At the forefront of contemporary art for almost fifty years, Lisson gallery never ceases to inspire and delight visitors with its thought-provoking and compelling exhibitions.
On display at 27 Bell Street, John Akomfrah’s debut show at Lisson swings with ease between politics and poetry, mythology and pressing contemporary issues, history and fiction. A founding member of the influential Black Audio Film Collective in the 80s, Akomfrah employs a multi-layered visual style to delve into personal and collective memories, post-colonialism and temporality. The exhibition consists of three new film installations, accompanied by a series of large scale photographs related to the works. Projected across three screens and recalling the work of Stanley Kubrick and Theo Angelopolous, The Airport (2016) sees an astronaut wandering among the ruins of an abandoned airport near Athen, Greece – a timeless place where multiple storylines overlap and interweave conveying a sense of disorientation and displacement.
Filmed on location in Barbados, Auto Da Fé (2016) tackles migration using the lens of religious persecution. Spanning over a period of four hundred years, the film goes from the little-known fleeing of Sephardic Jews from Brazil to Barbados in 1654, to the present day migrations from Hombori, Mali, and Mosul, Iraq. Situated in Plymouth and the Tamar Valley, Tropikos (2016) is an experimental costume drama set in Tudor times. Drawing on the writings of numerous seafarers and referencing classic literature including Milton’s Paradise Lost and Shakespeare’s The tempest, Tropikos investigates the UK’s role in the development and proliferation of the slave trade through a series of tableaux vivantes that wisely combines history and fiction.
On display at 52 Bell Street, Line brings together fifteen international artists to expand on the concept of line and reflect on the role of drawing in contemporary art through a series of seminal artworks, performative and site-specific pieces made especially for this exhibition. Spanning over almost five decades, the show has been guest-curated by Drawing Room, a non for profit gallery dedicated to contemporary drawing.
The highlights of Line include: Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing #157, first drawn according to his instruction in 1973 and now redrawn on the gallery’s wall, providing an early example of line as concept; Richard Long’s A Four Day Walk (1980), a text-based work describing an imaginary line in the ground to investigate man’s physical and yet transitory relationship with the world; Julian Opie’s Pine Forest (2014), a black vinyl installation that resembles both tree trunks and a stream of barcode; and Susan Hiller’s Work in Progress (1980), documenting a week-long performance that saw the artist unravelling the canvas of a painting and then reconfiguring its threads into new forms.
Also worthy of mention are: Monika Grzymala’s Raumzeichnung (2015), an ephemeral, web-like site-specific installation made of 3,7 kilometres of transparent and black tape; Athanasios Argianas’s Song Machine 19 (2011) and Maximilian Schubert’s FormatL6-BR (2016), two metallic installations ideally giving drawing a three-dimensional boost; Florian Pumhösl’s animated film Tract (2011), exploring the relationship between dance notions and a figure’s movement in space; Ceal Floyer’s Taking a Line for a Walk (2008), an installation consisting of a line of white paint tracing a path up the gallery’s stairs and drawing on Paul Klee’s Pedagogical Sketchbook; and K. Yoland’s Border Land Other (2013-14), documenting a performance that took place during a residency in Marfa, Texas, and addressing the complexity of carving up land on a map and the arbitrariness of borders.
John Akomfrah and Line will be running until 12 March at Lisson gallery, 27 & 52 Bell Street, London NW1 5BU
Words by Jacopo Nuvolari @jacopo982