Saturday, 10 March 2012

This week's new exhibitions

Jean Dubuffet, London

In old age the great mischief-maker Jean Dubuffet said his early works' punch was bound to the brief, historical moment it had provoked. Whether inspired by art by prisoners, children or the mentally ill to create zany images of politicians, cyclists and jazz musicians, or experimenting with concrete or butterfly wings, his paintings gave occupied and postwar Paris a jolt. This show offers insight into the last hurrah of his late years, from 1975 to 82, with previously unexhibited works from five major series. Th��tres De M�moire, for example, sees Dubuffet create a tangled patchwork of wobbly figures from the swimming scribbles of the earlier Lieux Abr�g�s series that capture memory's jumble. By the time of his penultimate series, Mires (Sights), the scrawled people or buildings have dissolved into bright abstractions, while the final series, Non-Lieux (Cases Dismissed) is all brutal, densely worked lines.

Waddington Custot Galleries, W1, to 14 Apr

Skye Sherwin

Minerva Cuevas, Manchester

Renowned Mexican artist Minerva Cuevas uses old magic lanterns and 19th-century microscope projectors to evoke an era of almost alchemical scientific research into the workings of nature, human nature and the age-old troubled relationship between the two. It's a kind of video magic realism where humankind's desire to understand and control the wilderness of chaotic natural forces underpins our social culture. Yet nature also becomes as much a commodity to be advertised, indulged in and exploited against a backdrop of threatening extinctions. While such stuff is the basis of so much eco-concerned contemporary art, Cuevas invests it all with an air of ambivalent wonderment, as her 16mm film, Landings, takes us on a trip through the history of civilisation, into a mysterious past and uncertain future.

Cornerhouse, to 25 Mar

Robert Clark

The Crisis Commission, London

Some of the biggest names in contemporary art ? including Tracey Emin, Antony Gormley and Yinka Shonibare ? have contributed to this fundraising show, ending in an auction, for the homeless charity Crisis. What's more, with the exception of Sir Anthony Caro's gift, it's all new, specially commissioned work. Caro, the titan of postwar sculpture and original heavy metal boy, has donated his 1984 work Down Centre, a prone steel figure with bound feet that suggests the harshness of modern urban life. Meanwhile there's double-edged street talk rendered in neon from Emin. Further artists on the bill include cult cartoonist David Shrigley and the video artist Gillian Wearing, whose confessional portraits of ordinary folk have often taken place on the street.

Somerset House, WC2, Wed to 22 Apr


James Benning, Sunderland

Veteran film-maker James Benning returns to his hometown of Milwaukee to update his highly influential 1977 work One Way Boogie Woogie. If you like your films with flashy effects, stay away from Benning's spoilsport subversions. Not much at all happens in his work, but that is the whole deadpan point. By focusing on backstreet details, Benning tricks us into an unprecedented perspective on the great American road movie.

Northern Gallery For Contemporary Art, to 9 Jun


Franz Erhard Walther, London

Works such as Three Broad Bands graced conceptual art's landmark shows of the 1960s, his chums include Gerhard Richter, and he's taught the likes of Martin Kippenberger. Yet, outside Germany, Franz Erhard Walther is one of his generation's lesser-known names. Perhaps that's because, as groundbreaking as his interactive work is, it's resolutely quiet and humble. In this first UK show, a retrospective of his work is joined by his recent autobiographic graphic novel, The Dust Of Stars, an epic 500 pages of personal and public history.

The Drawing Room, SE1, to 28 Apr


Michael Day, Sheffield

Michael Day's video installations are a strange mix of Romantic metaphysical alienation and the superficial connection offered by global communications. Dreamlike seascapes and mountainous landscapes are upset by blatant gadgetry. A radio mast drifts in and out of vision amid clouds and snowfall, the mast's red warning light flashing alarmingly and the sequence building a sense of loneliness. Yet, as the film fades, the viewer realises that the light is in fact a small LED inset into the projection screen. Mainstream cinema engages in entertaining reveries, but Day's work gives us an artifice that is perversely heartening.

Bloc Projects, to 24 Mar


Keith Vaughan, Chichester

Originally an illustrator by trade, the Sussex-born postwar artist Keith Vaughan absorbed many lessons from the modern masters. An early painting of yellow cornfields where labourers puff pipes sings of C�zanne, the mask-like faces his nudes wear recall the cubist Picasso, while Matisse presides over the flat, rhythmic forms and colours of his later works. Vaughan's theme throughout, however, was personal. His painting of a naked man huddling in a cave might be seen in relation to Henry Moore's famous image of bodies sheltering from the Blitz in the underground. It seems less though about the violence of war than about the challenges of being gay in an era that was far from out and proud. His great subject was man, usually nude, in nature, yet his paintings play down the erotic element, seducing the viewer instead chiefly through their palette of washed out clouds, lush fields, pale stones and cold seas.

Pallant House, to 10 Jun


Jeremiah Day, Sheffield

Through a series of combinations of photographs, videos and audio recordings, Jeremiah Day builds up research into documentary subjects, the true significance of which remains elusive. His multiple perspectives focus in such peculiar disconnected detail on significant locations that the whole procedure takes on an air of cryptic allegory, as Day seeks out psychogeographic sites of political resistance. For him, buildings resound with historic stirrings and political hauntings. Of All Possible Things, his first UK solo exhibition, tackles the unresolved legacies of the cold war, focusing on a former Berlin Wall checkpoint that's now a Lidl supermarket.

Site Gallery, to 14 Apr

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