Two Serpentine Shows: One Funny, The Other Laughably Bad

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 39 months ago
Two Serpentine Shows: One Funny, The Other Laughably Bad
These multi-coloured barrels are the most visually striking work by Jimmie Durham. Photo copyright Luke Hayes 2015.

The Serpentine Galleries have a double header of new exhibitions featuring artists Jimmy Durham and Rachel Rose.

Jimmie Durham: Various Items and Complaints

Londonist Rating:


A large chunk of Jimmie Durham's work has a surreal humour to it, such as a series of rocks labelled Goldilocks style: 'too large', 'too small' and 'just right'... Just right for what, we wonder? The artist also has fun with a rock labelled as a petrified oyster; we're sure it isn't a petrified oyster, but it does set us wondering, can oysters be petrified... and what would they look like if they were?

Another visitor favourite is a revolving door labelled: 'Go back, you have another chance'. Entering, we're taken past flowers in each corner of a darkened box before exiting right back where we started. Exhibits like this flaunt Durham's Dadaist streak — mocking convention and jesting about order.

But this is only one half of Various Items and Complaints. The other 50% is more serious, covering political issues around colonialism and the treatment of Native Americans in the US. However, in these works only threads of Durham's messages come through, and it all feels underwhelming. Durham is clearly at his strongest when he's having fun.

One of the two video works at the centre of Rachel Rose's installation. Image copyright

Rachel Rose: Palisades

Londonist Rating:


Over at the Serpentine Sackler is a much subtler affair. Here, the outer areas of the gallery have speakers that emit the odd noise, leading visitors to the two central halls containing the video works that are the centrepiece of the exhibition.

The videos show mixed footage of a hailstorm, landscapes and many other pieces of film that don't appear to bear any relation to one another. This style of video can be effective when it engages the audience but these two works are plodding and ponderous.

Rose's works must have a personal impact on the artist, but they will struggle to be anything other than forgettable for most viewers. Some additional information for context would have been helpful. Without it, the work fails to have any impact whatsoever.

Jimmie Durham and Rachel Rose are on at the Serpentine Galleries until 8 November. Both exhibitions are free to visit and are open Tuesday to Sunday, 10-6pm.

For more art to see in London see our top 10 openings for October, the most talked about exhibitions in September and the dystopian Generation Game by Ryan Gander.

Last Updated 08 October 2015