Duane Hanson and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye at Serpentine

Two really exciting shows opened this week at the Serpentine Galleries.

First, at the Serpentine Sackler is an exhibition of works by Duane Hanson who specialises in 3-D realism, and instead of celebrities Madame Tussauds-style, he  brings to our attention people who are often overlooked, doing ordinary things. An amazing piece shows two people at a table, it’s a touching piece, the man is a self-portrait of the late artist, the other is a plump woman reading a book on how to lose weight. They just sit quiet and real. As you round the corner you face the glare of Queenie (pic)  The curator, ,,, says this is the most engaging of the works, “there is something confrontational about her.” Link of invisibile labourer who becomes visible again through the sculpture. A theme through Hanson’s work is that we don’t really see a lot of people who are working or doing things around us and so many of the pieces celebrate and draw attention to them. In the central brick room there are scarily real builders, all shown standing on the ground, not on plinths. They are spookily real and the brick background is perfect. All the sculptures seem to communicate through gaze and stare. At the end of the exhibition, which I urge you to visit, is a couple sitting quietly on a bench. “A couple who have been and seen it all before and are a bit tired of going around the gallery.” As you enter the gallery the first two sculptures are made of bronze, you need to go up close to believe it, but ,, uses a variety of materials, including plastic and

painting 2The second exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery is also a must-see. The paintings are by London figurative painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. This is the biggest exhibition of her work so far and “we wanted to show all the different facets of her work and her different painterly styles,” says … as she is also an etcher and a writer. Some of the paintings were made for the exhibition. Yiadom-Boakye is interested in 18th and 19th century, with subtle hints at paintings by  Cezanne and Degas. A tryptique in the second room makes reference to Manets Olympia, the reclining woman has been replaced with a man and the servants have been removed. Yiadom-Boakye is looking at how black portraiture has been depicted throughout art history. In other work she uses bold coloured backgrounds like Cezanne. Also she accentuates the whites of the eyes, so like the Hanson statues the portraits look straight at you. It is a Gambian tradition for the middle name of children to be the name of the week they were born on, so many of the portraits are named after a day of the week.

Both great shows.Serpentine and Serpentine Sackler Galleries, now until 13th September, Kensington Gardens. serpentine galleries 10am-6pm Tues -Sun

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