With hundreds of exhibitions and events vying for your attention in London during Frieze week, Apollo’s editors pick out the shows they don’t want to miss
In her first solo show in Europe at Hauser and Wirth, London (12 October–23 December), Amy Sherald – the artist perhaps best known for her depiction of Michelle Obama – presents a series of portraits of Black Americans in poses that wittily allude to iconic images of Americana such as Alfred Eisenstaedt’s V-J Day in Times Square (1945) and classics such as Giorgio de Chirico’s Lady in Leopard Coat (1940). These references hint at the explorations around identity that Sherald is undertaking. What does it look like for a cliché of American romance and militarism to be translated into a homosexual kiss? How does this challenge perceptions of masculinity? The figures in these works are all painted in Sherald’s grisaille – forcing the viewer to confront their preconceptions of skin colour and race.
One of the most striking paintings in the exhibition includes an icon of the American mid-west: the tractor. It is impossible to look at A God Blessed Land (Empire of Dirt) (2022) without being drawn to the luscious green of the John Deere tractor, unusual in this exhibition for being set against a background that isn’t a flat plane of a single tone. The tractor makes the grass look ruddy and dank in comparison, which just goes to show how Sherald makes you think about the way colour works.
Another artist who uses colour provocatively, but to a very different effect is Craig Murray-Orr whose work is on display at Ingleby Gallery at Cromwell Place (11–16 October). ‘I work on several images at any one time, adding and removing pigment as it seems obvious to do so and leaving alone when in doubt,’ says the artist. This embracing of intuition, of carefully working to create the right balance of colour and an illusion of casual fluidity that belies a painstaking technique, results in a group of seductive, deceptively challenging works that are each about the size of a postcard. The question of what exactly they are hovers about the works – landscape, exercise, formality? Nothing need be too fixed or tied to a point of view; instead, they’re about indulging a particular way of looking that will reap its own rewards.