Lindsey Mendick sets the tone with her special pets buckling under the weight of their special rosettes. With demonic LEDs for eyes, they come across as less ‘best in show’ than ‘last picked at the shelter’. Poor little horrendous dears. Equally charming-repellent is a nearby painting by Navot Miller. A fresh-sunburn-pink beach bro with softboi tattoos reclines on a yellow towel in a terra incognita. Meanwhile, in the background, a crouching bald dude is doing something vague but contrastingly intense under a candy-cane-coloured tree: paying his respects; burying a body?
Best in Show
Gathering more than 280 galleries from 42 countries, navigating Frieze can be a ruckus. So here are ten irresistible works to discover on the way round this weekend.
"a brilliant, moreish and faintly haunting hall of mirrors"
Sahara Longe has been going from strength to strength since her debut with Ed Cross gallery at 1-54 last year. There, she showed Garden Party (2021), which translated her classical training into a looser modernist style and palette; the breadth of her talents was electrifying then, and it felt like her practice was about to Catherine-wheel off into a new direction. Well, here is that moment, and what a treat: party-goers abound, but we’ve moved inside from the garden. With Quattrocento poses, well-dressed figures float in cosy colour planes: soft, adrift. These moments of dislocation and connection rhyme with those happening all around these monumental paintings at the fair. Longe has created a brilliant, moreish and faintly haunting hall of mirrors.
Pope.L’s In Progress speaks for itself: ‘red people fuck the oysters of authors’.
I don’t know who these red people are, but I back them.
Hayv Kahraman’s paintings trap me in their web. Full of tangles of intestinal ropes, it’s as if Kahraman is showing us how the sausage is made. Committed to representing the experiences of people who deviate ‘from what colonial and imperial powers deem to be lesser than’, the Iraqi artist is as attuned to structural violence as modes of resisting it. In Brain Frog, which seems to say ‘trust your gut’, the atmosphere is calm and communal, perhaps even hopeful – there’s a promisingly mutual ecosystem involving a brigade of tree frogs leaping about the jumble of innards. The women are either regurgitating or ingesting the mass of sticky black vines, delicately assisting the frogs with a foot-up along the way. Sometimes a 'brain fog' can be confusing; then again, one doesn’t always need to speak or think to communicate. Instinct alone can do the trick.
The title of Didier William I think we might be safe here (2022) tempts fate. Are the pair viewing a romantic sunset together or taking cover from some unseen threat? In the words of Zoé Samudzi: ‘There is an element of surrealism to his figurative abstractions: the bodies he illustrates, the bodies of Black people, are disrupting and destabilizing space and time. Even in their muscularity, their mountainous steadfastness and strength, there is a delicacy and dreaminess to these images, as though we are looking at figures that are inhabiting some unearthly and ethereal plane: like a parallel universe or an afterlife.’
Trevor Yeung’s Between Water is refreshing. Not literally. The work sees him suspending water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink. The thing is, I’m not thirsty until I encounter it. Therein lies Yeung’s point perhaps – how even the subtlest interventions in space can shape our desires. Suspended at eye-level on translucent nylon thread, these 25 orderly cups of water take you by surprise, appearing out of nowhere as your eyes switch focus: walking between them therefore feels all the more precarious, despite the polite, social-distancing-distance between them. All in all, definitely the second-most miraculous experience I’ve ever had with a plastic cup.
"second-most miraculous experience I’ve ever had with a plastic cup"
Zarouhie Abdalian’s Plot turns me and a stranger I just met into unwitting Crime Scene Investigators momentarily, staring down at the sandy block. But my fellow detective doesn’t spot the shoeprint - rookie error much? About the size of an allotment plot, Abdalian’s site-specific installation sees a coiled Gunter chain poking through a square of sand. Equally evoking shackles and end-of-day beach art, destruction and creation, it turns out Gunter chains are actually distance measuring devices for surveying spaces such as, I don’t know, plots of land. The plot thickens!
Young artists are in high demand at Frieze, reflecting a surge in prices in auction. Issy Wood’s response on Instagram? ‘U scumbags can keep auctioning my art and I will keep making placenta face mask self portraits’. Fair. In the best way possible, Issy Wood's stream of uncanny images reminds me of a Tumblr account I would have followed the shit out of when I was in my early twenties (I just found out that’s how her gallerist discovered her so I guess I’m not far off.) Plus, on a day when soup is trending in the artworld, Wood’s track of the same name is required listening.
"a child’s collection of stones after a day out on the beach"
While Bambou Gili’s Aggie & Pieter draws me in, I fall for Josh Callaghan’s Twig Index 7 on the way out, hanging like a little secret on a thin wall. The work was first shown earlier this year at a solo exhibition Family Tree, a more expansive exploration of consumerism, waste, and keepsakes. But this work’s tiny scale is part of its charm, evoking a child’s collection of stones after a day out on the beach or indeed twigs from a walk in the forest, at the same time as the taxonomist’s report. Why do we buy things, collect them or throw them away? For me, Twig Index is a keeper.
MONEY CREATES TASTE. Preach, Jenny! Holzer’s Truism appears on a marble bench (and I don’t think you’re supposed to sit on it.) There is always a lot going on at Frieze, and it’s sometimes hard to find an artwork that cuts through the noise. Holzer does it, and she's right of course. But although money creates taste, that doesn’t mean that art can’t still be delicious.
By Sammi Gale