved it, I did, however, know what to expect – on the ground floor, a group of seemingly-identical, brown-hooded mannequins sport disturbing animal faces. They, like the Nazis in Mayfair, are looking at the paintings on the walls.
A disturbing mannequin at Hoxton Square. Image via www.guardian.co.uk.
Upstairs, the works move to a more profound, possibly more harrowing, level with installation sculptures based on traditional altarpieces, transforming the gallery into a chapel.
Hoxton’s new chapel. Image via www.guardian.co.uk.
So who did which work? Is it Jake at Mason’s Yard? Is it Dinos in Hoxton? You can’t help but ask yourself as you go round and it’s very difficult not to engage in a guessing game. Apparently, they both viewed each other’s pieces two weeks ago and were startled by the profound familiarities and differences. So is it a coincidence that they both use corrugated cardboard or is this the work of one brother?!
Their work is about teasing and manipulating their audience. Here, this is taken to a new extreme. It is important to remember that whoever produced the works, or whether they are indeed still working together and this is a clever White Cube PR hoax, Jake and Dinos have produced some remarkable and thought-provoking new works that will, no doubt, generate mirth, criticism and praise in abundance. Fine, they aren’t nearly as shocking as they once were and we do now know what to expect but I don’t think this is a problem. In fact, I think we’d be disappointed if they didn’t produce these sex-crazed, disturbing figurines.
Whether you love them or hate them, and I think I’m still firmly in the camp of the former, this exhibition deserves praise and attention. Years on, two of the most talked about YBAs are still shocking, startling and delighting us.
Summer Contemporary Exhibition is at Alon Zakaim Fine Art until 12th August 2011, www.alonzakaim.com.
Patrick Hughes: Fifty Years of Show Business is at Flowers (Cork Street and Kingsland Road) until 3rd September 2011, www.flowersgalleries.com.
Jake or Dinos Chapman is at White Cube (Mason’s Yard and Hoxton Square) until 17th September 2011, www.whitecube.com.