London – “What Do You See, You People, Gazing at Me” at Sadie Coles Through January 29th, 2022

January 19th, 2022

Georgia Gardner Gray, Gustav (Tired) (2021), via Sadie Coles

On view this month at Sadie Coles’ Kingly Street location, the gallery has compiled a range of works in both two and three dimensions that deal with the body and space, politics and class, race and identity, all through a range of approaches and executions. Drawing together work by Natalie Ball, Kevin Beasley, Georgia Gardner Gray, Tau Lewis, Jonathan Lyndon Chase, Simphiwe Ndzube, Agata Słowak and Frieda Toranzo Jaeger, the show brings together a range of perspectives that make for an engaging, enervating project.

Jonathan Lyndon Chase, I miss your wet pillow (2021), via Sadie Coles

One of the strongest arguments for figuration’s enduring appeal is its capacity to use a universally relatable form: the human body, to evoke an emotional response in the viewer. The viewer recognizes pain and suffering with the same immediacy as joy and contentment. Even when a figure is foreign in shape or style, when it bears no formal resemblance to the viewer, when there is no shared history or understanding, the common language of the body can elicit sympathy or solace, it can attract or repel. Figuration is powerful and persistent, and the re-engagement in its potential for imagining and documenting change is a true expression of the potency of our new century.

Kevin Beasley, District (2021), via Sadie Coles

Each of the eight artists in this exhibition engage both two and three dimensional media to manifest the body and express its capacity for action; in turn conjuring an interrelational dialogue with the viewer’s own sense of self. Figuration has often been used as a visual record of history, a depiction of a particular subject in a particular time and place. For the artists in this exhibition, figuration extends beyond documentation, it is a potent tool of expression, a testimony of a new perspective. Works confronting inequalities of power via race or gender are presented alongside those which redirect our assumptions about histories and the hierarchies they established. These works are disrupting expectations about which bodies warrant representation, and why. In Słowak’s work Doll I, for instance, a black body is posed as both plaything and disturbingly evocative of a dead body, a dual charge that presses the viewer, while Georgia Gardner Gray’s Gustav (Tired) (2021), uses a mannequin adorned in streetwear and bearing a photocopied visage to create strange sensations of the body as reproducible image. Throughout, the struggle and power of the body, and the power of forces applied towards it, make for a powerful set of talking points. The show closes January 29th.

Agata Słowak, Doll I (2019), via Sadie Coles

– D. Creahan

Read more:

What Do You See, You People, Gazing at Me [Exhibition Site]