Running for over twenty-five years and supported by Bloomberg for fifteen, the New Contemporaries circus opened last night at the ICA with all the enthusiasm you would expect. These are the chosen graduates and students, selected from more than two thousand applicants to represent a flavour of what the future of UK art may include. It’s diverse, it’s nicely curated, there’s a little of something for everyone and innumerable influences both very obvious and a little more subtle.
On the ground floor there is a pink plinth you can sit in watching the sexually provocative Alan Hollingsworth’s Swimming Pool-Library (Scott Lyman’s Folly/Monument), looking down on it from the walkway is a sweatshirt and tracksuit bottoms large enough for a giant displayed next to a photo of a more conventionally sized man in the same get up (Tomomi Koseki’s The Body Time Machine). There are intricate ink and oil works hanging from the same wall (David Cyrus Smith, Pine Processionary), turning back to the entrance there are wall based, either hung or leaning, sculptures with reference points from all over the latter half of the last century; the superb and confounding Shadow with Object channeling everyone from Donald Judd to Richard Serra (by Hanqing Ma & Mona Yoo) and the beaten panels of Pandora Lavender’s no one is one but only one of. In front of them sits a grotesque figure like a Paul McCartney.
Upstairs video works include a naked woman tied to a tree (Hanging in the Woods, Hilde Krohn Huse), seemingly by herself — abandoned except for the camera filming her, she screams out for help, her right left hoisted up as high as her head tied around a branch. From another TV a barrage of Korean abuse is exploitively thrown at the camera, and by extension the viewer, by young army recruits (Anger Hotel, by Juntae TJ Hwang). There is a huge pissing nail about to be hit by a table tennis bat (Napoleon by Hamish Pearch) and photos of abandoned woodland littered with old cans, here collected and arranged in front of the images they come from by Kevin James Boyd (Hattie 528).
There was a video by Abri de Swardt of three men, handing out leeches and fixing them to their bare arms, this while you, the viewer are blown from a formation of electric fans set out on the floor. There were large photographs from Julia Curtin of a cotton sharecropper’s wife’s dress, eery, life-size, printed in silvered monochrome.
Unsurprisingly the show spans works in painting, photography, sculpture, embroidery, video, installation and permutations of them all but there were still new and surprising ingredients to the make up of the work. One wire-looking cylindrical mesh (One, Many, Lydia Brockless) was in fact synthetic yard hardened with concrete powder. Another construction (When Cortez asked the Aztec chiefs, where they got their tools from, they simply pointed to the sky, by Andrea Zucchini) contained testosterone powder and vulcanised rubber.
It’s a great show, a fun and enterprising exhibition. It’s done well with audience numbers in the past set over the Christmas period, and this very much deserves to be enjoyed over the next couple of months.
until 24th January