Le Penseur @ Jack Bell Gallery, London, Aug 5 – 13, 2016.

<em>Rendir</em>, 2016

Karen Hampton ‘Rendir’ 2016. Image courtesy of Jack Bell Gallery.

Despite what might be going on behind the scenes, to the gallery-going public August in London means down-time on the gallery circuit. Many quality, big name galleries fill this gap with group shows which, to the regular visitor, can seem like the weakest link in an otherwise strong calendar of exhibitions. For smaller galleries looking to build an audience however, it’s as good a time as any to offer an overview of the artists they represent.

The group show, ‘Le Penseur’ at Jack Bell Gallery, a bright and tidy space behind White Cube in Masons Yard, provides a neat introduction to some of the Gallery’s stable of artists. The space is a nice surprise at the top of an unexotic flight of stairs in one of the narrow townhouses on the square. It contrasts modestly with the colossal cavity block that is the White Cube. Indeed, this whole area, according to the new Mayfair & St James’s Gallery Map, which shows what I estimate at 150+ galleries, is a densely packed hub where old, ageing, and new spaces coexist. It’s encouraging to see surprisingly fresh work being shown in some of the smaller galleries in this area, in the middle of so much Polo and Aquascutum. Continue reading “Le Penseur @ Jack Bell Gallery, London, Aug 5 – 13, 2016.”

200 words # 1 / Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou

Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou / Borderlands @ Jack Bell Gallery, London, July 8 – 22, 2016.

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Image courtesy of Jack Bell Gallery.

To be in a hurry in West Africa is to be immediately conspicuous. And to expect something to happen on time serves only to exhaust the energy required for the inevitable long wait. Backpackers complain enthusiastically to each other in hotel lobbies about delays and uncomfortable transport. Despite this however, the great cities of West Africa which grumbling visitors pass through continue to swell and adapt rapidly and organically, seemingly against the odds.

Adaptation and ingenuity are the immediate responses of the populations of these cities to serial frustrations and obstacles to development. This visceral mix of real necessity and ingenuity creates an aesthetic which is at once troubling and beautiful. In the dust raised by the traffic of Porto Novo, capital city of Benin, photographer Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou continues his series of portraits of people working the black market between Benin and Nigeria. These are spontaneous yet masterful compositions captured in available light on a medium format camera. Agbodjelous’ subjects are those people whose livelihood depends on transporting electronics, palm oil, car parts and petrol across the border.

Stemming from the best tradition of African portrait photography, ‘Borderlands’ captures, without dramatic embellishment, the uneasy energy of a modern West African city.

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