Zoe Leonard. Aerials | Hauser & Wirth

Zoe Leonard is an American conceptual artist who took aerial photos of New York City over several years in the late 80s. Gelatin silver prints of these are on show as Hauser & Wirth right now, and when I went to see them, I basically wanted to buy them all, in an alternative fantasy universe where I actually have the funds to do that.

The artist’s eye gets caught on urban infrastructure; the densely gridded street pattern of the city; worn summer baseball fields, packed back to back and encroached on by houses from all sides; and, most lovingly shot of all, a gleaming rail interchange, the iron and wood of the parallel tracks caught by low light, rendered mysterious by the silver print’s blur. I looked at this wonderful, inscrutable photograph, untitled like most of the others in the show, for a long time.


Elsewhere, there are a couple of less interesting nature shots: a meander of a river, shot twice, each time abstracted by a slight motion blur.

Leonard isn’t trying to be polemical, or impose any humanity on the man-made urban landscapes she depicts. (A tension I’ve noticed in other artists featured here previously, such as Andreas Gursky and Mario Sironi.) But even so, I was moved by the serenity of her literally elevated perspective: the urban realm, grimy and messy at ground level, revealing hidden patterns and symmetries when shot from a great height.

Other Highlights

Condo 2019 opened this week in London, and I visited its Cork Street Galleries hub: standouts for me there were Dickon Drury’s gaudy Dutch landscapes and Gili Tal’s fun pretend office doormats.


Amadeo Luciano Lorenzato is a new name for me, but the Brazilian artist’s exhibition at David Zwirner, the first outside his native country, was quite lovely. It features gem-like, and very small, oil on board paintings - using similar techniques to early Renaissance greats Cimabue and Masaccio, who inspired Lorenzato - but this time depicting landscapes of scenes from his home town, Belo Horizonte.

A couple of crowd-pleasers next. Chiharu Shiota: Me Somewhere Else makes complex, precisely-patterned yarn works, and there’s a spectacular room-sized one at Blain Southern. Meanwhile, Martin Creed is making many, many visual jokes at Hauser & Wirth.

Also at Blain Southern, there’s some uncanny pencil portraits from Jonas Burgert, while his compatriot David Ostrowski has a show organised around the colour red at Spreuth Magers.

I really enjoyed Jedd Novatt’s stainless steel Chaos sculptures of various sizes - kind of like frameworks of under-construction skyscrapers - at Waddington Custot, while Todd Bienvenu at Almine Rech had the funniest show notes: the American painter’s deliberately crude acrylic on canvas paintings of bikinis, bike crashes and swimming pools could definitely be summed up as “hungover Hockney”.

Bienvenu reminded me a lot of Eric Fischl, and kudos to him for giving us two painted explorations of a very modern light source: people’s faces being lit up by their phone screens in the dark.

Finally, if you ever wanted to find out what Godard’s Le mépris looks like with Brigitte Bardot digitally removed, you can find out in Amie Siegel’s show at Thomas Dane, which features exactly that video work. I also found out there that the 1963 movie had an alternative soundtrack for the Italian market. It’s an absurd, pornified counterpoint to Georges Delerue’s famous tune for the rest-of-world version.

Zoe Leonard. Aerials is at Hauser & Wirth (London). 30 November 2018 – 9 February 2019