Two excellent shows have just opened at the Serpentine Galleries. Boomerang at Serpentine Sackler Gallery is the first major UK show by Pascale Marthine Tayou (pic) is a profound and colourful show. You are drawn in to a world of colours and exciting objects, it is warm and playful, but as you look closer you find the highly decorated mirror is full of cracks and the appealing pipe sculpture has petrol guns at its ends. The colourful translucent roof is made of plastic bags. And then on the walls you see why. Marthine Tayou, who is from Cameroon but lives in Belgium, has handwritten messages on the walls, like: ‘Baku, Azerbaijan. Long an oil hub, Azerbaijan’s capital suffers from extensive pollution as a result of shipping and drilling.’ The positive negative theme runs throughout the show, like the giant cottonwool cloud, which has spikes coming out of it to represent cotton production and how money it raises is used to buy arms. The Serpentine Sackler smells delicious because Marthine Tayou has coated transparent voodo sculptures in a mix of coffee and chocolate, two of Cameroons exports. There are splatterings of mud and hay-filled sculptures too, adding to the sweet aroma. The show has been made for the space, even twigs from the park have been used. A great one for both adults and children. 4th March – 17th May, Serpentine Sackler.
Over the bridge at the Serpentine Gallery is a very different exhibition, but one that also raises many political questions. This collection of paintings by US artist Leon Golub feels brutal and unsettling from the moment you walk in. Massive canvases are crowded with menacing, violent faces some of whom stare angrily at you. He references Sphinx’s in his early and later work, playing with the beast/man duality in people. He was always interested in classics and medieval art and when he was young he layered paint and then scraped it off to mimic fractured old sculptures. Subjects include the Vietnam war, using red to show the Napalm-scorched land. He used photos he found in newspapers a lot to paint from, and for his mercenaries series even subscribed to Soldiers of Fortune magazine. The show is called Bite Your Tongue and the last large scale picture (pic) he painted before he died is a horrid dystopian scene with a man and a dog. 4th March – 17th May, Serpentine. serpentinegalleries