Condo, now in its second year, has expanded since its inaugural presentation in 2016. Established by Vanessa Carlos, director of Carlos/Ishikawa, the collaborative venture now hosts 36 international galleries across 15 London spaces. Hitting the ground running after the slumber of Christmas, the galleries — during the launch event at least — seemed a hive of activity with each space bustling with collector and curator types. On a rather drizzly day, I start East with a high concentration of galleries within walking distance. Maureen Paley host dépendance, Brussels in a small backroom of their upstairs gallery. Presenting artists from their roster including Michaela Eichwald, Nora Shultz, Richard Aldrich among others, the gallery supplements their wares with two historical works by Hendrick Dubbels and Adriaen Van de Venne. The show’s Autumnal hues offers a subdued start to the day. The works are framed by white squares painted onto the grey walls that I’m told mimic the size of the paintings opposite them. The gesture feels like an unnecessary curatorial addition to what is otherwise a tightly selected group of works.
Over the road, Herald Street host Tanya Leighton, Berlin and Modern Institute, Glasgow. Amalia Pica’s Catachresis 63, 2016, a piece of broccoli perched on top of a u-bend installed high up on the wall, adds a bit of levity. Alongside a selection of Bruce Mclean’s brilliant early photographs such as, Pose Work for Plinths, 1971/2011, the exhibition strikes a lighter tone, marrying formal economy with a conceptual eloquence. With strong new works by Martin Boyce, the exhibition provides a brief but compelling overview of recent activity from the art world’s great and good. The general busyness of both galleries, with punters replete with Rolexes and fur coats, suggests that Condo has done much to galvanise the collecting community during the January sales.
Up the road The Approach host Simone Subal, New York with a solo presentation of Sonia Almeida’s paintings. Mixing figurative and abstract elements, images of stylised body parts float freely among curtains and mid-century modernist motifs that heighten a sense of modest theatricality. The triptych Weaving Code, 2017, translates a previous painting into a wall mounted tapestry and the work’s scale dominates the display. A small painting, Verbal Twist, 2016, reference’s René Daniël’s formal tautology with abstract squares simultaneously referencing a bow-tie and a perspectival room that extends Almeida’s sensitive translation of her artistic forebears.
After a brief sit down and a strong coffee in The Approach pub down the stairs, I head to Emalin who host Galerie Gregor Staiger, Zurich. The show takes the ‘face’ as a rather loose starting point and the two galleries have produced an exhibition that brims with energy. Gregor Staiger presents a new work by the inimitable Shana Moulton that acts as a thematic nucleus around which Emalin have curated a group exhibition of work ranging from the sickly to the slick from a cross generational group of artists including Amanda Ross-Ho, Kiki Kogelnik, John Russell, The Granchester Pottery and Nicholas Cheveldave among others. The disparate group of artists touch upon ideas such as masquerade, prosthetics, disfiguration and the grotesque.
Vilma Gold presents Oh that guy… I can handle that guy by Eric Schmid in collaboration with Neue Alte Brücke, Frankfurt. The slacker title, presented as if excerpted from a larger conversation, is mirrored in the tone of the press release which is written in first person by the artist. The exhibition includes a line of modestly scaled canvases incorporating vinyl records, stamps, drawings and everyday ephemera pasted onto their surface. The tone is both diaristic and poetic and I feel like I’m peering over the shoulder of a particularly reticent artist who — deep in concentration — bashes out poetic, if rather opaque images. Alongside his canvases, the artist presents framed vinyl records that have been cut and reassembled, recalling Christian Marclay a little too closely. Heading to the centre of London, I stop by Rodeo who are hosting Supportico Lopez, Berlin who present Expanding Arid Zones by Franziska Lantz. The installation encompasses detritus dug from the Thames river, that hangs, marionette-like, from the ceiling. Completed by an ominous soundtrack, the overall tone seems to capture the current global political state — fractious, with a persistently anxious drone.
The last exhibition that I manage to make it to is Martine Syms at Sadie Coles courtesy of Bridget Donahue, New York. The most compelling element of the installation is the short gif-like film of the artist’s face covered in milk. Lesson LXXV, 2017, references the strategies of protesters who pour milk over their eyes to assuage the effect of tear gas. There is a curious disjuncture between the fashion-like stylisation of the film and an obvious urgency felt by the artist to act and make quickly in response to current world events. This aesthetic, and fetishised, portrayal of protest feels like a form of paralysis. The artist’s looped face foregrounding a sense of persistent limbo, and with it, a keenly felt sense of anxious melancholy. It is a curious endnote to my day and one that leaves a lasting impression. Condo is a positive addition to the London art calendar and, in a particularly nomadic city, it certainly feels like it could be around to stay. In an era of constant expansionism, the strength of Condo lies in its modest scale, low overheads and collaborative nature — I look forward to seeing the next iteration in 2018.