London’s October Gallery was founded by John Allen in 1979 in a disused Victorian school building. Allen recognised an emerging group of artists exploring the trans-cultural avantgarde and named the movement Transvangarde. Since then almost 500 global visual artists from 85 countries have exhibited.
This show celebrates a space and it’s appreciation for the artists that have made it great. And what an extraordinary space it is. Split between two rooms and a sculpture garden, this is possibly one of the most informal galleries I have seen, yet this does not render the work therein any less credible. New works have been commissioned from artists that springboarded their careers here and, from the many who are sadly no longer with us, classic pieces are displayed. Indeed I was surprised to see a sculpture from the actual hands of William S. Burroughs, a creative I normally associate with literature. In Ten Gauge City (1988) Burroughs has used everyday house paint to portray a primitive figure on wood and then shot it to bits.
When this “Shotgun” piece was displayed at the OG in 2008 it was alongside a 1946 gouache Piccadilly Circus by English artist Gerald Wilde. The gallery launched with an exhibition of Wilde’s works and the aforementioned picture also hangs in this celebration. It is a fitting focal point for the show as this London landmark is where people from all over the world converge. Despite a chaotic palette, it is depicted from a neutral and almost cartographic viewpoint guiding the viewer with information as well as beauty.
This sensibility abounds on these walls. Change in Fortune (2018) is an Aluminium and Copper tapestry by Ghanaian Sculptor El Anatsui whose variety of employed media seems endless. Ira Cohen’s 1968 picture of Jimi Hendrix was shot in the photographer’s very own hall of mirrors studio and to behold the image is almost like sharing a tab with the guitarist. Tian Wei’s piece Red (2011) does what it said on the tin yet presents a three-dimensional chromatic depth through the application uber impasto marks.
This exhibition will take you on a global journey that transcends distance and for that reason is well worth a special trip.
Dream No Small Dream runs at October Gallery, 24 Old Gloucester Street, London WC1 from 11th April – 25th May 2019. Check times and days. Admission is free.