Six unmissable spring art shows
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Chantal Joffe: Story, at Victoria Miro
Chantal Joffe, the American-born British painter known for her gestural, large-scale portraits of women and young girls, has been painting her mother, Daryll, for more than 30 years. Some of these intimate paintings, rendered in Joffe’s signature broad brushstrokes, form the body of a new exhibition at Victoria Miro in London and accompanying book. Many document Joffe’s mother now – reclining on a sofa in a pillar-box-red dressing gown or curled up in an armchair with a bandaged eye after a cataract operation. Others are painted from family photographs from the past, or memories. The exhibition’s eponymous painting, Story, shows the artist and her two sisters as children dressed in frothy white nightgowns, cuddled up to their mother as she reads them a bedtime story. Together, the paintings capture the shifting dynamics between mother and daughter over time. As the author Olivia Laing observes in the accompanying publication: “The mother recedes inch by inch, becoming smaller and harder, emerging as a person with needs and sadnesses in her own right.”
Until July 31, victoria-miro.com. An accompanying book is £15
Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life, Hepworth Wakefield
“All my early memories are of forms and shapes and textures,” said the British sculptor Barbara Hepworth in a 1961 film about her work. “Moving through and over the West Riding landscape with my father in his car, the hills were sculptures; the roads defined the forms.” A new exhibition at Yorkshire’s Hepworth Wakefield gallery, Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life, is set to return some of the artist’s most significant works to the landscape that shaped her vision. The show, which will be the largest study of the British sculptor’s work since her death in 1975, will span her entire career, starting with the representational works that established Hepworth’s name in the 1920s, through her move towards more abstract, geometric forms – a shift often attributed to the birth of her triplets with artist Ben Nicholson in 1934 – and finally to the large-scale bronze and carved sculptures that characterised her late career. Hepworth’s sculptures will sit alongside specially commissioned works by Tacita Dean and Veronica Ryan, and select pieces by Bridget Riley from the 1960s admired by Hepworth.
From 21 May to 27 February 2022. An accompanying book by Eleanor Clayton, the gallery’s curator, is published on 20 May by Thames & Hudson at £25; hepworthwakefield.org
Spring Cannot Be Cancelled, Royal Academy of Arts
“It’s the most beautiful spring here,” David Hockney told his longtime friend and collaborator, the art critic Martin Gayford, over videocall from his home in La Grande Cour, Normandy, in March 2020. “It’s early. Last year, it was a bit later. It’s spectacular. And I’m getting it down – I’ve just drawn the cherry blossom on a great big tree.” Hockney’s exuberant, neon-toned paintings and drawings – the result of a spring spent in lockdown – form the body of a new show at London’s Royal Academy from 23 May, as well as a book titled Spring Cannot be Cancelled. The book reproduces much of Hockney and Gayford’s email, letter and phone correspondence from recent years, and a selection of the new Normandy drawings and paintings. It follows an extraordinary period of productivity for Hockney. “I’m going to go on until you start to get the deep green of the summer,” he said.
From 23 May. The accompanying book is published by Thames & Hudson at £25; royalacademy.org.uk
Eileen Agar: Angel of Anarchy; Phantoms of Surrealism; and Desde el Salón (From the Living Room): Sol Calero Explores the Hiscox Collection; both at The Whitechapel Gallery
Throughout her 70-year career, the Argentine-British artist Eileen Agar regularly exhibited her surreal, often disquieting paintings and sculptures alongside renowned artists including Dalí, Picasso and Man Ray. But her work never received the same level of attention as that of her male contemporaries. A new exhibition at London’s Whitechapel Gallery aims to shine a light on this most unappreciated of talents. More than 100 of Agar’s paintings, collages and photographs are gathered together, making it the largest exhibition of the artist’s work to date. The show takes its title, Angel of Anarchy, from one of Agar’s sculptures. Writing about the significance of this name, art historian Patricia Allmer observed that “the angel is one of the key symbols of women surrealists”, standing as it does for “hybridity and becoming”.
Curated to accompany the Eileen Agar exhibition, Phantoms of Surrealism takes a broader look at the role of women in shaping and organising the surrealist movement in the UK. The show brings together artworks, photographic scrapbooks, press cuttings and original correspondence from the London International Surrealist Exhibition, which took place in 1936, and an antiwar exhibition staged at Whitechapel Gallery in 1939 by The Artists’ International Association, officially making it an “archive” exhibition. Notable works include Ithell Colquhoun’s dreamlike paintings, Elizabeth Andrews’s sinuous sculptures, and French artist Claude Cahun’s theatrical photographs.
Running in tandem at the gallery is a new show, Desde el Salón (From the Living Room), curated by Berlin-based, Venezuela-born artist Sol Calero. Works have been selected from the collection of British insurance company Hiscox, and the 44 artists represented include Joan Miró, Annie Leibovitz, Sarah Morris and John Baldessari. The show gathers works that engage with the domestic and the natural world, and some are significant pieces that will be on public display for the first time.
Eileen Agar: Angel of Anarchy, 19 May to 29 August 2021; Desde el Salón (From the Living Room): Sol Calero Selects From the Hiscox Collection, 19 May to 15 August 2021; and Phantoms of Surrealism, 19 May to 12 December 2021; whitechapelgallery.org
Peter Schlesinger, Ceramics 1992–2020, at Tristan Hoare Gallery
Peter Schlesinger is often known as David Hockney’s former partner and muse: in Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), he looks down on a swimmer from the edge of a pool, while in Peter Getting Out of Nick’s Pool, he’s shown lifting himself out of the water. But Schlesinger is an artist in his own right, revered for his curvaceous earthenware ceramics and graphic monochrome paintings. This month, the American artist is bringing a collection of nine handcrafted ceramics – mostly jugs and vases, dating from 1992 to 2020 – to London’s Tristan Hoare Gallery. Reminiscent of ancient Japanese forms, and featuring delicate patterns and textured surfaces, his ceramics are at once playful and supremely elegant.
Until July 2; tristanhoaregallery.co.uk
Orlanda Broom’s Rewild, at Grove Square Galleries
Inspired by botanical guides and photographs taken in jungle camps in Belize and Trinidad and Tobago, Orlanda Broom’s neon-toned acrylics depict an unfamiliar paradise. In a fluorescent palette of lime-green, pink and high-vis orange, her lush tropical ’scapes are a reflection, she says, of the ways in which the natural world is mutating as a result of the climate crisis. Until 11 June, a new body of works painted over the past year are on show at the new London space Grove Square Galleries, in an exhibition titled Rewild. “The connection to nature and aspects of escapism have always been a theme, but it’s particularly pertinent now… as there’s a more vested interest in environmental issues,” says Broom. “Currently when we think about the environment it’s generally about loss, damage or negative change. I’d like my enthusiasm and love of nature to come through and engage people to also think about what the future holds.”
Until June 11; grovesquaregalleries.com