The First question that has usually been asked in the last three years of the ICA’s New Contemporaries is, ‘where are the artists from? And ‘how prevalent are the London art schools?’ This year Goldsmiths and The Royal College seem to dominate with some offerings from Central Saint Martins. The nature of the institution hosting this show is always in danger of overshadowing the quality of the work and the curatorial exercise involved in its delivery, so first a word on the fabric of the show itself…
The main thing that is striking about the New Contemporaries exhibition is a clear curatorial restraint; no major adjustments have been made to the main space and the balance of work seems well-considered. On the right, perched on a white plinth at chest height is Piotr Krzymowski’s recent video work, ‘73’ (2012), a formally constructed work utilizing repeated scenes from various sources. In that same space is a sculpture from Jack Brindley, working well within the pared-down initial room and mixed media from Oliver Osbourne.
Salome Ghazanfari’s single channel video projection ‘Boxer. Young Marble Giants’ (2011) is a standout. Footage of a boxer in the ring is focused in on and slowed down in a manner that questions the status of the filmmaker, the subject and the audience, resulting in an occasionally homoerotic, sometimes risible, but wholly compelling film. Sarah Jones will be hosting a two artist’s talks -at 5pm on Saturday, December 8 this year and Saturday, January 12, the following -to explore the nature of recording and feedback. This is referenced in the gallery with a simple sign outlining the times and dates.
The fact that year on year, the recent graduates of London colleges seem to dominate this show can be argued either way; it could easily be said that the different selectors have only opted for work reflecting the issues in prominence within the capital, or perhaps, the net of applicants is too wide, with over 1,200 submissions this year. It is for this reason that it is difficult to decide whether to explore the ICA’s New Contemporaries exhibition in isolation, or to consider a clear need for more shows of this kind both within London and in the rest of the UK. For the show itself, the work is characteristically varied and well put together. The restraint which is applied to the downstairs rooms allows each work space to declare itself individually, as well as communicate with the other pieces. This becomes more declarative in the upper rooms, with some dominating sculpture and tone-changing drawing.
Once again, the ICA champions one of the most important annual exhibitions in London and continues to provide a platform for young artists. This year’s selectors seem to have had some challenging and exciting new material to work with and have produced a varied show in the spirit of the institution but without falling into a formula. If the diversity of the applicants and the risks taken by the selectors continues in this way, it will be exciting to see the next offering.