John Akomfrah, Phoebe Boswell, Rashaad Newsome at Carroll / Fletcher, Graham Gussin at Marlborough Contemporary

7 March 2014 By

This week I am going to give a quick heads up on two shows that both opened last night:  the first is a group show at Carroll / Fletcher on Eastcastle Street, just off Oxford Street. The exhibition features three artists who speak directly to the experience and condition of diasporic peoples, and issues of race, gender and class. Rashaad Newsome’s works, employing a visual vocabulary of hip hop culture and co-opted heraldic and royal motifs, are what confront you as soon as you enter the gallery; Phoebe Boswell has taken over the whole of the lower ground floor space with a multi-layered installation that involves wall drawing, works on paper as well as tiny animations that sit somewhere between Kara Walker and Tony Oursler. In the large space at the rear of the ground floor is a two screen HD video installation by John Akomfrah, co-founder of the Black Audio Film Collective and author of The Unfinished Conversation, a portrait of the late Stuart Hall that was one of the highlights of the last Liverpool Biennial, and is currently on show at Tate Britain. This new work, dated 2013, is called Transfigured Night and takes its title from a poem by the early 20th Century German poet Richard Dehmel. It is a smart move to bring together these three artists from different generations (Boswell is still in her 20s, Newsome in his 30s and Akomfrah his 50s) and quite different nationalities: born respectively in Kenya, New Orleans and Accra, Ghana.  It adds even greater depth to what is already a very richly nuanced show.

Then just across in Albermarle Street at Marlborough Contemporary, a rare chance to see a whole new body of work by the mercurial Graham Gussin. FORSAKENFOCUSVERTIGOPREDICTION plays out Gussin’s fascination with science fiction, film and multi-layered art histories via a group of three dimensional works. The largest works in the room are titled In Bloom 1, 2 and 3. They are elegant and enigmatic plywood structures based on the even more mysterious rhombohedron that features in Albrecht Dürer’s engraving Melencolia I, 1514.

Gussin’s alien forms invite multiple interpretations: are they opening seed pods, are they modules, are they prototype escape capsules for a spaceship? In proximity to When the Night Comes, 2014, a faux air vent high on the wall which references Tarkovsky’s cult 1972 film Solaris, they direct us towards the idea of the ineffable in much the same way Dürer’s engraving has been interpreted as a statement about the primacy of the imagination over pure reason.

Caroline Douglas


John Akomfrah, Phoebe Boswell, Rashaad Newsome, Carroll / Fletcher, 56 – 57 Eastcastle Street, London W1W 8EQ. Open Monday – Friday 10.00 – 18.00, Saturday 11.00 – 18.00, until 10 April.

Graham Gussin, Marlborough Contemporary, 6 Albemarle Street, London W1S 4BY. Open Monday – Friday 10.00 – 17.30, Saturday 10.00 – 16.00, until 12 April.