In celebration of our new London location, Lehmann Maupin is excited to present LONDON CALLING, a month-long online exhibition that spotlights our UK-based artists and the city of London. A visual love letter of sorts, LONDON CALLING features iconic work by Gilbert & George, Shirazeh Houshiary, Do Ho Suh, Mandy El-Sayegh, Billy Childish, and Juergen Teller, all of whom have found inspiration in the unique attributes of the city or made it the subject of their work.
“The pair have now been elevated to the status of a national treasure.”
— Jonathan Jones, The Guardian
Gilbert & George (b. 1943, San Martin de Tor, Italy & 1942, Plymouth, United Kingdom) met in 1967 in art school at Saint Martin’s, where they first developed their signature “living sculptures.” For nearly 50 years, they have lived and worked together in London’s East End, using the neighborhood as both the backdrop and subject matter for their work, subsuming their individual identities into a singular artistic persona that bears witness to life unfolding in the sociopolitical and urban conditions of the area. Through imagery specific to London and the East End in particular, Gilbert & George create self portraits that double as a living portrait of the city.
“[We have lived here for] nearly half a century. We say that to take a walk around our neighbourhood is to take a walk around the world. The thoughts and feelings and visuals exist anywhere where there are people. What is happening in Brick Lane or in Spitalfields will almost certainly be happening somewhere else in the world tomorrow. It is sort of the beginning of things.”
— Gilbert & George, London Burning: Portraits from a Creative City
Shirazeh Houshiary (b. 1955, Iran) moved to London in 1974 to attend art school and has since made the city her home. She rose to prominence during the 1980s as part of the New British Sculpture movement, alongside artists such as Tony Cragg, Richard Deacon, and Anish Kapoor. Houshiary is best known for her paintings and sculptures that seek to challenge viewers’ perceptions of time, space, and materiality. In each work, Houshiary manipulates materials such as water, pigment, glass, or aluminum in an attempt to visualize subjects that are inherently intangible—a breath or echo—suggesting that everything around us (including ourselves) can be abstracted.
“I have lived in London for four decades now and work close to the Thames.
Each day I walk the river’s meander to my studio.
It is the life source that carries the weight of the city and is rich with moody change and reflection.
It is my nurse and inspiration.”
— Shirazeh Houshiary
In 2013 Houshiary designed a site-specific installation, East Window [pictured below], for the Church of St. Martin in the Fields (Trafalgar Square, London). The window is composed of hand-etched glass panes held within a gridded stainless steel framework that resembles a cross with an oval opening at its center. The project was commissioned to replace a window that had been shattered by bombs during World War II.
Do Ho Suh (b. 1962, Seoul, Korea) creates work that confronts questions of home, displacement, memory, individuality, and collectivity. For Suh, London is an adopted home that has become both the literal and metaphorical subject of many of his works. In his well-known fabric sculptures—life-size reconstructions of his former and current homes and studios in Seoul, Rhode Island, Berlin, London, and New York—Suh explores the complexity of domestic space through the representation of “home” and all of the physical and psychological markers that inhabit it.
Suh’s interest in our construction of community extends beyond placemaking. In his Karma series, Suh focuses on human connectivity through the representation of the self in relation to society. He visualizes the complex interconnected nature of people and experiences that make up one’s life by stacking columns of uniform figures, one on top of another, revealing the individual supporting the many.
“It is hugely rewarding to create a public work in London, my adopted home. For me, a building is more than just space. It is not only physical but also metaphorical and psychological. In my work I want to draw out these intangible qualities of energy, history, life and memory. While Bridging Home, London [pictured above] comes from personal experience, I hope it is something a lot of people can relate to.” — Do Ho Suh, artist’s statement for Bridging Home, London (2018)
Mandy El-Sayegh (b. 1985, Malaysia) moved to London during her childhood and has been living and working there ever since. El-Sayegh’s heritage—she is half Palestinian and half Malaysian Chinese—and cross-cultural experience has informed her highly process-driven practice, which is rooted in an exploration of material, language, and the formation and break-down of systems of order, be they bodily, linguistic, or political. Her work emerges through various forms of collage where fragments of texts and found images—from copies of the Financial Times, to imagery from advertisements, to collected doodles or Arabic calligraphy from her father’s home in London—come together and are interrupted by simple, repetitive patterns such as hand-painted grids or geometric molds. The formal and narrative synthesis that occurs creates double-meanings that question our assumptions and acceptance of standardized systems of power.
“I feel like a Londoner...but not as British – it’s quite different. I always complain about London, but it’s the best place ever, because there’s the post-war housing projects in the centre of the city and you get this melting pot of sorts...That condition of not belonging is allowed [in London]...I think that accepting this position of being in-between informs the work. And it doesn’t even have to be in-between cultures or places; it can even be a middle child in a family, or sexuality. If you are an in-betweener, you can’t be named on either side. I think that’s a good place, because then you’re just naturally questioning everything and not being satisfied with anything. You’re forced to make your own language.”
—Mandy El-Sayegh, #legend
For her debut British solo exhibition, Cite Your Sources, at London’s Chisenhale Gallery in 2019 [pictured below], El-Sayegh presented a series of large-scale paintings, works on paper, object-based installations, and a new commission. The works address the process of constructing meaning through the production and circulation of images and materials—and how that process informs representation, abstraction, and subjectivity. In 2021, El-Sayegh will be featured in the prestigious British Art Show 9 (BAS 9), organized by Hayward Gallery; it is the United Kingdom’s largest touring contemporary art exhibition.
“London may have called me, but I’ve never answered.”
— Billy Childish
Billy Childish (b. 1959, Chatham, Kent, United Kingdom; lives and works in Whitstable, Kent), a published author, musician, and artist, makes introspective and emotional paintings. He takes inspiration for his subjects from his surrounding environment and interesting individuals he encounters. Making work that ranges from landscapes, to portraits and self-portraits, to still lifes, Childish works quickly and intuitively, making spare marks on raw canvas that leaves every decision and indecision visible to the viewer.
From October 5 to 25, Billy Childish will relocate his studio to Lehmann Maupin London, transforming the gallery into an active work space where he will develop a series of paintings inspired by a book of intimate autobiographical photographs: billy childish, photography 1974 – 2020 (BC Studio Editions, 2020). Intended as an immersive experience, the public is invited to witness to Childish’s unique creative process in-person. To schedule your visit, click here.
After graduating college in Germany in 1986, Juergen Teller (b. 1964, Erlangen, Germany) moved to London to pursue a career in photography. He has since worked within both the fine and commercial art industries, treating all of his subjects—family members, celebrities, and even himself—with his signature gritty and raw emotional style. He often parodies the fashion industry, subjecting his models to unflattering angles, a bright, harsh flash, and never retouching his images in an attempt to expose the myth of idealized beauty that mainstream commercial photography perpetuates. Among the many prominent figures Teller has photographed are British icons such as David Hockney, Kate Moss, and Vivienne Westwood, as well as other artists and cultural figures including Joan Didion, William Eggleston, and Cindy Sherman.
“When I came to London in 1986, I was amazed at how prudish everyone was.”
— Juergen Teller
Images from top: Portrait of Gilbert & George by Maija Toivanen; Portrait of Gilbert & George by Maryam Eisler; Portrait of Shirazeh Houshiary by Ana Cuba for The New York Times; Shirazeh Houshiary’s East Window at St Martin-in-the-Fields, London. Photo by Dave Morgan; Portrait of Do Ho Suh by Ju Yeon Lee; Installation view of Bridging Home, London, 2018. Commissioned by Art Night and Sculpture in the City. © Do Ho Suh. Image courtesy of the artist; Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul; Victoria Miro, London/Venice. Photo by Gautier Deblonde; Portrait of Mandy El-Sayegh by Abtin Eshraghi; Installation view of Mandy El-Sayegh: Cite Your Sources at the Chisenhale Gallery in London, 2019. Photo by Andy Keate; Portrait of Billy Childish by Rikard Osterlund; Billy Childish in his studio. Photo by Rikard Osterlund; Portrait of Juergen Teller courtesy of the artist