Third only to the telly and the sky, the Underground is the largest forum available for pushing visual information onto the London masses. Factor in the captive element, sometimes up to 2 hours in the backwaters, and it becomes the perfect place to force the man in (under) the street to stare at contemporary art until he 'finds it'. A large hurrah then to TFL for their intelligent Platform for Art project followed rapidly with a resigned boo to the departments that stuck their oar in and ruined it again. I'm talking about you Marketing, and you Accounting - go and stand in the corner, near Watford, and think about what you've done.
Dotted around are posters of posters of artists' interpretation of the logo, Loads of little A4 homages to the roundel marvel. Oh yes it's all iconic and ting but the horribly constricting brief forces exciting artists to become graphic designers - trying to shoehorn the cornerstones of their practices into a straight blue line and red ring.
Some are funny, some are cute and some are quite pretty but I doubt many of them would like their version included in their retrospective at the Serpentine when they're eighty. Harold Offey follows a common trail, everyday things that look like it, but manages to transcend the symbol and produce a haunting, sexy image that stays with you. Charlie Tweed's Man from Below alter ego was so suited to the project he was able to keep the work his too. Some others weren't so lucky.
Perhaps it would have been far more effective to have used the pieces individually, blown them up to the size of the ones on the platform or bigger and mounted them outside the standard poster frames. In the meantime we can all use them as a creative sudoku while we wait for the Central Line to West Ruislip. Imagine you are an advertising manager and your budget has been cut to nothing. Work your way through the poster, reworking the image for your adopted logo. Start with an easy one like MacDonald's golden arches then move up through Marlboro and Nike to the tricky ones, like the swastika.
Off to work 8.15AM (nylon uniform) is a haiku snapshot that has resonance with city workers today. A beautiful, poetic little text, a distilled essence up on the wall. But this elegant concept has been dramatically undone but some genuis turning the piece into a sci-fi nightmare. Rather than the occasional 8.15AM in a nylon uniform for us to imagine we are confronted by a clone army of identical posters filling entire escalators, all marching in step, - it's horrific, just think of the static.
Anna Barriball reproduces descriptions found on the backs of found photographs so unfortunately we can't have lots of portraits, each special, produced in limited numbers. Different ones to sum-up the full gamut of tube users:
11.45pm, drunk woman with one shoe eats illicit, smelly food.
10.47pm, ex-banker instructs driver to take him to Stringfellows.
9.26am, Man in Simpsons tie hides behind Metro to avoid getting up for old woman.
3.58pm, London couple argue in hissed whispers. (carriage listens). They could go on forever.
Thus we get the clumsy grammar of They had looked behind them and the old-school paranoid classic I THINK I'M BEING WATCHED. These days this cliché is a truism, if it's not some tube worker checking out your suspicious package on cctv it will be some weirdo planning his Lovestruck ad for the London Lite. 'Me, cheap suit, sweating. You, suspicious package, nylon uniform, looked straight through me, Drink? Anon.' Is this perhaps the strength of the piece then, how times have changed or not since the musings were originally written?
Meanwhile... The Agency has gone south and moved into an unassuming end-of-terrace. Their opening show Great Britizens by Karen Tang is well worth the trek, figurative and fun it's a brave step forward. Liz McAlpine's exhibition Flatland at Laura Bartlett continues her investigation into the physical workings of film and cinema.
With much pomp the Whitechapel reopened. A vast new space coils around the old bits. Wander around lost through room upon room of stuff then arrive in a familiar space through an unexpected doorway. There are six shows on here so it is no longer realistic to do the whole thing in a session - particularly with this much text/film to take in, and trying to keep an eye on the gps in your iphone. The Guernica tapestry is fantastic though, so start with that then play it by ear.
Alma Enterprises is back too, opening in their new space at the beginning of May with a solo exhibition by Neil Hedger. Developers finally got their hands on the original (canal-view) space on Vyner Street, along with the (urban loft) studios above it. An exciting new Jerwood project space, five hundred dollars will be opening at number 12 on 16 April. This should breathe new life into London's premier contemporary art location and decent weather will make those First Thursdays worth dressing up for again.
TATE ETC. magazine has published Poem of the Month, contributed in April by Elaine Feinstein. She has created a poem inspired by Isaac Babel Riding with Budyonny - a figurative painting of British Pop art by R.B.Kitaj. http://www.tate.org.uk/tateetc/issue15/poemapril09.htm
Don't miss 'Seriously...? Exploring sincerity in contemporary film and performance' until 3 May at artsdepot in North Finchley. 'Seriously?' is curated by Marianne Mulvey & Alice Lobb who write: 'In today's spectacular media society, sincerity has a rather ambiguous status. When a politician's rendition of genuine sentiment is over-dramatised, their performance may be judged insincere and fail to win our vote. If sincerity is no more than a hollow show, can we take it seriously?' It features nine artists, including David Blandy and Harold Offeh. Catch the artists' discussion on the evening of 2 May or Oriana Fox's 'Penny Social' on Sunday 3 May, bring along any unwanted items you have to swap.
Performance artist William Hunt currently has a solo show at IBID and is artist-in-residence at the Camden Arts Centre. You are invited to participate in his residency project the weekend of 25-26 April, by performing a song whilst connected to a lie detector. Hunt's residency culminates in a live performance on 30 May in Kings Cross featuring a battle of the bands scenario.
boyleANDshaw will present a new site-specific experimental theatre work 'Maiastra, Please Sing!' at the Romanian Cultural Institute, 1 Belgrave Square, SW1, Tuesday 5 May 7 - 9 pm. This is an elaborate fictional work with a surreal dreamlike quality, inspired by the figure of Constantin Brancusi, and his legendary walk to Paris. It features artists Line Ellegaard, Adam James, Malin Ståhl and a live improvised soundtrack drawing on traditional Romanian folk music provided by violinist Frank Biddulph.
In this month's issue we have an artist's page from Adam James, reviews of 'Rodchenko and Popova' at Tate Modern, 'Le Corbusier' at the Barbican, 'The Russian Linesman' at the Hayward and the performance 'Hide & Seek' at the Foundling Museum. We also have interviews with Sara Raza about her BAF Art School Dubai project, and with the Alma Enterprises team, alongside postcards from Norway and a Nuclear War.