X, curated by Sarah McCrory, at Herald St, London

15 May 2015 By

Markus Amm, Josh Brand, Alexandra Bircken, Pablo Bronstein, Peter Coffin, Matt Connors, Matthew Darbyshire , Michael Dean, Ida Ekblad, Annette Kelm, Scott King, Cary Kwok, Christina Mackie, Djordje Ozbolt, Matt Paweski, Amalia Pica, Nick Relph, Tony Swain, Donald Urquhart, Klaus Weber, Nicole Wermers

There are lots of shows closing in the next week or so, but of all the last-chance-to-see opportunities I thought I would direct you to ‘X’ at Herald St this week.  The gallery is now ten years old and this is a show in the form of a party, curated by Sarah McCrory – formerly of Studio Voltaire and most recently curator of Glasgow International.

Entrance is via a Nicole Wermers work that was part of her first show with the gallery back in 2004, before it relocated from unlovely Dalston (impossible then to imagine the degree of hipness that area has acquired along with its rampant property development) to Bethnal Green. Once in the space there are flags, bunting, darkly gothic paperchains and a hospitable drink being poured.

One is used to a more pared back hang at Herald St but this crowded room not only celebrates the achievements of a decade but speaks of the relationships between the artists and of networks that are deeply embedded in London’s contemporary art world.  In case you didn’t catch the news earlier this week, Nicole Wermers has just been nominated for the Turner Prize on the strength of her recent show Infrastruktur at Herald St.

 Klaus Weber – author of the witty wall-based piece here with a perpetually pouring bottle of wine Fountain Hand, 2008 – created the extraordinary group of crying, spitting, vomiting concrete and stone figures installed in front of the Festival Hall in 2006: a composite fountain sculpture that Ralph Rugoff chose to announce his arrival at the Hayward Gallery. Pre-crash, the London art world was abuzz back then, and with only the briefest pause for an intake of breath, it has continued to dazzle with its exponential growth.  Scott King’s vitrine piece: On the Passage of a Few People Through a Rather Brief Moment in Time, 2015, tartly comments on the city’s changing psycho-geography, presenting two publications: Ken Knabb’s Situationist International Anthology on the left, with the mute black slab of a Shoreditch House Members Diary on the right.

Alongside this there are groups of luscious paintings by Djordje Ozbolt (Unfamiliar Portraits 1-8, 2015) as well as a trio of watercolours on paper by one of the newer artists in the Herald St stable: Ida Ekblad. With all her signature saturated colour and super-dynamic gesture UGHI-PAPA-ECKI, 2015, is a delectable thing.

Matthew Darbyshire is here with two works in stacked, multi-coloured polycarbonate.  Both from the CAPTCHA series, they reference a challenge-response protocol consisting of strings of images, words or numbers only decipherable by humans, used as a security measure against bots. CAPTCHA is an acronym standing for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart”.  The smaller of the two works here, CAPTCHA No.36 – Domestic Cat (Walking), 2015 is accompanied by a cat-shaped plaster mould – slightly alarmingly full of fur on the inside.  Above this, jauntily articulating the corner of the room is Amalia Pica’s contribution, Corner reconfiguration #1, also 2015:  9 framed collages whose triangular motif mimics a skein of bunting while articulating Pica’s concerns with activating geometric form through engagement with performance and architecture.  There is not room here to discuss every work in this fun-size assortment exhibition, but I cannot close without mentioning the intense, quietist Tony Swain painting, pinned to the wall of the gallery: a modest sheet of newsprint painted over in palest blue with a quivering fragility that belies the narcissism of its title The Me Theme, 2015.

Sarah McCrory’s X gets a big tick from me.

Caroline Douglas

Herald St, 2 Herald Street, London E2 6JT. Exhibition continues until 24 May 2015. Open Wednesday – Friday 11.00 – 18.00 and Saturday-Sunday 12.00-18.00. www.heraldst.com