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From Ashley Bickerton’s garish characters to the UK debut for Awol Erizku—producer of the most popular Instagram post of all time

by ANNY SHAWJOSÉ DA SILVA  |  21 April 2017
Three to see: London
Installation view of Ashley Bickerton's Ornamental Hysteria exhibition at Newport Street Gallery (© Victor Mara Ltd, photo Prudence Cuming Associates)
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A three-decade survey of the US artist Ashley Bickerton opens today (21 April) at Newport Street GalleryOrnamental Hysteria (until 20th August) includes examples of Bickerton’s consumerist assemblages from the 1980s and pieces from his early and garishly coloured Travelogues series. It also includes works featuring the blue man, a character that began to appear in Bickerton’s paintings after he moved from New York to Bali in 1993. Bickerton describes the character, who is loosely based on Gauguin, as a “parody of the archetypal 19th-century anti-hero”. “I believe I’m going to see the overarching structure [of my career trajectory] with the Newport Street Gallery show: my life as a surfer and my life as a New York artist,” he says.

Richard Mosse’s video installation Incoming, with footage of people fleeing countries including Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, closes this weekend at the Barbican (until 23 April). The Irish artist describes his 52-minute black-and-white film, shot on a thermal military camera that “picks up the glow of bodies” from more than 30km away, as a “humanist project”. Over the past two years, Mosse and his cinematographer, Trevor Tweeten, have been filming the journeys of migrants, from overcrowded boat crossings to refugee camps. “The camera dehumanises the subject. Whether it captures refugees, humanitarian workers or border police we are all rendered the same, as biological traces. Paradoxically it shows that we are all human,” Mosse says.

On 2 February Awol Erizku was propelled to fame with his photograph of Beyoncé, pregnant and framed by an enormous garland of flowers. With ten million likes, it is the most popular image to have ever been posted on Instagram. Now the Los Angeles-based artist is turning to painting with an exhibition of new works, which opened this week at Ben Brown Fine Arts(until 2 June). Titled Make America Great Again, an appropriation of Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign slogan that was reused by Donald Trump, the exhibition is a response to what the artist describes as the “racism and bigotry” that is on the rise again in the US.

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