Thursday, December 9, 2021
I Put a Spell on You
As part of Sessions, a new spin-off of Gagosian Premieres, Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Alice Smith delivers an unforgettable interpretation of the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins classic “I Put a Spell on You” (1956) inside the exhibition Social Works II at Gagosian, Grosvenor Hill, London. Hawkins’s song was famously covered by Nina Simone in 1965 and has since been performed and recorded by many other artists, from Bette Midler to Marilyn Manson. In 2015, Smith’s haunting rendition was featured on the album Nina Revisited... A Tribute to Nina Simone.
Alice Smith, Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter, will perform in the gallery during the opening of the exhibition on Thursday, October 7.
Gagosian is pleased to present Social Works II, the sequel to the American chapter that was on view at the gallery in New York.
Curated by Antwaun Sargent, Social Works II foregrounds artists from the African diaspora and their insights into the relationship between space—personal, public, institutional, and psychic—and social and artistic practice. Bringing together intergenerational artists working in different mediums, Social Works II considers geography and its role in informing how identity is created and experienced through communities and spaces.
Sumayya Vally, principal of the Johannesburg/London-based studio Counterspace and architect of the 2021 Serpentine Pavilion, has produced a fragment of wall that will transform itself over time, functioning as an interactive site for research and ritual. Architect and artist David Adjaye presents a group of sculptural forms made using a rammed earth technique inherited from West African architectural vernacular. Examining ideas of landscape in the context of metropolitan London, Adjaye probes the relationship between the earth and the built environment.
In Lubaina Himid’s mixed-media collage A Fashionable Marriage: The Art Critic (1986)—a study for her noted 1987 installation of painted and cut-out figures, A Fashionable Marriage—the protagonist of the British Black Arts movement of the 1980s riffs on Marriage A-la-Mode, painter William Hogarth’s eighteenth-century moralizing satire of the British upper class. Himid turns Hogarth’s critique of greed and overconsumption into a broader moral commentary on the British slave trade. Isaac Julien, a pioneer of multiscreen installation, presents the London premiere of a single-screen version of Lessons of the Hour (2019), a contemplative journey into the life and work of Frederick Douglass, the visionary African American abolitionist. The film is accompanied here by a large-scale photographic artwork produced especially for the exhibition.
Rick Lowe, who founded the renowned art-based community platform Project Row Houses in Houston in the 1990s, is represented by a series of cartographic paintings, first shown in Social Works, commemorating the notorious 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, where white supremacists in Oklahoma razed the city’s prosperous Black-owned Greenwood District. Kahlil Robert Irving’s sculptures positioned on low wooden platforms pay homage to the nocturnal city as a place both of witnessing and community. Hand-pressed black ceramic tiles allude to a rich material history, emulating the rugged texture of asphalt streets littered with aggregate and discarded objects and while suggesting the night sky.
What black is this you say? (2020–21) is a series of poignant oil and watercolor paintings that artist and architect Amanda Williams produced as an identity-affirming response to the most recent tumultuous racial events in the United States. Alexandria Smith also confronts the present moment using allegory. In shaped wood panels featuring sinuous cut forms that delineate abstracted, disjointed figures, she investigates the contradictions, uncertainties, and objectifications impressed upon the Black femme body.
Photographer Tyler Mitchell, whose soulful practice slips seamlessly between autonomous art and commercial assignments, conjures intimate dreamscapes that celebrate Black family, community, and youth. Shot on location in Georgia, where he was born, Mitchell’s new series considers notions of home and leisure commonly associated with the American pastoral idyll, charged here with the ineluctable racist history of the American South. Artist and designer Grace Wales Bonner creates conceptual shrines to Black Atlantic style and history, stressing the ritualistic importance of learning about and connecting to one’s cultural roots. Manuel Mathieu’s roiling canvases record slippages, erosions, and transformations of memories of his native Haiti; eschewing overt representation, his abstracted approach illuminates the vagaries of history with acute psychological insight.
Social Works II underscores the conscious engagement of these artists with the cultural present where numerous social factors have converged to produce a heightened urgency for artists of the African diaspora to utilize space as a community-building tool and a means of creating visionary possibilities.
Isaac Julien: Lessons of the Hour – Frederick Douglass
To celebrate the publication of Isaac Julien: Lessons of the Hour — Frederick Douglass by Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, Tang Museum, and DelMonico Books, Julien was joined by Celeste-Marie Bernier, Paul Gilroy, Cora Gilroy-Ware, Vladimir Seput, and Vron Ware at Gagosian, Grosvenor Hill, to discuss the enduring legacy and power of Frederick Douglass. During the program, presented in collaboration with Victoria Miro and Isaac Julien Studio, the panelists detail the scope and focuses of the book.
Social Works II: Manuel Mathieu | The Delusion of Power
Artist Manuel Mathieu reflects on Haiti, Francisco Goya, and conceptualizations of power, examining their roles in his practice.
Social Works II: Sumayya Vally and Sir David Adjaye
Sumayya Vally speaks with Sir David Adjaye about rethinking and expanding the definition of architecture. The conversation forms part of “Social Works II,” a supplement guest edited by Antwaun Sargent for the Winter 2021 issue of the Quarterly.
Social Works II: Tyler Mitchell | A New Landscape
Tyler Mitchell speaks with Antwaun Sargent about Black representation, the diversity of Southern landscapes, and the importance of play in his new series of photographs. The conversation forms part of “Social Works II,” a supplement guest edited by Sargent for the Winter 2021 issue of the Quarterly.
Social Works II: Kahlil Robert Irving
Antwaun Sargent speaks with Kahlil Robert Irving in advance of the opening of Social Works II and presents a portfolio of Irving’s sculptures.
Languorous undulations (in the temple of my familiar)
Alexandria Smith and Akwaeke Emezi take up themes of queerness, hybridity, and embodied memory in their respective visual and literary works. Here, Emezi responds to Smith’s painting Languorous undulations (in the temple of my familiar) (2022) with an eponymous piece of flash fiction.
Grace Wales Bonner
November 22–28, 2021
Work by Grace Wales Bonner is viewable twenty-four hours a day on a three-story building on Oxford Street in London, presented by W1 Curates. Bonner creates conceptual shrines to Black Atlantic style and history, stressing the ritualistic importance of learning about and connecting to one’s cultural roots. The installation also includes segments from a film Wales Bonner made in collaboration with Tyler Mitchell to celebrate the publication of A Magazine Curated by Grace Wales Bonner. Both artists currently have work on view in Social Works II at Gagosian, Grosvenor Hill, London.
Grace Wales Bonner’s digital art installation for the façade of Flannels, London, 2021. Artwork © Grace Wales Bonner. Photo: courtesy W1 Curates
November 15–21, 2021
Photographs by Tyler Mitchell are viewable twenty-four hours a day on a three-story building on Oxford Street in London, presented by W1 Curates. Mitchell’s soulful practice slips seamlessly between autonomous art and commercial assignments, conjures intimate dreamscapes that celebrate Black family, community, and youth. The installation also includes segments from a film Mitchell made in collaboration with Grace Wales Bonner to celebrate the publication of A Magazine Curated by Grace Wales Bonner. Both artists currently have work on view in Social Works II at Gagosian, Grosvenor Hill, London.
Tyler Mitchell’s digital art installation for the façade of Flannels, London, 2021. Artwork © Tyler Mitchell. Photo: courtesy W1 Curates
Lessons of the Hour – Frederick Douglass (Doppelgänger)
Thursday, October 14, 2021, 7pm
Piccadilly Lights, London
As part of a commissioning program curated by the Royal Academy of Arts, Isaac Julien’s Lessons of the Hour – Frederick Douglass (Doppelgänger) (2021) will be screened outdoors at London’s Piccadilly Circus to coincide with Frieze London. The film is a special edition of Lessons of the Hour (2019), a contemplative journey into the life and work of Frederick Douglass, the visionary African American abolitionist. A single-screen version of the film is on view in the exhibition Social Works II at Gagosian, Grosvenor Hill, London, through December 18.
Isaac Julien’s Lessons of the Hour – Frederick Douglass (Doppelgänger) (2021) on Piccadilly Lights, London, 2021
Friends and Relations
Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach, Michael Andrews
November 17, 2022–January 28, 2023
Grosvenor Hill, London