Five Sculpture Shows to See in London

Summer has ended, and the sky over London has now reached a level of grey that makes it feel as though the future doesn’t exist. But don’t worry, as Josh Kline would like to remind us, it does, and it could be scary as hell. Whether in the future, the past or the present, fantastical and dystopian stories unfold in the city.

Jala Wahid: Akh Milk Bile Threat at Seventeen

Unsettlingly sinewy, London artist Jala Wahid’s sculptures and installations speak of sensuality whilst also being evocative of science fiction and body horror. In Akh Milk Bile Threat, visceral concoctions of gelatin, sugar and oil make up fleshy puddles on the gallery floor whilst two steel chains hang from the ceiling carrying chunks of what seem to be some kind of alien meat, but which are surprisingly made up of such sweet things as honey and grapefruit. I can’t stop the phrases “controlled violence” and “girls are made of sugar and spice and all things nice” running around my head.

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  • Josh Kline, Denial, 2017, cheap washing machine, expensive washing machine, hardware, and duct tape, 110.5 x 89 x 70 cm, 43 1/2 x 35 1/8 x 27 1/2 ins, courtesy Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London.
  • Josh Kline, Another America is Possible, 2017, exhibition view, courtesy Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London.

Josh Kline: Civil War at Stuart Shave/Modern Art

Fears about the future sit at the heart of the sinister and uncanny work of Josh Kline, as he uses the gallery space to let his futuristic sci-fi drama play out in sculpture and video work. Over the past two years, Kline has been producing and exhibiting Unemployment, a not far-off future where software is taking over the jobs of the human population, with all the clean crispness that comes with the 3D printing technology he uses. Civil War hones in on these issues within the context of the USA, weighing up possibilities for a future between utopia and dystopia. Expect rubble, and lots of it.

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  • Night Watch 2011
  • The Load, 2012 Wood, steel, glass 231.1 x 470 x 188 cm
  • Night Watch, 2011 Maple, willow, OSB board 295 x 310 x 122 cm. Both image: Martin Puryear, Glenstone Museum, Potomac, MD Photograph by Christian David Erroi. © Martin Puryear, courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

Martin Puryear at Parasol unit

This huge retrospective spans forty years of American sculptor Martin Puryear’s practice, and is also his first solo exhibition in London. The sculptures and prints on show are testimony to Puryear’s technical excellence and ability to imbue the wood, metal, wire and willow he uses with a simple elegance, but also a sense of historical meaning, feeling, sometimes even humour. The willow-adorned maple bench named Night Watch (2011), for example, sings of open fields and cool breezes, a serenity that is cut short by the oppressive presence an enormous glass eye imprisoned in a wooden cage on wheels: The Load (2012).

Idris Khan: Absorbing Light at Victoria Miro

I first came across Idris Khan’s work at The Whitworth in Manchester last year, where his enormous vortex-like site-specific drawing was made up of layers of Arabic and English text; “True belief belongs to the realm of knowledge” engulfed one of the gallery’s walls. In Absorbing Light, Khan takes these layering techniques to bronze sculptures for the first time in a show that deals with information overload, claustrophobia and the weight of history in three dimensions. At the back of the gallery stands Cell (2017), a monumental structure made up of fifteen columns that loom over the white space, whilst a cacophony of voices overwhelm each other as words from testimonies of conflict are imprinted in layers onto bronze blocks placed on the gallery floor.

  • Nicola Hicks, Dressed for the Woods II, 2013, Plaster and mixed media, (c) Nicola Hicks, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery London and New York
  • Nicola Hicks, Murder of Crows, 1999, Plaster, (c) Nicola Hicks, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery London and New York
  • Nicola Hicks, Dressed for the Woods II, 2013, Plaster and mixed media, © Nicola Hicks, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery London and New York
  • Nicola Hicks, Murder of Crows, 1999, © Nicola Hicks, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery London and New York

Nicola Hicks: Wabbling Back to the Fire at Flowers Gallery

Murder of Crows (1999) consists of seven plaster cats, the size of small children, dressed in full skirts and standing in a circle, no doubt partaking in some kind of ritual or bewitching. The emotion in Nicola Hicks’s work is tangible, and whilst all of the anthropomorphic animals in this moody and joyous (and, not forgetting, life-affirming) retrospective are stunning, this feline cult possesses a mysteriously powerful, and probably magical, hold. You can hear more about the show in Nicola’s own words in our interview with the artist and read more about her in Issue 32 and Keep Dark, an Elephant book.