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First Thursdays: April Previews

April 8, 2011

Last night saw some great new shows opening across galleries in east London. Celia White reports.

The evening began at KK Outlet off Hoxton Square, which is showcasing a collection of photographs by Dutch artist Harmen de Hoop. The photographs document de Hoop’s many public interventions – sculpted modifications and situations that are subtly inserted into the urban landscape. De Hoop’s interventions are intriguing, and have included alterations to road signs and a sandpit built into a traffic island; yet the photographs seem to undermine the subtlety of de Hoop’s actions by pointing them out rather than letting them emerge among the wider visual noise of city life. His actions are no doubt better appreciated when seen in person; for a chance to experience this, look out for de Hoop’s ‘anonymous footnotes and question marks’ that he will leave dotted around London to coincide with this show.

On the kitscher side of things, Aubin Gallery’s Mass: Tomorrow Never Happened looks at the ways that popular culture dictates society’s self-image.  This comes to a head in Etienne Clement’s miniature plastic theatre showing the Queen in her throne room watching a horse race while she is in turn observed by onlookers – with the whole scene watched through binoculars by gallery visitors. At East Gallery, Marina de Stacpoole’s Plastic Flowers paintings glare from the walls, all surface, presenting collaged utopias that are best served (indeed are served) with sugary wine and jelly babies.

Meanwhile, a far more serious tone was taken at Londonewcastle at the launch of 150 Voices. Commissioned by homeless charity Providence Row, 150 Voices is an assemblage of uncensored interviews between Providence Row volunteers and its clients. As much a piece of journalism as it is art, 150 voices was introduced by the Guardian’s Michael White, who commented on the way in which the media has long sought to represent, and as a result vocalise, the needs of the city’s poorest inhabitants.

The highlight of the night’s previews was Claire Parsons’ Disfigurines show at the Maurice Einhardt Neu Gallery. Parsons has taken typical household figurines, stripped them of colour and placed them in compromising situations.  A wife cuts off her husband’s hand as the pair play a jaunty game of cards; a ballerina stretches backwards, a rifle cradled across the length of her shoulders. Parsons disrupts the visual as well as the domestic norm through these darkly humorous objects.

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