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This week’s new exhibitions

Eye #2 (Boulder), by Alex Prager (detail). Photograph: Alex Prager

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “This week’s new exhibitions” was written by Robert Clark & Skye Sherwin, for The Guardian on Friday 20th April 2012 23.05 UTC

Alex Prager, London

Photographer and film-maker Alex Prager was one of four artists chosen for the New York MoMA’s 2010 New Photography show, but she’s increasingly well known for her glossy magazine and commercial work. It’s easy to see why she’s proved a hit with the likes of W, Vogue and Mercedes Benz, which recently enlisted her to direct an ad with model Lara Stone. Prager’s colour-saturated images of women, wigged and costumed in yesteryear’s hair and wardrobe, freely pick and mix from old-school Hollywood, garish pulp fiction jackets, and the mid-century urban underbelly captured by photography great Weegee, to name but a few of her references. Her latest series pairs close-ups of expressive eyes with long shots of surreal calamities: a boulder placed like a monument at a deathly bend in the road; a burning building alone in a field; a house drowning beneath the stars.

Michael Hoppen Gallery, SW3 to 26 May

Skye Sherwin

Rob Kennedy, Glasgow

Kennedy hardly clarifies the intention of his solo show by stating “This is not an exhibition about anything … It is a construction of images, objects and materials that want to converse with themselves, their environment and with you, that’s all.” Kennedy is careful to avoid any kind of clear-cut or easily interpretable messages, yet there is something of a poetic suggestion half hidden in any compositional set-up that “wants” to talk. Kennedy presents cultural quandaries, representing his own video pieces alongside works by artists as diverse as Kostas Sfikas and Walter Sickert, deliberately taken out of cultural context. You might wonder what to think, but you do wonder nevertheless.

CCA, to 2 Jun

Robert Clark

Out Of Focus, London

The 38 artists in Saatchi’s latest “round ’em up” have all worked, in some way, with photography, but that doesn’t mean they’ve necessarily touched a camera. The more traditional snappers include Katy Grannan, whose portraits of transvestites or glamorous geriatrics pursue alternative kinds of beauty, as do Pinar Yolaçan’s surreal shots of people wearing clothes made from meat. Many of the artists here work with found images, playing with perception and scale, truth and fiction in assemblage and collage: John Stezaker’s jarring collisions of sliced-up old publicity shots of bygone starlets for instance, or Sara VanDerBeek’s sculptural configurations using photos. Sculptor Matthew Day Jackson meanwhile, turns his interest in human evolution to photos of rocks in the American wilds which are seemingly metamorphosing into faces.

Saatchi Gallery, SW3, Wed to 22 Jul


Paul Thek, Glasgow

All those flocking to the Tate Modern hoping for a whiff of mortal titillation from Damien Hirst could well be advised to make a detour to this highlight of the Glasgow International Festival Of Visual Art for some of the real thing. American maverick Paul Thek made his indelible mark on an art world in thrall to the purist aesthetics of minimalism with his early-60s Meat Pieces sculptures. In contrast to the prevailing trends of the time, Thek’s sculptures, paintings and installations tended to be gutsy, grungy and all messed up by the contingencies of his own fraught life. This show includes the sketch-pad journals and collaborations with photographer Peter Hujar through which he built up his fascinating artistic persona.

Modern Institute, to 2 Jun


Elizabeth Price, London

Since 2002, MOT International’s home has been a flat in a rundown East End block. Having launched a Brussels outpost, founder Chris Hammond now opens a new gallery in London’s New Bond Street. Christening the space is video artist Elizabeth Price, renowned for her sexy, sinister films. Her latest trilogy, Choir, begins with church architecture conjured through a montage of vintage photography, before journeying across 20th-century dancefloors, where a gang of girls bop to the Shangri-Las.

MOT International, W1, Wed to 26 May


Helen Baker, Newcastle upon Tyne

Helen Baker’s ostensibly abstract paintings have always played on the push-and-pull of illusionistic space. Shimmering grids of colour have variously suggested the crumbling frescoed walls of her beloved Rome or the rusting hulls of the ships once built of her native Tyneside. They form the building blocks of imaginary walls into which slogans have been embedded to safeguard the works’ life-enhancing sensuality. In these recent pieces, the play of two and three dimensions is further elaborated by the sculptural projections of her deceptively banal plywood surfaces.

Gallery North, Mon to 3 May


Scott Myles, Dundee

Scott Myles has referred to one recent work as a “memory object”. His sculptural installations might be viewed as meticulously constructed evocations of obscure histories. His Displaced Facade (for DCA) recalls the derelict Dundee building, locally nicknamed The Factory, where the artist used to skate. The Factory went on to become the DCA, into which Myles now installs his brick-wall sculptural puzzle of perceptual intrigue. The accompanying Analysis (Mirror) consists of a pair of bus shelters, one upturned upon the other, their mirror-painted reflective surfaces still retaining the memory marks of cigarette burns and scratched graffiti.

Dundee Contemporary Arts, to 10 Jun


The Institute Of Critical Zoologists, Cardiff

The Institute Of Critical Zoologists has carried out some pioneering research in the last few years. Its feats include documenting flocks of swans beneath melting glaciers, developing technology to make cloaks of invisibility for observing animals in any terrain, and extending the life expectancy of endangered species with acupuncture. The photos testifying to all of this are pretty convincing, even if we might find it hard to believe any of it actually happened. The ICZ is in fact an organisation of one: artist and animal rights activist Zhao Renhui. His doctored, sci-fi-infused presentations of fantastical, exoticised and commodified nature speaks loudly to our troubled relationship with the animal kingdom.

Chapter, Fri to 17 Jun


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